Sometime ago, Lonely Planet published a hundred words I wrote. The brief was ‘a special moment experienced while in Europe’. My moment happened in Paris and it was the first time I considered leaving Britain for the Continent. The page has since been retired, so I thought I’d republish the text here.
“Sitting in a park in Saint Michel looking across the Seine at Notre Dame on a late spring afternoon, my eyes fell on some pigeons. They looked different. Not tearing manically across the streets at the threat of being trodden into the pavements as they do in Britain, but sauntering cheerfully about their business. I looked around me; even the most hurried were taking their time lounging on the backbeat of the city’s pulse, instead of running to keep up with it. I checked my heart rate; slower than I’m used to. So, this is Europe, a different world!”
The faint line of dawn creeps over the curtain rail, diluting the darkness. It wasn’t the only polutant contaminating my sleep. The dream of a grey rabbits foot thumping a warning formed itself inside a bubble in my mind. I saw the grey fur and the fluffy tail. Another thump burst the bubble, scattering the parts, while I found myself upright and trudging out of the bedroom in a state of vague consciousness onto the balcony to see what’s caused her to wake up the neighbourhood – yes, it’s that loud.
Drawing back the blanket that darkens her hutch and opening the door, I see her twitching nose peer out from the back room where she spends the night hours.
“What are you doing up at this hour?” Her twitching nose seems to ask.
“Your thumping foot, your majesty.” I tell her audibly.
She turns her back dismissivly and the silver specks in her grey-blue coat catch the light from the kitchen.
She’s not interested in a cuddle, so I replace the blanket and close the balcony door after me.
Back under my duvet, the dawn creeps over the curtain rail, spreading its long finders over the ceiling. Thoughts begin to populate the strips of light I stare up at as my girlfriend sighs a sleepy sigh. She’s lived her whole life with me in my environment and I have taken the greatest care to tailor our shared space to her needs. She’s never known a predetor, or felt the hedgerow brush her face as she’s burst through towards the entrance of the warren, heart in her mouth, unsure if she’ll make it into the tunnel safely. And yet, that warning thump that penetrates my sleep, puncturing my dreams brings me to the edge of hers. A smell, a sound; something has found its way into her mind and awoken the need to warn her warren-mates who are sleeping humans with jobs and deadlines and now a sleep deficit.
Her small brain doesn’t recognise this. To her we are large, naked rabbits who put ourselves in great danger to bring her food. She knows this because we sometimes smell of things that are not in our home. The reward for our great risk is a lick on the nose whenever we come down to her level. And at least twice a day, she will settle down on the bed and allow us to stroke her. She understands that we like this.
At the end of every day she watches me place a piece of cucumber in her hutch before jumping in and turning to look up at me. I administer the final part of our nightly ritual – a head rub – and close the door, stretch the blanket over the front of her hutch and hope there are no strange smells in the air, no sounds that might signal threat and no thumping to invade our sleep.
His lips searched hers as they sat side-by-side on the concrete terrace. The other diners didn’t seem to notice when she pulled her head away, leaving his lips unmet. He lunged again with the certainty of a man used to hearing ‘yes’.
She shook her head, as if to dislodge a resting fly from her hair and a reproachful murmur shot from her lips. She gazed straight ahead.
No-one stirred from the coffee and ice cream, except to raise their squinted eyes at the spring sun.
His hand snaked around her throat and rested. For a moment, her head sat at an odd angle, as if a screw had been removed from the back of her neck causing her skull to fall forwards, if it were not for his large hand keeping head, and dignity, in place.
One squeeze. The peace of the whole scene hung on how deeply his fingers would imprint her throat. How much pressure he would put on her Trachea.
She froze, watching the traffic pass her gaze. His too fixed on the moving cars, waiting, hand resting on her throat.
She gently slid from his grasp and into the far corner of her generously wide seat.
He turned to rouse the waiter’s attention, waving his wallet.