Introducing a new column, Pandemic Diaries, by Linda Rand. In this first installment, “Letter to a Stranger,” Rand poetically captures our new lives during these times.
I remember you, stranger. Back before the pandemic. Downtown, golden light.
I was just coming back to life, masochistic breakup behind me, elation bubbling up, a new effervescence. I was walking through the lobby of the Duniway and you were in the bar, chalked sign read “Jack Rabbit.” There was a painting by the elevator, dark colors, birds of prey perched, bare branches incongruously draped with pendulous grapes, entwined with fleshy chrysanthemums, intimating a feast without prey, a hungry tableau.
Resurrected bodies gasp for life, they drink in the air with every pore, and I swallowed you with my eyes, as I had devoured the painting. You said, “Don’t walk on by, sweetheart,” as I walked on by, a large cube clinked in your glass, glinting amber in two fingers of scotch.
Duniway Jack Rabbit. Duniway Jack Rabbit. I repeated this to myself to remember where I parked. Runaway Jack Rabbit, Runaway Jack Rabbit. As a boy, my ex wanted to be a Daddy Rabbit when he grew up. His mom showed me the book he loved, baby rabbits tucked into drawers.
Resurrected bodies gasp for life, they drink in the air with every pore, and I swallowed you with my eyes …
Right before we were shut in, I was getting to know someone who had a natural pompadour and lived up a winding one-lane road. He had a caged rabbit, chocolatey and handsome, said a male rabbit preferred to live away from other rabbits. I peered through the wire mesh, deep into its liquid eyes.
Now, with the pandemic, people are raising rabbits thinking of food scarcity. I guess it is a more ethical meat source. They can breed incessantly, need no familial distance.
One of the last meals my ex made me was rabbit, but there were so many fine bones. I had to double strain it, fingers sifting into the fibrous meat, before feeding it to the dogs.
Years ago, I rode down Powell Butte in my then girlfriend’s Cadillac. It was twilight and I was giddy with champagne after a summer picnic we had in the hawthorn. She said animals die, people too, in July. That it’s due to so much excess. The lush summer abundance creates an intoxicant, causes us to rush headlong into the bonfire, join the body’s yearning for life, ditch the limitations.
Solemn, I see her slide the body from its newspaper cradle, into the tall grass. The wild leaping thing now still, body sleek, long ears smoothed back. When she swerved, I had no idea.
My birthday is in July. I wonder if we’ll be out of our houses by then. When I get out, I’ll raise a drink and think of you, stranger.