Rabbits

There were rabbits running down the street. They were slipping on the ice as they dodged the oncoming headlights. I only saw one at first. But as it darted, a second shot out from in front of one of the houses, and then a third. The car slowed down and let the rabbits scurry and change their direction before the car picked up its pace again and pulling into a nearby driveway. I found myself rooting for the rabbits. I cheered them on as they fled from the oncoming danger. I obviously didn’t cheer out loud. But in my head, I was screaming my full support for their survival.

This isn’t an odd occurrence for my evening walks. The rabbit population in my neighbourhood has been booming the past few years. This unfortunately has also resulted in a few more coyotes wandering around my block, much braver than the cowardly canines should be. One particularly brazen coyote tried digging under one of my neighbour’s fences while their pug was in their yard. Normally, a coyote would dart at the sight of a human. This one didn’t. It stared at me as I yelled at it and waved my arms. I didn’t actually want to hurt the coyote, despite the threat it posed to the neighbourhood pets. But it didn’t get the hint either that it wasn’t particularly welcome on our block.

With no immediate signs of any predators, be it vehicular or wild canine, I continued my walk assuming a safe evening for the rabbits I was watching. The wind was cold but the day had seen a warm thaw, leaving sheets of ice along most of the walkways. The majority of the walk had been a quiet and successful trek through the area until shortly after my foray as a cheerleader for three rabbits. The animals must have still been on my mind as I stepped down onto some of the slickest and smoothest ice I had ever encountered. I imagined it must have been what hockey rink ice was like, though I had never played a sport in my life – hence my severely poor coordination with something as simple as walking.

The fall itself jolted my heart and gave mine a quick shot of adrenaline, which is why I heard the crack long before I felt the crack. I knew something was wrong, but I couldn’t exactly feel where it went wrong. I laid on the ice for a few moments, trying to recompose myself, when I heard a collection of steps coming my way.

“Are you okay?” I heard a voice say. I looked up to see three teenaged boys, all holding hockey sticks in one hand and tied up skates in another. There was a hockey rink nearby I remembered.

“I think so,” I said, trying to sit up.

“I wouldn’t move, man, I think you’re hurt,” the same boy said. He had on a yellow jersey. He looked back to his friend in a green jersey. “Call 9-1-1, I think this old guy’s really hurt.”

Old guy is a relative term. I was thirty when I took this spill. I wanted to say something about not being that old, but I didn’t think that was top of mind for any of the young guys looking to help me at that moment. I guess I was old relatively speaking. But thee guys couldn’t have been any younger than eighteen. That’s only a twelve year difference. I wouldn’t have called a forty-two year old an old guy.

The kid in the yellow jersey kept talking to me until the ambulance arrived. The third kid, also in a yellow jersey but had goalie pads on, didn’t do much. Perhaps as a goaltender he was used to standing back and letting the forwards take care of the bigger tasks at hand. I’m sure he would have successfully blocked anyone else trying to walk by. When the ambulance arrived, the adrenaline wore off and I could feel exactly what cracked when I fell. I could also see it as the bone was sticking out from my elbow a good three inches, The EMT had a puke bucket ready for me when I saw my humerus up close.

Being called old guy bothered me the whole ambulance ride to the hospital. Once the EMT had me hooked up to the pain mess for the ride, the pieces of my elbow sticking out from my arm stopped bothering me. Worse, when the doctors left me in my hospital room, I was stuck facing a giant mirror. At thirty years old, I was pretty grey. From the hair in my beard to what was left of the hair on my head, the salt severely outnumbered the pepper.

“Mr. Logan, your son is here,” the nurse said as my boyfriend walked into the room giggling. Jason was three years older than I was but his hairline was still practically at his eyebrows, his clean-shaven face flaunted his perfected chiselled jawline, and there wasn’t a speck of grey anywhere on him. Even his grey t-shirt magically turned a darker tone when he put it on, prompting people to call it chrome or charcoal over grey.

“Well, old man,” Jason smiled, flashing his perfect teeth that I hated I’m for having so much. He never smoked. I smoked like a French filmmaker all through college and into my twenties. Walking was supposed to help me quit and stay off the nicotine. I never wanted a cigarette more in my life.

“When did I become the old one?” I whined.

“You got your father’s genes,” Jason said, and he was right. My dad was 28 when he turned grey. I literally have no memories of him with any colour in any of his hair. “Whatever, you pull off the salt and pepper. It’s hot.”

“Sorry, since the comparison to my dad, all I hear in there is you think my dad’s hot,” I said, looking back into the mirror. “And I think I’m more of a frosted donut and salt and pepper.”

My elbow required surgery to repair the immense damage a quick fall on the ice caused. The doctor informed me healing would take anywhere from six weeks to six months and I would need some intensive physical therapy afterward. He asked if my work required both of my hands, if I worked some sort of manual labour or if my work involved complicated computer work. Thankfully, my work involved neither.

For as boring as my work was, it was the whole reason I met Jason. He was running a tech startup whose books were held together with elastic bands and written mostly in red crayon. I was brought in to go through the finances and be able to present some sort of financial record that wouldn’t get him in trouble with the tax collectors. Shortly after we finished that project, we had our first official date. We’ve been living together since.

After letting the doctor know I was mostly self-employed and could do most of my work with one arm, I thought about how I met Jason and our history together. It was the most old-man and boring way a relationship could start. Even the work I did for him when we first met stunk with boring old man. I wasn’t a fellow cool tech entrepreneur helping develop the newest mobile app. That was Jason through-and-through. I was the boring accountant who made the numbers presentable. The whole drive home with Jason after my surgery, I wondered what happened to me?

The car pulled into the garage and leaning against the wall on the passenger side was my old longboard. I thought about how much I used to ride it. I remembered going on beer runs while I was in college, half-pissed and somehow balancing myself on a wooden plank with wheels while holding a twelve pack of bottles. It seemed like such an insurance liability as I thought about it standing in the garage with my sore arm in a sling. But back then, it was simple: we needed beer, my longboard was my only mode of transport, so I went.

“You’re not thinking about riding that, are you?” Jason asked.

“Obviously not until my cast is off,” I said. “But it would be nice, even just to ride along some trails during the summer.”

“They had to rebuild your elbow after you slipped on some ice,” Jason smiled. “I hate to think what you would break after falling off that.

Jason was a gym rat but found my apprehension towards physical activity cute. He would rub my belly and tell me I was the perfect pillow to lie on. But I envied Jason’s physique. It’s why I started taking long walks at night to begin with. It helped me keep my brain and it was my baby-step towards a more active lifestyle. At least that’s what I frequently read on the websites for fat guys wanting to get in shape but too lazy to actually change anything about their lives.

It would be a few weeks before I restarted my nightly ritual of long walks. I didn’t miss the physical aspect of it. Just the solitary aspects of it. It felt like unplugging from life, getting away from emails and comment-feeds and the constant noise of life for a few minutes. No light from any screens, only from the streetlights I walked under. The only noises were from my footsteps and the wind rustling through the trees. The walks were peaceful and that’s what I craved.

Physical therapy had been going well and the ice had almost completely melted off every surface I could walk along. I rationalized that I could reconvene with my walks and Jason, with some apprehension, gave his blessing to allow me some time to disconnect. He understood my need for that solitary time, despite his extreme extroverted personality. He knew my walks were good for my mental health and I had been growing stir-crazy being in the house every night.

My arm was out of the cast but I still couldn’t extend it or bend it with my arm tensing up and sharp shooting pains running through my arm and into my neck. I kept my arm as stationary as I could while I went on this first walk in what felt like years before I left the house and felt like only yesterday once I was out of the house. I could smell the dew from the melted snow on the lawns across the neighbourhood and the sky was glowing a bright pink with the sunset.

About three blocks away from my house I encountered the rabbits again. All three of them. They were darting away from a yard and into the street. I looked around for any oncoming cars, worried that I had scared the rabbits and caused them to jump out into the road and to an early end. There were no cars and I quickly learned that it wasn’t me they were running from. Chasing closely behind was a coyote, his eyes fixed on his running meal. The predator was closing the gap between itself and its meal more with every stride it took down the empty street.

I watched and thought about the last time I saw the rabbits. I remembered not just cheering them on, but feeling for them. Feeling their anxiety and fear of the danger that lies all around them. As I’ve grown older, everything started making me nervous and scared. The brazen bravery that comes with youth fluttered away and I hadn’t even noticed. Just one day, before I had time to even process it, I was a terrified rabbit hiding under bushes and running from the headlights of cars and terrified of the predators that could be lurking in the shadows all around me. I didn’t want to be afraid anymore and I wanted my fellow rabbits to survive for another day.

The coyote’s stride was steady enough that I could catch up relatively quickly. I ran after it, like I was a predator in my own right. I was no long the terrified rabbit, I was the brazen coyote chasing after my prey, only I wasn’t looking to feed. I only wanted my own kind of survive.

We ran for another two block before the coyote turned around and lunged at me. Its teeth dug into my arm and tore through the flesh ad pierced the muscle inside. I cried out and flung my arm, feeling the weight of the coyote against my forearm and the tension against the bone causing it to bend, fracture, and then break. My other arm reached out and grabbed the coyote by the scruff of its neck and I wrestled it to the ground, but its jaws were locked, it tasted blood, and it wasn’t letting go.

“Hey!” I heard someone yell out followed by a loud clapping sound against the concrete road. The coyote let its grip loose and turned to run away. I watched a tennis ball fly past me and connect with the coyote’s backside and it ran even faster off into the darkness.

I looked back to see the three hockey playing kids again. I looked down to see the arm the coyote grabbed was the same that was still healing from my last walk. My head was feeling light and my other arm had to hold me up as I sat on the road. “Do one of you mind calling me an ambulance again?” I said.

As I lay in the very same hospital room as the last time, letting the pain killers and the rabies shot and the tetanus shot run their courses through my body, I thought about Jason. He would laugh at the forty stitches needed to close up the gaping wound in my arm. I remembered once when he fell off his bike and split open his knee and he needed three stitches and we thought it was a serious wound. Mine looked like a shark-bite in comparison. I knew he would be worried about me and would want to start accompanying me on my evening walks, despite my protests of just needing some quiet time.

And I thought about our conversation after my last surgery. I really was looking forward to picking up my old longboard during the summer and remembering the sensation of travelling down the road with no protection on a piece of wood with wheels. But I doubt I would be able to muster the courage to even step on it, let along make a trek for a case of beer on it. But most of all, I wondered if the nurse would assume that Jason was my son.

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