not for the weak of heart.
…so if you’re feeling fragile, i dunno. a warning.
it is ash’s 5th birthday in a few hours.
of all of the many moments of the many surrealistic undertow choking moments of unexpected single motherness-in-a-pandemic-in-an-airbnb-in-a-foreign-country that i shall not forget, this is just the winner.
lighting candles all over the bedroom on the eve of the big birthday day, he is sitting against the bed. i am a good mom. i have nailed this day. there has been birthday party planning, early presents, a trip to a beloved friends house for dinner, there had been love. we went up to the top of a big hill.
now ash is tired and the bath is draining and it’s time for just stories and quiet and bedtime, it’s late.
cleaning up tissues from the floor, i smell something…off. i ignore it and we brush our teeth. heading back to the bed, i smell it again and investigate. i get down on my hands and knees. is it my balled-up pants? are they that bad? no. i search.
as ash plays with his star wars book two feet away with his gaze turned to the words, i lift the bed-skirt and see claws and fur paws and teeth. i am american. my first thought is: squirrel. but no, that can’t be. rat? we saw a rat outside the house today. it must be a rat. fuck.
i quickly consider my options. i just want to go to bed. i am tired of life, of pain, of death, of the news cycle from america, i am tired of not being able to go home, i am tired of living out of a suitcase, i am tired of being a single parent. i am tired of doing things to keep things together all day.
there is a dead rotting rat. there is no ignoring it. i laugh to myself as i remember what i reminded one of my friends in LA over the phone the other day, something my favorite yoga teacher used to say:
help is not on the way.
ash is right here, in his zipper pajamas that he insisted i fish out of the laundry because they are his FAVORITE and it is his BIRTHDAY TOMORROW and he MUST HAVE THEM. and here in this room he will be here until sleep, two feet from the rotten-rat-ghost.
it’s bedtime. i could wait until after he is asleep, but it reeks of decay and decomposition, and it’s painful to think of leaving it….there. i just can’t. i make the very quick (and i am sure, to the small one who is a mere three hours away from being five years old, slightly random and confounding) decision to scoop ash up, deposit him in the kitchen, and hand him a surprise-toy chocolate egg saying IT IS A BIRTHDAY TRADITION! YOU HAVE TO HAVE A CHOCOLATE EGG BEFORE YOU GO TO BED ON YOUR BIRTHDAY! and then i grab a whole roll of paper towels and head back to the bedroom.
there is no way this creature is alive, it is clear from the decomposing stench, but there’s still that fear that it will, i dunno, suddenly zombie and shudder. i am in my bare feet and it all feels so sad.
i lift the bed skirt up again. this rat is a monster. it’s huge.
but wait. it’s too soft and fluffy to be a rat. and there aren’t squirrels in new zealand. oh my god.
it’s a bunny.
there has been a dead bunny corpse under our bed for days as we dream and read dr seuss books and joke about yoda’s butt and cuddle. i shake these thoughts away.
i drag the corpse out by her foot, hoping she will not ooze. i exhale with gratitude. there is no ooze. it’s just a beautiful, soft, sweet, very dead bunny.
i take a picture.
i wrap her in paper towels, then put her in a compostable bag outside. i text xanthea the photo and the basic story and ask if she’s up for yoga and a funeral in the morning.
i try not to cry.
i have felt strong and alone before. i felt strong and alone when i had my night-long miscarriage at three months in a hotel room on christmas. i felt strong and alone when my best friend anthony died and nobody really understood how deep the loss was for me. i felt strong and alone when i toured the world and talked about his death and that miscarriage and my abortions on stage. i felt strong and alone when people criticized my tour and decided that my art and my choices was truly bigger than their fear and their criticisms.
i felt strong and alone when i decided to tour new zealand despite the oncoming covid crisis. i felt strong and alone when i defied the orders to rock and roll along my merry way in wellington and canceled my show anyway out of principle, and i felt strong and alone in lockdown in a faraway land, and i felt strong and alone when neil left the country.
i have felt strong and alone here for six months, even with all the friends i’ve made here, and help i’ve had here, in so many forms….kya, xanthea, so many others.
but something about this moment – the just so very practical scooping up of the child and depositing him away from the stinking rabbit corpse with his lie of a chocolate egg and the disposing of the corpse and the spraying of some natural underarm deodorant where the corpse was before fetching him back so that he would never remember his fifth birthday as the time everything was strange and sad and on top of it, there was the smell of dead, rotting rabbit at storytime – something about this moment made me feel more strong and alone than i have ever felt in my life, and it is not a bad feeling, this particular aloneness.
it’s a together-ness, a new one, an unexpected one. my child turns five tomorrow, and i have officially changed. i know what to do now. i didn’t always know. but i would do anything for him.
i already have.