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The Rabbit's Trip to Paros

I am on a ferry to Paros. We just left Athens 40 minutes ago. I am on a mission. Well, actually Andrea is on a mission and I am sort of being dragged along. We are taking a rabbit to Paros. I just spent 80 euros for the car and 30 euros each for tickets for Andrea and I. The rabbit travels free.

If you remember back to my last post I was happily passing the time on Kea. What I forgot to mention was the rabbit who entered our lives last year when we were living in Athens in our apartment in Kypseli. The rabbit, like many other rabbits in Athens, was given to a little girl as a pet by her parents, a nice Albanian woman and the good-for-nothing lowlife who married her whose job as far as I can tell is watching TV and complaining that she does not bring in enough money. At first the little girl was very excited to have a rabbit as most little girls would be. But little by little the novelty of having a rabbit as a friend wore off and the rabbit was placed on the balcony where he had room to hop around and explore. Our building is kind of unique because it sits on top of a theater so there is a big flat roof and all the balconies on our floor are on the same level. Some people have extended their areas by cutting off the railings and putting potted plants which have multiplied into tropical jungles in some apartments. The rabbit, now friendless, nevertheless had it made. He could explore a large area, the balconies of several apartments, including ours, and would even wander in through the double doors on days that I left them open.

One day I was answering my e-mail and absentmindedly looking out the window when the rabbit hopped by and started nibbling on the plants of an Albanian family across the way, before hopping into their apartment. This can’t be a good thing, I thought to myself and waited for him to come out, which he didn’t. I assumed he was made into kouneli stifado, one of my favorite dishes, but a sad fate for a creature I had grown quite fond of.

But the rabbit had not been cooked into a stew. He had somehow escaped the Albanian apartment, though he had left his mark, either by eating their house plants or maybe some clothing or furniture. The Albanian family complained to the building apartment owners association (or whatever that group is that screams hysterically in the lobby one Sunday a month) and the rabbit was banished to this shaft that brings light and air to the center of the building, a 2 foot by 8 foot room that looks remarkably like a prison cell. The people had stopped cleaning up after the rabbit and just threw food to it , just every now and then when they remembered. The rabbit lived in these conditions for the 8 months we were in the USA, in the center shaft of an apartment building in Kypseli, unseen by animal rights activists and bunny lovers, forgotten.

Until we came back and Andrea decided we had to do something. I have to be honest. The rabbit looked perfectly happy to me but what do I know? But when we left Athens for Kea I could tell that the rabbit was rarely far from Andrea’s thoughts and it was only a matter of time until she would decide to take action and save the rabbit. I heard her talk about the rabbit to her friends, describing the squalid conditions he was forced to live in, abandoned by the little girl the way little Jacky Paper abandoned  Puff the Magic Dragon. Some nights I swear I could hear her crying into her pillow.

On Friday she called some of her friends and I sent a text message to everyone I knew, asking if anyone wanted a pet rabbit. Most of my friends were only interested in eating the rabbit, but Andrea’s friend Carolina, who lives on a farm in Paros, said she would love to take him. So we packed our bags and went back to Athens on the ferry and to Kypseli to take the rabbit to a farm in Paros where he would be happy. We had overlooked one small item. We had not even spoken to the owners about taking their rabbit and Andrea was a little worried that they might refuse. But they were happy to let us take him and so the rabbit was freed from his concrete cell and moved into our apartment.

I actually did not know rabbits had such personality. I thought they were dumber, long eared versions of guinea pigs, but right away the rabbit impressed me with his ability to jump on the couch and sit next to me and watch the world cup football games, like my cat in the USA did with basketball. If I had to go to the bathroom he would follow me in and flop down on the rug and wait for me. He did not really know what a carrot was and did not associate it with food right away, but sure enough he figured it out, and after that mastering lettuce came quickly. Being the father of a teenage daughter, I have occasionally pined for the time when we were all pals, back in the days when Amarandi would crawl around the house, examining this new world she had entered, trying to understand one thing at a time. The rabbit was sort of like that. Just as with our daughter, the world was full of dangers that we had to protect her from, like the scissors left on the table, or a large vase within her reach, the collection of electrical wires coming from the back of the TV, VCR and Satellite could spell instant death to a creature that chews everything he sees until it proves inedible. Leaving open the balcony door might be an invitation for the rabbit to visit the neighbors and maybe this time end up as rabbit stifado Albanian style. I felt responsible. I felt like a parent again. And with this feeling returned probably the only thing Andrea and I have in common. Our former roles as parents. And this time there are no diapers to change.

But, would life with us be good for the rabbit? After all, what kind of world would we be bringing the rabbit into? A world of ferries, long trips, hotels, foreign places and even jet planes. We would have loved a second chance at parenthood, maybe an opportunity to not make the same mistakes as we did with our first child. How many times have you said to yourself, “if I knew then what I know now?”, or that “experience is wasted on the youth”. How many people have told me that being a grandparent is like being a parent but with all the fun and none of the responsibility? The rabbit could have saved our relationship, given it focus, allowed us to do again the one thing we were pretty good at doing together; being parents. But this is just selfish thinking. We have to think about what is best for the rabbit. To use the rabbit to save a relationship that has lost direction comes close to being a sin against nature. We were both ashamed for even thinking it. No. We knew that we had to take the rabbit to Paros so he could live the rest of his life on a farm, surrounded by other animals and people who will love him for who he is and not what they want him to be.

So we put the rabbit in a spare cat-carrying box, packed up his food, litter basket and the many rabbit toys we had bought for him, and drove to Pireaus, praying he would not eat his way out until we got to the farm.

The ferry is crowded. So crowded that I left the airplane seats and paid an extra 11 euro to sit on the first class lounge, far from Andrea and the rabbit, giving them some quality time together while I put all the emotions I am feeling into words. It’s sad in a way. For Andrea there will be many more ferry trips. But for the rabbit this could be his one and only ride on a ferry boat and it is a shame he had to spend it in economy and will never know the pleasure of first class. But economy class on a Greek ferry is better than a prison cell in Kypselli, no matter how you look at it.

Maybe I am making too much of this. Maybe a few years from now when we come back to Paros and visit the rabbit, he will only know us as the people who took him on the ferry, nothing more. I guess it is unlikely he will ever realize he was almost the son I always wanted, (though with a fluffy tail and big ears). So far on this trip from Kea to Athens to Paros I have spent over 200 euros on ferry tickets and who knows how much on hotels? But it is probably the last money I will have to spend on the rabbit so what the hell? It’s not like I will ever have to pay for little league, cub scouts, or college. Two hundred euros to find a good home for the rabbit is a small price to pay. It’s better than paying $250 dollars for an operation on your cat and then it dies anyway.

Meanwhile Andrea is sending me messages from steerage asking me to bring her some water because she is afraid to leave the rabbit and I am reluctant to leave this seat because someone else might grab it. It gives you an idea of what kind of dog-eat-dog  world we live in when a woman can’t leave her rabbit to get a drink of water because someone might steal it and a man can’t come to her aid without losing his seat. Now Andrea wants to pay the 11 euros and make the transition to first class.

“What if they don’t let bunny in?” she asked me.

“Don’t tell him its a bunny. Tell them its a mongoose and if they don’t let you in you will open the cage and he will rip all their first class passengers and fancy furniture to shreds.”

Luckily the guy guarding the door to keep the 2nd class citizens out was so engrossed with his crossword puzzle that he did not see Andrea and the rabbit walk in. Now we are reunited again. Andrea is drinking a glass of wine and reading her rabbit handbook and the rabbit seems pretty happy in his cage, well not exactly happy because it is a cage, but he is still alive and even drank some water and ate some seeds so he is not too traumatized by the journey. Carolina will meet the boat so maybe we won't have to sneak him into our 4-star hotel. He will get to spend the night in his new home.

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