Bitter Bunny

by Rob BURKE

We approached an un-sturdy bar in the poorly lit garage, “Do you have any light beer?” Bunny quizzed. The bartender, her face awash with surprise and confusion, slowly shook her head ‘No.’ I glanced downward in embarrassment thinking ‘what kind of place does she think this is?’ when Bunny whispered in my ear, “What kind of place is this?”

The symmetry of our thoughts was at once amusing and alarming. I knew this night was going to be a grueling exercise in tolerance for both of us.

The barkeep recovered graciously, “how about a diet coke and Rum?” Bunn refused, having banished hard liquor many years ago on the grounds that it contributes nothing toward the enlightenment or improvement of society. I ordered two beers and one cup. We took our seat on two folding chairs beneath a single, naked bulb at the back of the club. The place looked like it was still under construction or in the process of deconstruction, but it had a meager honesty to it. There were no neon or christmas lights, no art or flowers, no peanuts or pretzels, just an old Kenmore refrigerator, a spray can of air freshener and four un-matched bar stools. The lighting was squalid and insufficient, like a prison, but in its dimness suggested a freedom to act naturally. Bunny looked around suspiciously at the smattering of patrons. She placed her Kate Spade purse on the floor where it sat conspicuously, the vibrant horizontal lines interrupting the somber, gray floor. I stared at her as she winced through the dense air and thought to myself, “God she is beautiful, difficult to please sometimes, but what a fantastically graspable body, and her hair, in this sordid haze…”

“Who is this band you want to see? When are they coming on? It’s already midnight. You said you never heard their music before?”

“No Bunnybell, I have never heard their music before. The singer has a journal on the web, it’s funny, you know, hijinx and stuff involving a lot of drinking and waking up in strange places.”

“That sounds like a great reason to see a band,” she snapped sarcastically.

“Their name is cool too” I added.

This sneer was new. It was dangerous like the others, but this one, well, it seemed to possess some sort of chilling permanence. I imagined the same look might cross her face if I told her I never graduated from high school.

“Pa-the-tic” she said slowly.

An energetic emcee emerged, told some lewd schoolyard jokes, swallowed a few eggs and introduced the first performer, who, having set up his sequencers and turntable, began assaulting the sparse group with high-frequency blows that sounded like he programmed his computer to kill itself. From it came harrowing sounds of angry machines and fuzz and a solitary note played at varying intervals. It felt like a car antenna had been shoved through my ear and was repeatedly jabbing my brain. To call it music would have been generous. It was the electrical vomit. Amplified bile. I suspect the folks circled around him were either deaf or robots. As the set ended, Bunny growled, “No words can possibly express the intensity of my contempt for that artist.” This last word she spoke in mocking italics, whipping her heavy brown hair away from me.

After the set, we sat and watched as the emcee shopped around the audience for someone to urinate in his special cup. Oddly, the room was reluctant until the bar-maiden, a glamorous, healthy female obliged to fill the cup. A minute after she disappeared into the bathroom, she returned proudly, cup in hand, and delivered it to the emcee. As an introduction for the next act, he quickly gulped the still-warm piss.

I wondered why my Bunny looked so unhappy. I knew this was not her optimal night out, but was she truly incapable of enjoying any aspect of it? She has a long sum full of lucrative ventures designed to help people. She went to college and then went back to college and then took some more classes. Her interest lies in giving opportunity and hope to the disadvantaged; victims of the class struggle, the government, their environment or their genes. At times I wonder if she loves me not because of our queasy chemistry but because she has concluded that I am a promising candidate for rehabilitation.

The second act consisted of a 6-second loop of loose Casio notes and thin drums backing up a spoken word story about a bird. The music was soupy, the story plodding and unfamiliar lying somewhere between Dickinson and hieroglyphics on a scale of the Incomprehensible. Mercifully, it was not the type of headache-inducing noise as before. Still Bunny looked irritated. She has worked hard in life, and in addition to earning plenty of money along the way, she also earned a sense of entitlement. A belief that having worked so hard for so many years, she should never have to voluntarily suffer, never be put in a position of discomfort or distress. She likes the finest things; Dutch licorice, French moisturizer, Italian marble, and has little patience for products or people of questionable quality.

The emcee was involuntarily regurgitating eggs and piss in the corner, wiping the floor with paper towels between heaves.

“I mean, don’t you think you’re a little old for this?” she said. “I’m exhausted and there are still how many more bands? We’re going to be here ‘til…..jeezus.. should I have brought my fucking work clothes?”

“Don’t be silly Bunn, if you are too miserable, or it gets too late, we’ll bolt” I reassured.

“Do you really want to end up like that guy?” she posed, nodding to a gentle, balding fellow wandering without purpose across the floor, “a middled-aged man in a Ramones t-shirt watching young people play music? you think this is a good use of your time? because this is a complete waste of mine… I should be sleeping! If I was home sleeping, not only would I be more enthusiastic, I would be more entertained.”

I could not speak, anger management having stolen my tongue. I hoped it was the dissonant music and callousness of the venue that pushed her so violently toward this dangerous place. I hoped the music would soon stop. It didn’t. The next act was a one-man band. The songs were hard and heavy but each one was no more than 30 seconds long. Each song had a quaint title and his groupies thrashed and hollered loudly in perfect time at the conclusion of each brief piece. We sat together but far apart for the next hour, my arms crossed, rising slightly with each breath, her facial muscles tense like vacuum-packed jerky. It was now 1:30am, the headlining act would be up soon I thought, but how much longer could I endure the obvious displeasure emanating from her every pore?

What happened next was less a choice than an act of compassion, or truthfully, self-preservation. “Let’s go” I said patiently. I finished my beer with one swallow, took her smooth, pale hand and pulled her gently up out of the metal chair. “So soon?” she cooed, and smiled. Finally.

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