Tell Me About the Rabbits

            She waltzed into the packed classroom, skirting the bustling students and narrowly dodging one of her teammates who wielded a saw in his calloused hands. A flash of annoyance twisted her features, and she briefly entertained the idea of chewing him out, but she figured that he would be too caught up in his work to notice.

            Indeed, the pale boy now presided over a mountain of wooden pallets, stacked haphazardly on top of each other, and he meticulously inspected each with a piercing gaze. She sighed and proceeded to scan the room, chocolate eyes searching for a particular person.

The high of competition always drove her team into a hectic frenzy, but it was no surprise to her that the boy with the sandy brown hair was tucked away at the corner of the room—away from saw-wielding lunatics and chemical-brandishing maniacs. His eyes, nearly golden in the forgiving sunlight that penetrated a nearby window, darkened with concentration as he stared at the electric vehicle in his hands. Frustration burned them amber—a frustration almost parallel to the kind she had seen when he was busy with his early action Stanford application.

Sensing her presence, he glanced up, inquiring, “Is it possible for a chemical to change states without changes to heat or pressure?”

“No,” she responded gruffly, miffed by his lack of greeting.

“What about—”

“What if we go to New York?” she interrupted, sighing dreamily and slumping down in a chair next to him.

Her posture was atrocious: arm draped over the yellow, plastic chair and spine crooked. He knew this side of her well. When weariness tinged her eyes and wild notions began clouding her mind, it meant that stress threatened to overtake her, so he did what he had always done: he humored her.

“Why New York?”

“I was listening to a Broadway musical. Wouldn’t it be fun? Just the two of us on a great adventure?”

He observed her again. There was a faint smile gracing her lips, and her eyes glazed over, seeing memories of an MUN trip nearly a year ago. He knew that she was no doubt dreaming of the greatest city in the world: the world of towering skyscrapers, of icy streets, and of brilliant lights flashing in Times Square.

“Sure. Sure it would.” He chuckled dismissively, hands continuing to tinker with the vehicle in his hands. Competition was looming just days away, and he couldn’t afford to squander time aimlessly discussing plans.

Her whimsical tone vanished, morphing into one of bitterness.

“I should stop doing that, huh?” she asked, mirthless eyes search his—for something, but he didn’t know what.

“What?”

“Making outlandish plans. Dreaming,” she rambled, flourishing her arms in mild frustration, but upon seeing his bemused expression, she amended her statement. “Dreaming that nothing will ever change.”

He blinked, still at a loss for words, and she watched as he rubbed the back of his head, almost as if he were buying time to think.

She sighed again, pinching the bridge of her nose. “I’ve realized that I keep making plans as a delusion of stability. It’s like how you can trick yourself into thinking that you have your life together if you have a to-do list or a planner.”

“What’s wrong with that? It gives you a peace of mind at least.”

Shaking her head, she straightened her back and turned her body to face him, eyes solemn. “You know how we read Of Mice and Men?”

He paused to think, eyes glancing upwards with hesitation as if to search the ceiling for answers. “Uh, Atticus Finch?”

She stared at him incredulously, and recognizing the flabbergasted expression on her face, he grinned sheepishly and shrugged his shoulders. Disappointed, she shook her head slowly, pieces of midnight hair swaying against her shoulder.

“No, you moron. That’s To Kill a Mockingbird,” she snapped, rolling her eyes but a hint of amusement glimmering in her eyes. “Lennie and George.”

“Oh, I remember that.”

“I’m sure you do,” she commented dryly. “George would humor Lennie and tell him about the comfortable life they would have together.”

“With the rabbits?”

“Yeah. George knew they would never have rabbits though, but he let Lennie dream.”

“What’s wrong with that?”

“False hope is cruel. Don’t forget that he did shoot Lennie in the back of the head at the very end. That’s pretty wrong, don’t you think?”

“There was a slim chance they could’ve had everything they wanted, so hope isn’t really that cruel. Anyway, how is this relevant?”

“Because I’m pulling a Lennie. I’m trying to convince myself that nothing for us will ever change.” She shuddered.

He frowned, and his eyebrows furrowed as contemplation consumed him. Across the room, the volume of chatter had grown exponentially. The saw-wielding boy now towered over a five foot girl as they engaged in a heated argument over the coexistence of religion and science. From her position at the front of the classroom, the club’s secretary watched the two banter, apprehensively eyeing the saw still in the boy’s hand. While the rest of the room continued to erupt into chaos, the pair at the corner of the room still didn’t notice.

The sandy-haired boy wrung his hands. They were high school seniors, so of course their lives would change in a year. They would part ways and leave for college. It was only natural.

Impatience distorted her features. “I can’t think like you. I can’t always be logical and practical.”

“What do you mean?”

“Think about this. How much would you let where your friends are going affect where you’re going for college?”

He seemed taken aback by the question, but with a pensive tone, he responded, “Well, I’d put more emphasis on what the education is like at the college since you’re bound to find new friends in college.”

“See? That’s the difference between us.”

“Why? What would you say? Would you go to a UC over an Ivy for your friends?”

“No, but I’d rearrange my rankings on QuestBridge, so I’d have a higher chance of landing in the same college as my friends. It won’t be a high chance, but at least it’ll be higher.”

“What are your rankings?”

“Stanford, MIT, and Princeton for top three.”

“What’s the spread of friends in each?”

She paused, staring at him with expectation and frustration. Sometimes, she wondered why he was so dense—so utterly devoid of emotional intelligence. But, she remembered that the science club didn’t breed emotionally intelligent people: it was all book-smarts here.

“Stanford,” she enunciated slowly.

It took a few moments, but in every moment that passed, her irritation at his slow-witted mind compounded. Finally, comprehension settled across his face, and his eyes lightened to a shade of amber with his newfound understanding.

“Oh.”

“Yes, oh,” she snapped before absolutely exploding into hysterics. “This is the difference between the two of us. You don’t care. You’re content to leave and do whatever is logically the best for you. But, what about friendship? What about us?”

She simmered with anger, fuming at his complete lack of sentiment. Her fists, curled and trembling with fury, turned white. It was true. They’ve said that sentiment was a chemical defect found on the losing side; the losing side was the one that lived with sadness and regret. He evidently wouldn’t be burdened by sentiment.

“I’m sorry.”

She glanced at him, surprised overtaking her.

“I didn’t mean it like that,” he muttered somberly.

“You never do. You never mean it like that, but it always turns out like this. I’m chasing dreams trying to preserve this friendship, and you? You don’t seem to care about anything else except this.”

She gestured wildly at the electric vehicle in front of them, sitting and taunting her. She had previously surmised that it was the only object of his affections, but recently, she’s received more evidence to corroborate her theory.

He shook his head, determination flashing in his eyes. “No. Your best friend is still your best friend even if you’re a world apart. Best friends survive anything and everything, and after being a world apart, you can still continue right from where you left off—like nothing ever changed. Best friends don’t always need to express this sentiment because it’s a mutual understanding that best friends will always be there, and that’s what we are: best friends. Hao pung you. I guess I care about us more than I let on.”

She listened and let a comfortable silence envelop them. They sat, motionless in the classroom frenzy: the only peace in the midst of the storm.

Tiredly, she smiled at him. “We’ll be ok?”

He grinned. “Our lives will change, but we don’t have to. We can keep talking about the rabbits, and maybe one day, we’ll have our own farm, a garden, and rabbits to tend to.”

She threw her head back in laughter.

He smiled, gently this time. “We’ll be just fine.”

© Yvonne Kuo

Bio: Yvonne Kuo emerged from a middle school group project with hot glue burns, bleeding cuts, and a deep loathing for group projects. To compensate for her pitiful inability to physically create, she escaped to writing, seeking the comfort of words. With a newfound passion for some form of creation, she published with Creative Communications and triumphed as a Judges’ Winner for the Hakka Foundation’s Writers’ Square Contest and third place in a local Martin Luther King Jr. poetry contest.