The White Rabbit

Chapter 4 of Alice in the Jungle

Puerto Jimenez, Costa Rica, Winter, 2012

The White Rabbit sat there outside the café with the White Queen who had her back to me. Her head was crowned with blond hair wistfully tied up in a knot, her back was tattooed with hummingbirds and a Bird of Paradise plant. As her shoulder blades moved, so did the birds’ wings as though they were about to take flight. He swivelled around on his stool, leapt off it into my arms and we hugged each other tightly. As the sun blinded us, everything and everyone disappeared for a moment until I felt her presence still there. She greeted me with a warm smile and returned home to let us catch up. It had been some months since the Rabbit and I had first spoken and for some reason everything was so vivid; the colours were garish, from the badly built shops and cafes to the planted flowers. His fair skin stood out and his blue eyes were luminous. He wore a white linen shirt, and as he raised an arm to hug my shoulders, it appeared to float up, like an angel’s feather but his grip was strong and his arms were muscular in contrast to their gentle movements. With the other hand, he picked up my luggage as though it weighed nothing at all and we began the walk to his home.
He had led me there, through the cyber tunnel to his miner’s village, tucked inside miles of jungle forest. Above in the tiny plane, it looked like a spec of civilisation in a mass of green and mist. We passed more colourful box-shaped houses with neatly mowed lawns and wild and strange-looking plants. Parked in front were newish cars and 4x4s. Underfoot was an unsteady dust path with loose stones, which would lodge themselves in my flip-flops and occasionally, I’d have to stop to shake them loose. He pointed out his school where he taught local Costa Rican children English and sometimes entertained them with episodes of My Little Pony. Eventually, we arrived at the front door of a large house with a fenced-off garden. Next door lived The Red Queen, who that day was out working on Reception at the Crocodile Hotel. As we entered the house, a tiny black kitten skittered across my feet and gave me a fright. I actually had a fear of kittens and they’d usually bring me out in a sweat, but I was already sweating from the humidity so it disguised my nervous state. He showed me my bedroom which was an odd shape, long andnarrow, with a bed plonked in the middle. The Barbie pink walls made it look even smaller and there was only a tiny window giving a pinkish-orange light through the translucent curtains. All the floors in the house were tiled and gleamed from a recent spring clean. They were cold underfoot and kept the house cool, in contrast to the steamy heat outside. The ceilings were low and the blinds were often shut to keep the sunlight out.
Over the following weeks our daily routine would be as follows: he’d put a fresh shirt on and go to school, and on his return, we’d make a vegetarian dinner and we’d settle down for the evening and watch Game of Thrones. At the weekends we’d socialise with his friends; the White and Red Queen amongst others. On one occasion, we threw a party at his house where he rapped about his previous adventures, then projected a cluster of stars onto the wall as we cast our dancing silhouettes against it, making shadow animals with our hands. That was the last time we felt happy in each other’s company.
His laptop was a welcomed escape, which connected him with his multi universe of various virtual tunnels that I had once travelled through to get there. I, in turn, became as restless as the kitten, scratching at the walls having no real direction of my own. The pressure mounted.

One day, whilst preparing supper, another one of my mother’s proverbs sprang to mind:

If you add too much baking powder, it will rise too quickly and taste bitter.

In just a matter of weeks, hemmed in by the monsoon outside, we had heavily dumped our ingredients into the pot until it created a giant inflated mass which was suffocating us so much so that one had to leave to give the other space to move and breathe. If so, it was thought, all would return to a perfect balance once the mass was deflated. The laws of food science could not permit us to coexist. We had imploded. With that in mind, I stopped stirring the pot, put my spoon down and headed to the nearest exit, shrinking to its size. The kitten loyally stayed.

Once outside I realised I couldn´t handle the intensity of feelings we both had for each other and I had no clear idea as to where it was leading us, nor was I ready for such a big commitment. Instead of simply giving myself and him some space to breathe, returning and working things out as originally agreed, I headed for the jungle world alone, leaving the White Rabbit with no choice but to begin coding a new tunnel which would take him in an entirely different direction.

Written and illustrated by Lucy Lilley Ⓒlucylilley 20/02/2022

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *