Broken From Within

November 2, 2009
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I’ve always pictured an enormous stone wall around my heart. Strong. Invincible. Able to withstand all types of attacks. The only problem with this was that it never occurred to me that someone inside could hurt me this much. All it took was three words for my perfect world to shatter. “Cotton passed away.”

My memory of that horrible day two months ago is as clear as it ever will be for I can’t force my mind to block it, nor can I force my heart to rebuild. I can still see my mom’s watery, sympathetic smile as tears blurred my vision that day, and I can still hear my mom tell my sister and me about how she was in peace and how my dad had tried his best to keep her going until we got back home from Japan. My only thought then was of how Cotton, my little girl with her many nicknames that stretched from Cut and Cutcut to bunnini and bun, was gone.

Images of Cotton, helpless and waiting for us to come home, ran through my mind. I could just picture her lying in her cage, weak, tired, skeleton-thin. The only comfort I had was that she had loved us so much that she had waited through all the pain her arthritis had given her and just waited. Waited and waited until our tearful phone call telling her that we loved her. Waited until my dad left for work. And waited some more until she could leave.

As I lay in the room my mom, sister, and I shared in my grandparent’s house, I thought back to the day when we first got her. Visions of a baby chestnut brown bunny sitting timidly in a cardboard box filled with dull green hay, looking out at my family with liquid, deep, chocolate eyes in our Ford Explorer, and sniffing tentatively at all the new strange scents around her, rolled through my mind and gave way to the nine years worth of memories that flooded through.

I could just see Cotton cheerfully hopping around our grassy backyard. I could hear my sister and I calling, “Don’t eat that Cutcut!” whenever she leaped into a pot and began to munch pleasurably at the flowers my mom liked to grow. I could see my dad hose the top of the wooden patio when it was time for her to go back inside our house and I could see an irritated Cotton creep reluctantly out of her favorite hiding place underneath the patio which was now soaking wet. I could even see my baby bunny hop into the cool shade of the house after an exciting afternoon outside and leave a trail of neat, precise, muddy paw prints on the sparkling, clean, white tile as my dad groaned since he’d just mopped the floor.

Then my little girl was jumping exuberantly at my leg, trying to grab the treat I was holding. “Cotton, be patient. I’m trying to get it out,” I would say. But Cotton had never been a patient bunny, and she would continue to scratch at my leg and nibble at my jeans until she had what she wanted. “Silly little bunny,” I would laugh as I petted her soft, furry forehead until she became bored and hopped away, her tiny paws making a pitter-patter sound.

In my mind the faded, beige carpet from our apartment where we’d been staying until our house had finished being renovated suddenly popped up and my sister and I were teaching Cotton how to climb up and down the stairs. “Come on, Cutcut. It’s easy. Let’s make a deal, little bunny. If you climb up, we’ll give you a treat. How’s that sound, Cut?” And we would shake the bulky, plastic container with the treats at the top of the stairs and she would dash up and begin to sniff in anticipation of her fruity snack.

The mirrored wall in our current house shimmered into view in my brain and Cotton was in the entrance waiting for us to take her upstairs to the kitchen. “Aww, Cutcut. There’s two of you now. Look, bunnini, here’s you and there’s another you.” Cotton would then bump her nose jealously at the other bunny in the mirror who was stealing my sister’s and my attention from her and shoot us a reproachful look as we burst into laughter.

Then it was two in the morning and I was studying in the kitchen, freshman year. A disgruntled bunny nipped my foot, Cotton’s subtle way of telling me to hurry up. “Wait a second, girl. Nearly done,” I would yawn. Eventually I finished and I would help place my sleepy bunny in her cage and feed her a treat for being so patient. “Goodnight Cutcut. Love you, bun. Be good. See you in the morning,” I would say to her every night without fail. And she would always nod her smart little head because she always understood.

Since the day Cut left me, I’ve spent less and less time in our kitchen simply because there’s no Cutcut to nibble at me and stomp about as I hurry to finish. I will never hear her hopping about again, and I will never feel her fluffy little nose, and I will never see my beautiful baby girl again, and I know that. Yet as the days pass, I still do not see the familiar stone walls rise up into staggering heights around my heart. I simply can’t find the effort to rebuild my walls just to have them torn down again because out of everything Cotton’s taught me, the most important lesson was through her death. That no matter how strong or invincible a wall may seem, it will always be broken down, not from the outside but from within.





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