Many years ago I was wildly excited about the release of Billy Joel’s new album, River of Dreams. I was sitting in my car – a little maroon 1981 Daihatsu Charade, affectionately known as the “Dim Sim” or “Pregnant Skateboard” – listening to the title song on the radio. It had only been out for a week or two, and I just adored the song. It was late at night, and I had just arrived home at the student house I shared with two friends. I stayed in the car, bopping and singing at the top of my voice, until the end of the song. Once it ended I became preternaturally aware of the dark, the mysterious nighttime noises, and the fact that the house I was heading for was devoid of lights – my housemates weren’t home.
I must admit that even now, at 37, I am a little afraid of the dark. You may save your Freudian analysis of that for your own private amusement. Back then, in my early twenties, I was feeling young and invulnerable, except for the darkness thing. So I got out of the car, carefully locked it, and tried to stiffen my backbone and pretend I was a fine, sophisticated urbanite with no darkness issues at all. Then there was a rustling noise in the driveway that sounded like footsteps, and I bolted for the house like a startled rabbit (which was ironic in ways that will shortly become clear). I scrambled inside, feverishly relocked the door, then rushed around the house turning all the lights on and telling myself I was being foolish.
That kept me calm for, oh, it must have been a second or so, after which I called a friend, A, who lived nearby and begged him to come and save me from the monster lurking outside my house. Being the manly type, the sobbing girl begging for help was an irresistible lure, so he made a beeline for my door. (I should add that he was, and indeed is, a very caring friend, but the rest of the story may reveal why I am leaning towards the mocking rather than the grateful in my portrayal of him now! Delay your judgement for a moment – I am not as ungrateful and callous as I may appear.)
Before A had time to get there, though, one of my housemates arrived home, and was rather startled to find me flinging myself at him and sobbing. By the time A arrived, all heroic and manly and expecting to comfort the distressed wench, I had recovered and was feeling fine, if slightly embarrassed at my uncharacteristically girly cry for help. He was rather disappointed to be deprived of the opportunity to play the hero of the hour, but he stayed to mock me for a bit, and then headed home. As he headed down the driveway, he saw a couple of rabbits in the bushes, and immediately leapt to the conclusion that these furry guys were the source of the rustling noise that had triggered my little freak out.
The next morning, when I arrived at the office that I was foolish enough to share with him and some other friends, they were all sporting large bunny teeth and twitching their noses at me. It took me a loooooooooong time to live that down.
Now that a chance playing of River of Dreams has reminded me of it, I am pondering how many of the fears in my life are, in fact, bunnies rustling in the undergrowth. I am, I admit, a bit of a worrier. Mountains get created out of molehills rather more often than they should. Perhaps I need a picture of a bunny taped to my bedroom door, to remind me that so often my greatest fears turn out to be completely unfounded. Bunnies, not monsters. Opportunities, not disasters. Perhaps the greatest thing we have to fear isn’t even fear itself, but the bunnies in our imaginations. Rustle, rustle.