“Bunny. Bunny,” the Metra conductor said in the controlled shout usually reserved for calls for tickets. “It’s a bunny.”
He was young and slim, cracked a smile as the commuters filed out of the train.
“It’s a bunny.”
There, sitting in a snow-covered median between the Metra platform and some metal rails, nibbling on a curled-up fist that in summer would return to being a flower, was a small, brown rabbit.
“It’s a bunny,” the conductor called again in his ticket-taker voice as commuters streamed by.
The city had begun its nightly shift from sun to streetlamp, making the train platform a brief slice of dark for the bundled masses. Out of the warming light pouring from the train, a hop through dark, then down into the headlights and storefronts and traffic signals below.
Most glanced at the conductor’s discovery, which continued its nibbly assault on the dead Queen Anne’s lace. It was a slight most, 51 percent. But they glanced, and most of those who did smiled.
“Bunny. Bunny,” the conductor called again.
The rabbit was puffed up, its winter fur fluffed to full mast. It sat chest-deep in the snow, turning its head in different directions to get better small bites of the curled fist flower. The steady stream of glancing, smiling and head-to-toe bundled commuters became a trickle.
The conductor called bunny once more and hopped back into the train’s warm glow, leaving me alone with this furry, nibbling symbol of life in an endlessly dark, outstretching winter.
A rabbit gnawing on a dead flower. Spring is coming, but not yet.
The train powered up to whoosh downtown. I turned my head to see a blast of diesel plaster loose rubbish against a chain link fence. When I turned back, the rabbit was gone. I was left on the platform, alone in the dark and ice.