I was like Alice in Wonderland. Like Alice, I was searching for my white rabbit and like Alice, I got lost. Like Alice falling down her rabbit hole, there was no way out, no way back. I was entranced by the wicked, the absurd. Everything was, what it was not. I chased my rabbit without caution, without fear. It was all that mattered. Then finally I found my rabbit, but not at all where I had been searching for it and not at all when I expected.
I was in high school. I was a normal girl, blonde like Alice herself, and popular. I participated in many typical activities like school dances and football games, and had a lot of friends. I achieved decent grades and was considered to be very smart. However, I felt something was lacking.
I began to grow bored with the typical and longed for adventure. I began to seek out new and stimulat- ing people forever searching for my white rabbit of happiness. In my search I found the Mad Hatter and the March Hare. I saw the tea mouse and we all sang, and danced, but no white rabbit would appear. I became obsessed with my plight. My life had changed with my obsession and my world began to split. I had my normal world with homework and dances and parents; then, I had my Wonderland. Wonderland was where I was sure to find him, my rabbit. Wonderland consisted of friends that were much older than I, some of them models, some of them in college, all of them drug users, smokers, and heavy drinkers.
One morning my two worlds collided. On my way into my high school, some natives of my wonderland parked outside the gymnasium caught my attention and without much enticing, convinced me to skip school and join them for something much more excit- ing. We went off to find a party, which in a normal place would seem strange, but the second I entered that car, I entered the rabbit hole to Wonderland. In Wonderland it was always somebody's Un-birthday, therefore, there was always a party, even at eight o' clock in the morning.
The rabbit hole I had found so enticing that morn- ing led me to an old house. Within that house was a vast array of people and things that I found quite alien and intimidating. The house was very run down. The windows were boarded up and there was no light except for occasional pockets caused by cracks in the boards. There was no real furniture, only a few mat- tresses spread on the floors of the three-bedroom
shack. Loud music filled with sexual innuendoes and explicit language blasted through the rooms. The air was filled with green and black smoke and smelled of spoil and incense. People were milling around the whole house but seemed concentrated in a large room at the back, so my curiosity led me back there, travel- ing further down the rabbit hole and further into Wonderland.
Now in what seemed to be the master bedroom I could see the cast of characters in my Wonderland. These creatures seem to fit their surroundings. With one look, I was perfectly aware of their evil–aware, but strangely intrigued. Suddenly my intimidation disappeared. I found it odd that they didn't frighten me. Funny that in
actuality, they annoyed me, the demons in that house.
Amidst this evil was the tea mouse, a small man encircled by the ogres Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dumb. His intelligence was questionable; however, his influence over the group in that house was not. He was obviously the one in charge. I observed from a concealed corner of the room as the mouse coaxed his followers into such demeaning tasks as bringing his drinks and wiping the sweat from his brow. Considering my observations, I let slip a small giggle as the vision of dogs walking humans ran through my mind. It then occurred to me that this was Wonderland, so however odd, anything was accept- able.
As I looked around the room, I began to find myself in an uncomfortable state. I was still not afraid, and now no longer intrigued by my surround- ings. I ceased to want to mingle with the group. I had grown bored with my observations, and I realized I was no closer to my white rabbit. Feeling frustrated, I decided to find somewhere to be alone while I sorted out what to do. I waded through passed out bodies, dried vomit, and drug paraphernalia until I found myself at the door of a closet. Normally very claustro- phobic, I took a look at my surroundings, and sudden- ly the claustrophobia was overshadowed by my need to be away from this scene. I took refuge inside the closet, sitting myself on the hard, cool floor.
Suddenly from the darkness of the small space appeared a Cheshire cat. He was colorful and mysti- cal. He smiled a most innocent smile and asked me the matter. I told him that I was lost. I told him I was looking for the white rabbit but I could not find him.
The Cheshire cat said nothing but again flashed a slight smile. I looked at him and almost pleading said, "Do you know where my rabbit is?" He closed his eyes and seemed to be in thought as
his colors shifted from pinks and purples to blues and greens. I thought he should be considered beautiful at that moment, but by the next moment I found myself hating him. I hated him because he was laughing at me. He opened his eyes, saw me imploring him for this knowledge, then began laughing so hard he rolled about in the air like an astronaut in space. He said he knew what I was after and I should never find my rabbit because I was too stupid to know where to look. I was so angry I screamed at the laughing cat, but he laughed on. I reached out with fists of rage to strike him but in an instant, he vanished. I began to cry. I cried out because I was so angry with the Cheshire cat for taunting me and then just vanishing. I sobbed as I felt the torture he inflicted upon me, pre- tending to be a friend, only to turn on me in ridicule. However, most of all, I cried because I feared that he was right.
Then my tears were stayed. I noticed that one of the fists I had swung at the evil cat had opened into a hand, and that the hand had landed on something. I closed my hand around the strange object and picked it up. Using a bit of light that shone through a hole in the closet door, I saw that it was a bottle. Attached to the bottle was a note written in silver calligraphy; "Drink Me" was what it read. Clear, crystal and pure, the contents of the bottle called to me. I envied its simplicity, its clarity. Where did it come from? Did the Cheshire cat leave it? Did he decide to help me after all? I was intrigued by the prospects of my find.
I found myself convinced that this bottle would lead me to my rabbit. So fearing nothing as I was sure I had seen the worst, I put the bottle to my lips and began to drink.
I hear it's cold in Russia. I felt the chill of a bliz-
zard on the steppes as a small piece of Russia found its way through my lips into a downward spiral, that would soon spread the cold of Russia throughout my entire body.
The tension around me began to ease. I felt as Alice did as she began to grow larger among the deck of cards that at one time held her captive, then in a moment she was towering over them, able to shuffle them in the palms of her hands.
The bottle made a clinking sound as I placed it back on the floor, now empty.
I exited the closet, confident now that the white rabbit would soon be in my grasp.
With the contents of the bottle now thoroughly absorbed into my body, I began to feel a change. My Wonderland began to spin and all that had seemed threatening, or annoying, or curious, became funny and blurred.
I lost sight of my search. I felt as though I was drowning. Cold and darkness surrounded me. Only periodically could I bring my awareness to the surface and catch a glimpse of the horrifying situation into which I had gotten myself. My overwhelmingly curi- ous Wonderland had become, in an instant, the most terrifying of all hells.
Peeping through a keyhole, too large to get through the door, I could see myself on the outside. I saw the person who I had once been. I saw school dances, football games, and me cheering with the crowd and feeling free. I found myself longing to go back there, but feeling as though I could never return to that place. Now, turning my back to the door, looking at where I was, I watched myself dancing in blackness with the Cheshire cat, Tweedle Dee, Tweedle Dumb, the mouse and the rest of the cast, but no white rabbit. Where was he? Lost forever? The Mad Hatter and the March Hare dance to me with bottles and powders in their hands; I laugh and drink and smoke and sniff without any conscious idea of why. I slid down the door until I was sitting and I realized I was flirting with Death. I had lost all control. I put my head in my hands and closed my eyes.
Surrounded by darkness, and unable to find a way out, I again began to cry. This time I cried because I had given up. I thought I was forever lost in the ever-so-confusing world of Wonderland and I should never escape. Suddenly a voice came from nowhere. It called to me, but I did not want to answer. I had answered once before and the Cheshire cat trapped me in this hell for it. I was too tired and angry to be scared, but I was autious enough by this point that I would not be fooled again. I would rather sit and cry and rot away in Wonderland. I really had given up.
The voice became louder and more demanding. It called my name and beckoned me near. Out of frus- tration and fear it would never leave me in peace, so I went towards the mysterious voice. Following its call, the voice led me to a strange sight indeed. Amazingly enough, this voice unnerved me; I was set aback, and perhaps saved by the fact that any stimuli could seem peculiar to me now.
My search for the voice ended at the feet of a very large caterpillar who sat upon a mushroom stool, smoking a hookah. Inside myself I thought, "Now
what ridiculous torment is this?" The odd creature told me it had something to show me. I told the caterpillar that I no longer cared about the white rab- bit, so his game would be a waste of time. At that I turned and started to go. I was but only a couple of steps away when very
"matter of factly" the caterpillar said, "Okay, but I just wanted to show you how to get home." I stopped where I was. I thought about turning to go back, but I told myself it was a lie, a trick. "He will only hurt you," I told myself. Resolving that I was already hurt- ing and had nothing to lose, I turned and went back to him.
I approached the caterpillar with skepticism and hope, and asked, "How do I get home?" Then the caterpillar began to change. Colored smoke began to swirl around his body, wrapping him like a mummy until all that was left was his head. I watched as his head changed, too, but not in the same way. With the cocoon of smoke still swirling around his body, his head began to morph into that of my mother. I saw her smiling and telling me to come home. I wanted to reach for her and hold on to her, but before I could, the head again changed, this time into my brother. My brother did not look at me; instead he looked around and called to me as if he were searching for me. I screamed to him, "I am here, I am right here!" but he could not hear me, and instead he kept calling. The head continued to change, showing me all of the peo- ple of my other world, missing me, wanting me.
I couldn't take it anymore. This was the worst of it all. How could this horrible caterpillar punish me so? Why tease me with these people that I love and miss so much? I wanted to scold him, but before I could
find the words, the smoke cocoon covered him com- pletely and like the Cheshire cat, he was gone.
The caterpillar was gone but his voice remained to say one last thing. "You have the key." I cried out and begged for him to explain, but I knew it was no use. I was so incredibly tired of this place. At the top of my lungs I screamed "I WANT TO GO HOME!" Then the door again appeared in front of me, but it had grown. The door was now large enough to get through. I ran to it and hoping for the best I opened it and went through.
I opened my eyes to find that two years had gone by since I entered the rabbit hole. I was laying in a pool of my own bloody vomit in a parking lot. The bright sun hurt my eyes and my head was pounding. I hurt all over and felt near death. I was home. I gath- ered myself up and by some miracle managed to get home. Feeling as though I had been gone forever, I looked around trying to find my way. I found the bathroom and decided to get a look at myself. Looking in the mirror, really looking, for the first time in a long time, I saw that Wonderland had taken a toll on me. My once beautiful green eyes were sunken into my face, and surrounded by black circles. My weight had reached very unhealthy lows, and my body was bruised and battered. I felt tired and sick and ashamed. I did not want to live in Wonderland anymore. I wanted out. I wanted to stay in this, the real world, forever.
I went to the people of this world. I sought the help of the faces in the caterpillar. I cried to my mother and my friends. I knew only they could help me stay away from the rabbit hole. They could keep me safe. Slowly I found my way back. I was out of Wonderland forever.
A few months had gone by. I had put on a little weight and began to regain some color in my face. I was feeling safe, and was confident that the Cheshire cat and the others were gone for good.
I woke very early one morning and for some rea- son was drawn outside. I grabbed a stuffed cat made by my grandmother and walked out into the front yard. I was barefoot and the dew of the grass tickled my feet. It had been so long since I was able to notice such a simple splendor that I cried a little at the joy of it. I looked straight up and after all that time in dark- ness, at last saw the sun. The beauty of this morning hit me so hard that I fell over. Lying on my back in the wet grass, I rolled my head to the side and studied a single blade of green. I took a moment to reflect on how lucky I was to see such a marvel and appreciate it. I looked at the top of the blade to see perched ever so gracefully a butterfly. Its wings were perfectly beautiful. It stayed only a moment, then fluttered up toward the sky. I followed its flight until it paused, hovering for a second, then flew off and was gone, leaving only sky. I thought the pause odd at first but then I understood the meaning of the gesture. The butterfly was leading me and I followed. Still on my back, looking straight up at the sky, I saw what it was trying to show me.
I was still for a second, then, an explosion. I began to laugh and cry and scream all at once. I was hysteri- cal, for at last I had found him. After all this time, all this hell. Lying in the grass, looking up at the sky, I saw a formation of puffy white clouds that had long white ears, a fat round body, and a little puffy tail. It was a rabbit. It was my rabbit, my white rabbit. I could not believe it. There he was – the rabbit I had searched for through hell and back, he was right there, I had finally found him.
Not in a bottle, or powder, or pill, but right there in the beautiful morning sky. I continued to laugh, and a part of me continued to cry. I cried for all the pain I had inflicted on myself and those that loved and stood by me. I cried for the bit of anger I felt at myself for the huge chunk of my life that I lost. But I laughed for joy. I laughed because I knew that things would finally be okay.
I finally realized that I am not perfect, and not sin- less. But now I know where my rabbit is. He is not in Wonderland, but always with me – here, here in real life.
Here is where I plan to stay from now on.
Danielle Turner is a Nursing student at Clovis Community College.