When I get home, Santa has peed all over the carpet. I find out when taking off my shoes and feeling my socks turn wet. Santa is sort of litter trained and normally prefers the newspapers in the kitchen, but today he must have been feeling rebellious. If I'd known I'd end up keeping a pet rabbit, I would never have chosen a deep pile carpet.
I didn't really choose Santa – which is not the same as saying that I didn't buy him. I bought him from a farm on December the 23rd last year. Christmas Eve would be the reunion with my dad, whom I hadn't seen since he left my mother soon after my first suicide attempt. He would come up from Newport on Christmas Eve and spend the day with me. I was so nervous – both scared we would have nothing to talk about, and terrified that there would be too many hurtful things to say. I bought the rabbit because one of the few happy memories I have of my dad is when he took me outside one Christmas day and showed me how to kill a rabbit, take off the head and feet and strip it of its skin.
I've never been inclined to use this particular skill, but I bought the white Flemish Giant because it would give us something to do. At noon, we sat opposite each other in the living room, anticipating the doorbell. Me: dressed up in my pinstriped suit, clean faced, hair combed back with gel. The bunny: in a cardboard box on the table, wide eyed and shaking with fear.
At one, the rabbit yawned and tried to lie down. The box was too small for him. I was still sitting on the edge of my chair, watching him and said: “Don't worry, they'll be here any minute now.”
By two, I'd let him out of the box so that at least he could stretch out on the carpet.
At three, I was starting to get hungry and went up to the fridge. “Can I offer you anything?” I asked my only guest. I heated up two mince pies and offered the bunny a Brussels sprout. And another one.
By nine o'clock, I sat down to a vegetarian Christmas dinner on the floor of my living room, because the main ingredient was eating it with me. The 10lb rabbit turned out to have a great appetite and finished the plate of carrot tops and raw Brussels sprouts I made him.
My father didn't have a mobile phone and I was way too proud to call my mother and tell her my dad hadn't showed up. She'd had trouble hiding her disappointment when I told her I would be spending Christmas with my father, and had made a big song and dance of making different arrangements.
Santa's been living in my two bedroom flat ever since. I never got round to buying a hutch, and don't think he would accept it if I bought him one now, after all these months. Apart from pissing on the carpet, he's a lot less messy than the blokes I used to share my student house with anyway.