May Book Club Pick: Little Rabbit
This is the sexiest book we’ve read in a long time. The unnamed
narrator of Little Rabbit is a young queer woman living in
Boston with her roommate, Annie. At an artists’ residency in Maine,
our narrator (an unpublished writer) meets a man (an established
choreographer) two decades older than her. She’s repelled by him at
first, but after the residency, she finds herself drawn to see a dance
performance of his and then into his life, his home in the Berkshires,
his New York City apartment, and his art. Their relationship, their
sex, and the way she desires to submit to him both challenge and
expand her sense of self.
Little Rabbit is a seductive, deeply complex exploration of power and agency, and lust and love. It rushes through you. The last page left us in a state. Stunned. And we’ve been eager to discuss with you since.
From Little Rabbit
The question of sleeping with the choreographer, of what it would feel like to touch him, knocked around inside of me until winter broke into rainy New England spring. Finally, I came up with an excuse. I convinced a friend at a small cultural magazine to let me profile the choreographer and his dance company. No one would pay me, and I’d have to buy my own train ticket and stay on my friend’s couch in Sunset Park, but it gave me a reason to email him that I was coming.
Good, he wrote back. You can stop in on a rehearsal.
At some point during the train ride down the coast, the cool spring switched to sudden muggy presummer, a bubble of heat and humidity that only grew overnight as I sweated and turned on my friend’s stiff foldout couch. The heat dampened my anticipation, muddling my expectations with my own gross humanity.
I had to take three different trains to get to the choreographer’s rehearsal space, and during the journey I absorbed vast quantities of the city’s grime and dirt. By the time I got to the school turned performing arts studio, I’d sweated through my linen blouse, my denim shorts, transformed into a swamp of a human being.
The cool walls of the old brownstone building mixed with the heat so the air turned strange and clammy. Walking through the long halls of identical doors, I felt like a child again, suddenly oversize, wandering until I found the sounds of music and counting.
I could hear his voice, the sound of his hands clapping. Wiping my sweaty palms on my shorts, I grabbed the door handle and pulled.
The rehearsal space still felt like a classroom, the walls a different color where the chalkboards had been. Cool air rattled through new aluminum vents. Six or seven glorious bodies moved through the middle of the room, cutting around each other, stopping, stretching, lifting and throwing one dancer to another. Even though I’d never seen anyone else do the things they did, their bending, twisting feats made them seem more human, like they’d found new doors into how to be a body.
The choreographer stood in front of them all, watching them, instructing. He wore a white T-shirt, soft black pants, his arms wrapped around his torso as he focused. I could see the line of his waist, the lean muscles that still bound him. “More point with the chin,” he called. “You should be leading with the sternum. Carry the motion through.”
I closed the door silently behind me, but he still noticed and walked over. “Could you take off your shoes?” he asked, looking at my dirty white sneakers. A soft, matte material covered the oddly springy floor.
“Sorry,” I said, toeing them off.
“They changed as soon as you walked in the door,” he said, looking at the dancers. “Just a millimeter tighter.”
“I’m sorry,” I repeated.
“No, it’s the permanent problem of a performer,” he said. “It’s just too bad you’ll never see how they move when we’re alone.”
He went back to his spot, watching the dancers and shouting out commands, suggestions so specific I couldn’t follow. The song ended, the performers hitting their last pose. “Good work,” he said, clapping. “Now let’s get Jackie, TJ, and Zac for the trio.”
Jackie was the dancer with the long brown hair. Today she’d wrapped it up in a tight ballerina bun and dressed her body in a white leotard made of tissue-thin fabric. I stared at the muscles winging across her back, her thighs, until I felt absurd, goggle-eyed.
She turned away from my gaze, her forearms up against the back of her head with her mouth pressed into her bicep. Her right leg was up, and the two male dancers crowded the floor around her, one taking her raised calf in his palm. They held still for a beat, turned into living Grecian statues.
Then the music began and they sprang to life, one male dancer lifting Jackie, their backs to each other, then tossing her to the other who caught her by the waist. She seemed trapped for a moment with her leg stiff behind her before swirling free, the world turned by her hips.
“Stop,” the choreographer called. “Jackie, you need to be initiating the movement more from the pelvic bowl.” He crossed the room to stand next to her, pointing his thumbs at his own hips. “Imagine you have two strings tugging your iliac crests.” He swiveled to demonstrate, shifting the balance of his knees. Jackie copied him. I reached into my leather satchel for water, but I didn’t have any. I felt a pen. Oh notes, I remembered. I should be taking notes.
“And when you hit the right elbow—hit it.” She struck a pose with her right elbow up and out. “You need to point a little higher.” He touched her elbow with two fingers, adjusting. “And look a little more this way.” The fingers went to her cheek, guiding her face. “So you’re looking stage left. Right there. Right at her.” They locked on me, the choreographer pointing. Jackie smiled, and I gave a small, stupid wave.
Once rehearsal finished, the dancers fell upon their bags, gathering their empty Tupperware, their water bottles, as they reassembled their outside selves. I stood in the corner, watching everyone leave. “Good work,” the choreographer said. “See you Wednesday.” The last one—TJ?—left, and then the choreographer and I were alone.
He stood by the door at the opposite end of the room. “Shall we?”
The choreographer lived only a short train ride away. Shoved into the full subway car, I hung heavily on the metal bar. The jolts and stops swayed me toward him, each drift sending a light shock through my body.
I still didn’t say anything as I followed him up the stairs into his building, stepping into a comfortable two-bedroom apartment with an open common area and plush suede couches. The windows looked out onto trees, the street. Almost every other New York apartment I’d been in looked out on an airshaft.
“Do you want a day drink?” he asked me.
“What’s in a day drink?” I said. I didn’t look at him, pretending to study his prints, the books on his shelves.
“Like, a spritz.” He stepped behind the granite counter into the kitchen area.
I rubbed the back of my neck, feeling the grit and slime on my skin. “Actually, could I take a shower?” I asked.
He paused, holding a bottle of Aperol. “Sure,” he said. “There’s extra towels by the sink.”
I meant to just rinse off, but the bottles lining the frosted window ledge looked gender-neutral and expensive. I flipped the cap off one and sniffed. It smelled deeply herbaceous, like thyme. I rubbed the foam through my hair, his soap on my skin.
After I’d cleaned up, fresh and new, I didn’t know what else to do but put the clothes I’d come in back on, the fabric still soiled with my own sweat.
He’d fixed the drinks while I was in the bathroom, and his forearms flexed as he screwed the cap back on the Aperol. I just wanted to watch him. The light from the window turned his shirt translucent, his lean muscles visible as shadows under the fabric. Rarely had I been so close to such gorgeous masculinity.
He looked at me, my wet hair dripping dark spots onto my shirt. “The drinks are ready,” he said, picking up both glasses. Our fingers brushed as I took mine, warm flesh on cold glass.
“Do you feel better, after your shower?” he asked. We stood, even though there was ample seating.
“My clothes still feel dirty,” I said. The air pulsed, turning thick like it would keep us apart.
“That’s unfortunate,” he said.
The drinks stood between us, stupidly in our hands. “I don’t want a drink,” I said, putting it down on the table.
“No?” he said. I stepped toward him and he leaned back. But I also saw the glass leave his hand, slipped out onto the table.
He froze, I froze him, so I came right up but still didn’t touch, holding just at the edge. “Maybe I shouldn’t have gotten dressed,” I said.
His hands took me around my ribs, as if to brace me and keep me away. I flushed, the heat of first touch.
“Is this what you want?” he asked, the magnetic pull of my body defying his push so I ended up right against him, my hands resting on his chest before sliding to his neck. He felt firm underneath his thin clothing, all potential and power.
“Why do you think I came here?” I said, and then I stretched my spine so I could reach him, kiss him, his mouth taking its time to respond, first slow and still before turning fluid and open and pressing.
I removed the shirt I’d just put back on, the bra, the shorts, disrobing fully there beside his dining room table. I pulled off his shirt, his pants. “Slow down,” he said, but I wouldn’t. I would take what I’d come for.
Bare, I wrapped my arms around his neck and pressed my length against him, my softness melting around his hard. His height meant our bodies didn’t match, standing like that, his hip points pressed into me. Iliac crests. I’d wrapped my thumbs around the curved bones. I’d kiss them, expose them.
His body resisted, a wall against me and what I wanted even though it was the thing I’d come to take. He kept his touch light, all that strength held back by internal restraint. “Are you sure this is what you want?” he asked again as he guided me toward the darkened bedroom.
“Do you need me to convince you?” I asked.
And then I was on my back, looking up at him, at the expanse of his chest and the articulation of his neck. My knees pulled up obediently as his hand pushed between my legs, looking for evidence. I gasped, surprised as his fingers found the right places.
My own hands reached for him in turn, cupping and stroking, kissing and biting whatever part of his flesh became available, until I finally felt that dam inside him relent, his own hunger pouring over me.
By the time we got to the drinks, the ice had melted. He threw them out, mixed some more, and brought them into bed. I felt parched, wrung out, swallowing greedily even though alcohol wasn’t the solution.
From Little Rabbit by Alyssa Songsiridej, published by Bloomsbury Publishing. Copyright (c) 2022 by Alyssa Songsiridej.
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