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Bear With Me

Damyanti Biswas

 

I killed my boy on a trip down the stairs.

Dave, poor bastard, keeps saying not your fault Mia, come on, but from where I am, inside this blue-foggy place, I see only the tiny face that would have suckled at my breast right now, right here on this sofa, had I stayed careful. Dave doesn’t tell me we’ll make another one.

He and I haven’t been doing it lately. All this lard, I wear it like a blanket, to wrap myself in. The other part is I can’t stand it, to have something enter me, deposit a life and then for me to go and lose it, have it fall out.

Three years I tried, let Dave laugh at the way I kept a calendar of my temperature, made him do it on the right days with a bolster under my hips, lay in the right posture afterwards, for the right amount of time. And then Dave found me, knocked out and bleeding. If not for him, I’d have bled out all the way.

The last two months, I live on the sofa next to the foot of the stairs. I refuse to run away from what I’ve done. I live in front of the TV, walk out during ad breaks to pee, or scrounge in the refrigerator. Catch a nap at dawn and wake up to the morning bulletin. I lower the volume at nights so Dave can sleep, because I’m afraid I’ll stop living if the TV stops talking. I need noise to drown out what would have been my son’s heartbeat.

Last night I woke up and stared out of the window, and then I knew. It was the bear, the bear who sat beside me on the sofa, his paw the size of a dinner plate on my shoulder, soft and padded, claws hidden. The bear had taken my son. Not a grumpy bear, this one. He had a half-smile, like he knew lots of secrets he wasn’t telling.

This morning, I tried to tell Dave.

“I can’t sleep these days,” he said, “Without you beside me I can’t relax, you know that, and now you come to me with weird tales about your dreams.”

“You’re not listening.”

“Bear with me. We’re paying a professional to listen to you, Mia.”

I stared at him, his rumpled hair, his tousled clothes and how very like a grizzly he looked. I wanted to hug him. And then I didn’t.

“I can come with you for the session, if you like.”

He stripped on the way to his shower, and I couldn’t stand how toned he looked, fitter than five years ago, when I married him. Nah, no bear looked like that. I went back to the sofa to catch up on sleep.

 

I wake up past noon, to silence. Has Dave left me and gone?

I switch on the TV next—why had he switched it off? He’s left me the usual note, stuck on the TV remote: Food in the refrigerator. Get brunch when you wake up. Will call you. Want to go out this evening?

The air-conditioning whirs, but my t-shirt is moist with sweat. I feel filthy with the smell of stale food, sweat, alcohol. I brush my teeth and head to the kitchen, pour my cereal. Two foods I like these days, cereals and pizza: anything else makes my stomach protest.

Moving about the kitchen, I feel the first stitches of pain in my lower back, the fullness in my pelvis. It is coming, the cramping reminder that I don’t need folic acid any more, can booze as much as I want. My breasts have hurt for the last three days. My nipples feel tender against my t-shirt, but no tiny mouth would suckle them.

When I get back to the sofa, I find the bear, looking at me with a smile that is not a smile. I shiver, but I wouldn’t give in. Won’t let a stupid bear scare me away from my own sofa.

He’s sitting at my spot. I shove at him. My lard is good for something—it gives me presence, authority. The bear does not budge, keeps smiling in that way he has. I can see his teeth. They are large, not white. His breath smells of old fruits, honey, fir cones, blood, figs. He looks too big to bother with, so I sit next to him, invading his personal space as much as I can without touching.

He puts his paw on my shoulder, and just sits there. I don’t know if he watches me eat, and I don’t care. I switch channels, show him I’m busy, quite capable of being absorbed in what I witness on the screen. I try to find a wildlife channel where they show grizzlies going extinct, or polar bears hanging on to an ice float in the middle of an ocean, or orphaned moon bears looking lost.

I wake up again, and this time, the bear cuddles me, the fur soft against my skin, paws toasty like heat pack on my tummy. “Go back to sleep,” it says in Dave’s gruff voice, and I do.

When I open my eyes, the bear’s gone. I miss the warmth of him, the tickle of his breath in my hair, but not his weight.  I know what he’s done. Pushed me down the stairs, the bastard. I want to tell Dave all about it when he comes home.

I switch off the TV, I need the silence to think. 4 p.m. Two more hours and Dave would return.

I gather myself up, go to the kitchen, and pick up the knife. Its heft feels solid in my hand, it reassures me. I’ll give the bear something to think about when he returns.

Hugging me in its giant limbs, it wouldn’t know. I’ll part the cuddlesoft fur under its arm and sink the blade quietly in.

***

33 Comments

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  1. Susan says:

    Excellent and evocative of murderous rage

  2. Samir Mishra says:

    I could hear the noises ringing behind your voice… scary ones… loud bangs! Creepy!

  3. LaChelle says:

    My condolences. No one should have to suffer such a loss. Your words are beautifully tragic. I wish I had comfort to give you. All I can say is I admire your strength and you have a beautiful way with words.

  4. Beth says:

    I’m glad to know such a talented writer, Damyanti. Your words pour off the page and leave me breathless. …and I do think you have a beautiful voice! No kidding. <3

  5. The sadness is so strong in the story….and so true that it is a solo burden to bear. The missed chances, the maybe and the miscarried ones are all a woman’s fault and problem.
    Where he says, you are talking to a shrink, and I could go with you…..as doing her a favor – sad but true…..

  6. nabanita says:

    So sad and tragic..somehow it’s assumed to be the woman’s fault and even we assume it is our fault… But it shouldn’t be like this…

  7. Wow, Damyanti….this story will haunt me for days…..

  8. I love this piece by Damyanti. Literature is a conversation between authors in the minds of their readers, and reading this is like Damyanti and Charlotte Gilman are having tea together in my mind. It’s evocative in my mind of Charlotte Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper,” another tale of a woman “not taken seriously” despite a crippling mental illness that is largely imposed upon her by the patriarchal attitudes of her culture.

    In this case, the mental illness is occasioned by the trauma of miscarriage through which Mia suffers, and that illness is exacerbated by the indifference of a husband who has clearly weighed and measured her “as a woman” and found her wanting (according to his own patriarchal definition of womanhood’s value). Her protest, “You’re not listening,” is met with coldness, “We’re paying a professional to listen to you.”

    I also love the suspense, the rising tension. There are hints and allegations in the text of the transposition of the bear and the husband. Is the bear nothing more than a delusion, a figment of her traumatized mind, or is the bear a mental construction hiding the “real” bear, the true threat, her own husband? Did the husband have something to do with the miscarriage? Was it abuse that brought Mia to catastrophe at the bottom of the stairs?

    Such an elegantly told story. Damyanti is definitely a writer to be watching as her career continues to mature.

  9. judith says:

    i almost didnt read the story. Because, the content being rather disturbing yet elusive for me who has never been pregnant. I suspect, I would take this tragic experience even in worse ways. pangs of motherhood, almost seems beyond control of mind and reasoning and could drive one mad. the bear reminds me of my motherly companionship with my several pet cats and its the closest i’ve felt to motherhood. so i kinda find the bear reassuring, cuddly, furry, animal, un-contrived in its symbolism for me.

  10. Birgit says:

    This is disturbing and real even with the bear smiling. Love the set up and the possibly tragic outcome

  11. Hi Damyanti
    What an amazing story!
    Well versed with wonderful words!
    And Ha, you narrated it even better!
    An experience narrated as if it happened!
    Good one!
    Thanks for sharing
    ~ Phil

  12. Ocsob Allinob says:

    Wow! I really liked your piece. Very powerful and catchy. I like the noir twick at the end.

  13. Kate says:

    What a powerful story! Simply written, yet so evocative and poignant. I was totally qbsorbed by the first sentence. I do hope though, that its not autobiographical.

  14. Esseh says:

    interesting tragic reading i like

  15. Linda says:

    Loved this. Thanks for sharing your gift.

    Whether her husband is the bear or not, does not matter. Because of her complete conversion from reality into insanity, from the tremendous loss she suffered, he will pay. Someone must.

  16. Tammy says:

    Wow, very nice. This is just the type of writing that I call fearless, endangering the blank white of paper by force of impact and power.

  17. Fred says:

    This was truly an emotional roller coaster. Excellent writing.

  18. Denise Covey says:

    Amazingly evocative, Damyanti! Those words: ‘I need noise to drown out what would have been my son’s heartbeat.’ show the reader a little glimpse into her intense suffering. It captured my attention from the opening sentence and continued to hook me all the way through. I did feel for the husband, too. It would be so hard to deal with a partner in such depths of depression. Maybe it’s the Libra in me, always seeing both sides. I didn’t want to just slap him with the privileged male patriarchal tag. Too easy. So this story can be read in more than one way, which is surely the intention of literary fiction.

    Thank you for its excellence. I’ll have it on my mind for some time.

    Denise 🙂

  19. Peter Nena says:

    Disturbing. Horrific.

  20. Absolutely beautiful!
    You always push the boundaries, Damyanti! I love that about your writing!
    Your mind is open, your writing is deep, you’re not afraid to put yourself on the line… and to me, that’s what separates a good writer from a fantastic writer!

  21. It like a poem, in that there are many nuances. Insanity, abuse, and loss combine in a very evocative way. He laughed at her efforts but didn’t dissuade them. He hasn’t said he wants to try again, he writes her notes and despite the fact that she’s given up he hasn’t, at least not on her. While not overly sympathetic he writes her notes, and men deal with this kind of loss so differently. Each fact a possible two edge sword. Some abuse is extremely subtle almost undetectable to the abuser or the abused. Insanity or deep loss? After three years of trying insanity is possible, but the bear, wow I find that more difficult to decipher, but intriguing again for all the possibilities.
    Well done, especially if you’ve never dealt with abuse or miscarriage, you see much deeper and write it much better than most!

  22. Amazing writing, so beautiful, yet powerful.

  23. Evocative writing at its best. I’ve never miscarried, but had a hard time getting pregnant. Reading about Mia’s struggle–the temperature taking, the exact days to ‘do it’ — took me back, but the strength of the story,I think, is in the writer’s ability to go into Mia’s mind, following the tragedy, and leave her psyche open for us to see and interpret. Very well done.

  24. Luke Kendall says:

    Beautiful: poignant, elegantly complex; gripping, terrible. A work of art.

  25. Damyanti, the story is dark expressing what one’s conceal inside the mind and the pain, angst of losing a child. What a fluid writing! A story that haunts.

  26. Paul says:

    A depth of sorrow, anger, and depression expressed with the elegance and reality that one only gets with experience of their own or someone very close to them. Beautifully written. 🙂

  27. Jack Shalom says:

    Really excellent. Thank you very much for this.

  28. Gripping and tragic. I could feel her pain. Extremely well written.

  29. Jay Brooks says:

    What a powerful story! The imagery and nuance are haunting.

  30. CKP says:

    So very well done Damyanti. I apologize for having taken so long to get to it. Time outside of Costa Rica has sped up again and it has taken its toll.
    Is Dave, then, an abuser? Did he push her or does she simply blame him out of the need to stop blaming herself?

  31. Damayanti,you made me feel Mia’s heartbreaking pain, it was powerfully evocative!
    The heart sinks to read the line :”We are paying a proffessional to listen to you”.

  32. Inderpreet says:

    The pain of loss and the rage and the helplessness!! I could feel the ‘bear’ in the room!.

  33. Heidi Love says:

    Powerful story Damyanti. I felt like I was there.

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