The Breadcrumbs widget will appear here on the published site.
By Christopher Baldwin
We are at war with The Bears, just Wyndham and I. Since I moved in the whole neighbourhood's gone. My mouth tastes like a charity shop coffee morning. It's been an intense few weeks, lots of change. I guess Wyndham is trying to get me to smile by puppeteering with breakfast. Welllcome to Breakfastville, Missy. Y'know... things really came to change around here when Lady Bacon Legs came t' town. Yessiree! Ol' Man Muffin couldn't get enough of that streaky mistress.
Try hard. Sure, Wyndham's a card at the kitchen table. Still, I can tell he feels monstrous forcing himself on to me. Another grizzly for me to contend with. I don't know why he bothers. I need to tell you says the monster, I do love you. Wyndham's house, surrounded by frosted blades of overgrowing green grasses, is a smouldering blaze for me. A fur coat of burning embers. Ah, sweetheart. I'm only slightly petrified. I dunno. I felt better about the last few weeks but, it's like his sweet thought had been made mundane by the effort it had taken him to make it come out of his mouth. I doodle on the napkins this like novelty dog, eyes fixed upward in feigned distraction, nodding. Yep. Yep. I want a romantic walk, Let's chance it Wyndham! with The Bears lurking in the bushes, capable of anything.
So I tell him Wyndham, what you're saying makes sense and sounds convincing but it's just like, well, magic. Not magic obviously, but like magic in that it's a trick, it's brainwashing techniques. I'm sure the bastard's just trying to Paul McKenna me into staying with him. Or he'll impregnate me or something. Is every man I meet going to turn out the same, pushing all the wrong buttons? I love the smell of Autumn, the smell of kicking wet mulching leaves and the breeze on my cold tight face. That back-to-school feeling like life is changing again.
War is hell. Through the icy drizzle I see they've taken Wyndham's clothesline along with my clothes, gnawed at his garden furniture, left thick steaming grassy bear shit in Wyndham's BBQ by his bench where we made love that time and first had an inkling of a perception of a sort of rustling in the thorny bush and on investigation a gleaning of some kind of presence from a fuzzy tuft, a remnant of a fuzzy being. I remember him asking could we make love in the nettles. I told him maybe and demurred from making love outside then. Which has probably contributed to The Bears building the confidence to maraud more freely through the garden and then ever increasing open spaces in the neighbourhood. Does it help that we're walking together? Are they afraid of Wyndham? Will they claw at his skin, rip his body apart, lap the gums off his jaw? Will Wyndham hold me and kiss me through the pain of having my abdomen swiped away by a paw. Or would the twat run. We can see movement of unknown cause ahead and I see my T-shirt that I hand-painted years ago in the bushes like a tattoo moving under an opaque rustling gauze of chest hair, reading I'm with stupid with an arrow. And we hot-step it back up the garden path.
So now we're through the shut door, relieved and feeling the difference the warmth makes on our skin, he's putting his arm around me so his fist is tickling my ear and for once says with the right amount of love and the right lack of soppiness Come here dumpy. I feel his rough sleeve on my neck making the skin redden and actually I see the rash in the porch mirror behind the stack of coats and cherish it as I guide him with his other hand on my hip through the stale herb air of the pantry, and kitchen, then up the stairs, into his bedroom. Since my last boyfriend and until now I had forgotten how to enjoy the comfort in this and now thank whatever audience my thoughts are compelled to speak to for having a body and for having this lover for now. Thanks for reminding me of my body Wyndham. It's there after all, below my head distracted by all the taken-to-hearts, mini-pleasures, plans, futures. Blowing away my niggles and bitches he drags me into the world and after we make love I sense my surroundings with a clarity better than if I snap my fingers and tap my feet to exit a trespassing daydream, another stale obsession that is outstaying its welcome.
I'm liking that Wyndham has the look of a man who through short-sightedness, or lack of mirrors, or... inability to recognise his own reflection? Is unkempt except for the practicalities - beard seemingly knifed off at the chin, eyebrows dusty with dry flakes of skin. Eyes cornered with crust. It's kind of refreshing? I'm liking that he speaks and breathes with his mouth hanging open and a line of spit connecting the centre of the lips which he may never in his life have realised, making it sort of cute? I am not liking him coming back from the bathroom with dried white toothpaste lining his mouth where the purple of his lips meets normal skin and that I have to kiss him anyway because how can you explain that this has happened a few times now and it is a turn off? In the feathered warmth of our cavernous duvet he tells me things, boring, strange, personal, embarrassing. I tell myself I've chosen Wyndham, I must live with the consequences but then I stare at him asleep, some person who seems to be more of a stranger now than anyone I have clapped my eyes on. How have I ended up here in this bed with this man? Not every aspect of this situation was my decision, I'm sure. Then I'm dreaming that we contract diseases from kissing through our sweaters made of the fur from The Bears.
We discover they've squeezed lemons into our milk and cream, souring our coffee and desserts. They have their paws in the plumbing, which means our hot tub time has become a cold and shallow wettening that leaves a film of grease on our skin. The wines in Wyndham's cellar have turned to vinegar. The electricity's gone. We're eating chips and peas in the dark and splash the spoiled wine on whatever was frozen or is good still. Then we're talking about how we're both doing, how our days have gone, he's grumbling through his day swinging his head back but then listening to me attentively while I am gossiping and absent-mindedly drawing naked breasts on an unused napkin. They got my number somehow and I start receiving texts like The real world can be a beautiful place full of joy, I suggest you start living there. And There is a problem with your bill, please call 08993 344 444 immediately.
We're discussing going in Wyndham's car for supplies. Every time we use it now we must check underneath the bonnet and the chassis for crude explosive devices cobbled together by The Bears. We haven't found anything but sitting here, key in the ignition I'm wondering what it will be like to have a dead boyfriend? If I tell people, will they be sad for me, pity me or will it reinforce their world view of Bears are just plain bad, look what they have done to this boy and this girl, now bound to a wheelchair having had both legs blown right off at the hip. This poor legless girl all alone but still left with everything, still capable of the act of loving. Will it make me more interesting? Turn the key Wyndham. He's just sitting there.
Sometimes I feel like, limited. Like I haven't met anyone good enough or as smart as me. I dream of moving to a smarter country, to an intelligent town with like, clever friends who uplift and confirm my feeling of, I dunno. I think I deserve better. Sometimes I believe it to have been a curse to be this smart. I don't want to die alone, then again I could end up getting torn apart by an angry mob. So which do I prefer?
People have been seeping back into the community and a system of colour-identified smoke signals has been developed between us to contend with the lack of communication presented by bear tampering. With my Pink smoke I communicate that I believe the Bears are good at heart and only display arrogance and aggression to hide their depth and sensitivity and their true good will toward us. Girl 9, as green, smoked back Yah, me too. Then Boy 12, he is grey, piped up with Bears are malodorous dumb thugs who get sympathy only from idiots and should be stuffed with sawdust. Green, grey and pink then, all kind of petering out. Then Wyndham, Monsieur Yellow, enters the debate with an, in my opinion, inappropriate hip-check signal to pink (me - awkward). Grey hifives yellow and asks How is it hanging? So I thicken up my pink presence conspicuously filling out the horizon causing grey to signal Do I know you? Disgust (red) fills my cheeks, and I feel something like smoke of an unidentified colour is tooting out of my ears! The following day the passing news cloud states that Bears hide true feelings with arrogance and aggression say analysts. A side effect of this being that women become attracted to them. Then a kind of orange brickcoloured smoke (The Bears?) puffed up with Why discuss things with smoke signals if you don't want everyone to see what you're talking about?
We have become bear obsessed, playing bear chess where the denominations are noted by a small shaped-paper hat or, for the pawns, a tiny muzzle and carved cork boxing gloves. Bear Top Trumps is a favourite when at the loosest of ends with Wyndham, where indistinguishable bears in different positions, scenes and settings have their qualities and personality (or lack of) indicated by a system of number values by categories of Strength, Humour, Cuddliness When Hibernating, Appetite for Humans, and Disembowelmentability (aka Claw Length)!
Electricity comes and goes now. I'm watching a documentary about The Bears with Wyndham while it lasts, about how their philosophy of destructiveness came about. They apparently have no reason to live and so feel they can do whatever they want. Nothing to lose, no reason to behave well. I imagine the freedom I can have as an utter failure, after everything I wish and hope for is proven unachievable and everything I have and hold dear is lost. I almost feel happy that I can appreciate this at an early age, to understand that freedom. The Bears have this, at the expense of ours though as we're hemmed in from all sides in Wyndham's house. You think they'd be up for hibernating about now? It's ridiculous, an army of bears laying base in a semi-detached five bedroom property in once happy suburban England, embarking the battlefield of the lawn opposite Wyndham's rusted shat-on BBQ, amongst shapes cut in the frost by the shadow of the houses. Through their patio doors, roaring through the netting of open bay windows. Past the three piece suite, vases, bears entertaining bears, dancing, dramatic relationship dynamics unfolding. Uncle Bear goosing the In-laws after one too many amongst the remnants of the human family that once lived there. I don't know how much longer I can stand this. They've developed aerial attack capabilities via catapult. The Bears have the advantage. War is toecurling.
I want to be tired enough to sleep. The adverts breaking up the documentary begin to resemble personal idols, magic charms, fertility aids, presentations of symbols promoting the encouragement of faith in this or that product's power to fulfil my hopes and desires. New ways to entice a lover with cereal, to improve my gut with bacteria. To free myself of discomfort equalling more hot sex in the long run if I'm to believe the narratives. I'm thinking way too much so I have to press my hand to my temple to stop from spinning out. I'm asking myself again and again what I want. I know I want to draw again and eventually I pick up a pen and Wyndham says You're drawing are you? He's loading his shotgun, then going for the door, but hasn't got his keys, so he's back in again looking for those. You're one of those drawers now are you? patting himself down for whatever he thinks he needs on this night's meander. I mean - look at him, he can't even organise himself out of his house let alone be what I want him to be. What was I thinking. I think if it could just be me and my pens here, that would be fine. Maybe if he returned with a small injury it might bring me closer to him or to pity him. I would so step right up to the plate and nurse that boy to health. To blue plaster-up my silent brooding bear. At the least, a reason to be here. Instead I decide to drink and drink the vinegarised wine until Wyndham gets back, to make something happen in me that through static momentum won't otherwise shift. To stop from being the kind of woman who waits for the finger of love and fortune to identify her as unique and mark her forehead as she walks down the street.
I wake up and see Wyndham is looking out the window at a light. He can't puzzle it out. I know, though I won't say, that from that light The Bears are projecting on the side of the house these desires that I have until now put aside for him. They cannot happen with Wyndham I will probably leave him because in the projection I am tied to the bed with Girl 9 looming over me lasciviously. But even I prefer the mysteries of my own fantasy. This is too much for me, too new to enjoy. It's more than anything I can do with Wyndham, as exciting as I can imagine something being. But I'm frightened, sad, jealous. This is the moment he will remember, the things that in the beginning of us we hoped we would never have to see, the kind that make him think about knocking off every other girl in the neighbourhood. So he watches from the garden and at that maddening point of unrequited love I thought he would give himself to The Bears or explain a million unconvincing ways to make it work. But he doesn't bother and suggests we don't even talk about it and leaves again with his shotgun.
I'm sitting here looking out his window and I'm thinking if I lose my mind will I still have the ability to think about losing my mind. Will I realise, will I feel it slipping away, will I be able to have remorse for lost memories, will I forget that people lose their mind, will I forget I was sat here now thinking about losing the memory of sitting here now thinking about losing the memory. I remember having the same thought two weeks ago, getting up and sitting on Wyndham's lap, punching him in the arm and then when he hugged my waist saying What's up babe, what are you thinking? I farted on his knee. The Bears now act out a burlesque masquerade in the garden, miming sarcastic weeping followed by a hellish satire of my every hope and dream. Neither of us ever did the gardening and I notice that the surface is a vast history of our time together in Wyndham's house. Grass grows out from his rubber duck, the third nodding head in our, when it was still hot, hot-tub threesome. Dinner plates with leftovers of romantic meals stuck to them, they are half hidden beneath the wind bent green blades that were frosty when we were at least cosy. Overnight The Bears have left firewood by the back door as if to prolong my agony or to make me feel better, I don't know. Anyway, it's morning. The nightmares become daydreams. I'm feeling better.
The Bears have become less aggressive and though I do not acknowledge them on the streets, we can at least be civil. In my new job I get paid £6 an hour, but if I do not do my job properly people get their limbs amputated. I suggest that £6 an hour does not suitably reflect the extent of the post holder's responsibility. I get asked Where did you get your training? Fucking, Pinky and Perky's retirement home? I do not fully understand the man and the issue remains unchecked at management level. I decide to work to the quality and responsibility they deem it to be worth as reflected by the current salary. I await their reaction to a pink limbless worm.
On a date with my new colleague, Boy 12, I ask What would you prefer, to have no limbs for a year or eat nothing but peas and vinegar for the rest of your life? And after he says I couldn't do without my third leg, through my mind rushes the words STOP GAP, STOP GAP, STOP GAP. I work with Girl 9 now too. She talks to herself because she's used to being alone except for her dogs and is always giving them a running commentary of the internal workings of her mind. She fell asleep when we watched TV together one night and began mumbling to herself Who is ALWAYS happy? And then she was awake and in a while we started to kiss. She said I like your body and, well. Face to face... let's have a closer look. Okay, what have we got? Right. Your forehead. Is quite big isn't it. Much like mine, sure. And I don't pay so much attention to that anyway. But your nose, it sort of gets in the way doesn't it? Look... uh huh. HA. Look out! Don't get too close, y'know? Ah man. I'm not sure about this. Further away - you're so. Y'know. And close up it's... a bit. Oh! But. Over there... quite nice yeah. I would! But, then I have to get close up to. Y'know. Do that.
I could still want Girl 9, but it's not quite right now. I could have forgotten about the problems, I'd do that for her. So that we could have something at least, something like shared moments? For convenience? For comfort. This is what made it harder to let go of Wyndham. Because I made an investment by silently conceding to abort certain dreams, certain fantasies and ideals of mine. For a time. For the sake of something good AND that exists outside of my own fucking head. It's hard to cut your losses and still lose the lot. I feel like this will happen again and again for whoever wants in. The empty quarters are there for those roles bred into me, like mother, father, sister, cousin, husband, secret lover, friend, enemy. The architecture is there within me to house someone like Wyndham and the others, to step into the predecessors' boots and scuff them against the knackered welcome mat. But unrequited love is the worst thing to accompany me through my sheltered days of health and plenty food and water. I would rather slink alone and hungry through the empty ruins of these servants' quarters. I would be content for them to be derelict, policed by The Bear Army, left to let dust settle rather than be filled with lesser lodgers while I sit here gorging myself under Wyndham's roof and missing him. I'm a sucker, I'm a motherfucker for love. I protest at people thinking I give a shit about what Girl 9, Boy 12, Wyndham or The Bears think about me by standing on the bench by Wyndham's BBQ and urinating a vertical fan of piss into the fire which normally facilitates my smoke communications. The smoke and spitting steam signals out I'm one hell of a girl across the sky and I think what do I want now?