When the bell rings and the bear pulls Henry through the door and off the stoop, I know it is not me that has been taken because Henry and I don’t have that kind of relationship. That’s not to say I don’t love Henry tenderly, though I wouldn’t call it rapture exactly. I do things differently so he won’t leave. I select, for instance, genial shades of lipstick, blouses with mollifying designs, slacks that say, “My husband’s at the ball game.”
The bear at my front door is enormous. I am sure. That’s what Henry kept telling me, “Susan, it’s enormous. Susan, come see!” Henry was looking through the peephole. The beer was ringing the bell. I had no intention of coming and seeing. I lost one arm to the bear already. But my love then was a stonefish disturbed. Now it is different.
I try not to get angry. For instance, I know now throwing a snow globe, a framed photo, a record player out a window is not affective communication. Some ways and places to sleep or not sleep I once thought were expressions of love. I know now they are not.
The bear has torn the door off its hinges. Amused no longer describes the emotion Henry’s cries suggest. Perhaps, distressed. It’s possible I experience something similar to a lesser degree, but far be it from me to assume we feel the same thing.
Different sentiments, I’m sure, were inspired by our common atmosphere. The heater. The ceiling. The skylight. The grey outside. The winter piling more and more sky on us. It was a good indication that I had been in the house too long and the house began to feel small. I often felt as if my insides expanded while the skin around them was contracting. Like water, freezing in a bottle, right before the glass cracks. I know now this is not our common ailment. I can tell the difference between the things I think and the things I say aloud. I know Henry cannot hear me thinking. I know I was not taken by the bear. I know that was not me at the door. That was another person entirely, a person who lived, five months, albeit alongside, though ultimately and irrevocably outside of me.
This made communication imperative. I asked about life before me. I didn’t expect to be a second coming. I asked who left whom? I said he didn’t have to tell me everything. I know there were things he didn’t tell me.
The door, yes, is clearly clean of hinges. The splintered wood is swinging. The bear is running across the front lawn with Henry slung over his shoulder. I turn away from the door. I mount the stairs to our bedroom. I’d like to be alone now and think things over. Even in the bedroom I can hear car horns blare and Henry’s scream. I cover my ears. I say aloud to the universe: I want to be alone now, and think all this over.
He said it was mutual or she left him or he left her. He said she writes. He doesn’t answer. He was altruistic in bed but ultimately ineffective. He watched Scar Face every night for three weeks and sobbed in the back of the empty theatre. Then he left that city. It was good he did. I suppose, it was good to get to know someone, to be known. Someone to form, for instance, opinions about the way I do or do not respond. Someone else to tell the neighbors I am or am not the sort to sit in the dark and look in their windows. And having someone else certainly does make one, in a very general sense, less suspicious.
Outside it is snowing. Two cars, abandoned with the driver’s doors ajar, have crashed and there are various footprints between the street and forest.
I know Henry would not describe his feelings towards me as rapture either. But it is not as if I never experienced this. From sixteen to maybe my mid-twenties, I seemed always to discover some one or other with whom to practice rapture. People then seemed always to give back to me some part of myself I was stunned I’d lived so long without. It seemed, then, I’d never live again without them, but I was mistaken. The bear took them and I lived.
Jessica Alexander’s work has appeared in Denver Quarterly, Black Warrior Review, Dreginald, and Fence among other places. She is a PhD candidate at the University of Utah and is currently a fiction editor for Quarterly West.