He was given to me after my parents had a sudden but gradual divorce when I was six. My grandmother who spoiled me had ran to the nearest macy's during Valentine's Day to fetch one brown bear and one red bear for my sister and I. My sister's red bear was soon sold along with some other stuffed animals in the future but my brown bear was not.
"Close your eyes," she said. My eyes were closed and the darkness I saw led me to imaginary presents. What could it be? Some money to buy something I don't really need? A boring polo? Some janky socks?
I opened my eyes slowly to see a nice sized brown bear with a red bow embroidered into the front of his neck. He was beautiful. His eyes were pitch black and simple. Like two black marbles. Usually you'd think dark black eyes would freak you out, but to me they were the calmest pairs of eyes I had ever seen. His big red lacey bow made him look very professional, and symbolic of love and passion. His long whiskers were simply pieces of thread that had been stuffed into his nose in a way that perfectly made them stick up. His little ears were awkwardly uneven but so so beautiful. I knew after hugging and holding him the first time I had received him that he was going to be there for me.
Over the course of a month, I had bonded and spent my time well with bear. That's what I called him. Bear. How original I thought—This was before I had met many other kids who named their bears "bear." I propped him up next to me whenever I would eat. And I would feed him the best foods and only the best foods. I would make sure to leave the right amount because I didn't want his little tummy to be upset. I held him close when I would often get fevers and strep throat. Or when I would play hide and seek and hope not to be found.
I would be the most upset when someone would joke about throwing him in the trash. Or taking him and hiding him from me. Or when my mother would ask if I wanted to sell him at the next yard sale. "What?" "Why would you even ask that Mom?"
A day after being bullied by the popular kids, I ran home to cry and grabbed bear as fast as I could. I cried on the red bow and was met with itches and annoying lace in my face. This red bow was stupid, I thought. Purely for more glamour and design, but not made for crying and hugging securely—on his upper neck and chest. I tip toed with no socks on the cold floor to my kitchen where I fetched some smaller safer scissors from the junk drawer. As I stood looking at bear, I became uncertain. I was scared to change him. Scared to make him look different. Would he like it? Would I end up liking it? Would it mess him up?
I thought long and hard before pulling him closer and gently cutting the bow off. The bow cut off really easily and had left a small wad of notted thread under the main center knot. But I didn't mind because this meant I could hug him more and be closer to his chest and neck, without the annoying itch. I was pleased. I cried on him more and more before the tears stopped and I realized that bear knew that I was going to be okay.
Over a few years, I had learned to be okay alone. Bear was a decoration of dust laid under my bed sometimes. He was propped against a dresser for back support because I had set him there. He sometimes didn't sleep with me because I had forgotton where he was in my room. He slept at the end of my bed instead of in my arms. He was stashed in a closet with other bears, elephants, giraffes, tigers, and raccoons who had been neglected.
But I would always come back for him in the darkest times because I knew he would still love me and be okay with it. "You're so selfish! You selfish fuck!" I would hear him whisper that before smothering him with love, and reassurance that I would always come back for him.
By my middle school years I had experienced many waves of depression. Depression. A word that had a deeper meaning to describe the darkest feelings one can feel, even if they have no reasoning.
My uncertainty of whether I liked boys or girls or not was the pivot point of my seventh and eigth grade years. I kissed a girl but she said it wasn't a kiss. I looked at boys but didn't talk to them. I was attracted to girls that I knew I couldn't keep up with because of my shyness. A closed little turtle. Only prying out of his shell when something more serious happens. I was bullied often and befriended by males which led me to believe that whenever a guy was interested in me, he was probably gay.
When I lost my virginity during high school, my innocence had left me like an old pair of pants I was forced to get rid of. I reflected on the notion of it. The way it happened. How it was set up. What had happened before that evening that made me sad. Would this make me feel better?
Someone who had some interest in me over the course of months via Instagram left me worried. What it truly meant to love someone and fulfill them physically and emotionally was lost after one bus ride that only cost me a dollar-fifty. I went home that night in pieces because I knew I wasn't the same. I thought I wanted something wild and fast. Like jumping right into a pool without learning how to swim first. I ran to bed after a long and warm shower and gathered bear in my arms. I held him so hard that my arms were sore the next morning. I cried and cried because my innocence was lost, but yet I was holding it still.
Throughout the next few years of my life, my uncertainty of what I wanted in life had led me to believe that I had no purpose at all. My mind was evolving and changing. My thoughts were overwhelmingly beautiful and ugly. I made it a routine to hold bear whenever I felt the lowest in my life. I would cry and hold my bear under the covers with his head on my pillow like a human next to me. I would cry without dabbing the tears off of me or him. All of the big little tears would soak into his fabric before disappearing and drying along with my negative emotions. I would look at him after crying every time and realize that he was mine and I was his, and that he was dead and I was alive. Breathing. Crying. Laughing. Learning. Loving.
When I die I want him cremated with me. Along with everything I had faced, suffered, enjoyed, and lived upon. I want his little ashes mixed with mine before we set sail into some part of the earth that I loved. I want people to know that they weren't there for me at times and he was. My brown bear.