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September 10, 2010

I’m sinking, but I can’t feel the cold or wet through the fur. I tug at the zipper.

Is escape really possible?

Once upon a time there was a little girl named Mary. She was three before she learned that her dolls were not anatomically correct. She made that discovery in the bathtub—with her cousins. “Stand up, kids,” Her mom said, raising her camera. “Smile!” The flash went off. “Aren’t they just adorable?” She asked Aunt Chrissie.

Mary studied that picture and for the first time realized that her cousins Tim and Ted really were different from her. “Who am I?” She thought. “Who are they?”

“Who am I now?” I say aloud. I feel nakedness without identity. I stare out the window, watching translucent drops of rain form silvery paths on the glass.

“Mary, it’s time for your medication.” We call her Big Bertha, the perfect name for a bully in a children’s book.

“I’ll take it later.” I don’t want my medication. I’m not crazy. I didn’t try to drown.

“Now, Mary, you know the doctor won’t allow that.” I sigh and take the six pills she hands me because I want out of here. But pills make it so hard to remember…

At four, Mary began collecting teddy bears. Bears had fur. Lots of fur. If she removed their clothes, she saw fur. Not difference. Not naked sameness. She filled her bed with them. One night, when she was 17, she drove all of them to Pearson’s pier and threw them into the sea, one by one. Not a single one sank. She turned away, disappointed.

She’d left one bear at home—a bear suit she’d worn in a school play. When she got home, she stared at the closet and decided what she’d do.

The bear suit was small. She’d worn it at the beginning of her sophomore year. But she was able to get it on, zip it up, and peek her eyes through the head’s slits. She grabbed her camera, a little clumsily, and headed for the bathroom.

She made the water as hot as she could. Steam filled the room, forming tiny beads on the mirror. She lowered herself into the water, her Powershot perched on the bathtub’s ledge. Although difficult, she was able to grasp the zipper and lower it. She freed an arm, grabbed the camera, held it above at arm’s length and snapped. She recorded each step out of the suit until she stood up, naked. She stared at the waterlogged bear in the bathtub. She looked at herself in the full-length mirror. Pointed her camera. No use. All she could see were foggy splotches of color.

The bear suit was heavy as she dragged it to the car. She’d left a wake of water behind her in the house and didn’t care. She put the suit in the floorboard of the passenger seat and drove as fast as she could to Pearson’s pier.

Putting on a soaked bear suit was even harder than donning a wet bathing suit. She stood, teeth chattering, wrestling with its weight and sudden stiffness. She finally succeeded, the suit surprisingly warm despite its wetness. She dove into the sea.

The water’s impact was cushioned shock. She sank, letting the suit’s weight take her down. Now. She reached for the zipper and couldn’t grasp it. She tried again, envisioning herself emerging from the suit and letting it sink to the bottom. She would swim away, and surface upright and naked, walking on the beach through shallow waves.

She grabbed again. Success.



She couldn’t get the zipper past her breasts.

Panicked. Tried again. Frantically.

No use.

She was on the bottom.

She tried to push off, but the bear suit was too heavy and overcame her lifeguard skills.

She breathed water…

I suppose I escaped after all. The trail of water, a lucky guess, and my car parked in front of the pier saved me. Mom and Dad both dove in for me.

I remember none of this.

I like to think that they dove in naked. I take the pocketed pills out of my mouth and secure them in my bra.

24 Comments leave one →
  1. September 10, 2010 4:57 am

    man she’s determined to exit. Love the sweet, cutesiness of the bears completely subverted towards an iconography of her death & damnation

  2. September 10, 2010 5:07 am

    She may have escaped the bottom of the sea, but there’s no escaping her demons.

    “I feel nakedness without identity.” is such a great line.

  3. September 10, 2010 5:16 am

    Interesting search for identity.

  4. September 10, 2010 1:18 pm

    Really cool flash. Bear/bare – love it.

  5. Deanna Schrayer permalink
    September 10, 2010 2:58 pm

    Melissa, this is creepy and heartbreaking at the same time. Very imaginative, creative story.

    • September 12, 2010 2:44 pm

      Thanks! I think I like your characterization of it as a creepy/heartbreaking combo. I hadn’t thought about those two together before.

  6. September 10, 2010 8:52 pm

    Heartbreaking story. Awesome write. How do we identify ourselves? I think it might be different for each one of us.

    • September 12, 2010 2:47 pm

      Definitely. It’s interesting what people use to give them a sense of identity. I’m continually fascinated.

  7. September 10, 2010 9:55 pm

    So many layers here: bare/bear, childhood/adulthood, difference/same. Love how you played with the themes of identify and ehat’s crazy — or not. She seems saner than most.

    And of course, I love how she spit out the cheeked pills. Feel or not feel? Think or not think? Those are the fundamental questions ;^) Peace…

    • September 12, 2010 2:50 pm

      I LOVED playing around with the “is she crazy?” question. I’m not so sure she isn’t saner than most, either. For me, she’s drawn attention to a particular craziness in society. She *sees* it and *feels* it and how insane it is. She wants free from *that* craziness.

  8. September 10, 2010 10:41 pm

    That was just plain scary. Even so, it left me wanting to know more about her.

    • September 12, 2010 2:52 pm

      I think I’m left wanting to know more about her, too. 🙂 I wonder what in the world she’ll be doing now and if she’ll continue to be haunted by this problem (seems so). Maybe I’ll have to write to find out. 😉

  9. September 13, 2010 7:09 am

    Heartbreaking story. Finding one’s identity can be the hardest struggle. You captured that perfectly.

  10. September 14, 2010 1:38 pm

    Really well done here, with the worplay, bear/bare etc, as Linda put it.
    I too liked the “nakedness without identity” line

    You could certainly write a lot more about this character

    • September 14, 2010 4:24 pm

      Thanks, Mazzz. I’ve wondered about that as well. I may have to write more about her…

  11. September 16, 2010 12:53 pm

    I like the way your character refuses to be shrouded in another suffocating layer of drugs. She went to enough trouble to lose the last one. Although it is a tragic story, I find it uplifting as well: this is a girl who tried to take charge of her emotions. Told in the first person, it really focuses on her mind and how it works and makes her choices seem more logical than they could have otherwise.

    • September 17, 2010 12:24 am

      Thank you. I was hoping that her choices could appear “logical” to the reader–as much (rather, more so) than the crazy mindsets/world she’s trying to escape. 🙂

  12. September 27, 2010 11:30 pm

    Uh wow! I’m late reading it, but this is so great! What a gift you have for short stories!

    • September 29, 2010 3:24 pm

      Thank you so much! And there’s no “late” to reading these. I’m happy people read them at all. 😉

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