Never published before! Read the story Mr. Majmin wrote a few years ago about meeting a bear in the wilderness of Bear Mt. Park. This time it is from the Bear's point view. The message was translated into English by Faina Burman. Enjoy, but read Mr. Majmin's story first!
I’ve had it! I’ve had it with the herds of students who come and point their fingers at me, as if I don’t know that I’m overweight. I’ve had it with the hand-holding couples who pass my cage with their dripping ice creams, making out right in front of me as if to rub my loneliness in. I’m through with the old grumpy zoo keeper who still can’t get it through his thick head that I’m a vegetarian, and keeps bringing around that huge bowl of meat. And I’m done with the stupid cage! Where am I supposed to do my jogging? I need exercise of some sort! Lonely, depressed, and misunderstood, I’ve been forced to eat the meat, which has made so fat and lazy.
So, I decided to run away. It was easy to deicide, but hard to execute. My first plan was not very clever. I’m embarrassed to say, but I actually tried to rip out the bars of my cage. As you can imagine, it only scared away the visitors and earned me a shot of tranquilizers that knocked me out for the next week.
My next move wasn’t much smarter. I tried to gently steal the keys from my cage-keeper, but I think he misunderstood it for sexual harassment. So, after an even stronger shot of tranquilizers, and another two weeks in the hazy slumber, I decided to get creative.
I waited till the nightfall, and after my cage-keeper had given my daily portion of meat from a highly questionable source, I started my self-education in the lock picking department. It took me a couple of nights worth of practice, and some sharpening of my nail on the brick before I managed to open my cage. Once it was open, I tried my best not to make the gate squeak. I tiptoed down the alley of the zoo, hoping nobody would notice my disappearance until I was far enough.
I didn’t know where I was headed. I had no plan. I didn’t know where I was from, where my home or my relatives were, but I knew that anything would’ve been better than this captivity. I felt free, yet lonely and confused. All the roads were before me. I could do anything I wished, but now the challenge lay in finding out what it was.
I slumped down the main alleyway of the zoo, wondering where I was going. If only I had a map, I thought, stumbling upon a totem pole that read “Bear MountainNational Park.” I had taught myself to read back in my captivity, since a daily subscription of candy wrappers and soda cans was regularly delivered to my cage. I never thought I would be able to use the skill, but it actually helped me figure out where I needed to go! That’s where I was headed! I would never be alone again, because I’d be surrounded by other bears! If I only I could find this BearPark, I’d be the happiest bear alive!
So, I resolved to wonder around until I found what direction I should go in order to reach my newly found goal. It didn’t take long before I saw more signs with arrows and numbers pointing to, as I guessed, my dream destination.
Suddenly, some ancient instinct of my ancestors that hasn’t been silenced by processed food and tranquilizers told me that I should look for the bears along the trees. I had never seen a real tree before, but I remembered the word and the picture I had once seen on a brochure outside my cage. And now, seeing them was awakening something inside of me I never knew existed. The smell was different. It somehow tickled my nose, and played with my feelings like they were violin strings. I didn’t know what to do or how to deal with this new sensation. It made me woozy, but not in the clouding way the tranquilizers do. It was this clarifying sensation, the likes of which I had never felt.
I haven’t even gotten over this new state I was experiencing, when I saw something amazing. It was water. I recognized it by its smell and taste, but instead of quietly rotting in a foul-smelling bowl, it was freely cascading down a pile of rocks. It was cold, and very clear, and there was a certain acidic taste missing from it. It was simply beautiful and terrifying at the same time.
I drank the water, inhaled the air, and watched the leaves dance in the trees. I wanted to roar and dance, and let the world know that I was finally happy and free, but I was still worried about getting caught, and I really wanted to find someone I could share my happiness with, so I decided to keep on moving. It felt really good to be moving, but I in a way, I was learning to walk and run all over again. My bones and muscles, my entire body felt like an old rusty mechanism that needed to be oiled.
I was enjoying rediscovering the power and agility of my body so much that I almost missed…people! At first I saw a woman, whose feet were enjoying a dip in the freezing creek, and a man, who looked completely miserable. The moment I saw him all I wanted to do was to make him happy. The sunlight was reflected off his perfectly smooth head, as if nature itself was pointing him out to me.
I didn’t know what to do. I expected to find bears, not people! Sure, people have been evil to me since birth, but this was a new beginning, a clean slate, and I didn’t want to ruin it with hostility. And I definitely was not going to argue with nature. I watched and listened. The woman’s name was Diana, the man’s – Lee. I hoped they were brother and sister, and not… mates! I didn’t even want to consider this possibility, because the more I looked at him, the more I felt myself not falling, but plunging into an ocean of feelings yet unknown to me. They seemed so peaceful and harmless. They did not notice me right away, but it happened pretty quickly. While I was wondering how to introduce myself, the people stared at me in disbelief. There was something in their eyes I have never seen in the zoo. It’s not like I wasn’t used to being stared at, but the eyes peering through the bars usually revealed some sort of a lazy curiosity. This was different. This was…fear!
And just at the moment I wanted to reassure them that I wanted to be their friend, Diana started running. I ran after her. I wanted so badly to come up to Lee and to tell him how I felt, but I knew from having spent enough time in the zoo that it was not how humans worked. You were never supposed to tell someone you liked them, you were supposed to ignore them instead. And so, I ran after Diana desperately hoping inside that Lee would notice me.
Lee picked up a rock and ran after me. My heart stopped. I wondered if this was the way humans expressed affection in nature – by chasing each other and play-wrestling. It didn’t really matter, because he noticed me and that was enough. My heart doing jumping jacks and cartwheels inside my chest, I ran after him. He tripped and fell, and I hurried to see if he had hurt himself. He seemed fine, so we chased each other and wrestled for a while. He seemed to take the game very seriously, and even considered climbing a tree a couple of times. I took it as good sign. It had to mean that he had feelings for me too! Against my will, a picture of a perfect wedding with Lee painted itself in my head. Freedom and love - all in one day! It couldn’t get any better than this!
We ran around, chasing each other. Playing these love games gave me this sickeningly sweet sensation in the pit of my stomach. I wondered what he felt. I wondered what our kids would look like. Would they inherit his perfectly smooth bald head? I never thought there was someone I could feel this way about, but here he was running and dripping with sweat right in front of me. One time he did get away from me, and just as I was about to catch up with him, I saw another man coming towards us. From listening to their conversations, I figured his name was Sergey. He was Diana’s husband. He was carrying a camera. I used to hate these things when I was living in a cage, but now, when I actually had a chance to pose with future husband, I wasn’t going to miss out on this opportunity.
I came up to Lee from behind, put my paw on his shoulder, and smiled for the camera. I didn’t even mind the flash that almost blinded me. It was exciting to have finally made friends, to have had my picture taken, to bond with someone…
It was so much fun, and I was starting to change my mind about people. They weren’t so bad after all. Maybe the ones who had caged me and the ones who enjoyed watching my sufferings were held captive in some invisible cages of their own. Maybe they need to break out of them just like I did, and maybe one day they will experience this freedom as well.
While I pondered their unfortunate fate, Sergey started making loud unintelligible noises and stretching his hands up, as if to make himself look bigger. Sometimes I really wish these humans could just say what they mean, instead of resorting to pantomime and sound charades. He seemed like he wanted to fight me, but I had no idea why. I jumped towards him, but he started to run away. I was confused. Was he flirting with me a well? It was flattering, but I had no interest in him, and besides, - he was married. He stopped and started making the same sounds and gestures as before. Apparently I didn’t know what was going on, but I didn’t want Diana and my honey to get jealous, so I left him alone and went to look for Lee.
Lee was hanging out on the tree. I came up and shook the tree, but he seemed to be taking a nap. Our games probably tired him out, so I decided to check out what was going in the bags lying nearby in order not to seem too clingy. I was really getting hungry by this time, and was hoping to find something edible. But after taking a bite out of a sandwich lying next to one of the bags, I lost my appetite. Soggy white bread, meat, and processed cheese. Yuk! I spit it out, and looked at my honey was forced to eat this trash. I felt sorry for him. When we get married, I’ll cook you a real meal, and teach you all about nutrition, I thought. Soon, my honey would become a vegetarian, just like me. He looked like he needed a hug, but didn’t want to show it in order not to seem weak. Macho men like Lee show no weakness. But he was my partner in life now, and I needed to show him that I was there for him, even though he ate food that’s worse than the zoo food. I jumped up, pulled him down from the tree and cradled him in my paws. I gave him the biggest hug I could muster. The moment seemed right. I would remember our first kiss forever, and this seemed like the perfect moment to make a move. I figured Lee was shy, and he would never kiss me first. Besides, I was a modern 21st century bear, so it was okay for me to make the first move.
I thought he would put his arms around me, lean in, and savor our first kiss. He didn’t. He screamed. It was the most blood curdling scream I have ever heard. He tried to get away from me, to cover his body, to just get away. My heart crumbled right there and then into miniscule pieces of frozen pain. And that’s when I felt something hit my back, and saw that Diana and Sergey were here as well, trying to get me away from Lee. So, they never wanted to be my friends? And Lee never really liked me? What didn’t they just say so? Why pretend and give me hope if they were going to crush it anyway in the end?
I was dumbfounded. The hunger came back ten times worse and some unknown power sent me to look into the other bag. I pulled out something that smelled very delicious. I bit into it with all my might and suddenly the pain I felt from the betrayal started melting away. I have never seen or even smelled anything like that in the zoo. It was bread. Crunchy on the outside, and chewy on the inside. This loaf of delectable goodness did not only alleviate my hunger and my emotional pain, but it also helped my constipation caused by all that raw red meat I was fed in the zoo.
So after having finished my heavenly meal, and having left a little “present” for my ex and his friends, I walked away and never saw them again. It was time to decide what to do next. But I knew that no matter what happened next, I would never forget these strange creatures who introduced me to love, heartbreak, and my first loaf of whole wheat bread.