Bear and Moon
I close my eyes in order to see the path of my blood as it coils in my womb and muscles its way through the curves and cul-de-sacs hidden by skin hidden by clothing. I want to take my clothes off and lie in the bathtub and let nothing cover me so that I can watch the serpentine blue trace rivers on my groin and belly. The ache is an eight-legged bear punching its way down my back and standing heavy between my legs, clawing with a temper that snarls its way into my words and expression.
“Please pardon my bear”, I say.
In truth, I love my bloody bear, this thing that most defines me as woman. It isn’t delicate and it isn’t nice. It rips and shreds and never says it’s sorry; only I do. I don’t want to staunch or stifle it. I’d bleed on the floor if it was my floor, but I rent. I’d wear only white and let the bear decorate, but I do the laundry around here.
How something so violent and commonplace is silent escapes me. A full moon doesn’t make a sound either but pulls the waves and smashes the shores and lets others do her roaring. So I become the voice of bear and moon and let my own tides crash.
I met her at a low point, when I was afraid to go forward and was too far to go back. I found her in the city, where streets bristle and furl and corners have no signs. I was looking for the used bookstore and she pointed me in the right direction. If she noticed that I was crying, she was nice enough not to say.
I sat on a stool tucked invisible into the self-help section but I didn’t see the words in the book on my lap. I thought of her voice and the first smile I’d smiled in months, as the bookstore had come into view, just as she’d said it would. I put the book back on the shelf. There were no chairs in the poetry section. One thin book had its cover facing me, with a hopeful sunrise shining out from its place on the shelf. I bought it without opening it, and imagined reading poetry aloud in a coffee shop to a woman who isn’t lost. I hurried back out into the street. She was still there, and she knew the best coffee shop in town.
I couldn’t say how it happened, but that it was fast. Coffee turned to trips to the library, and later, even a bright night into the chugging heart of the city where I’d always been afraid to go, where a band was playing I thought I’d never be able to see. On the way home, I sang to her, and I never let people hear me sing.
We had our first fight at the post office. She was distant, and confusing, she was talking in circles.
“You’re making me crazy!” I said, and told her just to be quiet for a while. I mailed my letter. The silence in the car was a vacuum, sucking away all my air.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I just didn’t understand.”
She has the calmer nature; she began again as if we’d never fought, and took me to a tiny market on a high street, perched against brambles tumbling to a rocky shore, a wild place at the edge of a residential world. She’s a romantic. She knows the simple things are what I love the most.
Six months passed. I tried to show her the hidden places I knew, trails through winter canyons and the place where pelicans wade in the river. She was polite, unfailingly, but she wasn’t really with me there. We went back to the city again and her voice was stronger, the warmth of it erasing my disappointment. I respect a woman who knows what she wants. We would leave hikes for later on.
I knew that I was rushing things, but I wanted her with me everywhere. I bought tickets for a cross-country trip and dreamed about a different ocean. My family urged caution; they know how I can get.
“What if things go wrong and you’re so far from home?” My mother asked.
But it wouldn’t go wrong, I knew. In traffic eight lanes deep, with water on either side and a soaring bridge above our heads, I saw the torch of Lady Liberty for the first time. The grandest city of them all was about to swallow me whole and I was marching in fearless. My heart kicked into the highest gear.
Trust, that’s what it was. I didn’t feel alone anymore.
“I’d go anywhere with you,” I said when I could speak.
“Bear left,” she said. “In one mile, your destination will be on the left.”
Kristen MacKenzie lives on Vashon Island in a quiet cabin where the shelves are filled with herbs for medicine-making, the floor is open for dancing, and the table faces the ocean, waiting for a writer to pick up the pen. Her work has appeared in Brevity, Rawboned Journal, GALA Magazine, Extract(s) Daily Dose of Lit, and is included monthly in Diversity Rules Magazine. Pieces are forthcoming in Blank Fiction, Crack the Spine Magazine, Maudlin House, and MadHat Annual. Her short story, “Cold Comfort,” received Honorable Mention in The Women’s National Book Association’s annual writing contest.