The Lonely Teddy Bear

I read a lot of books as a child, some were utterly forgettable, some were just plain stupid but many have left a mark on my psyche. The more that I think about it, the more it strikes me; children’s literature is the most significant form of literature. It leaves a mark on an unblemished mind, it scrawls on a blank slate, it stamps into the warm untouched mind. Everything that we view as cliched now, we only see that way because we’ve heard it a thousand times. As a young boy, first being read to or reading alone, every story is new and exciting. The first cut is the deepest they say.
I’m now 25 years old and one children’s story in particular has really stuck with me. I can’t remember the name or the exact plot, so what i’m going to do is summarise the story or at least what I remember of the story. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to simply describe what I, as a 4 year old boy, took from the story.

The Lonely Teddy Bear (definitely not it’s real title)

There is a young boy who is given a teddy bear as a baby. The big teddy bear shares the boy’s cot, then his first bed. He plays with Teddy during the days and cuddles up to him at night. As the boy gets older, from baby to toddler to child, Teddy goes through life with him, always at his side. Teddy is the boy’s first friend, loyal, warm, cuddly and sympathetic.
They play at camping, cowboys and indians, spaceships. Teddy goes on holiday with the boy and always sits in the seat beside him in the car when they go out. The boy, now five, starts at his first school. Teddy can’t go to school, seeing as he is an inanimate stuffed toy, but every day the little boy gives Teddy a big cuddle, sets him down on the bed and scampers off to school.
Soon the little boy mixes and makes friends with some of the boys at school and one saturday he has two of them come round his house to play. The boys decide to play cowboys and indians but there are only three of them and one of the boys points out that the teams are unfair. The little boy has an idea; Teddy loves playing cowboys and Indians and nanny made Teddy a little jerkin and a feather headdress for the little boy’s last birthday. The little boy brings his new friends into his room and shows them Teddy, all dressed up as a brave chieftain. The other boys laugh at the little boy. They call him a “baby” and “mummys boy”, they call Teddy “stupid” and “a baby toy”. One of the boys even punches Teddy. The little boy crys and his mother, seeing that the children are cranky, takes the other two boys home.
That evening the little boy brings Teddy to mummy and daddy and tells them that he’s a big boy now and he’s too old for Teddy. Mummy tells the little boy he shouldn’t be silly and Daddy doesn’t understand but the little boy crys and yells and eventually Daddy takes Teddy up to the loft and puts him in a box with the little boy’s first clothes.
The next time the little boy’s friends come round they all play games and have fun. The little boy likes his new friends but every night he misses his Teddy. The boys become fond friends and spend lots of time together.
A new boy joins the class and the other boys think he’s pretty cool. One weekend the little boy doesn’t see his friends. They said that they were coming round but they don’t. Back at school on monday the other boys are all laughing and smiling and talking about bowling. The little boy is confused. Confused and sad. He asks one of the boys why they didn’t come round on saturday and they other boy tells him that the new boy is cooler and fun and they do big boy things like go bowling and went to the cinema, not play stupid cowboys and indians.
The little boy is sad and cries all night at home. Daddy sees this. That night, when the boy has tired himself out from crying, he falls fast asleep. Daddy sneaks up to the loft and finds Teddy, Teddy is very cold and dusty but Daddy brushes him down and warms him up on the radiator. Daddy very gently lifts up the quilts and places Teddy, tucked up, in the little boy’s bed. Later on, the little boy puts an arm out and finds Teddy, his first and most loyal friend, who always loved him and never said mean things, warm and laying beside him. They snuggle up.

I hope I’ve managed to convey the story as well as I can remember it. This is why I have separation anxiety with inhuman objects. I can’t even throw out a sweater without sitting up at night and agonising over it. I feel guilty about not playing an Xbox game enough or paying enough attention to my laptop; I need to wear t-shirts an equal amount of times and selling my car was like losing a brother. Children’s stories; far too powerful

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Matrimony

‘Just shut the fuck up alright, you’re not helping.’ He slammed his palm against the tiles.
It made a soft thud. He turned back to look at me, it was a glare but it wasn’t meant for me. He just needed to glare at something, at someone. I stayed on the stone floor. The cold cut through my clothes and caused me to shudder. I stayed silent. Glenn turned to face me, he was visibly shaking. Tremors ran down from his gnarled shoulders, down his taut arms, his thin wrists, to his trembling, clenched fists.
‘I’m going to fucking kill him.’ His right fist thudded into the tiled wall.
He gasped in shock to see the blood trickle over his knuckle and down his wrist, matting the blonde hairs on his arm. I broke my silence.
‘What can we do?’
‘I don’t know, I don’t know but i gotta do something. I’ve got to do something, this can’t happen. They can’t do this to me.’
I looked at him with both sympathy and disdain. This gaunt shadow of a man stood like a macabre testament to his former self. Four years of regret and embitterment had gouged at his once proud frame. This is how Napoleon looked at Waterloo I thought; this is Hitler in his bunker. I took the bottle from his hand and swigged at the whiskey, I was used to it now. I didn’t cough anymore. I took his right hand in mine and examined the knuckle, it wasn’t deep but it wasn’t clean either. I imagined he couldn’t feel it, numbed by adrenaline, alcohol and anger. I took another swig and spat it back, over his fist. I was right, he couldn’t feel a thing. At least it was sterile now. He grabbed the bottle back and drank thirstily as though it was water. I rubbed my eyes and scratched my nose, catching sight of my watch in doing so. 4.37am. I wasn’t tired, we weren’t tired. I stood up. He let out a vocalisation, a kind of shrieking groan. The noise of agony. I took his sweaty body and held him close, his groan turned to sobs.
He rasped through his tears ‘what can I do? What the fuck can I do?’
I didn’t know. I held him tighter, his head on my shoulder, dampening my shirt. He broke the embrace and finished off the bottle. I turned to the sink and pissed. I didn’t even run the water anymore. I was beyond that. Glenn left to get another bottle from his bag. He’d come prepared. He’d planned this through. He didn’t want to be here, it was killing him. He had to be here. I kicked the empty bottle into the corner with the others. I splashed water from the tap over my face. I sat in the bath. It was warmer than the floor. Glenn re-entered, the bottle was already open.
‘You could raise a doubt’ I offered ‘you could be the reason why it shouldn’t proceed’.
He looked at me with his reddened, sore eyes.
‘Would it matter? Would it stop it?’
I didn’t know. I told him it was all we could do. We were guests. We couldn’t do any more than that.
‘I could do it’ he said slowly. He considered his words ‘I could tell her that I never stopped, I’ll never stop. I still love her. I still feel her, in my veins.’ He shook his bloodied fist ‘she’s in my blood. Fuck man, I love her.’
I smiled at him; it was half pity, half encouragement.
‘But that’s never mattered before. It’s never stopped them, it’s not changed anything. I’ve loved her for the last ten years. Six of them with her and the four without. She’s still with him. But I can’t let this happen. It’s so final’
He was right. Nothing would change but her second name yet somehow it made it concrete, it closed the door. It was as solid as the marble I lay upon. It was as clear as the bottle in front of my face, at my lips. We’d moved to vodka. I couldn’t taste the difference.
One ring was all it was, a thin ring and a second name. But it was permanent. It was real. We both knew this. We sat staring at each other. The sight of him was killing me. He coughed and winced. He hadn’t eaten. He looked like shit. Glenn lit a cigarette and shut the door. The sock on the detector would hold. Glenn took several short gasps of the cigarette and inhaled deeply. He closed his eyes and slid down the wall to sit on the floor. After a few moments he opened his eyes again and they met mine. The usually sharp blue of his irises was clouded, obscured by tears. They shone out in contrast to his pallid grey flesh. His wretched face told me more than any words could. We had spoken less and less in the last few months but we understood each other perfectly. His feeble hand stretched out to reach mine. I took the cigarette and drew heavily, feeling the hit from each drag. As a casual smoker I enjoyed the nicotine rush. He began skinning up. Evidently the straight hadn’t hit the spot. In complete silence we took turns with the weed, the other smoking the fag while waiting his turn. We finished and left the bathroom. Sunlight was pouring into the hotel room. I pulled the curtain over. 5.12am. We took to our adjoining beds for our four hours. A long day awaited us. I didn’t see the pills. I didn’t see Glenn ram fistful after fistful into his dry mouth. He didn’t wake up at 9. He never woke up.

And All Flowers Will Fade

The view was astonishing, as it always had been. A light breeze was creating ripples, miniature waves on the lake. The water ebbed and lapped beneath our feet. The breeze was not unpleasant; it was quite welcome on such a warm day. Warmth radiated from the marble on which we sat. The silence between us was neither awkward nor uncomfortable yet I longed for him to break it, so that I knew how he felt. He finally answered.

‘You want me to go there? With every sodden face acting as a reminder of her. With everyone shuddering and retching out their words, because the idea that a twenty year old girl can just collapse and die shakes them to the pit of their gut? It forces them to realise how fragile we are. I can’t handle that. I came here to escape that. I can’t be around them.’ Kieran kept looking straight ahead, not turning to me to speak.

‘You can’t run away, we’re all hurting.’ I said weakly. There was no conviction in my voice, but how could there be? How could I convince him that he had to be at the wake when I felt the exact same way? No sooner had I arrived at the estate that i wanted to leave. I had walked around that Victorian house, smothered in grief, inescapable grief. I was welcome of the chance to get away for a while.

‘I’m not running away, I just can’t be there. I can’t you know? What are you doing here anyway, won’t you be missed too?’ He sat motionless, watching the water.

‘Mrs Oaks was looking for you. She had a panic attack when nobody knew where you were. She’s lying down, Scott’s with her. I knew you’d be here.’ I explained.

‘I know. Doesn’t it gut you; this was our place you know? I mean, now we’re the only ones who know about it. Just us, me and you. And take that fucking jacket off. I can’t stand that shit.’ There was a shred of anger in his voice.

I stood up slowly and unbuttoned the Calvin Klein tuxedo jacket, took it off and draped it across the seat before sitting back down. I put my hand on his.

‘We all loved her’.

I breathed deeply and took in the crisp air. The freshness of the south of Sweden made me feel so awake, so alive that I almost felt guilty of my mortality. When contrasted with the stuffiness, the suffocating smog of London it was simply exhilarating. It was liberating, it was beautiful. It was her.

Kieran had sat with my statement for a few moments before he replied.

‘No, they didn’t. Some of them cared. Some of them will miss her in a year, five years, some even ten. But I won’t ever forget her. I can’t…I can’t let go.’

‘I don’t know what else to do Kieran, this is all I…know…to do. I won’t ever forget.’ I will admit that my voice trembled as I spoke.

Kieran stood up, eyes still fixed on the lake.

‘I know you won’t. We’re inseparable. I mean, we were inseparable. Oh God, I hate this shit. I’ll never get used to that ‘were’. Fuck, I shouldn’t have to, you know? I’m not ready for this. Old people die. Twenty year old girls, healthy, beautiful girls don’t just die. They can’t. I’m too young for this, I never thought I’d be going to a funeral until I was…well much older…and with you two. Isn’t it sick, how we’re conditioned to disregard death, like it never happens? Like we’re all somehow immortal, fucking immutable contingencies…’

He pulled off a shoe and hurled it into the lake in desperation before continuing.

‘… but we’re not, we’re just whispers of fleeting footsteps. We’re a soft breeze on this plane that expires in a sharp breath. And now, here I am, twenty-two and one of the few people I ever loved is now gone, so young, so healthy and beautiful. I mean she’s a beautiful person. I mean, was. Isn’t that just fucking sick?’ Kieran was visibly shaking. Grief had manifested itself in anger.

‘I’ve never heard you say that before.’

Kieran finally looked at me. His eyes were dark and reddened. He had hardly slept. He looked at me as though in shock, as though he had just realised I was there.
‘Sorry?’

‘Beautiful. I’ve never heard that before, ever. Oh shit, you really loved her didn’t you, I mean, you loved her?’
I stood up and took him in my arms, my best friend. I held him tight, my arms around his shoulders, his around mine. We stood there sobbing. Horrible, retching sobs. Deep, painful expressions of grief. We didn’t let go, for fear of losing one another. Standing in silent acknowledgement that everything we knew had changed. From that day on the world was a harsher placer, a place cold and devoid of excitement. Weary day rolled into empty weeks, into numb years. Looking back on my life, this was the defining moment, the turning point. I’ve never felt my heart beat as fast as it did that morning by the lake in Nejsjon and I’ve never felt it beat so fast since.