by Jon Chopan
It's his first thought, Big Bear's, his six foot four inch frame blocking traffic, standing in the middle of St. Paul Blvd., to drop trow, disrobe, to show oncoming vehicles the other reason we call him Big Bear. We're sitting in Ralph's Chevy Blazer. I'm driving, DD for the night. We are parked in the driveway of Bear's mother's house watching Bear make an ass of himself, ten of us jammed into the SUV, sweating against the leather seats with the windows rolled down so we can shout at Bear, the air conditioning on full blast and the radio turned all the way down. Bear has his pants around his ankles, looking like a middle-aged man with his beer gut and jiggling legs. He has his hands on his hips, the fingernails digging into the flesh. He swirls his torso like a blender, like a tornado, like a toilet being flushed. Bear performs the Macarena, does the Hooky Poky, falling when he turns himself around, recovers into the Y-M-C-A, starts shaking his ass like he's working a pole at the Klassy Cat, like he can rewind the past few weeks and months and maybe even years and grind and gyrate back all the people and things that are gone.
Ralph climbs out and grabs the thirty-pack Bear left on the ground in front of the house, before he took a piss on the sidewalk, before he decided to walk out into the road and dance and dance. Some might say that taunting someone who is so clearly drunk with more booze is wrong, that a good friend would walk out there and drag his naked ass into the house and maybe even dunk him in his little brother's kiddie pool for dramatic effect. But this is how you do it, how you coax Bear in when he gets like this. You can't talk to him about his grandmother who just died or his father who died from a brain tumor, who had been in jail, after he killed someone while driving drunk, for the whole of Bear's life. You can't talk about Pony, our dead friend who gave himself over to the river. It's not the beer and it's not the heat. It's not that Bear just got fired from Wal-Mart for making "a joke that was sexual in nature," or that his mother is on welfare, that his little brother's feet are caked with mud and dust and ashes from cigarettes, even Bear himself can't be held accountable for his actions.
There is however, to Bear's dancing, the sense of order one seeks from grief when they carry it around without access to a solution, where the M follows the Y and the C the M and on and on like that, and the only thing yet to be determined, because the music is in his head and has no definite end point, is when he'll stop, or if he will have the energy to go on dancing forever. There are, of course, variations like falling, spinning, hands in the air, or that John Travolta move, pointing a finger to the sky and back to the hip and back to the sky, but those are like so few things in life: correctable, erasable. There is the heat in the limbs and head, the contortion of the body, the hips moving side to side, the awkwardness of hands and arms, the kinetic transfer from one body to another as skin and sweat collide, those tiny hairs on the arms raised by a chill or arousal, swaying back on the balls of the feet, but Bear is alone in the middle of a four lane boulevard and Ralph is coaxing him in, baiting him, despite the obvious pun about bears and trapping, with the leftover beer, the elixir that set our Bear in motion. And I'm looking out on him, swimming through my own sort of drunkenness, and I can smell the river, which is over the railroad crossing and down a steep incline and under the bridge, not a half mile from here, where our friend Pony took his own life, and I sense the meaning of Bear's dancing, though I can't vouch for his nakedness, can see in every sloppy step the things he's trying to "shake out," "slough off," "silence, once and for all." Bear moves and moves as if it were an offering, an ancient and sacred dance, like a prayer, not for rain or for ghosts so much, but for something we all, those of us sitting in the car watching, laughing, shouting out his name, want but are unable to ask for, and I think as he stumbles around that the only thing keeping Bear on his feet is his refusal to believe us when we tell him "No matter what, there will always be loss," because he knows even we, in our own grief, do not believe it.
About the author:
Jon Chopan is from Rochester, New York and is proud of it. His work has appeared in The Disability Studies Quarterly, Glimmer Train, Monkeybicylce, Redivider, and Swink. More importantly, if you want to send Jon hate mail or love letters or something in between he can be reached here.