Shrug it off like the bear that shrugged it off.

          That’s it and, while at it, skip that first marital counseling session in favor of, why not?, staying home and watching bear videos on Youtube.

He knew he should go and would eventually have to pay the price for not going, but in the there-and-then, it was instant-oatmeal-easy to defer all that, the scowling and pinched-faced, arched-brow accusing, and just settle into the huggy corner of the lavender couch with an off-brand EZBook laptop with a 15” screen and lots of RAM and watch grizzly bears play grizzly bear tag, and watch polar bears slide on their polar bear bellies, and watch black bears rub their hunched black bear backs on saplings, up and down and up and down like amateur strippers still happy, eventually leaving and leaving a scent that an elk would encounter hours later and probably think, “What the fuck went of here last night?”

            Why not?

            And meanwhile, Mona is waiting, probably saying, “This is exactly The Problem,” and “Did I really expect him to not run away from a discussion about how he’s always running away from problems?” and the therapist - or whatever she is - says, “your problems.”

            “You think this is my problem?”

            “No, ‘your’ as in ‘our.’”

            “Me and you?”

            “No, you and –” he waits.

            “And?” she waits.

            “What’s his name?”

            “Do you call all of your patients ‘what’s-his-name?’”

            “No, I’m asking. I don’t know his name.”

            “Oh, sorry. Timothy.”

            “You and Timothy.”

            “What about us?”

            “It’s your problem. Not just his.”

            “Right. Our problem,” Mona says. “But if he’s not here and I am… well, then who has The Problem.”

            The therapist - or whatever she is - edges her butt toward the edge of the couch, a picture of some birds of paradise in some painting some three feet behind her on a knot-wood wall.

            “If he were here, I would start to explain that, to overcome anything in a relationship, you have to see it in the context of the relationship, which is to say, see it as something that exists, and is applied to, the relationship – not to either person in the relationship, but to the relationship itself.”

            “He’s not here, though.”

            “I know. That’s The Problem.”

            “Our problem.”



            But there are bears eating salmon and you can almost see them solving problems with such brute patience that you think, like Timothy, “he would make a great linebackers,” and picture them in blue-and-orange uniforms pumping up the crowd during a timeout taken to ice the other team prior to a field goal attempt.

            And what about bears who encounter hammocks for the first time? Should their hijinks go unwatched, un-liked, un-shared on social media sites? Are my problems of such enormous magnitude that it would be a sin to Google “bears in hammocks” instead of dealing with them in the olive-colored office of some hack Mona found by probably Googling “My husband is an asshole and cheated on me twice that I know of, but I still need him around because he pays the bills and occasionally carries me to bed and tucks me and kisses me on the forehead tenderly when I’ve spent the night listening to old 45’s that remind me of childhood and confessing my sins to a leftover Cuban sandwich and a bottle of port?”

            Could there perhaps be something redeeming here? A bear in a Jacuzzi? A bear with a looooooooong tongue eating all the peanut butter? A sun bear cub who gets so drowsy he dozes off while sitting upright, lowers his head like a gradually closing garage door – nose on the wood, folding into itself in soft fleshy wrinkles, eyes closed, neck rolling to the left, his left, the camera’s right. To be transported there from here on the lavender couch – isn’t there something redeeming and holy about watching adorable babies from another species experience the same inability to keep –

            “This is what you’re fucking doing? This is why you don’t come to counseling or answer your fucking phone?”

            Mona is home.

            “Because you’re watching fucking bear videos again?”

            She isn’t happy that Timothy is watching bear videos again.

            “I spend $122 to hire someone to talk to us so, maybe we can be happy again and not have to hide in closets or hide in bars and dread bumping into each other on the way from either to the bathroom before bed, and this. You can’t even come? And can’t even tell me? I have to come home and find you on the couch watching a fucking baby bear lick a wagon platform?”

            “He’s falling asleep.”

            “You can fall asleep for all I fucking care.”

            She throws her purse at Timothy and the contents rain down on him – cell phone, tissues and something that looks like a booger, but is probably the tacky glue they use to adhere fake credit cards to papers promising real credit cards with low APR’s and 5% back on select purchases, though there are always limits and exclusions. A Dr. appointment card lands on his crotch and he feels the swell of purple regret he knew he’d feel, but dreamed he could defer indefinitely.

            “I feel awful, Moon Carrot.”

            “You should feel awful, you shithead!” She’s screaming. “You promised me everything and all you’ve given me is money and an eating disorder!”

It’s the first he’s hearing of the eating disorder. He doesn’t believe it entirely, switches from defense to offense in the wake of the claim.

            “I didn’t realize that burying your drunk face nightly in a pile of ropa vieja was classified as a disorder.”

            “Fuck you.”

            “Fuck you too. You can’t just – ” he has nothing to say, says  “Fuck you,” again and crumbles the appointment card in his fist, feels the regret again, apologizes, cries, accidentally unpauses the bear video with his elbow and sees the little guy wake up to the call of a bird. He lifts his head (the bear does) and his nose uncrinkles without leaving a single line behind.

            “Honey,” he calls into the closet to which he assumes Mona has retreated. “It’s okay if you leave me, but will you just watch this one bear video first? I promise it will change your life.”

The white shuttered door of the closet opens slowly. An eye peeks out. A nose. Her whole sob-swollen face.

            “I’ll watch one bear video, and then I’m leaving you.”

            They watch the sleepy sun bear video.

            “One more, but then I’m gone.”

            The one with the tranquilizers and trampoline.

            “This is it.”

            One entitled, “Grizzly Bear Playing With Wolf Cub.”

            After each bear video they recap.

            He smiles, she sits up, readies to rise, says something like, “I’m really going this time. I’m really leaving you,” but she never leaves.

            He keeps clicking on related videos.

            She keeps not leaving.

            Dust settles in vacant rooms.

            Eventually, they fall asleep on the couch, while a bear paws at a tabby behind a two-paned storm door, and the EZBook purrs on their lap.

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