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Oct/Nov 2007 Fiction

If I'd Loved the Grizzly Man

by Alana NoŽl Voth


ANCHORAGE, Alaska: A self-styled bear expert who once called Alaska's brown bears harmless party animals was one of two people fatally mauled in a bear attack in Katmai National Park and Preserveóthe first known bear killings in the 4.7 million-acre park. The bodies of Timothy Treadwell, 46, and Amie Huguenard, 37, were found near Kaflia Bay on Monday when a pilot with Andrew Airways arrived to pick them up. óFrom THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Wednesday, October 8, 2003

If I'd loved the Grizzly Man, I wouldn't have loved him exactly. I would have loved that he went on TV, like David Letterman, and was this goofy cute celebrity.

If I'd loved the Grizzly Man, I would have asked him to tell me his stories. I would have said, "Tell me about the time you kissed a bear's nose. About the time a mother bear left her babies with you while she went hunting." My toe at the edge of his spotlight.

If I'd loved the Grizzly Man, I would have named the bears with him: Squiggles, Mickey, and Mr. Chocolate. I would have wanted to come up with my own names though, my own bears, and things would have gotten competitive between us.

If I'd loved the Grizzly Man, I would have complained about the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and not being able to shower and the mosquitoes and having to hide in the bushes from tourists and having to put up a tent just to have it blown over in a storm and always watching what I said around the bears like they could actually understand us.

If I'd loved the Grizzly Man, I would have felt ten again. Whenever it is in our lives we feel hopeful.

If I'd loved the Grizzly Man, I would have recommended medication and therapy. Not to be mean, but I would have had him committed.

If I'd loved the Grizzly Man, I would have loved his blonde hair, shocking in the sunshine and like a nightlight against a dark sky. In a tent after dinner, he would have said, "Shhh, don't make any sudden moves," and then I would have held still on all fours so he could mount me.

If I'd loved the Grizzly Man, I would have loved how he said, "Cover your eyes," when he undressed, but I would have spied on him anyway because I craved the tenderness he housed in that tightly wound body.

If I'd loved the Grizzly Man, I would have jumped naked into the river, and the cold would have been shocking, the kind that hurts before it lights up every cell in your body. I would have said, "Timothy, look at me," and then come out of the water and held his warm face in my wet hands until he fell to his knees to bury his face in my belly, push a hand between my legs.

If I'd loved the Grizzly Man, I would have bought him another teddy bear, one to sleep with at night instead of me, because I would have been too afraid to go out there with him.

If I'd loved the Grizzly Man, I would have understood what it meant to be out there with animals. That people kill more people and animals than animals do.

If I'd loved the Grizzly Man, I would have pointed at the sky and said, "Look honey, it's Orion." I would have learned to stay close to the fire at night. I never would have left his side. I would have done what he taught me. He would have been the reason I survived.

If I'd loved the Grizzly Man, my mother would have dragged me out of the wilderness by my hair and locked me in a room or a closet, whatever it took, and listened to me beating on the door screaming to be let loose, and I would have started talking in tongues and doing strange dances. I would have pawed at the floor and sniffed the dust particles for fresh air. My mother would have called the men in white coats. They would have medicated me, hypnotized me, whatever it took to put my crazy lover out of my mind. I would have become like one of those wild animals in a zoo, pacing without any purpose, living dead.

If I'd loved the Grizzly Man, I would have read him poetry. He would have liked "The Panther" by Rilke. And he would have said, "Read it again."

If I'd loved the Grizzly Man, it wouldn't have lasted because I would have been afraid of bears. When I was little I saw an episode of Little House on the Prairie when a character got mauled by a grizzly. Right then I realized the size of the world, how it could swallow me whole if it wanted.

If I'd loved the Grizzly Man, I would have begged him to change careers, and he would have gone back to waiting tables and drinking and doing heroin and then shot himself in the head.

If I'd loved the Grizzly Man, I wouldn't have left him hanging from a bear's mouth and screaming like that. I would have turned around and come back and watched even if he'd begged me to run, because he would have; he would have begged. I would have heard the sound of his human skull crushed in a bear's jaws. I would have seen how a man's blood can paint the forest, what the inside of my lover looked like. I would have seen a bear coming at me, jaws open, unforgiving, in the moment and self-centered, like God.

 

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