As a child, I had some teddy bears. Grey, blue, green, all colors. But then you grow older, and as a boy, those cuddly stuffed animals lose their appeal to you. A man’s harsh fate, to have to wander around the world without a teddy. I remember how dad once gave me these plastic cars, and asked if I wasn’t getting old for stuffed animals. Mother probably shook her head at him. But his cars didn’t miss their purpose. The teddies all ended up in the closet. Then in a bag on the attic. And I have no idea where they are now. All gone. The personifications of my early childhood. Of those days when dad used to ask me what I’d be when I had grown up. I was never able to reply, I had no idea. I just enjoyed my plastic little shiny cars.
Fourteen I was, when I met her. She was a year younger than me. In high school, learning things to become the answer to the question my father always asked me. Although I still had no idea. Walking through the halls between classes, I noticed her by her ginger-colored hair. Drew my attention like a lighthouse beacons lost ships. She walked by, at a normal pace, chattering and giggling with her friends. It must have been her smile that did it, or how she pushed her glasses back with one hand, to avoid looking into my eyes. At her bag tangled a little teddy bear. A grey one like I used to have. For a few minutes I stared at the empty hall after she had turned around the corner. Like a lost ship at sea I arrived late in the harbor of class.
It took me weeks before I dared talking to her. It was on a rainy morning, that fate took it’s grasp on me. I was running late for school, and due to the rain not looking in front of me. As you can guess, I bumped right into her and we both fell on the ground. I tasted the rain, while I was gasping at what had happened. She shook her head, and apologized to me. Her face showed a red color. Then she ran on, into the gate and onto the playground. Disappeared in a door. On the ground before me lay a small grey teddy bear. Attached to a broken chain. I picked it up and hid it in the pocket of my shirt.
No single lesson did I learn that day. Blackboards were written full and wiped clean again without me noticing it. Images of a grey teddy prevented my eyes reading anything. Diagrams that were drawn all turned into a bear. Biology lessons were all about bears. Art class was about the color red. After school, I saw her again. Since I wasn’t paying any attention to my friends, they had all left me alone since class had ended. So I found myself standing still and alone when I reached the gate. Students were running back and forth, riding bikes, heading home. One girl was not. With her head and eyes aimed at the ground, she strolled at the side of the street. Looking left and right. With both hands she rubbed her face, and walked slowly, head won, to a bench nearby. There she sat, and hid her face in the velvet of her bag on her knees. In the pocket of my shirt, something itched, and I knew what to do.
“Is this what you were looking for?” She startled and looked at me. Red was a color that changed place that day. Now it was in her eyes. Eyes which suddenly showed a sparkle when she saw what I held in my hand before her.
“Teddy!” she shouted. Quickly she wiped under her eye with a hand, and took the little grey bear with the other.
That’s how I met her. Since that day, we were nearly inseparable. Every day after class we met. We ran around together, walked each other home, and talked about everything. I had never dared to ask why the teddy meant so much to her, but I knew it was important for her. We grew up, and we grew towards each other as friends. She was always there when I needed a shoulder to cry on. I was there when she got upset about failing English class. We were there, when we needed it.
Prom was the epitome of our friendship. It was a wonderful evening. We had danced, and I wanted to tell her. But I couldn’t. She was leaving, for a university far away. I’d hardly see her again, and I knew it would be too hard for us both. We just enjoyed the evening of the last dance. Music was played, but hardly heard. Later that evening, we sat on that same bench again. Looking at the stars, and I found myself wishing for a shooting star. So I could do a wish that would be granted. None came.
“I want to give you something.” she said. She opened her velvet purse, and took out the little teddy. “I want you to have it, so you’ll never forget how much you’ve meant to me.” I took a deep breath, and stared at the little grey bear that smiled at me. She held it in her hands in front of me. I took her hands, and closed them around the teddy.
“I can’t take it. You keep it and remember the day I gave it back to you.” She smiled, and kissed me on the forehead. Then her father arrived, and took her away from me. She took teddy with her, to always have him around. That moment, I knew the answer to my father’s question. I closed my eyes, and took a step into the past again. The mind’s eye theatre never fails in that. I saw again how he asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I replied to him for the first time.
“I want to be a teddy.”
For Linney, holder of teddies