A Conversation With Bear

Welcome to my room.

That noise before you ask – just the humming. It does that all the time: hums to me. I don’t sleep anymore but sometimes I pretend, you know, pretend that I am asleep to try and see if it ever stops. It doesn’t. Probably doesn’t care whether I’m asleep or not. Why should it? In some ways I like the humming. It just happens to be here like I happen to be here. I breathe, it breathes. We share a rhythm, you know? I don’t suppose you do. Anyhow, you can listen to it too while you wait.

You’re probably about to ask where we are – a good question. The same was the first to cross my mind too when I arrived. I can see you looking around but I’ll save you the trouble: there isn’t a sign or anything like that. A place just isn’t a place without a name now, is it? And no one should stay in a place that isn’t a place. So I decided to name it myself. It’s always the people who find places first that get to name them after all. (But here’s the thing, I’m not the most imaginative of people to tell you the truth). The naming needed some… inspiration. I’ve found if you wait long enough such things tend to happen. This particular thing was a voice. It echoed through here one day; the only sound I had ever heard over the humming. I was so surprised that somehow I only caught a single trailing word of it. But I can tell you for sure that the voice was female and spoke as if posing a question. The word I caught by the way was “pillow”. And that’s where you are now. I’ve named my room Pillow, you see. Odd perhaps, but I’d advise you to be open minded around here. Besides, no one else has a room called Pillow. Welcome to Pillow.

How rude of me. Would you like something to eat? I forget people do that, you see long ago I lost my appetite. In terms of food, all I have to offer you are the grapes. There is an endless supply of grapes here. That’s weird too, yes, but who I am to protest that I prefer apples when I’m never hungry anyway. When I’m not listening to the humming, I sometimes watch the grapes. Watching grapes is a curious thing to do, but have you ever tried it? I watch them sadden and droop; watch as they curl and wither. And eventually, the fluffy mould grows. That’s my favourite part, just before the grapes are replaced with fresh ones. I don’t know who replaces them; I can only assume Bear does.

You haven’t met Bear yet? I am sorry. Let me introduce you both. Bear is my friend in here. He is the reason I am never lonely. Maybe I was to start with, maybe I was scared then too, but how could I be now that I have Bear? One day it was just me and then Bear came along. I am waiting for him to talk to me. But I suspect he is thinking about what to say so I mustn’t rush him. I ask him every day about the grapes – he hasn’t owned up, yet. He might not answer me but he watches cautiously with beady eyes like little black marbles. That’s really nice of him; he must get awfully tired waiting up as I can never sleep. Sometimes I forget about the humming and the grapes, and even Bear, but as the only other occupants of Pillow they soon reclaim my attention.

I should emphasise the only permanent occupants of Pillow because you see there was another visitor one day, before you that is. I welcomed her to Pillow and she introduced herself as Nurse. She was dressed in white and wore one of those tired friendly faces. I thought at the time that it was a funny name; she also had a nice voice. She was the first person I’d spoken to in Pillow, that’s if you were to discount Bear, which I am reluctant to do. I offered her grapes but she wasn’t hungry. Then I introduced Bear who actually seemed relieved to see her. You are the only visitor we’ve had since, by the way. And I must be honest; I had initially hoped that you were Nurse returning! You see, she promised me she would, so I’ve been waiting.

Nurse asked all kinds of things about the humming. How I felt about it or whether it ever got louder. Harder questions too – where do you think it’s coming from? That was the first time I’d even considered outside of Pillow, but it made sense: the humming had to be unworldly. She agreed, and you’d have believed her for she had this authority. I also had to explain about the naming of Pillow and that certainly caught her interest. It was then I figured out that the voice was unworldly too…

So was she. So are you.

Her final question was the biggest. She asked me what I wanted – I was confused at first. If I’m honest with you, the question surprised me, particularly as it was posed like an offer. It grounded me I suppose for the first time since I’d called Pillow, well, home. When someone asks you what you want, you really have to think. It makes you look around and weigh it all up, life and such. So I did, and all became clear. What I wanted more than anything was to hear from Bear. It explained everything. The humming and the watching of the grapes were only ways to pass the time. Pass the time while I waited. Waited for, what I hadn’t identified until then to be, Bear’s reply.

It was a long shot but I asked her whether she could help Bear find his voice. The most comforting of smiles replied with the answer. Apparently it wasn’t that Bear didn’t want to talk to me, the trouble all along was that he simply couldn’t hear me. He couldn’t hear me over the humming! You might ask: what does she know about Bear or the humming? But I didn’t, because I knew she knew. I can’t tell you of my relief that she did – imagine trying endlessly to get someone’s attention and never knowing whether they are ignoring you on purpose or not. I have stopped trying to talk to Bear since then. We share an understanding instead; the company is enough, for now.

I am waiting for Nurse to return because when she does she said the humming will be turned off. It is strange being offered the one thing you have only just discovered that you want. I can’t imagine many people have experienced it but then I can’t imagine many have experienced Pillow-life either. And here I am, waiting. That’s my story. I’ve been thinking a lot more than I used to (the benefit or perhaps side-effect of so much time) and come to terms with a couple of perspective-changers. When you don’t need sleep or food I realised that death doesn’t come around too quickly or perhaps at all, and if I’m honest, that scares me. What if I am just like the grapes, slowly dying but never gone. Being always refreshed at the fluffy stage seems a bleak prospect. There’s not much to desire when you lead a Pillow-life but there is something, and that something is a conversation with Bear.

I hear it nowadays like never before. Imposing and confining. The breaths just don’t sound natural. I try to remember silence but it turns out that silence isn’t a thing you can really remember. The humming needs to stop. I want to talk to Bear. I even, just a little bit, fancy tasting the grapes.

To live the Pillow-life is to wait. You can imagine my disappointment when you turned up instead of Nurse! No offence, of course. Oops, well now I’ve burdened you with my life-story and a history of Pillow, and you had only asked about the humming…

What do you mean you never asked about the humming?

What humming you ask?

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