The Polar Bear is lonely.
He spends most afternoons with his face pressed against the air conditioner, watching sweater-clad coeds walking and giggling on the sidewalk below. “I could date any of these girls,” he tells himself.
This city is far away from the North Pole. The trip required the use of two boats, one train, and three airplanes. His mother shook her head in disappointment as she handed him the folder containing his travel documents.
“We have everything we need here,” she declared, indicating the wide, barren expanse of snow. White spread to the horizon, where it was met by the ecru sky. He rolled his eyes. The Arctic offered only bleak silence.
Civilization surpassed his highest expectations. Conveniences abounded: people movers, travel pillows, and tooth-whitening chewing gum. Tiny plastic bottles of fresh, pure water! Toilet seat covers!
He ate his first Cinnabon in Montreal, while perusing a complementary copy of USA Today. “This is the life I was meant to lead,” he realized.
If he closes his eyes and covers his ears, he can transport himself to his family’s den. The comforting smell of fur and fat. The reassuring din of his father’s snore is reminiscent of an air conditioner. Seal steak dinners and snow packed into his paws.
Now his home smells like Cool Water cologne. Most of his meals consist of egg salad sandwiches from a convenience store. He drinks imported beer in place of water.
“I belong here,” the Polar Bear says to his empty studio apartment.
The Polar Bear is bored.
“I’m applying to grad school,” he tells the barista at the nearby coffee shop. She smiles blankly.
“Well, I’m really just trying to find the right program,” he says to his mother. “But I’m really close to working it out. And I’ve been studying really hard for the GREs.” These reassurances always garner a reasonably sized check from his parents.
“The job market is just really terrible,” he tells the clerk at the unemployment office. “And nobody wants to a hire a bear.”
He did work when he first arrived in the city. It seemed like a good way to meet people. Furthermore, his arctic fashion sense was unacceptable in the real world. And free clothes abounded at his job. By then he had also developed a fondness for Taco Bell and Cool Ranch Doritos. Snacks could be easily purchased with bills purloined from the cash register. And the girls! His workplace was swarming with fetching females searching for halter dresses and mini skirts.
But folding t-shirts bored the Polar Bear. “I am made for better things,” he decided.
He has found some ways to fill his time.
The internet is a fine diversion. He blogs and tweets and superpokes. He browses the options on dating websites. He networks with bands and artists. “I really should work in PR,” he tells himself. “I mean, I have 542 friends on Facebook!”
He has also discovered that shoplifting is an exciting hobby. No, no…it is really more of a sport. It started with ketchup bottles from restaurants. Soon he moved on to toilet paper and cleaning products secreted from Starbucks’ bathrooms. And then, moisturizing conditioner from the drug store. A silk tie from Macy’s. Numerous pairs of shoes from the AIDS thrift store. His biggest coup was a ten pound bag of rice. He scattered it on the sidewalk outside his building, thrilling every pigeon in a five-mile radius.
But really, the Polar Bear is planning to go to grad school.
A former co-worker invites the Polar Bear to a party.
He wears the purloined silk tie and a black vest. He decides that a sweatband makes his head appear to be smaller and more symmetrical, with the added benefit of disguising his thinning hair. “I look good, but not too good,” he declares. He quickly memorizes a list of obscure-but-hip bands that he plans on working into conversation.
But the party is strange. Everyone stands in small groups, laughing at inside jokes. He knows no one. He is sure that everyone can tell that he is just a spoiled bear from the Arctic. He finds himself standing in the corner alone, sipping from a bottle of stolen gin.
Tonight was supposed to be his big night. He was going to finally gain the popularity and love he deserved. “I am a fucking POLAR BEAR,” he reminds himself. “Certainly the only one is this city. People should be begging me to be their friend!”
He notices a girl in an opposite corner, crying softly. He strolls over to her.
“Oh no, sadness is not welcome at this party,” he announces while twirling his imaginary mustache.
She gives him a dirty look. “I just got out of a mental hospital, okay? I had a nervous breakdown. And I don’t know anyone in this stupid city because I just moved here and everyone clearly thinks that they are cooler than me.”
He surveys her outfit. Ill-fitting, with well-worn clogs. No makeup and plenty of ratty hair. She’s a little chubby around the edges. But her teeth are pearly white and her skin looks soft.
He extends his bottle of gin toward her, “Have a drink. And if you promise to stop crying, I’ll take you back to my house for an egg salad sandwich.”
The Polar Bear knows that he deserves something better.