Teddy Bear, by Alderon Minx
There was a reason that Jill Pearson spent 3 full months willingly crawling into bed with Teddy Ambrose. Willingly going out in public with him. Willingly sharing space, air, and bodily fluids. There was a reason, and Teddy was determined to discover what it was.
He sat at his kitchen table, a small pile of work papers to his left, the bag of doggie doo dumped at his doorstep by the neighbourhood children to his right, and an uneaten bowl of Fruit Loops cereal in the middle. His stomach was in knots, he couldn’t eat. Not to mention the bag of shit on the table. That was the third one in as many months.
The children didn’t hate him, they simply had no respect for him. They enjoyed espying his defeated motions at the front porch: the huge sigh as he spotted the bag, the hand on the knee as he crouched over to pick it up, the stooped shoulders as he stole quick peaks around him, and the final sigh as he shuffled back into his house.
He didn’t used to find shit at his doorstep, not back when he had a girlfriend, not back when he was with Jill. He would meet for lunch in a matter of hours, their favourite haunt, a Korea place where you cooked your meat on a grill at your table. He had to assure her that he wasn’t trying to get back together for her to agree to dine with him.
Teddy forced himself to watch a bit of television, Saturday viewing was bleak but mindless, relaxing. He scrubbed hard in the shower and dressed with care, he didn’t want to look scruffy, but also didn’t want to look like he was trying too hard.
Jill was 8 minutes late and slid into her seat across from Teddy with a frown.
“You have an STD, don’t you?” she said before both cheeks were comfortably planted. “That’s why you called me.”
Teddy’s mouth dropped, he sputtered a denial and gaped at her. She had gained a bit of weight, she had been too thin when they were together, the weight looked good on her.
“You have a new sweater,” he said.
“A couple of them actually,” she rolled her eyes, “I haven’t seen you for almost a year. Now, what am I doing here?”
Teddy pulled at the collar of his sweater, his stomach was churning, but he had to go through with it. “I don’t want to get back together, I don’t have an STD, I just wanted to talk about our relationship. Old relationship. Former relations.”
Teddy raised his menu to cover his face, he could feel his cheeks flush, his hands were sweating more than he was comfortable with. “I want to know what you saw in me, and what made you break up.”
“Are you in rehab or something?”
Teddy blinked. He blinked again. “Yes,” he said. “Yes I am.”
“Fuck, well, alright.”
They paused to order the spicy meat medley for two, and a large kim chee.
“You’re pretty good looking and not fat or bald, and you have a steady job,” Jill shrugged. “You’re nice and reliable.”
Teddy frowned, “That all sounds pretty good.”
“But after a while you got pretty dull to be around. Too passive, too afraid of stirring things up. You give in way too much and so we always wound up doing whatever I suggested. That’s boring. It was like you were just a passenger, and I always had to bring you along.”
“Uh. Huh. Okay.” He forced himself to breathe. His left nostril made a low whistling sound.
“So is it a 12-step?” The kim chee arrived and Jill began picking at her dish.
“Nice and reliable.” Teddy continued, “How so?”
“You know, nice. Not mean. Polite, friendly but not overly friendly. Reliable, you show up on time, you helped me move without complaining, you do what you say you’re going to do. It’s good.”
“Sounds boring.” Teddy mumbled.
“No,” she shook her head, “That part wasn’t boring, or annoying. It was the constantly trying to please me part that was exasperating. Running ahead to open doors for me, trying to be flawless, trying to be the perfect boyfriend. It was kind of desperate and after a while I felt weird being around you. Like there was something wrong with me, that I would be with someone like that.”
Teddy began to rethink the merits of his plan. This was supposed to help him feel better about himself, gain the confidence he needed to bang on the neighbour’s door and throw the bag of shit inside when they opened the door, ‘keep your moron kid off my property!’ But it wasn’t helping.
“Look,” she continued, “I’m not trying to hurt your feelings, but you asked and I’m being honest.”
“Uh huh.” Teddy angled his face toward his plate to keep from view, not that he could eat anything.
“It would have been a lot better if you could just be yourself, instead of trying to be this perfect person.”
Be yourself. He was a living public service announcement. The beginnings of an after school special. If he thought for a moment that people would like him he wouldn’t try so hard to be more likeable. Maybe girls like unlikeability better? Or maybe that’s exactly what Jill was referring to.
“How do you know if you’re being yourself?”
“You know because it’s easy,” Jill said. “You can be yourself without even thinking about it.”
That sounded easy, Teddy thought while absently rubbing his stomach. If you catch yourself thinking, just stop.
“But, rehab will help you with all that.”
“Huh?” Teddy coughed, “Er, right.”
They ate in silence through the first course of meat, then made small talk for the rest of the meal. Teddy changed the topic abruptly each time Jill asked for more information about the program he had undertaken, or when she attempted to share more information about his personality defects.
Jill was a bad place to start. He’d call Allison when he got home, she was nicer.
“Let’s get dessert,” Jill said.
“Nope,” Teddy spat out, he had to get out of there. He paused, he didn’t remember ever openly disagreeing with Jill before. It didn’t feel so bad. Maybe she was onto something.
Alderon Minx has been eating small pets for the last 10 years, and as such has been banned from the both the Humane Society and the ASPCA.
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Tags: alderon minx, humour, relationships, self esteem, suicide