I lived in a flat my father bought me. The flat was along Hollywood Road, in Hong Kong. Many people my age could not afford or even think to afford a flat like this. But I lived there. I did not have to pay rent. I just had to worry about my living expenses and the bills and maybe some maintenance work for the flat such as lightbulbs and pipes and furniture repair. There was a lot of furniture repair needed as my father had always let me live with my bear. He was a grizzly, about one thousand pounds and never stopped eating. Quite often he would sit on the couch and one of the legs would give way, or he would nudge the kitchen counter and the top of it would shift and expose a dangerous corner that would need to be fixed. He was a playful sort, and loved to chase cockroaches, though I did not enjoy the hulking mass pushing me in the back while I tried to focus on my DOTA game. The flat was 400 square foot, but there was a patio of roughly the same size. I usually put the bear outside. I let him come in if I needed a pillow while we watched a movie together.
When we watched movies together he was smart about it. He curled up next to the wall opposite the TV so I could lay against his stomach. It was warm and when he inhaled and exhaled it made me feel as if I was on a boat somewhere and not in my room watching a movie I was told to watch because it invoked a feeling. When we finished a movie I would talk to my bear and ask him what he thought; but by then he was asleep. He fell asleep in every movie and I had to wake him up and put him back outside. No matter the weather he had to sleep outside. I once tried to share a bed with him during a severe tropical depression, but he slept restlessly, and when he kicked in his sleep he clawed. One night he had shredded my thigh open and I almost died from blood loss. Luckily I had managed to knock on my neighbour’s door and she called an ambulance.
The nurses were kind enough to let the bear sit with me in my room. There was a big window in my room and I looked out at the Hong Kong lights. The bear looked out with me, but upwards, searching the clouds. I had a long talk with the bear that night. I told him that you have to go far far away to see the stars these days. I told him when I was younger you could venture out onto Lantau maybe, or up into New Territories to see a few of them, but now it is just cloud everywhere – so the building lights will have to do. In the morning the doctor asked me what had caused my mishap and I told him that I wasn’t paying attention while I was cutting up some meat (for my bear) and I slipped and it ran along my leg. The doctor said it would seem that there was a lot of effort put into the cut and I told him that it was a new knife and it was very sharp. He told me to come back in a week so he could tend to my stitches.
While waiting for the MTR home, my leg aching, I noticed the bear was getting restless again. I could tell because he would stand on two legs, peering over the crowd of people waiting to board the train. When he was on all fours he was shoulder height with everyone and he couldn’t see past all the coats and shirts and suits and large billed hats. He had to be above it somehow – he had to be able to stand and then see for a far distance.
One time I lost the bear in the crowd.
We were drinking in Wan Chai and he likes to drink very much. Especially that ‘Bear’ brand. Unfortunately it was only available in supermarkets so we made sure to stock up each time – trying out all the different alcohol percentages. I did not know that stronger beer tastes sweeter than weaker. I asked the grizzly why but he was too busy drinking. I asked him why would he devour something the same name as he and he stopped drinking for a moment and sat, his massive paws pointing in different directions. He took a long sip as if in contemplation and then downed the rest of the beer and opened another.
When I had lost him in Wan Chai, I worried for some time. Worried if he had drank too much. He is not an angry drunk. He just does not know when to stop. He forgets himself and he ends up on top of the bar in Carniegies, his hands behind his back holding onto that railing and thrusting into the air. Below him the crowd is like a wave of energy, flowing, and he lets it flow and pulse and move like some weird glutinous being fuelled by spirit.
I found him in the toilet, the cubicle door locked.
‘I can hear you throwing up your guts,’ I said.
But he didn’t reply.
‘You drank too much again,’ I said.
He threw up.
‘Open the door please,’ I said. ‘What if you pass out and choke on your vomit? Who will be there?’
‘Dude,’ some guy next to me said, holding his dick, splattering his piss against the urinal and the floor and down his pants leg. ‘Your bud ok?’
‘Yeah, drank too much.’
‘He’s a fuckin bear, dude. I saw him, man. He’s a fuckin bear.’
‘Yeah he’s a fuckin bear.’
‘Right on,’ he said, zipping up. ‘Right on.’
I heard the cubicle door unlock. The bear had unlocked it without turning around, still puking. Behind us the bouncer was watching with crossed arms.
‘Don’t worry. We’ll be gone after he gets it all out his system,’ I said.
When we got home I heaved him onto my bed and started shaving his fur. It seemed the right thing to do. I took all that fur and I placed it in the corner of the bedroom and then I stood over the bear. His skin was wrinkled, his ribs were showing, his eyes were closed and I could see every breath. Without the fur his nails were elegantly long. I could see all of him at once. He kicked at the air and I moved away. I sat down on the floor away from the bed and looked at him sleeping naked until I fell asleep, my back against the wall.
In the morning, he was on the patio, his fur grown back and he was on two legs, peering over the fence watching the passerbys in the streets down below.
‘How you feelin today?’ I asked him.
He plodded to me on all fours and rubbed his head against my hand and chewed gentle my hand pulling me towards the fence.
‘Not hungover?’ I asked. ‘Course not. You’re a fuckin bear aren’t ya?’
He carried on in this fashion for a good few years. He even convinced me to tag along each night, and soon enough we weren’t weekend warriors. We were warriors. Never did we find anything in the morning but missing memories and puke stained clothes. I once woke to the bear, lying in the bathtub, the shower on and spraying his chest. God knows how long he had been lying there. The water was ice cold when I found him yet he slept soundly. When I turned off the shower and put my hand to his chest, I could feel his heart pulsing. It was too warm.
It was noon one sunday. We were sat outside in the patio. He was peering over the fence again watching the passerbys.
‘What makes you fuckin look over the fence?’ I said.
The bear looked at me, his eyes squinting.
‘Come sit the fuck down and have a beer or something.’
The bear came down from the fence and he sat down on the floor with no need for a chair. He came to the right height anyway. I slid him a beer across the table and he mauled it away.
I reached into the cooler but came up empty.
‘Have mine then,’ I said and pushed it at him.
He swiped it away again.
‘What the fuck, man?’
The bear stood up and walked to the fence again and looked back at me.
‘What?’ I said. ‘You want me up at the fence.’
The bear huffed.
I stood and walked over. ‘I know what’s down there,’ I said, standing next to the beast. ‘I don’t need to look.’
The bear looked down at me and huffed again. I rolled my eyes and put a foot to one of the plant pots to give me height and looked down over the fence. ‘It’s just people walking.’
‘It’s people doing,’ he said.
I smirked. The bear huffed again and walked on all fours and headed inside.
‘Where you going?’ I asked, walking inside after him. The bear came out with a pair of suitcases.
‘When the hell did you pack those?’
The bear stood up. His mass filled the hallway. He had grown fat and old and he was even grey around the snout. His eyes were sunken and a couple of his claws had broken off.
‘I can’t,’ I said.
He huffed at me.
‘It’s too late.’
He huffed at me again, this time falling down to all fours. I opened the fridge. There was no more beer.