It's typical morning rush hour on 101 Southbound. Four lanes, one for carpools and buses. Me trying to maneuver over to the second from the left, a calculated guess as to which will be the "good" lane.
Also typical: Bright sunshine overhead, this far north, rockin' the Lennon-esque sunglasses, but looking ahead, Mount Tam shrouded in fog. Ready for the Golden Gate to be the same. Regular glasses close at hand. Nearly everyone has on their headlights; red tail lights in front of me, a sea, pitching and flowing, occasionally radically slowing.
Listening to morning talk radio, flipping back and forth to NPR. Please, anything, god, but a freakin commercial. In the back/side/front of the mind and the eyes, a sudden change in the atmosphere. Brake lights, all on, every lane. I don't even have to bemoan that I once again chose the "bad" lane.
Okay, wtf. I mean, WTF? Usually one or two or three lanes move. Is it a particularly gnarly accident? (Loathe to admit I'll look ... curious, interested, horrified, self-congratulatory.) We are at full-stop.
Drumming fingers. Switching stations. Craning my neck. Waiting for the glowing red (hmm, cool sunset effect, if I squint my eyes) to dim, change, shift. Look at my phone. Should I call work? Or just sneak in... a few minutes late?
Oh, my. What's that? Is that a man? He's on the highway? What's he doing there? Picking up broken pieces of glass, headlights, license plate, stripping, rubber? Where is the accident, goddammit? Which lane should I attempt to invade?
No, that is not a man. What is it? A man in a gorilla suit? It's nearly Halloween, after all.
No, that's no gorilla suit. That's -- that's -- oh, no, fuck me, that's a Bear! Looks kinda little. Must be a black bear. Geez, why couldn't it have been a grizzly?
But Nooo, he's not in a field like he's supPosed to be, is he? He's smack dab in the middle of the highway, which now looks a little like this:
(Only, of course, with a bear standing in the middle.)
Well now, this is interesting. What are they going to do? Who are "they"? This bear, he's standing up, kind of sitting on his hind legs, but upright, like a man. Sweeping his head back and forth, obviously sniffing the air. Well, we must be foreign to him, as he is to us. Musn't we?
What was that movie, Tony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin. Jeez, what a metaphor of men's illusion of the ManBeast within. Oh, and that stupid - stoopid! - manchild from Long Island via SoCal, living up in Alaska, thinking he had a connection to Bear. That wonderfully dotty director chronicled the life and demise of a fool. But those were grizzly.
Hmm, I wonder if black bear are as Mean. This one doesn't look mean, just bewildered. Reminds me of my dog who, when confused or abashed, rakes his right paw over his face, managing to communicate both apology and baffled ignorance. This one, this Bear, shakes his head, raises his snout, kind of defiant, but mostly seeking escape. WTF, indeed.
Ho! This is gonna get good (where's the popcorn). People are getting out of their vehicles. Oh, yeah, that's a good idea. Contractor guy get out of his pickup, pulls a prybar from out of the bed. Approches bear. Lawyer guy pops out of his BMW (5 Series), starts hollering and clapping his hands, aligns himself with contractor guy. Approaches bear. Soccer mom hops out of her crossover (minivans are So Last Year), blowing her anti-rape whistle, cheeks aflare. [Oh, wait, that's probably a whistle for soccer, yeah, she doesn't live in the City anymore, doesn't Need an anti-rape whistle - geez, I'm so judgmental!] Approaches bear.
I get my phone's camera cued up (why don't I have the Canon with me?! Because people Steal cameras out of your car in the City, that's why!). You never know, I might make some money off the carnage.
The bear looks at the humans. The humans attempt to flummox the bear. I look at my watch.
Then he sees me. No, not the contractor guy (though he's kinda cute). The bear. No, really. He looks right at me. He knows everything I've thought just now, even about the rape-whistle. He knows about the grizzly munching on the idiot up in Alaska. He knows about Alec Baldwin, and his fascinating arc(s). He knows that I bemoan my weight and yet eat bread for lunch. He knows that I yell at my children, yet lay awake at night wondering if I'm scarring them for life. He knows about sunrises and early snow. He knows about loss and loneliness and braggadocio and fate.
He knows how I feel about sky - skies, and lonely trees on hillsides, and sailboats on the deep blue.
He looks deep into my eyes. He tells me it's okay to worry, it's okay to yield, it's okay to win sometimes, too. He tells me to slow down and make sure I appreciate what's around me, but it's okay to kick ass when necessary. He tells me.
He shakes his shaggy head once, with a snort. "You got that?" He asks. I nod. With a swing right, then left (the contractor guy and lawyer guy jump back; the soccer mom freezes), he lumbers to the highway's edge, always vaguely falling forward in that way of the bear. He jumps the ditch, disappears into the brush.
I go to work.