I am the last in a long line of cowards. Its in my blood, inherited like a Roman nose or a propensity for spirits. Even my name stands as a family joke, a curse, a leash tying me to the past to my blood. Look it up: I saw it in a little book in the grocery store aisle: Blaine: Gaelic for yellow, born jaundiced, color of a coward's stripe.
My family reached American shores hundreds of years ago. It was our last great trip and I'm beginning to wonder if we were somehow forced onto that damn boat. The trip over the Atlantic seems a little out of character.
Upon grounding, they made their way west, a few hundred miles and stopped. Forever. They settled. Built houses, grew crops, had an acceptable number of children. But they stayed put. Never even expanded their holdings. Paralyzed by fear of madness, romance, exile, death, Satan, the dark and mysterious West, the weather, whatever. Three hundred years in America and I can safely say my family never as much as saw an Indian, never engaged in a blood feud, never owned slaves, never incorporated, never gave themselves over for love or power or avarice. Comfortable houses gave way to comfortable houses. The Civil War and the Great Depression shook things up a little from time to time, but never for more than a decade or so. The little houses and the little churches regenerated. Time stood still while all around the American adventure happened without conscience or fear. We stayed put.
I discovered my inheritance in Alaska, in the form of a delusion. Trying my hand as adventurer, I made my way overland over the backbone of an entire continent. Fear mixed with hope of a new life, a new line of Elliott, and soon hope was watered down. As summer turned to fall (a matter of days on the tundra), I realized that I would be heading home, back to NC, back to a safety net of family, friends, and cheap cigarettes. That very day, I experienced the Bear.
I was out driving, daylight, exploring a backroad when the fear struck me of something unknown, something OUT THERE, looking for me with hot breath and red eyes. A bear, not even real, was hunting me, watching my car, needing my soul. This bear, "not malevolent but just big,...too big for the very country which was its constricting scope... not even a mortal beast but an anachronism indomitable and invincible out of an old dead time, a phantom, epitome and apotheosis of the old, wild life." I immediately ran home to my little cabin and stayed through the night. All the way back to NC (ask Matty J) I was pursued by dreams of this bear, he was in chase; galloping across the Rockies and Badlands, hiding under the overpasses of Chicago, breathing the smoky woodsmoke air of Appalachia. Chased my ass all the home to Chapel Hill before the dreams finally began to fade.
Now, I've tried to figure this delusion/archetype out for many years. Never had I encountered an actual embodiment of a psychological projection; never have I bound my fears to a specific form. I'm starting to realize that this Bear was my blood inheritance, my family curse. Throughout the ordeal, I never feared being eaten or mauled. It was not a real bear and I knew it, soul deep. I also knew, however, that one glimpse of his dark and sweaty eyes would change me forever, separate me from my kin in ways that a person can't take back. And it scared me to my core and paralyzed me for what has felt like a hundred years and I sadly took my place in a long line.
Well...it ends now. Blood is blood but it is not destiny. Me and the bear, we're gonna meet. I've already started my search, in dreams and stories and long conversations. I'm doing this to save my family, lost to me under a blanket of cobwebs, dried up and devoid of happiness, energy and offspring. Maybe, just maybe, I am the true heir of that lonesome adventurer who climbed on that boat 350 years ago, that boat to an unknown country filled with wild delights and nighttime terrors and boundless promise. That promise has been left unfulfilled, a hidden legacy unclaimed for centuries. I'm going to befriend the bear, tame him, teach him to dance and open my jelly jars. In return, I'll make him famous. Just wait.