Gypsy in Chains

“They hang out at the less hoighty toighty ski resorts, the ones with cross-country granola skiers instead of the women in three hundred dollar ski goggles.  The gypsies just grab their chainsaws and carve these bears and sell them for a few hundred dollars and live off the money off season. They had a big fire. I was cold and wet, so I went up to them and said, ‘Won’t be buying a bear today, but would love to talk to you.’ I really wanted their story.”

I remember my bear. Her name was Fitzpatrick. Every day, they would line us up in alphabetical order. Fitzpatrick was always called at least three times. He was either sick, on restriction, or unable to hear his name over the cacaphony in his unquieted mind. So, every day, I stood there looking at a picture of this bear with her (?) cubs on the hallway wall waiting for Fitzpatrick to get his shit together.

I stared at Fitzpatrick, the bear not the man behind me, and wondered about something capable of so much rage and comfort. I wondered if I only noticed this duality, because I like Fitzpatrick, the man behind me not the bear, was grappling with my own in the form of bipolar disorder in a mental institution in Staunton, Virginia.

“I don’t think my parents would ever let me do that!” prattled my  caseworker.

“Buy a bear?”

“Be a gypsy.”


“Yes,  a gypsy life is not for everyone.”

God, how mundane medicated normalcy has become.

Won’t be buying a bear today.


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