I found Adam’s bear. He was keeping it in a junk shop in Cairo called East’s Emporium. It was inside a garbage can that was sealed shut with an antique diver’s helmet. I know that it’s Adam’s because when I touch it, I can feel a centuries-old layer of dust across the relatively new fur, and there is a sun bleach stain on the arm from where he kept it on display, and there is a mark on the forehead from where he kissed it in the same place every night. I know it’s Adam’s because when I touch it, I feel how it was never played with by a boy, but cared for in order to preserve it for someone else who was more deserving - Adam’s selflessness, maybe. I know it’s Adam’s because when I touch it, I know it’s name is Evelyn.
I take it to Joshua’s room, where I wait for him to come to bed, and I lay with Evelyn in my arms. Evelyn has articulated arms and legs, and no other markings. The sockets which make his limbs move are hard and uncomfortable against me. Evelyn is the color of dead pine needles. Evelyn smells like dust motes in the sun, and dried herbs.
“Hey,” Joshua says, when he sees me, and sits down on the side of his bed. The mattress sinks under his weight, and then complains as the springs strain. He points to the bear I’m holding, and he smiles.
“Wonder twins!” he says, his voice excited, but quiet.
“I found Adam’s bear,” I tell him, pressing it to my chest.
“Yeah! That’s so cool!”
Joshua lays down next to me, so he’s facing me on the floral bedspread. Joshua’s room smells like my old bedroom when I was young, and his man smell creeps delicate around the edges, like when your father is showering in the bathroom down the hall and using his Head & Shoulders. His hair curls down over his wide forehead and we settle face-to-face. He holds his two fingers out to shake Evelyn’s hand under the harsh overhead light.
“Nice to meet you,” he says to the bear, and I start to cry because it feels like something I can’t explain is happening to me. Joshua wipes my tears while I cry, and he explains it.
“Did you know that your squishies and stuffies are the first things you love?” he asks me, and I shake my head.
“Yeah,” he says. “Even before your parents. It’s your stuffed animals. Sooo, you can imprint some pretty heavy stuff on there.”
“This feels like mine,” I tell him, and just forcing out the words is hard. I think I won’t ever give it back to anyone else.
“Well,” Joshua says, now almost whispering. “That’s because he’s made of the wish for you.”
“He is?” I demand to know, my voice shrilling high, like the idea is either perverse or unimaginable.
“Yeah, of course,” Joshua says. “Adam always wishes for you first.”
“But then my bear should be named Adam,” I whimper to him, worried that someone will know, or find out and use to my exploitation, that my bear’s name is John.
Joshua laughs and holds up his hand in surrender.
“I’m just the messenger,” he says. “Do you want to know what Adam put into it?”
This game we’ve established of mercilessly ripping into the matrix of each other’s plushes suddenly seems really mean, even though it was my idea. Why did I think it would be fun to essentially find and pillage the first dreams of our babihoods? What. Is wrong with me? This is exploiting people’s most vulnerable relationships. This is exploitive, and what I really want is to protect this piece of Adam that I’ve been allowed to touch, from anyone else touching it. Because no one else would really understand.
“No, because I think it’s mean,” I tell Joshua, and he nods.
“Okay, but just so you know, yours in the lab and all of it’s stuffing is soaking in a solution to test it for…” He squints, trying to remember. “Anti… bodies?”
“Well, then nevermind, I want to know.”
I bend my knees toward Joshua’s stomach, so my shins touch the tops of his thighs. Evelyn the bear is between us, just under my chin. I close my eyes while Joshua talks.
“Adam talks to him a lot, while he’s learning to talk. He hates getting words wrong and stuff, so he practices on Evelyn to sound smart and make good points and be polite. If you listen, you can hear him do that.”
I listen with my ears next to Evelyn’s chest. Inside, I can hear the smaller and higher version of Adam’s voice squeak little nonsense phrases like, “No thank you, Aunt Betty. I said no thank you Aunt Betty but I could also say ma’am,” and “I want you to get out. I said to go away. This is… you just go and shut up.”
“He gets really upset when he can’t stay calm,” I tell Joshua about the grown-up Adam. “He doesn’t like saying things he doesn’t mean, or saying the wrong thing. He gets really mad but he wants to still be nice to people because even if they leave after everything at the end of the day, you can feel good about making yourself heard.”
“Yeah,” Joshua whispers. “That’s what I think too. Hey, you know what I bet? I bet you there’s nothing in here you don’t already know.”
“Maybe not,” I tell him, but hoping secretly there is. If Adam’s only superpower is his diplomacy, it’s no wonder he never became president.
“Evelyn spent a night outside once.”
Behind my eyelids, I can see flashes of rain, moonlight shining on the grass, mist rising in the morning.
“He got left under the sprinklers overnight, and when they found him in the morning, Adam didn’t want him back.”
The betrayal at having lost something to nature, of all things. Evelyn had gone on an adventure that Adam had not. I can feel Adam’s fear of the outdoors, and the night. Of the huge Gray Family, Adam passed his first five years in a silent shell, waiting for his siblings, where he was tended to by his shadow of a mother. I can hear the low of her voice saying his name, as if she wants him to remember each time she says it that he’s loved by her.
Outside, and at night, are both places where anything can happen, and things are large and wild and loud. Outside is a foreign land of wild boys and brothers and war games Adam will not understand until he’s almost ten. I can trace that fear easily forward to the sensations Adam felt the first time he stayed out all night, on a camping trip. Cold from the dawn, and grimy from the soil, and wet from the dew. He didn’t want to shower because Night Things had happened to him. He’d seen the Night pass all the way through, from one end to the other, and a wolf was born inside him. I can feel the boy of him inch cryptically toward manhood as he is taught the way to build a fire, the way to make a tent. A boy in the unknown world is taught how to survive.
I hug Evelyn tighter because the world is so big and loud and
There are more flashes, of Adam’s father beating his mother, and Joshua touches me on the shoulder.
“Evelyn watches everything,” he says. “Adam gets scared to act sometimes, and so they watch together, from the landing.”
In the dark of Adam’s childhood home, Adam knows there is some power of the Night, and that he can’t interrupt this strange and adult thing which is happening between his parents. Adam’s eyes become patient, and watchful, and he and Evelyn begin to find ways to influence these rituals, from the landing. Adam switches on the stereo one night. Another, he leaves a dead bird by the stairs. Another, he used the special trick his mother had shown him to make the phone ring when it had been hung up.
“Adam sewed some things inside Evelyn,” Joshua finally reveals.
Adam at twenty packed the station wagon quickly, throwing in clothes without a suitcase, and apologizing to those around him who looked concerned.
“I got a call,” is all he says before speeding away.
At the state line of Louisiana and Texas, he pulls over and stuffs into the insides of the bear a thin vial of heroin, a photograph of me, and some of his mother’s Quaaludes.
“No, no, no,” Joshua scolds Evelyn. “Not that time. The other one.”
Adam removes his impromptu suicide kit from the innards of his bear with a faint smile of his face in his lab. The room is dim and full of dreamy light, shifting green over his face. The time for suicide now over, he slips into the cavity two small bottles, one pink and one gold.
“Evelyn!” Joshua gasps, as if he’s done some terrible thing. “You… You mean….?”
But I’ve seen the bottles before, years ago, and know what they contain.
“That’s Adam’s only successful attempt at making a love potion.”
Joshua’s eyes change to conspiring.
“What are you going to do with it?” he asks me.
“Well. Hide it,” I tell him. “That’s always been dangerous to have around and now people are gonna know. We have to find a really good place for it.”
We all think, Joshua, and Evelyn, and I.
“People want love potions all the time at the roads,” I tell Joshua. “How come Grady doesn’t have it?”
Joshua thinks, his big eyebrows furrowing.
“Hm. Well, maybe no one can pay for it.”
“Maybe,” I tell him. “But I know where I’m going to hide it.”