Grady’s bear waits for Joshua in his room on the floral Laura Ashley bedspread, in the darkness. When Joshua comes to bed, the bear greets him with a stern look across his gray fur.
“Hello,” Joshua says, as though Grady himself were waiting poised on the bed, with his equally dark eyes and kind expression. The bear says nothing, but waits with his arm slightly raised as if he were in the process of explaining a point.
Joshua moves his huge body to the bed and sits down on the bedspread, crossing his legs in front of the bear. They size one another up, and Joshua shakes the hand that is raised.
“It’s nice to meet you,” he says. They size one another up with mutually blank expressions, patient and kind and similarly angelic. Joshua’s eyes, and the glass buttons of the bear. The only light in the room is that which is spilling in from the courtyard beyond. The shadows creep long on the other side of the toy chest and the toys scattered on the floor, alongside Joshua’s clothes and guitar.
“Can you tell me when you met Grady?” Joshua asks, his voice quiet, and the gray bear considers this with his outstretched hand, like half a shrug, or a gesture to a bygone time.
The bear explains to Joshua that he was given to Grady when his only name was the shushing sounds his mother made when he cried. Sh sh sh, baby. Sh sh, was his name, and so he heard his name when the refrigerator turned on at night, and when the late-night drunks danced past his window, and when trash dragged along the road in the hurricane winds, and his name became not a name at all, but a kind of music heard always if he listened hard enough in his crib.
Grady’s bear remembers the mobile over his crib, which was a chiming collection of objects his mother made that was synonymous with her laugh, which was also her name. The glass caught and scattered the light in his room in the early mornings, when the sun came out, and usually woke Grady and his bear with flashes of colored light.
Grady’s bear remembers he once had a vest, but it was lost when he had idly removed it as a toddling boy, and then it was left in the old house when his parents moved from Florida. It was green velvet, and had 3 buttons.
“Do you miss it?” Joshua asks, and the bear thinks, his arm weighing the cost and benefit.
The bear decides he misses the vest, as it had meant when Grady ran his hand over the stiff velvet, that the bear knew Grady’s name in the sh sh sh sounds.
Grady’s bear tells Joshua that Grady never gave him a name, since names are not something they really believe in, but Grady used to stare at him and make a sound which he’d come to recognize and enjoy. Grady’s bear tells Joshua his name is Hm.
“Boys don’t keep bears very long, usually,” Joshua apologizes, resting his face forlorn in his hands. “Did you get thrown away?”
Hm now shrugs. He tells Joshua that Grady had never thrown him away. Grady had dated girls as a man who didn’t understand why he kept with him so few possessions but his guitar and his records and his bear. Hm laughs slow and tells Joshua that he has been tossed from many apartment windows, the girls yelling at him to never come back, and he has always enjoyed the ride.
“Grady didn’t get kicked out that much,” Joshua argues. “He’s not that bad of a guy, come on.”
Hm shakes his head is dismay. He tells Joshua Grady has been kicked out that much, and that as much as he is a lover and a romantic, he is also Nothing and Nowhere and leaves his lovers with a vacancy they don’t understand, and so he is kicked nomadically to New York curb after New York curb.
“I wonder why,” Joshua ponders, and Hm also considers.
Hm takes a guess that it has something to do with Grady’s diplomatic approach to reality. Like the lights over his crib, he has never seen things one way, and so…
Hm shows Joshua fights with women who can’t feel close to him because he won’t show them his beliefs or his world, but the many sides of one situation. They see him as a pot-smoking philosophizing deadbeat. They pick apart his music and find nothing romantic anymore. They throw out his army bag and his bear from their apartment windows, and wash their hands of what he thinks he knows, and thinks he can see.
Hm tells Joshua Grady liked to watch the ocean as a teenage boy, because each wave brought to him a new perspective of the ocean itself. When his best friend died, he had trouble accepting it because he knew there were worlds in which he hadn’t died, and so continued talking to him, and sometimes does, while Hm can watch.
Joshua bites his lip, and swallows hard.
“So, can you tell me what’s inside you?” he asks, and Hm points to a hole in his chest, where the seams have come undone. Joshua reaches inside and feels something hard and cold.
“WHOA,” Joshua says. “WHOA. One of these makes the whole house look like Tron!”
Hm tells Joshua this is the world where the house only exists on the Internet, inside the guts of a computer in the basement.
“This one looks like… a private school.”
Hm tells Joshua this is the world where the house exists in black space with nothing else around it.
“This is tripping me out,” he sighs, and puts the prism to one side. He gives Hm a hug, who returns it.