Melted By The Bear(2)

By: Amira Rain

When I emerged from the bathroom, I found Alice and Jane standing in my room, looking as if they were having a serious discussion about something. Speaking in hushed tones, they were both knitting their brows, and both slightly frowning as well.

For a second, I wondered if it were possible that there was something wrong with me physically that they weren’t telling me, or if there would be something wrong with me, like maybe a frozen woman not having amnesia, joint creakiness, or hoarseness was an indicator of poor health, or some kind of a physical ailment yet to come. Though almost as soon as this thought crossed my mind, I dismissed it. Dr. Moore hadn’t seemed concerned about anything in the least; she’d given me a clean bill of health and she hadn’t struck me as the kind of doctor to hold anything back. So, that being the case, I really didn’t have a clue what Alice and Jane could be speaking so seriously about, not that it even mattered. I realized they could be talking about the condition of another patient, or something else completely none of my business.

Almost as soon as they saw me, they stopped speaking and gave me the smallest and weakest of polite smiles, which was the only kind of smiles they’d been giving me since I’d woken up. Smiling politely in return, I made my way to the bed and got in, a little self-consciously because it just seemed odd to climb into a bed in front of two near-strangers, and also because of the quiet of the room, with no TV on, and no one speaking, and Alice and Jane just kind of looking at me. But I didn’t know what else I should, or was supposed to, do. Besides, being as stuffed and relaxed as I was, I was starting to feel a little sleepy and the bed was calling my name.

Being that neither of my two nurses seemed especially friendly, I sort of hoped they’d just leave right away. I didn’t imagine conversation would come easily to the three of us, and I didn’t really feel like trying right then.

Maybe I’d thought I would receive a warmer welcome from the people in wherever it was that I was. After all, as a woman who’d been found fertile after the nuclear disaster and resulting fertility crisis, I’d agreed to be frozen for the good of humanity, and apparently, that good was now specifically for the humanity of whatever place I’d been thawed in. So, maybe I’d expected a genuine, full smile from someone, and a welcome to whatever city or town or other place we were in, or maybe a we’re happy to see you or a we’re happy you survived your thawing. I’d been told before being frozen that it was distinct possibility that not every woman would survive. Because of this, maybe I’d expected to be fussed over a bit.

Maybe I was just tired. It really wasn’t like me at all to actually want to be fussed over and fawned over in any way. In fact, in my “previous” life before the nuclear blast, I’d had enough of that to last me two lifetimes. Or ten. Having people treat me like some kind of a hero had eventually led me to crave solitude and anonymity and a life without fanfare.

After a few long, awkward moments of Alice and Jane glancing from me to each other, both of them frowning again, even wincing almost, as if they thought that one of them should maybe talk to me but neither of them particularly wanted to do it, I figured I’d put them out of their misery.

“Neither of you should feel like you have to talk with me or stay with me or anything. I’ll be perfectly fine on my own. I’m probably just going to take a nap.”

Alice, who appeared to be somewhere around forty, making her the younger of the two nurses by about thirty years, looked visibly relieved.

Jane, however, just frowned harder, little nuances in her expression somehow making me think she was struggling with a curious mix of shame and angst. “Oh, I’ll stay and talk with you. I want to.”

She actually looked like it was the very last thing she wanted to do. The welcome I was receiving, or wasn’t, rather, wasn’t just surprising me and maybe even wounding me just slightly, it was perplexing me. If I’d had any body odor or something upon being thawed, I was pretty sure I’d rinsed it all down the drain in the shower; so I couldn’t understand what could possibly be making Alice and Jane feel like talking to me would be such an unpleasant chore.

I studied Jane’s softly-lined face, trying to further decipher her expression. “I really think I am just going to take a nap. You really don’t have to stay and talk to me.”

Now her funny expression of seeming shame or embarrassment and angst turned to one of grandmotherly exasperation.

“Oh, don’t be ridiculous. Like I said, I want to stay and visit with you. Really, I do. We can just chat for a bit before your nap.”

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