"I have job apathy," said Moose.
"Me, too," said Bear. "This biodiversity thing is getting on my nerves. The variation of taxonomic life forms...we're never going to quantify a shared value for all these people."
Moose rolls her eyes. She hates Bear.
Moose and Bear are both compliance attorneys working for the EPA. They are both left-wing, ultra-conservative conservationists. They spend their off-time flour-pasting environmental flyers to telephone poles. They are both in their early thirties. Neither one is idealistic. They both think sooner or later everyone will be left behind, but especially children. They both talk openly about their hatred for George Bush and the war in Iraq. They both secretly detest the idea of gay marriage.
In her spare time Moose is writing an article relating to the anthropogenic effects of thermal pollution on the natural environment. In his spare time Bear cultivates honeybees in his back yard.
"I feel severe loneliness, depression, and despair," said Moose.
"Me, too," said Bear. "We should go out tonight. We should have drinks or something. Maybe some burritos." Bear had square fish patties and red Jell-O for lunch. Moose is watching her weight so she had a Twinkie and a Diet Coke.
Moose says 'yes' but she knows they will not have drinks or eat burritos. Moose does not like bear. She thinks Bear is scum. She heard that Bear cheated on his wife with his sister-in-law. This is a rumor. The rumor is not true but Moose does not care. She does not really need a reason to hate Bear. Moose has many problems, the foremost being her inability to tell right from wrong. Moose considers 'right' and 'wrong' as abstract concepts. She steals candy from the Pack-A-Sack without remorse and frequently imagines herself a character in a fictionalized account of reality.
Moose and Bear share an office. Moose is trying to fill the awkward silence as she copies a poem by Pablo Neruda onto her personal website. Bear is printing a picture of a mega-mouth shark from the Internet to hang in his bedroom.
"I don't understand what's wrong with people today," says Moose.
"What do you mean?" says Bear.
"Why are they all so fucked up?"
Bear shrugs his shoulders. Moose hates Bear.
Many people hate Bear. Some people hate him because he is a bear. Some people hate him because he has extreme difficulties communicating with others and this makes others feel uncomfortable around bear.
But this is something that has been going on in Bear's life for some time.
Bear never talked much in school because talking made him feel dizzy. He found eye contact impossible. The sound of laughter made him want to cry. The voices in the hallways made him want to scream. At home after school he locked himself in the closet and wrote science fiction stories about an alien race that came to Earth and destroyed everyone on Earth but spared him because he was such a gifted writer.
But the others were not able to communicate with a dizzy bear. The others did not like to talk to a bear that did not make eye contact. Most others found it troubling to read the science fiction stories of a bear that spent much of his time looking as if he would soon scream, or cry, or lock himself in a closet.
His mother went to the school and tried to explain things to the counselor: "Bear has reasons for doing these things," she said, "it is only from your lack of understanding that his behavior seems unpredictable." The counselor asked if she could send home a pamphlet on anger management. Bear's mother declined and ended the conversation by mauling the counselor and asking in a plaintiff voice, "The question is: do you intend to apologize?" Bear's mother was eventually captured and relocated out of region.
Then Bear eventually grew up, went to college, made a few friends, and became normal. He stopped writing science fiction stories. He bought a house and a sensible car and married a woman who worked in a private lab processing DNA samples for paternity tests. Bear only talks to Moose when staring at the wall has made him uncomfortable. When he makes suggestions like getting a drink, he never expects her to say yes.
Moose wants to feel sympathy for bear because she feels it naturally for most others who suffer. But she does not. Moose knows that sympathy is something that reduces pain and suffering in the world. But she does not care.