He doesn't look particularly frightening here. And truly, when I've encountered bears -- the small variety, one time a black bear and the other, a brown bear -- we went in opposite directions, carefully, our dignities intact.
But once, on a hike, we camped in bear country. We carefully put anything that smelled -- toothpaste, soap, anything with scent -- into a bag, and hung in from a tree. I didn't think anything of it. I did wonder if our rank and stinking bodies might attract some attention, but the more experienced hikers told me not to worry about it.
I didn't. Then, deep in the night, on the other side of the thin nylon walls of the tent, I heard this sound. A snuffling, snorting, rooting kind of sound, with a big bass note to it. I was petrified, honestly. The beast, could, of course, rip through the fabric and there I was in my mummy bag, trussed up like a nice little sausage.
But as the sound lasted and I waited, something even more terrifying was at work.
Mechanical hunger. Unstoppable, obsessive, greedy, yawning, gaping, insatiable, driving the bear on and on, through each crevice and crack, each fading trail, each false hope.
He went away, finally, disappointed.
But that memory of ravening, ferocious desire never left me.
How could it, since it's in me as well.