Saturday, July 2, 2011
When after many weeks, neither of the girls had returned, it was generally agreed upon by local editorial boards and talk radio callers that a third girl was going to have to go into the forest and see what happened to them. Not because anyone believed they were coming back, but because the fear of not knowing what they were supposed to be afraid of wouldn't last nearly as long as the fear of something specific and Girl Hungry.
"Well, why's it gotta be a girl?" the Third Girl asked.
"Because obviously it only eats girls," They told her.
"But no one has ever sent any boys in, maybe it just hasn't tried one yet?" she argued. They just shook their heads wisely.
"Well, then, why's it got to be me?" she asked very logically.
"Everyone has to do things they don't like, honey. You're not the only one with problems." And with that they pushed her off.
So into the forest she went, down the same sunny path the First Girl had gone. The forest was still beautiful and there were still little yellow flowers out, but the Third Girl was still arguing in her head with the elders, and didn't notice them. When she got to the dark part of the woods, like the Second Girl she paused for a minute, and thought very hard about just going off to the West, where there was another town and a pub she had been to. But then she remembered that she had been in the habit of sleeping with a bartender there a few times, which was okay because he was cute and fun, but her head was full of serious thoughts about sexism and inequality in the system and the unfairness of being expected to be independent and happy no matter what, and Cute Fun Bartenders Who You Fuck Occasionally don't want to have serious conversations generally. They are full of their own problems. So she kept walking.
The dark part of the forest was indeed dark. Walking was at least easier, since the shade of the towering old trees kept the floor relatively clear, and you could see forward and around you, but then also you saw nothing ahead of you but more trees. After a day of being motivated she suddenly knew she had to stop, as the sun started to get lower and lower somewhere beyond the vast caverns of tree (at least she assumed it was getting lower because the light was getting dim. We assume when the light gets dim, it is the less threatening option, but really it could have been anything, she thought to herself. It could have been a storm. It could have been the sun dying. It could have been a giant crow searching for dinner). Ideally, she would have done what they do in adventure books, climb up a tree to sleep for safety. But the fear of falling and breaking her leg, all alone here, kept her on the damp ground. And the thought of a fire blocking out all the darkness around her kept her cold. She wanted her eyes to adjust.
She barely slept, but when she did close her eyes, she had a dream. At first she was sitting at a bar by herself. There were lots of gay guys in the bar, and she was watching the door for people coming in who she might know, or any straight man worth having that evening's crush on. One man walked in, and she thought to herself "That's like a older not as cute version of my Ex. Like, not as cute in the face, his nose is weird. But same haircut. He can't really pull it off the same way, The Ex had one of those round happy faces that made that haircut okay. Is it always going to be older men now, have I reached that point? And Why am I always going straight for the ones who remind me of him? The last three boys, they all had parts of him I totally recognized, like Billy knew how to open doors and drink right, and Sam had the same mood swings, and I knew that's why I liked them, but he was the worst relationship of my entire life. What's wrong with human girls that we look for the same qualities that made us miserable in the first place? Animals don't do that. They avoid the bad habits, or the bad habits die off. Like this guy. I don't even like that haircut. And I hated that the Ex wore the same clothes everywhere all the time, like a fucking black tshirt uniform, like he worked for the black tshirt company, and this guy's wearing the exact same boring thing. But here I am thinking about hitting on a guy who for all intents and purposes is..." And while she was drinking her beer and having this internal monologue where basically she lamented her terrible mind and it's terrible purposes, the guy in question picked up his phone and started walking around talking on it, and she realized with a snap and a click that it WAS the Ex. There are some mannerisms that will always be obvious to someone who has known you forever, and for all the hours, years, she had spent watching him on the phone and waiting for him to get off the phone and being pissed he was on the phone, she knew it immediately. Her heart filled with terror, and boom, she woke up.
The forest was dark, but there was a light growing in the distance, which could have been the sun or might have been a far off place being bombed, it's impossible to always know. We just have faith that whatever is providing the light is not the worse case scenario. Knowing she wasn't going to be able to go to back to sleep, she gathered up her sweater/pillow/slash only thing in the world she still owned, and kept walking. The forest was unending, and all looked the same. She knew deep down she wasn't going to find the other two girls, and that probably she would find nothing at all. She wasn't a tracker or hunter or ranger or prince, she had no viable skills to qualify her for a search and rescue. She accepted that wasn't going to happen. What was probably going to happen was that eventually she would happen on another town, somewhere on the other side of this void, and there would be other bartenders. Or maybe some crazy hermit would kill her in the woods and eat her. Or maybe there was nothing at all but woods in the entire rest of the world, and she would wander alone until she died of exposure. But there was absolutely no point in turning around and going back to a place that only wanted her if she was good at what they thought she should be good at, when she very clearly was not.
Posted by Bridget Callahan at 8:15 AM