The first time I saw her, I mistook her for a little girl, she was lying in the shadow of a weeping willow, her bare feet on the trunk.
I keep this frame sake in my mind since then, but I think I’ve crystallized it through time: the light that filtered through the branches sparkled on the crystals of her dress, her hands were busy braiding ribbons and daisies in her hair or playing with the pearl strands and cammeos that dangled from her neck.
Fluttering butterflies and tinkerbells jingling were all that was needed to make me believe I died.
I got closer slowly, but making noise, I didn’t want to scare her.
“Hello little girl!” I said, finally realising that she wasn’t a little girl “I’d like to take a picture of you… an instant portrait”
To this day I’ve been asking myself what made me say such a creepy line, but she “Are you willing to steal my soul?” answered, seriously.
I would have been so happy to steal her soul, steal those timeless dark eyes, keep them for myself, but I didn’t answer. Then she laughed and her eyes looked fair, a light trick that always fascinated me.
All I could manage to say was “You remind me of the Childlike Empress, the thing is you’re not… childlike”
“Then name me anew and I’ll be in your power” she smiled a lethal smile.
“Don’t you want to know my real name?” I asked.
“Are you so sure you know it? And would you get rid of it so easily?”
Everything was so surreal that accepting it was all I could do… I became the worst Fox to the best Little Prince.
Every sunset was good to go back there, and find her unchangingly changing.
She offered me tea and berries, and we talked, for hours, sensless conversations that left me with increasingly less banalities. Actually she didn’t speak much, mostly she uttered strange sentences “I never hid the fact that I was created differently, distortedly built… the other day I felt Winter, and I fancied Autumn”.
Then one day I found her with the back up against the tree trunk, she was staring at her hands.
“Someone stole my paranoid tea” she said not waiting for my question, her face was the one of an old acquaitance.
“The one you and me used to drink?” You and Me, together, in the same sentence for the first time… it rolled on my teeth tasting like inescapability.
She nodded, tired.
“Did you drug me?”
“Is this your question? Anyway now it’s gone, they took it”
She answered showing me a carved wood box, with a mother of pearl moon in the middle of the lid. I took it and I opened it, a shabby and yellowed Tarot deck in it. I looked at her, I didn’t understand.
“It’s time for you to ask me some questions”.
I closed the box.
“What should I ask you?”
“If you want some answers, you need to learn to ask the right questions”
“And will you answer through these?” I asked jiggling the box I still held in my hand
“No, that’s what others usually want from me…”
Others… I was shocked, others, others saw her, met her, talked to her… she… mine. For the first time ever I suspected it was all real, mortal. I had to know.
“Do they come here?” how could they desecrate our place?
“No, this is my very own Arcadia, where I am avoiding them and not the other way around”
“What do they ask of you?”
“They ask the cards, not me. They don’t want to know what I know, that’s why I want it to be you to ask… like winning my soul in a raffle” she added sweetly, lowering her eyes. Weren’t she so pale I could have sworn she blushed.
“What do you know about them?”
“It’s like they walked around naked, calling for attention, but then again complaining for the looks… they should learn to learn from fairytales.
I’ve seen so many emperors with their new clothes, in the streets, the worst thing though is when they are the ones sewing their own clothes, maybe they can baffle someone for some time, but in the end they are but naked since they’re so hollow inside…”
After some silence I asked her if this had anything to do with her, if she couldn’t simply let go of them.
They want my cards, but they try to lie, washing their emotions and feelings over me. They want me to say what they want to hear, but I cannot do that. If I whisper they’ll step on my words, they’ll fit my words to their needs, if I speak up they will deny what they hear.
Except that then they come back, humbled, because they realise I was right and they hope that if they take a piece of me, if they can mirror themselves in me, their lives can be fullfilled, their clothes will become visible and real and better.
They’re not all like this, but these are the ones who leave the bigger marks. That’s why I hide here, to cleanse myself from all of this.
“Ca you understand?”
What I understood was that it all was too big of a burden for that creature, that it was hard for her to talk, and most of all it was hard to talk about this.
I pointed to the empty alabaster jar, the tea one. “Has that something to do with it?”
“Yes, I drink it to fly above everything… but now that they stole it I’m crushed to the ground while they feed up their paranoias with my tea.
You see, it’s something strange about human nature, humans want to feel a part in a story someone else is telling, they like to feel they’re persecuted by life events, and they can’t stand their own flaws when they find them in other people”.
“Are you like this too?”
“And you too, all of us… the key is to aknowledge it and ask yourself questions”.
She closed her eyes, I thought she was sleeping, I put the cat in her arms and moved to go
“You still haven’t asked me the right questions”
“Another time” I said softly
How could I know I wouldn’t have another time?
I’ve been sitting here for… I don’t know for how long, I can tell time passed just because the ice cubes in my glass are all melted.
I’m sitting in her spot, I lay my head on the tree trunk and I find my thoughts exactly where I left them.
I wouldn’t have wanted, but a small memory is like a sparkle that ignites a chain reaction, and I get lost in bits of words and fruit smudges.
“I fish for and dust memories… it’s like suddenly finding an old toy or a solution” she used to say…
“Now careful, watch the cat” she said one afternoon “he’s staying there, hunched down, truly believing no one can see him because he’s the first who can’t make out anyone looking at him… but that’s not how it works… I can see him”
No, that’s not how it works… I can’t see you, but can you see me? Did you see me the day I came back and you weren’t here? Did you see me when I felt my body and soul being ripped like a piece of paper?
I throw my glass far away and stay and look at what was inside it describing an iridescent curve in the dark.
And I keep staring at the point where I think it fell… untill that spot is staring back at me, two round agates: the cat!
I jump up but then I stop then I start running again, I want to get there as soon as possible but I don’t want to scare him away. Though he’s looking at me, quiet, conscious, and he leads the way, and I silently scream thank you inside me, when I get that he’s taking me where I should have been a long time ago.
Sick, in bed, a sad sceen yet solemn. Diaphanous was the right word, she breathed lightly and every heartbeat shook her into tremble.
“Let my hands recall your face, so that when you’re not here anymore it’ll feel like grabbing you” she outstreched her arms, blue veined palms towards me, and that’s when I realized that never, untill that moment, we ever touched, not even by mistake.
Her fingers were icy, but steady.
“What do you want me to ask you?” I said, her hands on my eyes
“Ask me what you really want to know, ask me about us”
Us, pure, simple, a balm for the soul, injected with the sweetest knife.
“I will never leave you” is what I managed to say, when her hands left my face “I promise”.
“Don’t, promises are made to be broken”
“Then I’ll ask you about us… what do you know?”
“I know that everything comes to an end, that this has all been a mistake, since the beginning. And that I don’t know anymore if I’ve created you or if you created me”
I couldn’t listen anymore.
I was too busy trying to understand where did that emptiness I was feeling came from.
“You taught me that every end is a beginning, so I’ll be here changing, to survive together to every single little death. It might have been a mistake, but I’ve forged these very chains on my free will.
And isn’t life but a serie of mistakes that sometimes intertwine one another, after all?”
I had never spoken to her in such a harsh fashion before, but I had to make that emptiness go.
“I wanted to see the man turn knigth and fight” she answered, smiling, again a lethal smile.
“So… how can I help you?”
“Ah, yes, now you’ve learned to ask the right questions! You just have to listen to me and look at me in the eyes, for once I get to be on this side. Collect my fears, collect me as I let go of myself”.
I would have done anything, and as I sat looking and listening, I could feel the alabaster jar filling up.
I don’t know how long we’ll live through, if one day this will blow up like a soap bubble, but for now we have enough tea, and I’ll try not to run, not to stumble and break the jar.