Goldilocks

Do you know the story of Goldilocks? Do you know she spent most of her waking hours trying to find something that felt just right? Do you know that by the end of her life, her fingertips were both so burnt and so frost bitten that—had this not been a fairytale—everyone would say that both existing simultaneously on the same spot of skin is impossible. Do you know that she searched for light when there was too much darkness? All consuming and bittersweet. And that she craved the darkness when there was too much light? All warm and bright and inviting. Do you know that she was never satisfied? And that this dissatisfaction shriveled up her heart until she finally died of what the doctors called Rotted Heart. Do you know that Goldilocks lived more in the past, and more in the future, than she ever did in the present moment?

The Present Moment was a stranger to her. A peculiar lanky fellow that lurked in the shadows with a gold tipped cane. The Present Moment had so much trouble keeping himself afoot. And when he limped to her door and knocked, it never felt quite right. Goldilocks would send him away, always running back to the familiar embrace of the past, or propelling herself into the waiting arms of the future. Because this present moment was never what she wanted it to be. It was just a thin slice of crusty old bread in between a thick slice of gooey nostalgia and an even thicker, gooier slice of possibility.

Do you know that Goldilocks ate ice cream that was either melted into a pink soup, or frozen into a block of ice? Do you know that her tea was always too hot or too cold, and that by the end of her life there were more shattered teacups on the kitchen floor than there were grey hairs on her head. And that’s only because Goldilocks could never get her hair to look just right. She never had a perfect hair day. It was either too frizzy or too flat. Too long or too short. Too limp or too curly. And so by the end of her life she had ripped out more hairs from her head than there are stars in the sky.

Do you know that Goldilocks was actually an escaped mental patient, or at least that’s what everyone at her funeral said. And that when she broke into the cottage of The Three Bears she was really just hoping to be eaten alive. Because it would give her peace of mind. Because she didn’t know where else to find it. Goldilocks would never have to make another decision again. Would never have to feel the pull of desire and the push of regret. Nor the dizzying extremes of a pendulum that never stopped swinging. She would never have to feel too young or too old. Too pretty or too ugly. Too eager or too apathetic. Too kind or too mean. She could just rest in the earth while the flowers bloomed above her. But she never smelled quite right to the bears, and so they never bothered sinking their teeth into her.

It’s not that Goldilocks actually liked being this way. In fact, Goldilocks had tried very hard to change. To be different, happier, calmer, cooler, more put together. In the beginning, she had tried very hard. But almost every time she had invited The Present Moment to supper, he would only stay a little while. He would lean his cane against the table, but never quite moved his hand away from it. He would cross his good leg over his bad—as if he was truly settling in—only to uncross and cross them three dozen times before dessert was served. That is, if he even stayed long enough for dessert. It was only now and then that Goldilocks actually had his full and undivided attention. But even then his eyes wandered. His ears perked up at sounds that weren’t there. His fingers tapped relentlessly, impatiently, on the table. And he never even took off his coat. And so Goldilocks stopped inviting him for supper, because if she couldn’t learn how to live in the present moment from The Present himself, then she couldn’t learn it from anyone.

Alice in Wonderland Again

Alice invited herself to the Mad Hatter’s tea party by bribing two grave diggers with suspiciously large front teeth to dig a rabbit hole in the earth and then fell straight in. She wasn’t worried about being late; you can never be late to a tea party that never truly ends. It took her almost no time at all to reorient herself and locate the whereabouts of the Mad Hatter, the March Hare, and the Dormouse. She simply followed the scent of sugar and madness. The long table, with all its empty cushioned chairs—just as she remembered it—was now covered in a pink and white checkered table cloth.

“We remembered how much you like pink, Alice.” The Mad Hatter said.

“You’re late!” cried the March Hare.

The dormouse was sleeping in his teapot, and Alice sat down. She stuck her tongue out at the March Hare, who took it as a compliment and blew her a kiss. Alice caught it and dropped it in her teacup. It turned into a lump of sugar that then quickly dissolved. She felt braver this time, being back in Wonderland. She wasn’t afraid of their madness anymore. She wasn’t confused or offended by it. In fact, she felt like a part of her had been slowly dying without it.

When Alice announced she’d be staying in Wonderland for a while, The White Rabbit offered her a spare room in his house as long as she promised not to grow big and wreck the whole thing again. Some days Alice didn’t get out of bed. Other days Alice spent her mornings befriending balloons with funny faces and funny voices, sent by the Mad Hatter as an invitation to tea. She spent evenings smoking hookah with the caterpillar, wondering how on earth he wasn’t confused about who he was as he kept changing from a caterpillar to a butterfly, and then back again. She suspected it was something in the tobacco, but then wondered why it hadn’t changed her at all. She even spent an afternoon helping Winnie the Pooh convince the bees that he really was, in fact, just a little black raincloud, until the Mad Hatter gingerly pointed out that “this is the wrong story, Alice! It doesn’t belong here! Go on and put it back where you found it!” And on very late nights, when Alice was much too troubled to sleep, she’d climb a tree and sit with the Cheshire Cat, and together they’d stare at the moon. She’d swing her legs back and forth aimlessly, happily—the way she did as a child when she was still much too small to touch the floor when sitting, her head empty of thoughts and full of wonder—until the moon, who was always staring back, started to complain of dizziness and asked if she would please stop.

One day in particular, Alice found herself witnessing the battle of Tweedledum and Tweedledee, until she grew so bored with the whole thing that she found herself drawing a sheep for The Little Prince, who wasn’t at all interested in taking bets on who would win. He did, however, ask Alice if she thought his rose needed painting. Alice told him that it didn’t. That it was a lovely rose. The loveliest rose in the world. But she said this quietly so the Queen wouldn’t hear, because in Wonderland the Queen’s roses were the best roses. But then the Mad Hatter—this time not so gingerly and with a glint of warning in his eyes—pointed out that this story also did not belong here, and to put it back where she found it. Alice apologized and quickly turned her undivided attention back to the battle, which in the end nobody won.

So time went on. Alice drank her tea, took long walks in the Tulgey Wood, and celebrated many, many unbirthdays. But one day, while Alice was feeling particularly bored and in need of a different sort of adventure, she found herself admiring Dorothy’s ruby slippers, and asked if she could try them on. Just to see if they’d fit and sparkle as much on her feet. And then she found herself romping with Max and the Wild Things through the great maze, getting lost and found again and again. But it wasn’t until she went flying with Peter Pan one night across the skies of Wonderland, while drawing additional stars into the sky with Harold’s purple crayon, that The Mad Hatter stepped forward from the shadows and told Alice that she must leave.

”But why?” Alice asked.

“You are destroying Wonderland. You cannot bring wild things into a mad world. You cannot bring other stories into Wonderland without slowly erasing our story. You are putting everyone here in danger, and—I’m afraid—are going mad.”

“But we’re all mad here!” Alice protested. “And I don’t want to leave.”

The Mad Hatter shook his head. “You must; it’s time. Your madness is not our madness. Your madness will kill us all.” He paused. “And,” he added, plucking the purple crayon from her hand, “Wonderland has enough stars.”

Alice frowned and looked around her. She loved Wonderland. It was her favorite place in the whole world, but she didn’t want to be the cause of its demise. She didn’t want to be the reason why Wonderland might no longer exist. She loved everything and everyone here. And it was for this very reason that Alice drank her last cup of tea, curtsied goodbye to the Queen of Hearts—and the flowers who had grown to really admire her petals—, buttered her last watch, and left Wonderland.

“You’ll be back, Alice,” promised The Cheshire Cat who had suddenly appeared, curled up in a ball, on top of the Mad Hatter’s hat. “You’ll be back when you’re ready.”

Shadow Puppet Girl

Shadow Puppet Girl flies in through my open window and kneels by my bedside. She shakes me awake and says she’s here for a visit and doesn’t stop poking at my ribs until I finally get out of bed. She smells like spring flowers dying slowly. It’s dark in my bedroom but I can still see her so distinctly from everything else. She is one color only, the color of shadow. I ask her who she is and where she comes from, and she tells me she is the shadow of my past. Of every memory and heartache and wound. I ask her why she is only one color then, and shouldn’t she also be red? The color of heartbreak and blood and rage? Shadow Puppet Girl points a blaming finger straight at me. Tells me that all my wounds cast the same dark shadow on the wall of the world, and that she can only be what I project. I feel bad about this so I get dressed. Put on a pair of overalls, braid my hair, and ask Shadow Puppet Girl to take me back to my childhood. We travel back to the age when I had the most stuffed animals, and together we rip out the hearts of every single one of them and I make Shadow Puppet Girl a dress from the soft red threads of my childhood. I ask her if she’ll leave me alone now, if she’ll let me sleep in peace. But Shadow Puppet Girl is too busy twirling around and around in her new pretty red dress and doesn’t hear a word I say.

Red

Little Red Riding Hood walks through the forest because she is bored. She wants the wolf to find her. She buys the brightest red cloak she can afford and turns into a lighthouse. She stands at the highest point in the forest and lets her red light shine until the wolves come home. There are many of them. Some want to eat her, others want to play. Some want to lead her back to the safety of her village. But there is one wolf she is waiting for, the one that will ask her to stay and live among them. She waits the longest for him, in the wind and the rain and the scorching heat. She waits through every season and every phase of the moon. She waits day in and day out and sees every color there is to see in the sky. She watches flowers bloom and die at her feet, befriends baby animals who grow and age and say goodbye. She learns about the darkness and its army of shadows. She meets Dusk and Dawn, and they become her king and queen. She stands and waits as grass grows around her, each blade a story to tell of the waiting game she plays. And even the trees begin to whisper, their crisp leafy voices carrying words of courage, doubt, insanity and love throughout the forest. Some even reach the ears of the villagers, but Little Red Riding Hood doesn’t budge. Not even when her grandmother’s plea is carried back to her on the wind. “Don’t you remember? Don’t you remember what they did to me?” But Little Red Riding Hood doesn’t care. Little Red Riding Hood grows sick with waiting. She turns into a volcano and when she erupts she becomes a red firework in the sky, and instead of howling at the moon, the wolves now howl at her.

Time

Time wore a green cloak that shimmered like the sea, like the sun losing and finding itself between the trees and their leaves. One day Time came to a place where a certain girl lived; he sat down at her table and said, “I’d like to begin.”

So she first poured him a cup of tea and then one for herself. And this time—instead of everything happening all at once or not at all—everything happened slowly; one sip after the other as Time settled back with a sigh.

“You’re going to have to learn to be patient now,” he said to her. “You’ll have to let your tea cool before drinking it.”

She stared down at her cup and saw that it was steaming, but Time was drinking his like he needed no time at all for things to cool down, or come together, or mend. Time was immune to time. To wanting and waiting. He didn’t need to wait for the right moment, his pockets were full of all the moments in the world, bottomless and sparkling.

“But what about love?” the girl asked. Time leaned forward, the corners of his mouth perking up in an almost-smile, the way the moon can be almost full in the sky—but isn’t.

“You’ll have to wait for that too,” he answered with a twinkle of eternity in his eye. A twinkle that she could have sworn was love.

From that day on Time had a place at her table, and a cup with his name on it. Nobody else was allowed to drink from Time’s cup. It sat there hot and steaming, fresh and ready, waiting for just the right moment in time. The girl never knew exactly when or if he’d show up, some days he did and some days he didn’t. But in the end he always did and they’d chat and whisper about this and that, and she gradually learned to sip her tea with patience. He’d tell her jokes about Time walking into bars and brothels, churches and monasteries, about blondes and donkeys and elephants. His pockets were endlessly full of punchlines, and he was never full but never hungry. He was as content with one bite to eat as he was with many. But still he came again and again, and drank and ate and made her choke with laughter.

This went on for quite some time, and eventually, one sunny spring morning, the girl realized that she was in love with Time. Could a person do such a thing? Could a girl really fall in love with Time? Would the universe ever permit such a thing? Was it a crime? The girl kept this secret to herself, daring only to take it from its hiding place in the dead of night when she knew everyone would be fast asleep and Time would not be coming for tea until at least the following day.

But one day, one week, Time stopped showing up. Time just wasn’t there anymore. The girl kept his cup at his place at the table in hopes that he would come. That he had just been delayed or maybe there had been some emergency at the center of the cosmos in need of immediate attention. But the more she hoped and prayed, the more futile her silent begging became, until one night she did not beg at all. She just went as quiet as the dead, and the sound of her heart breaking was deafening.

Then, suddenly, one day out of the blue Time showed up! Time showed up out of nowhere and she was so relieved and excited and bewildered, and her heart soared and plummeted in her chest like a bird trying to dive for both a pearl and a star simultaneously.

“Where have you been! Where have you been, Time? I thought I’d never see you again!” She wanted so badly to rush into his arms.

Time—not needing time at all to learn and know all there is to be known, knowing exactly how she felt about him—raised a gentle hand to silence her chatter and stop her dead in her tracks. “You can’t fall in love with an illusion.” He said it so matter-of-factly, so much like an adult lecturing a child on the ways of the world for the very first time, that it almost cut through her bones and crushed her.

“But…” She went into a mute kind of panic. Her eyes darting back and forth like a mouse with no escape. She knew he was right, she had never really thought about it before—probably because she didn’t want to. “There must be a way!”

Time just bowed his head. “There isn’t.”

The girl looked at him then, really looked at him and studied him. His heart was breaking too. “But you’re Time! You can have anything you want without waiting! Why can’t you then have me?”

Time sighed. “Because,” he said, “the same rules don’t apply for you. If it was just me in my own world that would be one thing. But this is me, in your world, and I must abide by your rules.”

“So take me to your world then!” The girl insisted. She insisted so loudly and stomped her foot so hard that the earth shook.

“I can’t,” said Time. “You are far too real of a thing to live in a world of illusions.”

“But the tea!” She pointed out. “Why could you drink the tea without waiting? The tea is in my world too!”

“The tea is not a real thing. The tea doesn’t have a heart… a heart that loves me.” He sighed. “There are rules. It would take far too long to explain everything to you, and it would only break your heart further.”

The girl tried to be brave. She tried hard to hold back her tears, to stand tall and strong like an oak but then, as Time bid her farewell, she crumbled.

She was devastated. She thought she had finally found the love of her life, but it had been just a dirty trick and there was nothing she could do about it. But then one day, the girl learned of a witch that lived deep in the forest. This was not a good witch. She was a sneaky witch with selfish intentions up her sleeve, but the girl was desperate. So she went to her, begging her for a bit of magic that would allow her and Time to be together. The witch, being evil and having a black heart, and always looking for a chance to deceive, immediately jumped at the opportunity to help the poor girl. For whenever a spell of hers was cast, it kept her alive that much longer, and she wanted to live forever. So she gave the girl a spell to cast, told her to whisper it under the light of the next full moon and her and Time would be together. The girl, being foolish and much too in love, didn’t bother to ask questions. She simply took the scroll and ran, and waited very impatiently for the night of the full moon to arrive. And when it finally did, she ran out into the night and cast her spell.

The following morning she awoke as always to the sound of the grandfather clock ticking away by the fireplace, but today it sounded different. A little funny. A little deranged, a little mournful. The ticks were no longer strong and steady, but now frantic and sad. She went over to the clock to investigate, confused and wondering, studied its face and noticed how the hands of time were shaking.

“Why?” said a voice. “Why did you do it?”

The girl jumped. That voice. It was him! It was Time! It was coming from… the clock. Oh god! the girl thought. Oh no oh no oh no! “I- I- I didn’t know!” she cried.

“You didn’t ask! You didn’t think! I told you to have patience, that love would find you with patience! But you couldn’t wait, could you? I told you we couldn’t be together. And now…” The clock sagged with a heavy sigh of regret, “I knew I should have stayed away from you, but I couldn’t. I tried… and now… I’m trapped in here forever.”

The girl fell to her knees, sobbing and pleading for Time’s forgiveness, wanting nothing more than to undo what she had done. But Time said nothing. Time was now just a grandfather clock in the house of a girl who had loved him too much and too foolishly, and the evil witch, deep in the forest with her black heart still beating, got to live another day.

The Abandoned Express

There was once a girl who loved abandoned places and finding flowers growing in the most inhospitable environments. One of her favorite things in the world to see was a roller coaster eaten up by creeping vines of green. Whenever she would get sad or lonely, she would run away to some abandoned locale where she would befriend all the memories of a past long gone. She would weave them between her fingers like a spider weaving a web of the present from moments of the past. She would take in all the sounds of children laughing, music playing and adults bickering, and she would gather them up like daisies and weave new chains that she would then drape around the necks of lamp posts, door handles, rusty gates and tree branches.

She loved these places because they were full of emptiness. Because they were a gateway from one world to another. They were her playground and just in case there were no flowers yet growing, she would always don a floral printed dress, and if she ever came across a stranger with abandonment in their eyes and a pocketful of despair, she would pluck a flower from the skirt of her dress and tuck it behind their ear.

When she stepped foot into these places she found herself growing young again. She found herself shedding all of what humanity had pinned to her breast like a curse. Every banal and concrete affair of human existence would slither away like the ghost of a snake and she would feel lighter, less like a fleshy bag of blood and bones. Like she could knock on the door of any realm and enter free of admission.

One night—a particularly lonesome night—she packed a bag and hopped on The Abandoned Express. This train never stopped running and it had just one rule: only three people were permitted to get off at any particular stop—if you let too many people into an abandoned place, it would no longer be abandoned, and that simply wasn’t allowed. So they played it safe with this one and only rule. The point was that there should always be more memories and ghosts than living souls. So one night, she got on the train, took it to the seventh stop and got off.

This was her favorite place. This was the abandoned theme park with the roller coaster, the Ferris wheel whose seats had turned into giant flower pots, the funhouse that was now a birdhouse, and the merry-go-round full of rusty horses who seemed to watch you wherever you went. She loved the horses because she knew that she could trust them, tell them anything and that her secrets would always be safe. And tonight—on this very lonesome night—she had a lot to tell them. But when she got there she spotted a figure sitting atop one of the horses. He seemed as lifeless as the horses themselves, but as she approached him she realized that he was just like her. Very much alive and very much human. But she noticed something else too; there were vines creeping up his legs and arms, tying him down and intertwining his limbs with those of the horse.

“What’s happening to you?” she asked, her eyes wide with concern.

The stranger looked down at her, abandonment in his eyes and his pockets full of despair. “I was the fourth one to get off at this stop, I broke the rule. I didn’t listen. And now I’m going to die here.”

The girl, deeply saddened by this news, reached down her dress, plucked a white flower from the skirt, and tucked it behind his ear. And that’s when she realized why she loved abandoned places so much, because she could always leave. Because they were her playground and not her grave.

once upon a time

once upon a time
a girl was built inside a factory
situated on the edge of a cliff
overlooking the sea
she was made from the finest materials
by a man who cared very much
but knew almost nothing about being a little girl
so he made her ears too big
her face a bit too funny
and her body more like a boy’s than a girl’s should be
but he built her with infinite worlds
fastened them to her insides so that she would always have
a galaxy full of spinning globes
to run away to and play in
and he promised her that
whenever she found herself lost in this world
that she had instant access
to a funhouse
a hall of mirrors
a merry-go-round that never stops spinning
the way infinite worlds spin inside
infinite worlds
like a self-fulfilling prophecy
where spring blossoms inside of spring
and the horses never stop running