i’ve travelled this year, i’m a pilgrim
the journey of adolescence, of friendship, of hatred and bitterness and regret and pain and suffering,
of fleeting joy
i felt special in my aloneness, but really it’s not that uncommon
many people write about it, that’s certain
they come out revived and cleansed, new and freshly packaged, ready to be sold to the world on the wings of Finally Getting There. (‘There’ being That Place Everyone is Heading, with the rest of the lemmings)
what was different about me, then?
because of course, everyone is different. or at least, everyone needs to be different.
was it that i didn’t need the cleanse?
in hollywood, people who take this journey find that it actually turns out to be a ladder out of their rut.
but i wasn’t in a rut?
i was happy and wholesome
successful, encouraged, promising
full of potential energy, like a bowling ball at the top of a hill
but i took a wrong turn – i got lost – and i bumped down non-slip stairs instead of rolling smoothly along the grass
the fact is, i have a story.
there were once two sisters, nana and lala, born within a millisecond of each other
if this were a proverb they would be joined at the hip, (maybe their shadows were)
they had their own language, their own rituals and practices
like they followed a secret religion
they followed all the rules – walked side by side, neither leading nor following; sharing blames and workloads and burdens and joys
and they were happy. content, satisfied, smiling, all of the above
they travelled half of the world together; planned the other half for when they were older and wiser
plotted apartments and universities and bonsai trees
godparents, maids of honour
even a joint death
a whole life of nala.
they were two halves of a whole; there was never a thought or a whisper or a speculation or a worry that didn’t occupy both of their minds
they worked hard for each other, and accepted each others’ help
number one to number one
fantasised of having a unique relationship, though of course they were surrounded by other couples
because they were a couple, really.
the greeks have four words for love – romantic love, passionate love, familial love and the love of friendship.
and though they weren’t romantic or passionate, half of the love in the world, the other half, applied to them.
lala had experimented with passionate love previously, and nana had managed to hold on to her string while she flew like a kite on teenage winds – nana knew that there was nothing romantic in lala’s new pair, and that her sister would always be her sister, no matter her fleeting fancies
and then suddenly, that was in the past, and remained only as a forgotten joke from the previous month, really.
and several months later, after another journey together, and more challenges than they had ever faced, the pair hit a boulder on their yellow brick road.
nana swallowed a love potion and tasted, for the first time for both sisters, romance,
with an old snake from their past
and it was exciting and rebellious and dangerous territory, but the snake had slithered around the smoking geysers of this treacherous land before, and knew the tricks and secrets of the trade
he guided nana along a path surrounded by sulphurous steams and gaping chasms of molten rock, but blocked her innocent eyes from the dangers of the terrain
and she followed him, because he had soft, comfortable hands, and understanding eyebrows, and a soothing voice, and he was unique, and wise beyond his years, and needed comforting and sheltering from his own imaginary demons.
and nana provided that shelter, and she took the snake in her arms and promised to look after him for always.
and the emotions that he injected into her turned her blood mustard yellow, and made her tell lies, and forget all her principles, and hurt her friends.
and he snaked his tongue into her ear while she was asleep, and swallowed up the lala in her head, and turned nana into a single entity, severing the sisters’ tie. because he didn’t want them both.
lala, lost and lonely, abandoned, struggling to smile and say it’s all allright, but her insides oozing down the unplugged hole in her centre and dripping through the floor.
lala, deflated, sucked dry, uncertain, sinking. her lifeboat’s steering wheel jammed in the wrong direction. her safety ring riddled with poison darts, useless.
lala, knocked to the ground with a glance, shattered into pieces with a text, machine gunned with an email.
out of view of the yellow brick road.
of course, glinda the good witch, and the tin man, and the lion, and the scarecrow, and toto and many, many munchkins went looking for lala. they searched for months, to little avail. occasionally there would be a sign; a single plait, snagged on a bush, or a giggle from a corner. but she couldn’t be found.
lala’s skin, without the nourishment of nana’s love, became thin and weak. her veins lay millimetres beneath the surface, so every brush of a fern, every pellet of hail, drew her blood in crimson wells.
soon, her teary skin was stained scarlet – she attracted stares from strangers, and her family became insomniac with worry.
they tried many remedies and cures.
nana and the snake wriggled closer.
lala’s ears trickled with saltwater, and her eyes mourned.
nana’s hair grew little serpents; medusa was the latest fashion. and she listened to new music, and had new clothes and ways of speaking.
and the snake looked on, flicking his tongue, his fangs dripping venom.
but soon enough, the search party got tired. and nana’s new hair didn’t look so nice anymore. so for a few weeks, they turned out the lights on oz.
(although for lala, the skies were already starless)
the streetlights were disconnected
and the search party turned off their torches
and lala was able to sit quietly, without flashes in her eyes, for a time, and think. ponder, cry, mourn, grieve, wonder.
lala went on her own little pilgrimage during that time. she climbed a mountain made of diamonds; beautiful and valuable and cold and unyielding.
at the top of the mountain, there was a small wooden door, the height of lala’s knees, with a brass knocker. she ate four crumbs of shrink-me cake, and clambered through the door, into a sanctuary of mossy rocks, and smiling trees, and harmlessly babbling brooks and miniature waterfalls.
she followed a trail of autumn leaves, caressed by soft hanging vines and encouraged by the ferns and shrubs around her. and when she reached the end of the trail, where white pebbles surrounded a patch of wet, fresh earth, lala reached inside her belly, where she kept her mokeskin-pouch secrets, and removed a seed pod.
it was tree frog green and polished as a reindeer bell, almost perfectly round, with a hopeful, wide-eyed tip at its head.
the earth was cool on her hands, and the seed nestled in its new home with easy comfort; it belonged there.
there was a treaty negotiation soon after, and the lights came back on, and nana and lala, together, climbed the diamond summit and crouched through the door and watered the patch of earth with their tears, which they had been collecting over the time of darkness.
in the days that followed the sisters made separate visits to the seed, feeding it with satisfaction, joy, pleasant surprise, bonding; emotions that hadn’t flowed through the girls in aeons.
soon, the pregnant earth squeezed out a sprout, waving to the sun, high, high above it.
most days, a leaf would grow. once they hugged, and the shoot sprouted a magenta flower, flecked with vibrant orange, which grinned at its surrounding greenery.
the sprout shot up, continually spurting new leaves, flowers, branches, digging its roots further and further into the succulent earth. soon it was a proper tree, with a trunk just thick enough for both girls to hug and still cling to each others hands.
there was a branch with constantly humming and singing flowers; a personal chorus, because nana liked the sound of tuneful voices
there was a branch which held daffodils that incessantly told increasingly terrible jokes, who never failed to keep lala entertained
the girls built a special private treehouse, high above the ground, where no one could see, out of branches and vines and lined it with mossy pillows. and soon, they moved in there. when they needed space, there were other alcoves and boughs for them to spend time on, but all were connected to the same tree. the same roots.
lala’s skin, nourished by the returned affection of her sister, toughened and tanned until most things couldn’t touch her. occasionally there would be an incident where her crimson blood would swell forth again, but nana was there, with aloe and bandages, and looked after her sister.
the snake was still a snake, but his venom had been sucked out of him, and his fangs retracted.
and this is how they live now.
everybody has a story, a segment of their throughline in life which they feel is significant enough for the ears of others. this was mine, but my thread of existence is stretched far into the mists of future. this journey may not be complete; perhaps i haven’t reached the subject of my pilgrimage.
but for now, i’m resting. my lemming friends and me are far from the edge, and there are more hills and dales and lions and tigers and bears, (oh my!) ahead of me on my yellow brick road now, than ever.
and my tears taste so nice.