“And the princess lived in her new castle with her handsome prince and both were happy till their last day on Earth”.
She remembered being fascinated by this story, or rather, by its happy ending. The promise of stable happiness in an uncertain world was too attractive not to be fascinated by it. Nursed by this story, and many similar others to come, all her life she had only wanted to become that Princess, wanted by all men and thoroughly loved by one. No one bothered to tell her fancy tales had a darker meaning; no one had deemed it wise to tell her dark-eyed demons lurked in the garden of castles…
Since no one had warned her, since she thought she was to live something extraordinary one day, something no one had experienced before. She lived as if the world were a garden and she a visitor, treading on hidden pathways and plucking the flowers that pleased her eye. She went into risks without thinking,she would not know another way, no one had taught her she was a girl like many others, trying to find her prince.
The first man had been much older,she had thought he would protect her...surely princesses needed a knight to protect them. Her knight also protected his wife and family so he left her to face the dragon of loneliness when the affair became more meaningful than a single encounter on her flower patterned sheets. She was brokenhearted for a while but went on,there was nothing else to do.
The affair set a pattern, married men entered her life, not too often to become a problem and not too scarce to fail making her feel wanted. Because you see, this is what she really craved, to be wanted, loved, protected and cherished.
By the end of that year, she found out most affairs stopped at the “loved” and therefore never got to the “protected and cherished” part. This hurt her but it sufficed somehow, even princesses get to negotiate favours, lest they find themselves with nothing.
Some men were single, they gave an air of “normalcy” to her life, some sanity to appease her shrink and her friends alike. They all seemed worried over her predilection for married men when in fact, she did not prefer them,they came to her, the singles ones seldom did.
After a while, she dropped the shrink. Had she wanted to measure her improvement on the choice of single over married she would have failed miserably. She seemed to have a magnet for the casual night stand, the commitment phobics, the younger ones looking only for release, the ones who sandwiched her encounter with her between a beer and some sports game.
Still, she went on, that was what princesses were supposed to do in the face of adversity of any kind. One day she would find her prince and they would live happily ever after, in monogamous bliss, travelling through life, sharing precious moments, eternal partners in never-ending happiness.
When she found herself worried about her bills and the cost of lingerie she realized time spared no one. She had never worried about those things before. She did not know what she had done wrong,surely she had performed well? She had given all of herself,it was not her fault her love fed on fairy tales, no one had told her they were not real.
She feared time had made her body less attractive and had saddened her soul. Still, she could laugh at silly stories, that was what men wanted, didn’t they? Just to have a good time. From doms in dungeons to horny young boys they all wanted the same, to have a good time. A good time had no room for demands, sadness or problems. So she laughed, only to find her laughter did not mean much to them, one way or other, as long as she complied to their whims and then went on her way. If she did not, they did, not answering her calls, not replying to her messages till she got tired and gave up, just as they knew she would, from the very beginning. After all, they had not chosen her for nothing,she was "the" good time without the complications of the aftermath.
One by one the phone numbers in her diary started disappearing to be replaced by others, but not too often. The idea of a princess without a court may be very sad indeed but somehow things mattered less and less as time went by. Disappointments have a funny way of checking up on their victims, they just make them less sensitive to pain, not out of callousness, just out of weariness. As sad as it is, most walls built to keep pain away also shoo away whatever joy may have been in store, waiting...Still, it worked for her,she learnt how to be ahead of both pain and elusive joy, to see deceit behind the smiles and never to be fooled into thinking the satisfaction of desire led to love in her case.
She grew used to men getting dressed in a hurry but not criticizing her apartment and making nasty remarks over her body as if she were some doll they had bought at the five and ten. To avoid some of this, she started being the visitor, at least it gave her some freedom, she could leave when she wanted. She sometimes spent fortunes on taxicabs home but no man could talk to her into staying the night, she just would not, she would rather vanish into the fog, the rain, the night and the days to come.
She wondered where she had failed in her search for the prince and could not find an answer.
It was then when the worst happened to her...she met him..She had to meet him if only to meet the unattainable,the one people keep away from us all the time, the one she would crave in many days and nights to come. There was something about him, something that she could not understand very well. There was also this feeling in her, a strange feeling of kinship, something she had never felt so she could not explain very well. The only thing she knew was that he stood tall before her and that his smile was the warmest she had ever seen, that his eyes were dark and seemed to lighten up from within every time he looked at her. So she fell in love,it was time. She wanted to feel elated and free, just as her books told her princesses feel when they found the prince, the beloved one at last.
In her eagerness to love someone, at last, she paid no heed to the uncomfortable idea that after all, it cost him nothing to be kind, he got more from life in general and women, in particular, that way. It brought their defenses down, they trusted him with their stories, their pains, their phobias, the million of insecurities that mattered to no one but seemed to matter to him. They were wrong, what mattered to him were their bodies and what he could experience from the acts he could perform with them, if they so agreed, of course.
She was no different from those women, she thought she was embarking in some love, at last, at last.Love, elusive and yet cheaper than therapy.
He wanted her, of course, but then, he wanted all women, he thrived in their company and not one of them failed to love him.
Her mistake was to think she was special, princesses are special, after all. Only a non-princess knows everyone is replaceable in the predator’s mind. So she went along with all his demands, she became a different person in her search for intimacy, in her search of togetherness with him only that there was no him, there was only a charming changeling sucking upon each woman, taking up her energy before moving onto the next.
She often asked herself what she had done to upset him when he started disappearing, not answering her calls, ignoring her messages...When asked, he would always reply politely,he always had an answer in stock for every woman that questioned him, begging for some attention, something to confirm their relationship still existed.
And though hurt she found she could not be angry with him, she could not be angry with someone who never failed to speak to her nicely...surely he wanted her in his life.
He wanted to be the centre of attention,to be showered by love and tears, to be the one for whom women were driven to unspeakable limits but of course, she failed to see that, it was too realistic for the scope of a princess.
And then, after months of silence only interrupted by her pitiful pleas for some attention to which he replied throwing some crumbs of his time she realized he had discarded long before she came to notice. She stopped contact,she preferred crying in solitude to the humiliation of trying to save something he had not valued and had thrown away as trash.
She had read of people suffering for love,she had thought they were a bit exaggerated, surely they would all patch up and live happily ever after? And this time she got to learn that no, there was no exaggeration...the pain that tore her apart left her speechless. She woke up every morning to a pain that was unforgiving, the punishment due to those who fall for the ones whose hearts could never be bound to anything or anyone.
And then, something happened. Tired of confiding their pain to indifferent ears, tired of the lack of sympathy she found around, she turned to an old copybook she kept from happier years.
She started putting all her feelings there, writing eagerly. She cried, raged and pitied herself. Both paper and ink proved
non- judgemental and she got to love them for that. Her feelings flew around her, she felt unburdened and full of life, even if her memories pained her at times.
She fought with words and punctuation, she concocted impossible paragraphs but her feelings would not be outdone and took her writing over, guiding her. She wrote for nights on end, till she heard birds singing and realized the dawn was near. She did not mind,she had spent the happiest hours of her life talking to him for nights on end, she could spend more nights talking about her broken heart over him. Her pain could be turned into a story, their story mattered to her, even if he had thought nothing of it.
And she wrote, she wrote with a precision she had never deemed possible and her characters became real, so real she could talk to them, she could comfort them and bind them to her plot, to her words. She had set herself to write a beautiful story but then she found beauty in life, as it was, as it had been.
She realized she wanted to keep on writing, to write about pain and also joy, to die in each sentence and come to life again in the words to follow. The princess started receding in the background,she could not cope with this new version of herself, the one that had been buried under pink roses in imaginary gardens. And finally, the princess fell to the ground, curled up in agony. The woman that rose from that pathetic heap of pain was no longer a princess. She had opened the padlocks of her chains, released her fears and accepted her life as a gift not to be wasted.No one could take that from her, not any longer.
She went to the kitchen and made herself a cup of coffee. It tasted bitter and yet reassuring. After all, you do not say goodbye to a princess and welcome a writer every day.