I have a busy day today – freelancing, man, no weekends – so you’re getting something early instead of me scrambling to do it later. Imagine that, it’s like a Christmas miracle.
When I was a kid, I was really into wilderness survival stories; I think I’ve mentioned it. Island of the Blue Dolphins is a great one, super exciting and empowering for young girls. Anyway, I’ve never been able to find one of the books I had, which is a bummer, because it was deeply fucked-up. I’ve done a fair bit of googling but I haven’t been able to nail it down; could have sworn it was called “The Wild One,” but all the books I’ve found by that title aren’t the right one.
It was about a girl who runs away from an orphanage where she’s abused. She runs into the mountains, into the woods, and lives in a cave, does fairly well for herself all things considered. She’s something like eight or nine when she runs away, so growing up by herself in the woods, she doesn’t learn to interact with any people very well. She’s been there alone for years when a young man, hiking in the mountains, falls down a slope and breaks his ankle. She drags the kid into her cave to keep him from dying of exposure, and nurses him back to health, and of course somewhere in there, they have sex, because they are teenage humans alone in the woods with compatible genitals.
The end of the book takes a pretty harsh turn if I remember it right. I’m not sure I do. As the boy gets less delirious from his broken ankle and fever and so on, he wants to go home to his family, and tries to convince her – in the broken words they’ve been able to figure out between them – to come with him. She won’t, and frightens him by trying to get him to stay with her, and he leaves. Shortly thereafter, she discovers that she’s pregnant. She doesn’t really get it, as no one’s ever explained that shit to her. At the end, she dies in childbirth, alone in the woods, along with her child, and some hiker later finds their bones.
It’s… so hard for me to remember that book and see it as anything but a threat, y’know? Like a slasher movie, intended to make teens scared to fornicate in case Freddy comes for them. Only virgins get out alive. Except in this case it was: “If you ever run away, don’t you dare come back. See what happens to you. It might be bad here, but you can’t survive out there. You need us.”
That’s what I’ve always been told. I’ve always been sold my own family as a necessary evil, something that, if I were less weak and incompetent, I could escape. How did not one of these brilliant people listen to themselves? It’s such a classic abuser dance. “You don’t know how bad it is out there. No one can protect you but me. I only scare and threaten you for your own good.” (Our President talks like this constantly – isn’t it cool how he’s the narcissistic abusive stepfather of our nation?)
So this poem is for the Wild One, whoever she was. Maybe I won’t ever find that book, but… I did find a cave to live in. It’s small, but it’s mine, and only people who are kind to me are welcome here. That makes it better than any other place I’ve ever lived. This poem is sad but I want you to know that I’m not, not quite – I know that I will never be fully free of these voices in my head, and I also know that I’m not gonna die out here because they told me to. It’s hard and it’s cold but out here, my voice matters more.
Water babbles over her wrists, saying,
“Are you really sure that’s what you’re wearing?”
She feels the forest around her tearing
“You must stop this silly game you’re playing.”
She ran to the wood, but found no silence.
She ran to mountain caves but found no peace.
The cage is in her head – there’s no release.
The woods didn’t even stop the violence.
The leak starts as the smallest thing, a crack
but you should see how fast it unravels,
a fissure in the ground so deep and black
it can swallow every sprout and fledgling.
It doesn’t matter how far she travels,
the voices of her scars will drag her back.