A story for enlightened grown ups —
The woman in the woods
Once upon a time there was a woman in the woods. She was a wild woman, because she had to be. She was an angry woman, because she had to be. Her anger kept her strong, strong enough to build a house out of wood she cut down herself in the forest that she lived in. Wood from wood. Strong enough to mill it, and stack it. Strong enough to make an imagined structure a tangible, inhabitable reality.
She had not always been this strong. She had not always been this angry. How had she gotten to this stage of potency and ire? Being a sex worker in a midsize West Coast city had something to do with it. Being from the Philippines had something to do with it. Being a woman with a penis had something to do with it. Losing her first house in a foreclosure had a lot to do with it. Not being able to visit her wife in the hospital because they weren’t officially “married” had quite a bit to do with it.
Not having the time and the space and the dollars to shine her brilliant self had perhaps the most to do with it.
When you don’t have the leisure or the funds or the safety to show your mettle, that’s a slow fire of injustice that burns you. It makes you forceful but it burns you up too, so you become a blaze of might have beens, of wants that hurt, because they feel impossible.
But this story is going to have a happy ending, because she wills it. She says, Stephanie, don’t make me a victim of your sympathy.
Ok, I say. Ok.
And anyway, she says this is supposed to be a fairy tale.
So this is what she tells me she does.
One day the woman in the woods had an idea. She would write a book. She would make a movie. But she did not have the paper or the machines to write or film something big. So she scratched ideas on pieces of wood, the chips that fell off, the bits of left over wood. She started leaving them places.
They were scolding words sometimes like “stop whining.” Or else condemning words like “you do real damage” or else warnings like “I love you but.”
She drove to town with the chips and bits in a garbage bag and left them in Home Depot and K-Mart, where she shopped for supplies.
I would like to say that she became famous. But she didn’t. Her circle of admirers remained small.
She says that’s all right with her.
But the wood writing made her feel better. They cleansed the fire so it could burn more purely. Her rage could consume others and not just her. Maybe it healed some, and maybe it helped them by making them feel less alone. Maybe it made others feel afraid and accused and upset and guilty. And perhaps that too was a kind of healing.
One day she scattered chips that read, “the hegemony serves you” in the expensive electrics section in the Wal-Mart in town.
Then she got in her truck and drove back to the woods. She made a cutlist of certain trees. She took them all down, rooted out the stumps.
Then she started building a castle. For herself and her wife, and her chickens and her rooster.
She was still mad, but she was also, finally happy. Because she was making things, fantastic enormous structures where she and her wife could live.
I hope to go there someday. I’ll definitely go, if she asks me.