…Sequel to Thirsty. (To get the full story first read “Thirsty.”)
As you shamefully stare at the ground in exhaustion and since you don’t have the capacity to look around you without crying, all your thoughts turn to your feet. You notice for the first time you are only wearing one shoe. “Where is my other shoe?” you think, snapping to attention. Have you been so numb on this Path that you are just now noticing your pathetic appearance? You slip off the single, ruined black pump you have made your journey in thus far and hold it close to your body as you frantically claw the dirt and peer in the bushes around you for your other beloved high heel. A classic Cinderella moment and you realize your life is a cliché. With tears stinging your eyes because you are just plain exhausted and can’t keep it together anymore, you lift your eyes from the ground and realize that you have been abandoned. You have no way of calling for anyone. No cell phone, no purse, and no id– You blame yourself; you were shameful, prideful, confused, insecure, and downright too drunk for anyone to care anymore. So they all left you. And you deserve it; you could have prevented it. And now in this empty space you realize for maybe the first time that you need help.
In the peripheral of your vision you notice one other on this Path of Lonely. She looks miserable too, trying to keep warm with a tattered woolen blanket and dirt stains on her once pink cheeks. You know that if you don’t approach her, you will never speak to each other. SO you can either walk past the figure huddled on the side of the path, or you can walk over in hopes of getting at least a conversation. And if you are really lucky, if you are vulnerable first, she might share her tattered blanket with you. Oh, to feel warm again! You just feel so, so cold; it is worth being vulnerable, you convince yourself.
You realize that the girl huddled in the tattered, torn woolen blanket on this Path of Lonely is crying. When you ask the girl what her name is, she doesn’t know. And you realize that you too have forgotten who you are. But in that, you have found a connection, and suddenly you don’t feel quite so lonely. You sit next to her gingerly, and ask in the quietest of voices, “how did you end up here?” Because when you try to think about how you yourself materialized to this spot, it is just too painful. You purposefully blocked out the spiral downward that led you to this desolate place where the air wreaks of heavy, grey heartbreak.
She says she had been on the same Path as you, don’t you remember her from The Path of Fun and Freedom? You shake your head in dismay as you tried to remember everyone who danced and laughed on that first Path together. The jokes that were tossed back and forth, the teasing, the feeling of “Untouchable” as the crowd made its way further down the Path, the forest starting to grow in, making it harder to see all the Friends. Then, the crew had to make its way single file, instead of walking as a crowd. You couldn’t remember this girl at all. She said she wore a white dress and crystal crown in her hair. You still couldn’t remember as you reached up for your own crown that must have fallen off somewhere in this Jungle of Confusion.
Her story continues that when the forest closed in around the group, the Path got harder to see. It became darker. The roots made people trip and fall. Many got left behind. She herself was left behind and when she finally heard voices again, she followed them to the Path of Fake. She was sad, hurt, and confused that they left her. But she covered it with a smile and choked the tears back. Everything was fine. Her leg had been bleeding from the tumble she took, but she tore her dress to make a bandage. She knew that even though it would scar, at least she was with the group again. They camped there for a few days and ended up becoming bored and frustrated with each other, so they tromped forward and found themselves further down Path of Fake. Some tried turning back, but it was too late. The Path swallowed everyone.
She tells you, it didn’t take her long to become so exhausted with this lifestyle. Of defending herself against the verbal abuse and names she had gotten used to hearing since she was a child. She was tired of hiding the anxiety of where this Path was leading them, and the downright achy feelings deep in her heart and mind that she no longer wanted to be with the group. Somewhere, from deep inside the black well of her heart, the still small voice echoed up that she was not designed for life like this. The girl declared with passion and energy she was done! Over it! Tired. Grieved. And scared.
It took a long time, but she distanced herself from everyone. She had tried it their way, the pretense of rapport in a society of ill people who were just plain lost. And the more she stuck around them, the more she fell, her lucent white dress and crown accumulating dirt to the point where she was unrecognizable. And this, the girl leans in with a whisper, is when she forgot who she was. Everyone was so malnourished and tired that only took care of themselves. There was no other energy to be spent on anything else. She started getting sick, unable to keep up with those in the group who still tried faking their fun with drugs, alcohol, musty cigarettes, and casual sex. She teeter-tottered on a balance of trying to find her own way when no one was looking, and still not wanting to end up like this, alone. How could she sever relationships, no matter how ugly, with people she had walked with for so long? Could she make it without them? She didn’t want to be alone. She tried relating to these people for so long. How could she just give it all up for something unknown?