When I was a little girl my grandma told me that there were princes. Sitting in our house in the Sunset, the N rumbling by, the sky grey and the ocean roaring, she’d tell me about them as I sipped my soup and tore off bread to dip. She said the princes were scattered around, trapped in skyscrapers and under bowling alleys and hidden away in train stations. Some had green eyes, some had black hair, some had baby faces, some were short, some less so. But they were all waiting. They had nothing to do but sit around, doing pushups, combing their hair, shaving their beards till they were just roguish enough for a princess to save them. For a princess with an AK-47 and a leathery attitude to save them.
My grandma told me I was not that princess, that I spent too much time reading, too much time watching the clouds. That my marks were too low, my eyes too vacant, my hands too small. I was the wrong kind of girl, the kind that would never go to war, the kind that would never save a prince. I was not woman enough to die in a ditch from an IUD for my country.
“Now your friend Thalia,” She’d say, letting out a sigh and running her hand through her short-cut grey hair, “she’s someone who’ll rescue a prince. She’s a fisher, that one, a real upstart. I bet she slaps the asses of all the boys at school whenever they walk by.” She’d sit back in her old yellow chair, and pull out a new wooden figurine or her pipe.
My friend Thalia, in fact, did not. She wore her hair close shaved, sure, (except for a big flop of purple that would sometimes fall over her eyes), and she stomped around in combat boots. Maybe her mother had been teaching her to how to build chairs, tables, bookcases, bigger and bigger things, but she wasn’t a soldier either. She and I, when we ate lunch together, never got around to discussing how perky the boy’s butts were, or how some of them were growing beards faster than others. We’d talk about dusty things like socialism, or music, or how the sea was gonna eat us all up in a few years. I never had the heart to tell this to Grandma.
Thalia and I would go on walks once the bell let us out of school, down to the ocean. We’d sit in the sand, watch the tide go in and out. I’d play harmonica and Thalia would sing little songs she wrote, and sometimes, when it was spring and warm and everything looked sharp in the sun, she’d fall asleep on the sand, glowing. I never did. I’d watch her sleep and wonder what it would be like to hear of her enlisting like my grandma said. To see her in a green uniform. To see her come back with a prince. To go to her funeral, a flag over her coffin. The sand and dust blew all around, the waves licked the shore, and as I looked at the sea I’d wonder if there was a prince in the water, half-lobster, maybe, and maybe he was being hunted by big bad fisherwomen. Maybe from Russia or Japan, their faces seaworn and harsh. And I’d reason with them or pay them off or organize a worker’s strike, and, once safe, he’d lay in my arms, and he would be faceless, and it’d be the sort of happily ever after my grandma tells me about.
But I’m not the kind of girl who saves princes.
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