“You are a fine fellow to go gadding about in this way,” said she to little Kay, “I should like to know whether you deserve that any one should go to the end of the world to find you.” –Hans Christian Andersen, “The Snow Queen”
The story is not finished. Kay’s dreams are not told;
every night, he dreams of her. The queen
done out all in white, blue lace frosting her
wrists and neck. Her cold kisses. Her icy eyes.
Gerda has gone to the ends of the earth and back
but it is not enough. She knows she is only
a temporary fix, a minor distraction; she knows she
is not the end, only the means. She watches the sky
for signs, she ties his leg to the bedpost at night,
she combs his skin for signs of hoarfrost.
She waits to be left again.
She knows this time, she would not survive the quest
to bring him back home. She knows this time, it would
be she that was lost.
The robber girl visits, smelling of adventure and summer,
of lost wild times and love; Gerda cannot go where she
goes or even where she has been.
“It is a mistake,” she hisses in Gerda’s ear when they are alone.
“He does not deserve you. Come with me. Be free.”
Gerda cannot explain that living with him is torture,
but that living without him is sure, quick death.
And which do you choose?
The Iron Maiden or the guillotine?
Kay shivers himself awake, craving snowcones.
Gerda puts her small, warm hands on him, to tether him
back to the earth.
It is not enough. It will never be enough.
Is it a life, waiting for the other shoe (skate, ski) to drop,
unbidden, into your bed? Is it a life where you can never trust
that there is a forever for the two of you? Is it a life where
you can never live up to the one that came before, even when
the one that came before had murder in her eyes and drew
blood with her words, turned his will to rubberbands and his
quicksilver mind to day-old tapioca?
Gerda waits. She waits for the emptiness
to fill her again like a bombed-out church.
She waits for him to disappear on a winter’s day with Christmas
so close you can taste the peppermint.
She has stopped living. She is in a constant state of not-living,
not-being, as frozen as his queen was. The pain never ends.
The story doesn’t think you need to know that part.
Happy endings are so much easier to swallow.