CW: maladaptive daydreaming, referenced heteronormativity/binarism
For years I’ve lived on the fringe of the Hundred Acre Wood, in a burrow of fragile ferns and empty snail shells shielding me from the world.
I hear them sometimes, the animals. Having tea parties in Owl’s house, getting chased by angry bees, visiting with Roo and Kanga, bothering Rabbit. I picture the toys threadbare, well-used and well-loved. Seams falling apart, each button held in place like a breath. I never cross paths with them, but I like knowing that they’re near. Even if sometimes I wonder if they think me a Heffalump, a phantom making camp in their wood of sky-blue dreams.
It weirds people out when I tell them about the interior landscape of my head. Only the philosophy majors from the apartment below mine nodded sagely, that one time I had a smoke with them in our building’s courtyard.
“Ah,” they said. “Like the Renaissance memory palaces.”
But I don’t use the forest and its sawdust-stuffed creatures as a mnemonic device. Pooh bear’s house, Piglet’s tree, Tigger’s bouncing grounds, I don’t stash memories within their borders. Only myself, when I get too heavy to carry.
“Maybe you got lost in a forest when you were younger,” the philosophy majors said, plumed in smoke I did my best not to choke on. “You got lost, and nobody ever found you.”
“Maybe,” I replied, although I doubt it. I can see the way out, a tea-stained map traced by a child’s azure crayon, but I don’t take it. I like lying down in my burrow, covering myself from the sun’s glare, but still able to hear the honeyed buzz of bees.
There’s nothing wrong with comfort.
“Are you Christopher Robin, then?” the girl next door asks me the first time she invites me for tea. “In your head?”
In another life, maybe. Little boys with their little drums make for good main characters. Little girls, too. Someone named Sarah Kay, with pigtails and gingham dresses, socks that keep slipping down shins bruised with adventure. But when you’re neither a Christopher Robin nor a Sarah Kay, you’re taught you cannot be the hero, not even in your head.
When I tell her this, the girl next door cries a single tear into her ursine honeypot. She squeezes my hand. I dip a finger in the amber honey when she excuses herself to the bathroom. Her salt tastes of sadness, but not pity.
I’ve seen her collection of sewing supplies and secondhand stuffed animals. It’s good that she doesn’t offer, doesn’t try to fix me.
There are more invitations after that. The girl next door says she likes my stories about the woodland denizens. Although I’ve only ever seen her encased in our building’s steel and concrete, she wouldn’t look out of place living in a tree hollow. Drinking sap and nectar, attired in petals. Fairy-like, bird-boned.
“What do you do when it rains?” she asks me the day she buys raspberry tarts for our tea. She read somewhere that you should always ask potential partners what they like to do when it rains.
I stir my tea into a tiny tornado. “I’ve never thought about that. It never rains in my head.”
Strange, considering all the bruised-cloud thoughts I harbor; the perpetually gloomy rain everyone knows should hover above Eeyore’s house of sticks.
“It must mean something,” the girl next door says, pulling her chair closer to mine, resting her head on my shoulder. “That it doesn’t rain in your head. It must mean something.”
Avra Margariti is a queer author and poet from Greece. Their work appears in From the Farther Trees, Milk Candy Review, Baffling Magazine, and elsewhere. They tweet @avramargariti.