Once upon a time, I traveled to a small country in Eastern Europe with two friends.
We signed up for a road trip of sorts with a talkative tour guide and one other tourist: a middle-aged man who consistently cradled a small camera. Our first stop was a town with a wishing tower.
We stumbled out of the van, looking at the odd community seemingly built around one stone staircase. Little houses crowded the path and tall trees hung with tendrils of tiny leaves. There were also tables along the incline. The townspeople attempted to sell us goods. Almost every setup boasted fresh kumquats.
As we climbed the stairs, I truly felt like I was in a fairytale. We were three young women searching for a magical castle in a far-off country with two idiosyncratic side-characters.
Naturally, after we came home from the adventure, I wrote a fable about three princesses on a quest riddled with trials.
In the fable, there’s a sinister villain who plans to steal the wishes that the princesses make in the tower. The villain can’t make wishes because her intentions are evil. Additionally, she could never resist the trolls guarding the tower. The little creatures offered delicious fruits — but if you fell victim to desire, the fruits proved to be poisonous.
The villain set the three princesses up to fail, so she could unlock their good-intentioned hearts with a magical key and steal their powerful wishes.
I wrote it way too fast, and the structure was questionable. The villain expected the princesses to wish typical wishes, like the power to fly, making others fall in love with them or to suddenly having extreme wealth. Unfortunately — or fortunately — the princesses wished for simpler things.
That’s not what happened in reality, though. My friends and I are not princesses, and we ate the kumquats. I also wished a typical wish. I lost a friendship and selfishly asked the tower to make that person come back to me. Either the tower wasn’t magical, or I made the wrong wish, because it never came true.
The simpler wishes I wrote in the story did manifest. One princess wished for an ice-cold Coke, one for a strong cup of coffee and the final for a large body of water to swim in all day.
Wishing fables are meant to emphasize basic morals. Honestly, that’s why I hate them; I think they are too simple. So why did I write one?
Because it’s nice to pretend things are simpler once in a while. Desire haunts memories I want to be wholly good. I don’t want to remember the sadness of losing a friendship, or how my moping almost ruined other relationships. I want to remember the good friends who stuck around.
But desire also leads to kumquat-snacking. So it is a necessary feeling.
I like pretending to be a princess sometimes, but most of the time, it’s all a bit too noble for me.