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A Summer in the City (The Inevitable Path of the Girl With No Name)
A Summer in the City
June 20th of a year of no importance, a date any average person would forget in the course of time. However, as I will now mention, the remarkable characters in this story are by no means average or ordinary by any measure. It was that particular Wednesday, a cold, dreary Wednesday, to be more specific, that she first opened her eyes. As most people will tell you, when asked, a cold concrete sidewalk on the side of the road is not the best place to find yourself waking up on in the morning, but the girl did just that.
It was Maple Street on June 20th of that particular year not worth mentioning that she first saw the sky. As the girl slowly opened her eyes she found herself staring into the hazy skies of what could be none other than South Cassaige, spread with a thick layer of smog colored clouds that poured dirty rain into the girl’s eyes that she had just now opened. She stared blankly into that bottomless abyss above her and thought… well, she thought nothing. The poor girl rubbed her eyes and sat up. She had no name, no family to speak of, no home, and no past. The girl stood on her wobbly legs and walked, the only thing she could possibly think of doing right now. She walked and walked; this is how we will open our story, on this dreary Wednesday morning with a mysterious girl, a sidewalk, and a cold, miserable city filled with cold, miserable people.
The bells were ringing softly as the girl walked down the road, and with every step she took, she could feel her heart groan. Her dark brown hair was rather long and sheathed her face. Her dull grey dress that had once been a flourishing blue clung limply to her lean body. She walked and walked because it was the only thing left to do. The girl walked down Maple Street, almost getting hit by a couple of impatient car drive, walked down a dark, damp alleyway into another street, and walked headfirst into her destiny.
As she continued down a road, which, like the year, is not at all important mentioning, she saw to her amazement, a young woman standing at the curb. All around her, the girl saw people darting in and out of shops carrying ridiculous looking umbrellas and holding their briefcases over their heads. This young woman, however, is quite different. She stood, tall and lonesome, on the cold concrete curb. She was wearing nothing but a long, black dress with flowing sleeves with a deep green sash, an unusual outfit for those days, especially in the city. Her long hair, which was dripping with rain that ran down that lovely dress of hers, was jet black with a neat black part down the center.
As the girl approached, the woman did not turn around. She stood, staring into the flooded gutter, lost in her own mind. When the girl got closer, the woman was the first to speak, in a low, mysterious tone.
“Shouldn’t you be heading home now? The streets are rather wet and I know most girls your age just hate getting your clothing wet.”
The girl, astounded and confused, replied in a hushed tone:
“M…Ma’am, I’m afraid I don’t know where home is.”
The woman turned; a grave yet inquisitive look overtook her fragile face.
“What do you mean you don’t know where your home is? Are you lost? The police station is...”
“The girl cut her off: “No, I’m afraid I do not remember anything. You see, Ma’am, as far as I know, this is the first day of my life. I have no family to call my own and no place to go home to.”
“How sad,” replied the woman, bored in a vacant manner. “If it’s your memory that is lost, perhaps you should see a doctor… but, of course, there are reasons one forgets.” She turned frighteningly grave again. “People forget to block out pain and guilt, shame and misfortune. There are many people in this world who would give anything to begin anew with a new life, a new beginning… Sometimes… sometimes it is just best to turn from your past and to look to the future.”
The girl stood where she was. She didn’t flinch, she didn’t move, you swear she didn’t even breathe. “Ma’am,” She began slowly “I’m afraid you do not understand. I do not wish to live life like this, to be no one. I have no purpose, no where to turn.”
The woman relied, “You make your own destiny, child. Why can’t you see? Someone who forgets, someone who has no past and no pain, has the whole world in front of them. You can be anyone, do anything. I envy you, child, but I do not envy your ignorance.”
With that final sentence, the young woman turned towards the street and vanished in a mist of jade colored smoke, leaving the girl alone on the now vacant street.
The girl, startled and frightened, turned towards the sidewalk from which she had awoken. The girl walked down the cold street, content with her decision of what she now felt she had to do.
A tall, white building grows from the smothering concrete in the southern most part of South Cassaige. The girl stumbled down the hill to this old hospital, bare feet scraping the ground as she made her way down. It was still Wednesday, it was still dreary and it was still raining. The girl walked with her head turned towards the ground, examining every crack and break in the pavement. Finally, she was there.
The girl slowly pushed open the doors to the hospital, cool fingers pressing on cool glass, and saw what a hectic scene it was. People were being pulled along on stretchers from every which way and through every door. People were crowding the reception area, the rooms, and the hall. Nurses and doctors ran frenzied from room to room and to the reception area. The girl slowly approached the desk.
“Um… hello, I… I can’t seem to remember anything.”
A short, dark skinned woman behind the desk answered:
“We are currently having a frenzy of patients coming in at the moment due to a major accident on Dawn Avenue involving a crane and some poorly placed office buildings, can I take your name? It may be a while, though.”
The girl looked hopeless and replied, “I’m afraid…” She looked from left to right and then saw a magazine someone was reading. On the cover of the art magazine there stood the words “Sabine Miller: Artist of the Year”.
“Sabine” She finally said “Sabine Hill.”
“Well, Sabine” The receptionist said “Please have a seat.”
This is exactly why the girl is sometimes referred to as “Sabine” in many retellings of this story. Unfortunately, as you have probably figured out by your own wit, the girls name was not Sabine. As the girl was a person without a name, Sabine was a name without a person.
We continue our story in the crowded reception area of the hospital. Patients are wheeled in and out with bloody traumas from the collapsed office buildings. Many people in the waiting area cringed as they were wheeled through. The girl did not. The girl sat perfectly still with her hands on her lap. Minutes passed. Hours soon followed. The clock ticked in a methodical tone that would have made anyone grow slowly insane. The wind began to pick up and was soon pounding on the windows of the hospital. More patients followed.
It was about two o’clock in the afternoon that the girl in the dripping wet dress and frizzy brown hair calmly stood up and walked out the door of the hospital, back into the rain which she had come from. No one seemed to notice.
She was losing more than herself. She was beginning to lose hope. And when you lose all hope, nothing matters, not your aspirations or your dreams, nothing.
That is what the girl feared most: to be nothing.
More pavement, more rain, more walking for the girl. This time the rain began to fall quickly and no one dared to tread on the vacant street. The girl was left alone with only her thoughts to give her the little solace she could attain. As she walked, that solace began to slip away. With every step she took doubt filled her mind and clouded her head. Finally, at one point, the girl took off running down the slick street and ran and ran. The girl was still barefoot, but she didn’t care.
Up the hill from the hospital stood the small church known as St. Agatha’s. It was made of dark stone and was stained with the water that was still ever falling from the sky. It was this church that the girl entered. It was at this church that the girl finally gave up hope.
Upon entering the church, the young, hysterical girl was greeted by an old priest. His grey hair had mostly fallen out and his face was full of lines from years of worry, as he was now.
“Father, Father!” The girl screamed, falling to her knees and tearing her nails across the floor in anguish. “I can’t remember who I am or where I can from! I am no one! I belong nowhere! Father, please! Please help me remember!”
The old priest looked comfortingly at the child who was sprawled in torment before him. The girl’s cries resonated through the old, hollow church. The priest made an attempt to console her.
“Child, I believe this is not the best place for you… it may be best to first see a doctor.”
“No!” Began the girl. “I cannot see the doctors and I cannot go on any longer like this!”
The priest tried again, “I wish I could help you, but I am merely the parish priest at this small church. It is very possible you sustained a trauma to your head.”
The girl shook her head and began screaming. The ear pitching tones could be heard from streets around. Water gushed from her eyes and the world became a blur of tears and pain. The girl pulled herself to her feet and ran out the doors of the church, back out into the rain.
The rather disturbed girl sat on the curb of the sidewalk, drenched in rain. She pulled the faint yellow petals off a daffodil she had found in the yard in front of the church; one by one. The rain drops fell, one by one. The cars passed by, one by one. The rain poured and the girl pulled petals, one by one. People paid no mind to these simple things, but to the girl, they were her comfort and the only things that helped her sense that she was not yet forgotten.
* * * * *
The door of the church creaked softly as the girl pushed it open; her cheek pressed against the damp wood. The inside of the church was cold, especially for late June, but the girl paid no mind because of what, or rather who, was sitting in the back pew of the church that stunned her. The same odd woman from the curb of that peculiar street (that’s name’s not worth mentioning) was sitting in the very last row of the pews, a string of ebony colored rosary beads in her hands.
“I see you’ve come” Said she. “I never thought you would give up.”
She smiled at the girl, a slow, tired smile. She stood a tall, pale, cold specter in a dark hall of worship. The woman handed the girl the beads and wrapped her hand around that of the girl’s.
“Sometimes, it’s just better to move on.”
Once again the odd woman just vanished leaving the girl standing in the aisle. Her eyes cast from where the woman had been standing to the beads in her hands. They were as small and fragile and very beautiful. Oh, the beautiful things of the world that the girl could not remember.
Tears streaming down her face, the girl once again began running: out the door, past more shocked parishioners, across a busy street and to the edge of the town. Running, running, forever running; the girl cannot escape herself much longer.
Out of the church, up the hill, through the streets the strange barefoot girl ran. She ran because she was lonely, she ran because she was helpless, she ran because she was afraid, she ran because she was no one. She ran alone, black rosary beads swinging from her hands, soaked, grey dress clinging to her body, dripping cool rain down her legs, her hair widely matted in her eyes.
The girl ran and didn’t stop until she reached the dark graveyard at the northernmost part of South Cassaige, and the only reason she stopped was because it was nightfall and her poor legs couldn’t run any more. The hard earth was packed tightly beneath the girls feet, the rain shined on the sparse grass of the morbid plot. The graves sat, squat and severe along the gruesome landscape. No trees except for one dared to grow there.
It is often said that the tree had once been a magnificent apple tree that was the pride and joy of everyone living in Southern Cassaige long ago. When disease did its spoil to most of the town, the people moved away and the tree, unloved and overlooked, died in its shame. This story is, however, completely irrelevant at the moment. This part of the story has nothing to do with a magnificent apple tree. This story involves a girl we all know well, but does not know herself, a life long lost and without remembrance, and a dead, crippled tree that, like the girl, wished it could be what it once was.
We now pause for a moment and gaze at the girl crying in the dark in a tall, dead apple tree. She is shivering due to the abnormally cold weather and is clutching her knees to her chest. Her breath warms the air in front of her, if only for a moment. As long as she is breathing she is still alive, right? Maybe that is how you or I would see it, but for the girl, you have to have a life to be able to live. A life to call her own, that’s all the girl ever hoped for.
The night dragged on with a fierce storm. Shrubs were uprooted and ground eroded down the hills. Flowers were torn out of their resting places and thrown around like dry leaves in the autumn wind. The girl did not move. The not-so-magnificent apple tree also did not move. The wind blew its sinister lullabies as the girl fell into a deep, tormented sleep. She slept and she slept and the girl only slept because she had finally stopped running.
* * * *
June 21st was of a year with no particular importance. It was also the second time the girl opened her eyes. It was daybreak of a warm, sunny summer morning in South Cassaige. The girl with the frizzy hair and still-damp grey dress sits on the branch of a sad, gnarled tree. Her bare feet dangle below her as she stares into the horizon. The girl’s blank expression slowly grows a smile. June 21st of no particular year of importance was the first time the girl smiled. The girl smiled because she realized something.
It was not the sparkling morning dew she realized. It was not the reddish sunrise or the purple lilacs in the meadow that she realized. No, my dear reader, what she realized was far greater than flowers or trees or anything us simple humans notice in our day to day lives.
The girl realized that she may have no past and she may have no family, no friends, and no home to call her own… but she did have one thing. You see, the young girl had time. The girl may have lost all that was behind her but she still had time. She had time to find friends, to have a home, to become something great. She also had time to remember. She finally realized what the odd woman said was true: It is best to forget the past and to move on to the future.
That is exactly what she did.
The bells were ringing softly as the girl skipped down the street. The girl clung onto her mother’s skirt and hummed happily to herself. The young girl was not all that unlike the young girl I have just told you about. She was pretty, pale, like her mother. She even had that long brown hair and a flowing blue dress.
Her mother was happy as well. She had her long, brown hair in a bow and was wearing a flowing black dress she had bought in honor of a strange woman she had met long ago. She wore a smile, as well, a smile she had not stopped wearing since the day she encountered a rather dead, dreary old tree. The day when she discovered what she could be… anything.
No, like before, June 20th of another, more distant year not worth mentioning was not a day most people would remember over the course of their lives. No, as far as the girl and her mother are concerned, I do not know if they still remember that day when the breeze was singing softly and the birds chirped in harmonic tones. That day where all the city children went and played on the pavement sidewalks that had once tormented the woman years ago.
“Mommy?” Said the little girl. “Can I ask you a question?”
“Of coarse, my dear” Said the lovely woman. “What is it you want to know?
The girl began: “Did you grow up skipping down these streets like I do and did you swing from the rope on the apple tree in the meadow like I do now?”
The blissful woman replied, “Yes, Sabine, I did begin my life skipping down these streets like you do. But the tree you speak of, is the meadow you say it lies in located in the center of that graveyard I showed you when you were just a baby?”
Sabine said, “Yes, why mommy?”
The woman grinned and said, “Sabine, my dear, let me tell you a story about a young girl, just like you, and a magical apple tree…”
But this story isn’t about a magical apple tree… or is it?