The Forest for the Trees

Wilma Cimino was well known to be a good sport. She was always pulling pranks on people, and she knew that if she was going to pull pranks on people, she better be prepared to get as well as she gives. She also knew that the first thing on her victims’ minds was revenge, and she had better prepare for it. There are some pranks, however, for which one cannot prepare, such as the one her longtime boyfriend pulled on her.    

The initial prank she played on her longtime boyfriend, Garfield, was one of the most ingenious pranks she ever played on anyone. She knew his weak spots better than anyone, and she got him good. She laid him out in front of all his friends. He even admitted it was one of her best pranks, and he admitted that, “It may have been one of the best pranks ever played on me.” He was a good sport about it, but he vowed revenge. 

“You’re good,” was what he said, in the midst of everyone’s laughter at that party. “You’re real good, but you better prepare for me to rock your world.”

“Come and get me,” she said. “C’mon big man. Who you think you is?”

“Oh, I’m a coming mama,” he said. “I’m a coming.” That threat was good-natured too, and it only made Wilma laugh harder.

The foundation of his revenge began in a most obvious point of entry, her love of fairies. He knew her weak spots better than anyone. He knew, for instance, that most of her favorite movies had fairies in them. He knew about the dreams she had of encountering fairies in the mall, while walking out to her mailbox to get the mail, and in otherwise common places in life. He knew that Wilma was playing with her niece one day when she said, “How do you know they’re not real?” when her niece posed the notion that they weren’t. He knew that Wilma didn’t believe in fairies, in the purest sense of the word, but she couldn’t entirely let go of her fantastical notions, and she didn’t want to deprive her niece of that fantasy. 

Her niece posed that notion, after the two of them played with three of Wilma’s fairy figurines. “I love fairies too,” her niece said, after commenting on the wide array of fairies she had around her apartment, “but you know they’re not real right?” Wilma thought that was so cute that her niece was looking out for her, but it kind of embarrassed her too, because her niece didn’t know that Wilma also covered her cubicle walls at work with fairies, and she had fairy pins that she wore to work.

As a grown adult, Wilma knew most people considered her fantastical fascination just plain silly, and when they would ask her about her it she would say, “I just like them is all.” That was true, in part, but there was a super-secret part of her that no one knew about that wanted to believe in them. This fascination/belief was based on a very simple, or very complex, need she had to cling to the vestiges of what happened to be a wonderful childhood for her.

Her boyfriend Garfield, named after the president, as opposed to the cartoon character, teased her about it, but he always followed up that teasing with, “But that’s why I fell in love with you.”

That line right there bothered Wilma to this day. She wondered why, if he thought that, he would shatter that part of her by dragging her out to a forested region equipped with all sorts of gizmos and lasers that Garfield, unbeknownst to her, borrowed from his workplace. A part of her knew that she should’ve given Garfield some points for hitting her most sensitive spot, but if that sensitive spot has something to do with why you fell in love with someone in the first place, why would you do anything that might damage that spot?

She spotted a fairy soon after Garfield excused himself just before a clearing to go “assault a tree”, his term for peeing on a tree.

She didn’t think it was a fairy at first. She didn’t think it was anything other than a faint, tiny blue light at first, but there was so little else, in the clearing she stood in, waiting for Garfield to return, that that tiny blue light drew her attention. As it bounced from tree to tree with erratic motion, it began to formulate into something Wilma thought might be a tiny human who could fly.

The longer Wilma looked at this tiny, blue light, the more skeptical she became. She had a skeptical smile on her face as she neared it. She knew it was a joke in that moment, and she looked back to find the source of the light, and the source of the joke. When she was unable to find the source, she turned back to the light. Something changed as she moved to investigate it, she began to believe. It moved away with each progression she made forward. It was shy, she thought. She remained where she was when she picked up on that, and she put out a finger for it, as if it were a small bird. She attempted to display the least threatening stance she could while holding that finger out to show that she was willing to allow it to make the decision to near her.

It didn’t near her, but it did reveal a tiny wand in its tiny hand, and it waved it. Her mouth fell open further, as she realized this little light was acting as a fairy might.

After it waved its wand, nothing happened. She scoured her shirt, her arms, and her pants to see what changed. She spun around and noticed that a deer was unusually close to her. It was chewing on the vegetation on the ground, and it was nearing her. The deer looked up and the two of them shared a glance. She stayed stock-still. It moved toward her again and stopped to chew on more vegetation.

“Thank you,” she whispered to the fairy. The blue fairy was so beautiful, as it flew from tree to tree that a small tear fell from Wilma’s eye. She wanted Garfield by her side, just to have someone, anyone share this moment with her, and to have someone confirm for her what she thought she was seeing. No one would believe her otherwise, and she knew that. Even though a tear now rolled down her cheek, she decided that this might be the happiest moment in her life.

“Come here,” she whispered to it. She didn’t know what she would do if it did come closer, but she wanted to examine it to confirm what she was seeing. “What are you?” she whispered. “I won’t hurt you.”

The blue fairy flicked its wand again, and Wilma began spinning around in search of the product of its power. She looked in the direction of the deer, but it was still a deer, and it was still chewing vegetation in the place it had before. She looked in the other direction, and she spotted a bunny, but it wasn’t just any bunny. It was Thumper from the cartoon Bambi. As a little girl who loved rabbits, her parents purchased a number of them for her. She named all of her pet rabbits after her favorite rabbit of all time, and she put roman numerals behind them. What hopped toward her in the clearing of a forest was not a rabbit she could name Thumper. It was the actual cartoon character of a movie that she loved so much in her youth that her parents said she watched it over one-hundred times.   

On the one occasion Garfield brought this prank up, she said she was onto it the moment she saw that cartoon image hop toward her, but she wasn’t. She could’ve been and she probably should’ve been, but … and here’s where it all gets so confusing, she wanted to believe that everything that happened to her on that morning, in the clearing, was real. That super-secret part of her that no one knew about, of wanting to believe in all of this silliness, surfaced here, and it overwhelmed any common sense that would’ve revealed this moment for what it was. 

Wilma Cimino never thought the cartoon image of Thumper was real, but to her ever-lasting shame, she did consider the image she was seeing a manifestation of the fairy’s powers. She thought it knew things about her and her childhood, and that spooked her a little, but it also fascinated her. Wilma thought this was a message the fairy was sending that its powers were vast, and it was attempting to communicate to her that if it could make one of her childhood dreams come true, it could make anything she wanted come true for her.

Wilma was so overwhelmed in this space that Garfield’s familiar cackle couldn’t even break her out of her spell. To that point, she remained silent and still to avoid scaring the deer away, or the Thumper, and she didn’t want to shatter this whole illusion she was experiencing. As a result, when he appeared with his cackle, she almost shushed him to preserve that silence. She was glad she didn’t, because it only would’ve added to his laughter later.

When he said, “I am so sorry,” she almost shushed him again. She wanted to say so many things in those precious moments that in retrospect she was glad she didn’t. She wanted to preserve the silence to make this last as long as it would, but she also wanted this moment all to herself. Even when Garfield showed Wilma his handheld remote, she didn’t make the necessary connections as quickly as she should have. She even had a pregnant finger pointed at the fairy when he repeated his apology, “I’m sorry, but I told I was going to come back strong, and, well …” He held his hands out, as one would after the completion of a stage act, awaiting applause.

Prior to her complete realization, she had so many things to tell him that in the immediate aftermath of those words, she almost said, “Shut up and come here.” To her ever-lasting shame, Wilma was still on the cusp of a peak of emotions, even after he said what he said. Her immediate thought was that his comments had something to do with his ‘assaulting of the tree’ joke, or some unrelated matter of which she had no concern by comparison to what she had to show him. She almost hopped and waved her arms, saying, “Just shut up and come over here.”

Before she did any of that, it dawned on her what just happened. She looked again at the handheld remote he held and mentally rewound what he just said. The near-immediate deflation she experienced was such that she nearly collapsed. It dawned her that she was a fool, and she felt so stupid, and the confluence of events so overwhelmed her that she almost cried. She didn’t want to cry, but she was so confused that she couldn’t think of anything else to do. It shattered something precious within her. All of her emotions were so irrational that she couldn’t explain them, and she couldn’t even talk for the thirty seconds it took him to twitch the controls on the remote in such a way to make the fairy fly. He made the deer and Thumper appear and disappear with various flips of switches and buttons, and he was so proud of himself for what he and his team constructed that he did it again with added commentary. He informed her who was responsible for various additions to his prank, and he said that they apologized in advance of what they did to her. She looked from him to the remote and back to the corresponding movements of the image of the fairy, the deer, and Thumper.

She could fight it no longer. She cried. “Take me home,” was what she said through the mass of tears. “I want to go home now!”

“C’mon?” He said in the voice he used right before he would embrace her. “It was a joke sweetie,” he said nearing her with that tone. The moment he touched her, she immediately set foot to the direction of the camp. “It was just a joke,” he said following her. “You said you love a good prank, and this was nothing more than a good prank,” he said after they reached their camp and she immediately set about packing up her clothes.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” she said at the camp and throughout the long ride home. At various points along the long ride home, he tried to find creative ways to soothe her and explore the rights and wrongs of it. 

“You pulled what I admitted was the greatest prank anyone had ever pulled on me,” he said, “and you did it in front of all our friends. Was I embarrassed, yes, but I was a good sport. You said so at the time, and I told you to prepare for-”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” she yelled with as much force as she could, “and I don’t want to talk to you anymore.”

She broke up with him in the parking lot of her apartment complex, when they finally arrived, and she swore that she would never have anything to do with him ever again. Again, it was difficult for her to explain, but when he hit her with, “The next time someone tells you that you give as good as you get, remember this moment.” She felt bad, especially when she noted the touch of finality in his voice.

When she had enough time to digest all he did and everything he said, she did get back together with him. She realized that she was being unfair, and she knew her actions suggested she couldn’t take as well as she gave, but their relationship was’t the same. 

Garfield was patient. He gave Wilma time to recover, but when she didn’t, he complained, “What do I have to do to get my Wilma back? You said you forgave me, but I get this feeling that you will not ever forgive me. What do I have to do, Wilma, to get you to forgive me?” he asked her one night at her favorite, high-priced restaurant.

She had one of the now two dozen roses he gave her over the course of those three weeks laying on the table before her. “It’s not about forgiving,” she said. “I forgive you, but you broke something very precious in me that cannot be undone. You had to notice that I tore down all the pictures of fairies I had on my wall at home, and did you notice I trashed all my figurines? I don’t have fairies on my cubicle at work either. They’re all gone Garfield, did you notice that?

“I did,” he said, “but I thought if I didn’t say anything, hoping that we might be able to move past this. Should I have said something? You tell me. Do we need to talk less about this, until you find a way past it, or do we need to talk more? Help me Wilma. Should we see a counselor to help us make it work? What do I have to do to help you move past this, or vice-versa. Talk to me Wilma. You’re the most precious thing that’s ever happened to me, and I’m not going to give you up without a fight.”    

“You’ve teased me for years about how I loved fairies,” Wilma said, “but you’d always concluded with, but that’s why I love you? That part that you loved is gone now. I shattered my figurines down to tiny shards, because I wanted to forget that I ever believed in them, because it embarrasses me now that I ever believed in them. We both knew it was silly, but I enjoyed that fantasy, because it made me feel like a kid again to play around with a belief in them. I’m a full-grown, responsible woman who enjoyed believing in fairies. I’ll admit that now, but I tore all of my pictures down, because not only do I not believe in them anymore, and not only does it embarrass me that I did, but they remind me of how hard I fell for your stupid prank, and how stupid I felt for doing so.

“Oh, and did I tell you that I’m not going to pull pranks on people anymore,” Wilma continued. “Did I tell you that? Yeah, your little prank showed me how much harm they can do. I’ve resigned myself to never pulling another prank on anyone, because I know how painful they can be now. So that’s another thing your little prank killed in me. Your little prank was like a wrecking ball to everything that used to be Wilma Cimino, the woman you said you loved. I hope your happy Garfield. I hope you and your friends giggle about this till kingdom come.” 

“What are we going to say then,” Garfield said, “to your sister, your mom? What are we going to tell them Wilma? Are we going to say the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but? Are we going to tell them we broke up, or you broke up with me, because I played a practical joke on you, and you couldn’t get over it? Think about that Wilma, and consider that you’re a full-grown, responsible, and successful woman who believed in fairies so much that when your future husband tricked you into knowing that there’s no such thing, you broke up with him.

“Forget about your mom and your sister,” he said, “how are you going to sell that to yourself at night?

“I’m a good man Wilma, and you know it,” Garfield continued, talking over her. “I make good and honest money at what I do, and I could be a decent provider for you and our kids, or whomever I end up with, if you continue to be so difficult in this regard. I’m a conscientious man who cares very much for you, what happens to you. I never cheated on you, I never made you cry before my stupid mistake, and, and, I’ve done everything I can think of to make up for the one mistake, let me repeat that one mistake I made in our relationship, and you won’t forgive me. And don’t tell me it’s because you can’t, or that it’s not about forgiveness, because that’s the whole can of worms here Wilma.”

“All I can tell you is that this grown woman believed in fairies,” Wilma said. “I knew they weren’t real in your math and science world, but I kind of held onto that belief, because I wanted to believe. I hoped they were real, and I’m quite sure you laughed about that with your friends, and I think some part of you thought your little prank might be an excellent way to cure my problem. You did that didn’t you? Well, I liked believing in them, because it gave me some kind of irrational and inexplicable comfort to do so, and you and your little prank stole all that from me, and every time I look at you that’s all I can think about.”

“So, it’s over?”

“I felt bad breaking up with you the way I did,” she said. “It was an impulsive, emotional decision. I realized that I wasn’t being a good sport, as you said, but now that we’re back together, and in the swing of a full relationship again, I honestly don’t know how we go on like nothing happened.”