On her way home, a young woman was dribbling her basketball while walking down the side of a road coasted by a vast forest. As darkness fell, thunderstorms could be heard, predicting a torrent of lightning and rain later in the evening. There was less and less traffic on the road, yet the woman did not seem to be hurried by the gloomy weather ahead as she strolled, dribbling her ball, lost in her thoughts. She had just been – what they would call nowadays – dumped. A 6-years-old relationship going nowhere. “6 years of my life lost,” she thought as she continued walking. The cold autumn wind hit hard on her face without her complaining or covering it.
Behind her, a hurried driver was coming at a speed above the limit. Out of warning or impatience, he honked his horn when he saw the young woman’s silhouette dangerously close to the road. It must have been at least an hour since the intermittent sound of thunderstorms was the only sound that was heard. The horn had the effect of a bucket of cold water on the young woman’s face as she awoke from her daydream. As the car sped past her, she caught her breath and picked up her bag that she had dropped from her left hand by surprise. She quickly came back to her senses when she realized that she had also lost her ball, startled by the horn. “Shit,” she thought, trying to remember which direction the ball had gone when she threw it at the sound of the horn.
The young woman stepped over the spindly bushes that barely separated the forest from the road. She quickly arrived at what appeared to be an intersection between two routes to take. The left one was full of mud and puddles for miles in the distance. The right one lit up a dirt road with colorful tree leaves scattered around. The young woman stepped towards the route on the right for fear of getting dirty on the other side. She began to look carefully in all directions after her ball.
“I never thought we had a forest this big in the middle of the city,” she whispered to herself.
Thunderstorms could be heard louder through the trees almost completely stripped of their leaves. The young woman continued her way, wondering if it was all worth it for a ball. After all, she did not think she would enter an endless maze, or she would not have set foot in it in the first place. She was thinking of giving up and turning back when she suddenly heard footsteps on the leaves a few feet behind her. She turned slowly, then screamed as she came face to face with a wolf. It was a majestic white wolf with light blue eyes who was following her.
A strange sensation came over the young woman as she felt as if the wolf had spoken to her when she thought she heard, “Don’t be afraid.” She hadn’t seen its muzzle move. And anyway, she felt that she was crazy because animals do not talk. The wolf remained motionless, staring at the young woman, who was beginning to feel reassured as she saw that the animal was not aggressive.
The woman wondered where she was hearing that voice from for the second time. She looked closely at the wolf, then slowly walked towards it with hesitant steps.
She was only a foot away from the animal as she raised her right hand to pet its head. The animal remained calm, closing its blue eyes for a moment.
“Come with me,” the young woman continued to hear.
As the wolf took the lead, the woman had the strange intuition that she should follow the animal. Maybe he was going to lead her to her ball.
“Do you know where I lost my ball?” she asked.
“Maybe, but we haven’t gotten there yet. The forest is wide, and we have plenty of time to search,” the wolf answered.
As she tried to decipher the wolf’s message, she fell into a small hole full of water covered with tree leaves and twisted her ankle. “Damn!” she shouted, furious as she tried to stand back up, walking poorly in her pants splashed with dirty water.
“You didn’t think this path was going to be perfect all the way, did you?” said the wolf.
“What do you mean?” replied the woman.
“You chose the right road. Why did you choose it?”
“Because the other side was full of mud, and I didn’t want to get so dirty searching for a ball.”
“Do you think the ball said the same thing to itself when you lost it in the forest?”
The young woman stopped walking abruptly. Was the animal laughing at her?
“You couldn’t have avoided getting dirty on your way anyway. You need to get dirty when you’re looking for something valuable.”
“It’s not such a precious ball…” briefly interrupted the woman.
“Because if you never get dirty, how will you know how to clean your shoes and pants and everything else that you’ve gotten dirty for the first time in your life without expecting it,” the wolf continued without paying attention to the woman’s intervention.
“Think of it this way. If you hadn’t lost the ball, would you have gone looking after it?”
“Of course not,” replied the girl.
“So now that you are here, you search for it. Who knows how long it is going to take or how you are going to get it? Nevertheless, you are here looking after it. If you go back now, you will have lost it forever. You will be forever wondering where it is. But if you go on, there’s a chance you might find it again and appreciate it even more then. When you find it, you will take care of it, and you will be even more careful to never lose it again.”
As they walked slowly on the road that seemed to go on for miles, the woman started thinking about what she was hearing from the wolf.
“How did you feel coming in here?” continued the wolf.
The woman did not know if she should go into the details of what was on her mind.
“Sad, I guess. Like a truck has driven right on my body and crushed my chest.”
“But yet you decided to go after what you have lost. So how do you feel now?”
“I don’t know. I’m talking to a wolf.”
“What if I told you that the more you get lost in this forest, the more you will be able to push the truck back?”
“I’m not sure. I am not the truck driver, so how could I control how it is coming over me?”
“Did you see how fast the truck driver was coming?”
“Did you feel you were going to get run over and left for dead?”
“I don’t know… I guess it’s just what you expect a truck driver to do.”
“But if you expected him to be a friendly truck driver who slowed down and made sure you were not scared of it coming, would you still be surprised if it stopped right in front of you so you could walk?”
“Well, no, because then I would have expected him to be friendly.”
The wolf stopped and sat down. He looked over to the woman on his right and stood there in silence for minutes. The young woman stopped along with the animal, remaining silent. They both looked over the horizon, which was getting lighter.
“So you see, my dear, whether you expect someone to be friendly or not, you are right. If the truck driver had been nice, you would not be here searching for your ball. But he was not, so here you are.”
“And my chest is not actually crushed.”
“Exactly, and it does not need to be. You have just been looking for something outside of you for years.”
The woman’s face was starting to wet with tears. She sat down in the middle of a puddle without realizing it. As the wolf came close to her, she started crying like there was no tomorrow.
“I think you found what you were looking for,” the animal said.
“How? I’m just crying my heart out,” screamed the woman.
“Sure, and you need to let that out. Imagine if you would find your ball again and still cry when you have it in your hands. What message would you send out?”
The young woman lightly smiled at the wolf. Deep down, she felt she understood what he was telling her. As she stood back up, so did her furry friend. They continued walking in silence until they reached the lighted place they had seen earlier in the distance. The young woman squinted her eyes as she thought she was seeing a known silhouette.
“My friend, it has been a pleasure meeting you. I hope to see you again in a not-so-near future, whenever you need it,” said the wolf.
The woman looked at the animal, with tears in her eyes but with a feeling of calmness. She could not let a word out of her mouth, but the wolf closed his eyes briefly, smiling through its muzzle, accepting the woman’s silence.
As she continued on alone through the forest’s exit, the woman felt she had walked for years in the woods. Exhausted yet calm, she felt the tears that previously ran down her face were now gone. She squinted her eyes even more when she arrived at the entry of a well-known park. A few feet away from her was a standing man’s silhouette and a spherical form laying on the ground.
“Hey there,” said the man in the distance.
As she further approached, the woman recognized her former lover. Her eyes were wandering everywhere as she asked herself if all of this was real. Then, she suddenly stopped when she saw her ball, lying next to the man.
“I thought I would never see you again,” said the woman, two feet away from the man.
“Well, I went home after our talk, and I thought I was exhausted and went to sleep, but then I had nightmares about you. So I thought we should talk this over. And guess what, when I was driving back to your home to tell you this, I found the ball that you had won at the collegial basketball championship four years ago, remember?”
The young woman approached her lover without saying any words and gave a gentle kiss on his lips.
©2021 Teodora D.