The girl by the wayside
A Saiyasart short story about wishing, wanting and human appreciation
Once upon a time there was a remote village lying in the dense jungle. Near this village there was a path connecting two larger cities. Because there was no direct access to this path from the village, the villagers rarely had contact with the outside world. Only occasionally did they hear stories about civilized life in the far-flung cities, and especially the younger villagers dreamed of experiencing it at some point.
One of these villagers was a young girl who dreamed of eventually travelling to the city and getting to know the city life. She was beautiful and confident that one day she would meet a man who knew how to appreciate her grace and intelligence. She dreamed that such a man would then take her to one of the two cities, where they could start a family and live happily ever after.
For the men of her village, the girl had only contempt, because they could only offer her a simple village life, far away from the longed-for civilization. Living such a life was out of the question for the girl. She knew that she was destined for a better life – at least if thing would work out according to her will and desire.
One day the girl decided to make her wish come true and leave the monotonous village life behind. She took all her belongings, which consisted of her best dress and a few items for beauty care. Then she set out on the arduous path to the fabled path between the two cities, which would finally to bring her the happiness she had longed for.
Once there, she posed herself clearly visible at the side of the road and smiled at the passing men. Through her friendly openness and unbiased nature, she easily got into conversation with them and learned about news and life in the city. She always inquired about the status and possessions of the men and dismissed those whom she thought could not meet their demands. After all, she dreamed of a happy life in the city, and a poor man certainly could not offer her this any more than the men from her village.
Most of the men who matched the image of their desired partner were only interested in appearances and were usually in a hurry. The only way the girl knew to convince them of her qualities as a wife was to spend the nights with them. Some of them stayed for a few days, but most of them were gone the next morning.
Events like these repeated themselves day in and day out, but the girl’s grief always lasted only a short time. She consoled herself with the thought that things would definitely be better next time and swore to herself to never lose her courage and confidence. Over time, she heard many promises from many men, but none of them ever returned to her. All they left behind were fatherless children raised by the girl who had matured into a woman.
Every evening, the woman enthusiastically told her children about the civilized life in the city, that she would evetntually offer them, if only the right man appeared on the side of the road and would take them all with him. He would be generous and beautiful, just as the city of which so many travellers had told her before they left.
The years went by and the woman was still waiting for her dream man at the side of the road, when one night one of those men whom she had once rejected walked along the path. She greeted him with a friendly smile and asked how he had fared in the city.
The man greeted back and replied that he had seen the city. His grandchildren had already grown up and some of them are were already married. He, on the other hand, was already old, so it was time for him to travel back the long way and find peace.
The woman did not understand and said that she hoped that soon her future husband would come by this path, in order to finally take her and her children to the city and live a happy life there.
The man looked around and saw only the old woman standing alone on the side of the road. For a moment he paused, then smiled compassionately at the woman and said:
‘It’s a tragic fate. You still wish for what you wouldn’t have needed for a happy life.”
Then he said goodbye to her and continued his journey. The only thing that remained was the girl by the wayside.
Plaitamin, December 2011