The world didn’t end after my cuddle-puddle debut. In fact, not a whole lot happened. The mood of the Wolf shifted from high let’s-fill-these-woods-with-good-vibes-so-if-it-all-ends-we’re-on-the-right-side energy to quiet despair. Stupor. The snow came. Two feet at the top of the driveway: we were officially snowed in, stuck. Nigh and I never did get past the cuddling-with-other-people phase. We didn’t even join in any full-out cuddle puddles, at least not in front of each other, though it was pretty clear to me that both of us wanted to. But my jealousy didn’t miraculously dissolve, and while I’d rather aggressively declare that I didn’t care what the hell Nigh did with anyone else, I felt my guts bubble with a deep, desperate dread whenever I saw him talking to other girls. I wrote this in my journal:
Q: What can we do when jealousy passes through?
A: We can go out the back door and chop wood, throwing
our bodies into that ax, splitting
madrone and cedar into smaller and smaller pieces, throwing
ourselves into that split, and let that crisp and constellation-filled sky humble.
So Nigh kept to himself, not getting close to the tight-knit pack of Wolves because he did not want to hurt my already-hurt and paranoid feelings. He could barely get close to me: I was going stir-crazy, never having a moment alone in the cold and crowded Main House, and so most of the time I shooed Nigh away when he tried to hang out with me. Meanwhile, I continued to be touchy with other boys, or rather, boys continued to touch me, acting as if it was their prerogative to squeeze me as I tried to read on an armchair, and using the fact that they were mystical, androgynous beings and all souls are the same and we’re all part of some Universal One, there is no difference between
us because we’re all One One One, as an excuse to get way too close.
Nigh grew quieter. Too often his eyes had that terrified, beaten-down look. The snow fell hard.
The squeezes were fun for a bit. The attention gave me that same flattering, ego-pumping rush that was precisely what I’d hoped to escape by coming to the woods. But it made Nigh so sad. It got old fast. Then it was just annoying.
I went on a walk with Belle and confessed that all this cuddle-puddling was making me nauseous. And that Arrow had invited me to do naked yoga in the barn (his bedroom) and I’d said, “Nah.” That while in theory I was really down with people stripping down and stretching out their bodies like astral planes in public places; in practice, for some reason, the whole shtick was making me tired. And Arrow responded, “Oooh, but doing it in the nude…it just feels so…so much more free, you know?”
“For sure,” I mumbled.
This was supposed to be a lighthearted glimpse at what happens when you stick a bunch of young, sexy, exploratory strangers in a house in the woods together, snow them in, and tell them that they’re finally “free” to do what they want. It’s a funny experiment. A weird one. You grow close to people really fast, and there’s nowhere to go and nothing to do, and so of course you crush on everyone, and hate everyone, and there is no escape. You spend 24 hours a day with the one person that you’re supposed to be close to, and so you grow distant from him. It’s a hippie commune where everyone is “free” but it is also the 21st century, so we’re all hyper-aware of the hurt feelings and mistakes that occurred with free love in the Sixties. There is a lot of talk about feelings, a lot of cuddle-puddling, and not a lot of action. This was supposed to be a lighthearted glimpse at all that but the more I write, the more it seems like an article about the end of a relationship.
I wrote this in my journal:
Slowly it became a conversation about how we suffered and both of our eyes filled with water.
He said, “Is that what I do? I go stretch a squirrel hide and then it will all be okay?”
And I said, “Yeah. Yeah, it will.”
Nigh wrote this on the dry-erase board:
SUM BODY. CUDDLE ME. PLEASE. <3 NIGH
Towards the end, I carried the Main House inside of me: messy, cold, pent-up and mixed-up emotions with no outlet. About to explode. I’d hoped that I could disassociate myself from my jealousy like it was just another layer of clothing to remove, but when I was honest with myself, I knew that it signaled the end of a relationship. Deep down I was realizing that Nigh would be happier with other girls than he could be with me, and that I’d be happier somewhere else.
A witch confessed to me how lonely he was and how unfair it was that Nigh got me all to himself and wouldn’t share. I confessed to him that I’d had the urge to fuck him on the barn floor that Christmas night during the storm. Then I felt guilty and ignored him. A few nights later he cast a spell on Nigh’s and my bed: hair wrapped around a stick, a rusty nail, a nasty note.
Maybe the spell worked. Soon afterward, I said goodbye to Nigh and all that, walked 13 miles down the snowy mountain, and hitchhiked out. ♦
Anna McConnell is an anagram of Mingle Alone in le Carnal Club, which is how Anna often feels. She writes and farms and travels. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.