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Weaving a Story

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- I wonder, I wonder, do you know what I wonder?

- Once upon a Time, there was a beautiful girl who betrayed her betrothed and spilled three drops of tallow fat on him. Ouch!

- It was not her fault! Her evil family made her do it!

- She still listened, didn't she? But then, the one she loved vanished and told her, you'll have to find me in a castle, east of the Sun, and west of the Moon.

- Would you know how to start? I wouldn't, I wouldn't. Because the Sun and the Moon move all the time. As do the Earth, and the east, and the west: worst directions ever!

- But she was in love, of course she tried anyway!

Utena freezes.

A second ago, she was celebrating with the whole basketball team of her university. The TV on the corner usually broadcasts sports events or music videos.

"What’s this?" she asks. She usually thinks herself brave, but the blood drains from her cheeks.

"Oh, it's some weird experimental theater company. They seem to be popular. I can change the channel if you want."

Utena always feels like she's forgotten something very important. And in the face of those few seconds of play, it becomes even stronger, suffocating her, like she's drowning in a sea of oblivion.

She takes a deep breath, and smiles. "Actually, I'd like to know their name."

- I wonder, I wonder, do you know what I wonder?

- Was it because the North Wind was stronger that he was the only wind to ever go to the troll castle? And not because the castle was, you know, North?

- That's not what I wonder at all! More like, what is it like to be carried by the wind? Is it like a tornado? All upside down with your hair undone?

- She never has her hair undone! She's the main character!

- I wish I were a main character.

There are billions of humans in the world.

Anthy knows this. There were not as many back then. But she has felt billions of blades entering her body, their number growing every day, for centuries. Even now that she's free of the pain, they're still a terrible annoyance to her. They're the seemingly infinite haystack in which she's looking for her beautiful, precious needle.

And Utena could be anywhere.

She discovers that even though she doesn't need to eat or drink, it still pains her to go without. An old woman offers her a meal on the condition that Anthy works for her. She sounds like a witch. Anthy likes and distrusts her already.

After this, the woman sends her to her sister, then the sister sends her to her sister's sister. Anthy works and doesn't eat too much. She knows how these things go.

And as the third woman is a weaver, Anthy learns how to weave. She feels like in this new world, she can't find Utena without understanding the threads.

So she weaves and weaves, creates tapestries about princes with pink hair, makes them as pretty as she can and hopes that more and more people will see them, that one day someone will tell her: "It reminds me of someone."

And as she knows the old story, she weaves a tapestry with the Sun and places it at the west of her house. She weaves a tapestry with the moon and places it at the east.

- I wonder, I wonder, do you know what I wonder?

- When the prince recognized the girl, he said he would only marry the person who could clean the tallow spots on his old shirt.

- The troll girl tried, but she couldn't manage! Only the heroine could do it easily.

- Because she was the one who dirtied it!

- Wait? Wasn't it because trolls are dirty?

- The moral of the story is: if you don't mess up, you will never learn to clean!

- Also, don't be a troll!

"Kashira Company, what do you desire?"

Utena stretches one arm and one leg. She didn't think that far.

She still feels like it's a very important question, and she wishes the answer would miraculously appear. What is missing in her life of challenges and fighting the good fight?

"I'd like to be part of what you do," she says.

"Do you know how to act?"

Utena feels useless. "Absolutely not."

"I see. What are you good at?"

"I can fight."

"It's perfect. We will put you in a pretty prince costume. People will come from afar to see you not-act. We open next week with a new play, The Devil's Daughter. Come to practice at eight every evening. You won't have any dialogue."

Utena got exactly what she wanted, and she still has no idea what just happened.

- I wonder, I wonder, do you know what I wonder?

- As it happens, the devil has a pretty sister!

- What! No! He had a pretty daughter! Let's do this right: the devil's sister met the young hero and fell in love instantly.

- See, you did it too!

- Aaah, it's your fault! You did it first!

- I think the story wants to go here.

- No, no! I won't be beaten up by stories!

- You know that it's our job, right?

"I want to know everything about princes," Anthy says to the old woman. "I just like them a lot."

There are people who call themselves princes in England and Belgium and a lot of other countries. There are people called princes in stories, who could have been her brother, a long time ago. None of them are the real thing.

There are the tales, too, but unfortunately, she knows what these ones are about. She wonders if he really used to be so pure. Yes, he did. She forgot. The stories are all that's left of him now.

A client mentions the Kashira troupe to her when talking about princes. She's as good at playing the airhead as ever. She can even hide how her heart skips a beat when she sees the pretty actress.

She just tells the client: you have good taste. And the day after, she flies to this other country, and under the humming of the plane's motor the winds are carrying her.

She finds the place, and she waits for the hour.

"Utena-sama," she says.

She’s grown a bit older, but it's her, it's her smile.

"Hello?" she says, a bit flustered. "Are you a fan? It's very nice to meet you. You look great."

Anthy's heart has been stabbed by swords so often and for so long, she didn't know it could still break.

- I wonder, I wonder, do you know what I wonder?

- When the young hero was assigned the third task of climbing the mountain, he thought that the devil's sister was going to save him with his magic while she let him sleep, his head on her lap. Oh, what a lazy hero.

- He needs to sleep; the devil's horses spent all the night trying to eat him.

- But he didn't get the chance the third day! Because she told him: oh, this mountain is out of my sphere of power.

- You'll have to cook my whole body in a cauldron until only the bones are left!

- And then make a ladder from them!

- The hero was shaken and refused.

- But he had to man up and do it. She promised him she would be all fleshy again once he put the ladder back in the cauldron.

- It must have hurt though.

- Being the devil's sister is hard!

"Why is every character a shadow but me?"

"Because it's Art! Also, you're so handsome! It would be a waste not to see your face!"

Utena laughs nervously.

"Also, we need to be in the sound recording booth while you don't have to say a thing! We'll even do the noises for you if you need us to."

Utena can't explain why it's so weird to her. It's not because it's modern art. She doesn't understand it very well, but she accepts it.

It's because this disposition makes her feel like something is missing, like she was just pretending not to be a shadow. Or maybe she is just the puppet being played with. Anyway she feels hollow.

And it makes her think about the purple-haired girl again. She doesn't feel empty, even though Utena knows so little about her. She feels full of memories, even though they aren't Utena's.

Utena looks for her in the audience during the Opening Night, but she doesn't find her.

- I wonder, I wonder, do you know what I wonder?

- The hero was told not to kiss anyone while the devil's sister was waiting for him. But his mother gave him a big smack on the cheek.

- Oh no!

- At this time, he forgot everything about her. It was the devil's curse, his terrible revenge!

- That's why all heroes should have dead mothers.

"Don't you want them?" Anthy asks.

The girls look at the woven wall hangings, better than they could have imagined for their play. "Sure, but I don't know if we can pay you."

"I don't ask for money," Anthy says. "I just want to be on stage and play the daughter."

"But... our artistic integrity..."

"It's the only price I will accept, and you can pay it."

"Okay, we can do that. For the rehearsals only."

They pretend to fulfil their promise. Even though it's one of the rehearsals without Utena. So it shouldn't count. Anthy feels a bitter taste in her throat. She has to try and come back, with even better weaving. Something that could make these girls sell everything. But she was maybe too good the first time.

- I wonder, I wonder, do you know what I wonder?

- The first night a boy came to sleep with the devil's daughter, she used her magic to make him tend to the fire the whole night.

- The second night a boy came to sleep with the devil's daughter, she used her magic to make him close the window again and again.

- The third night a boy came to sleep with the devil's daughter, she used her magic to make him close the door again and again.

- And then for their revenge, the boys invited her to the hero's wedding, who had found a cute, human girl. They told her to at least bring pies.

- They thought they would hurt her.

- They understood so much about girls, and they didn't understand a thing about stories.

"It's not fair!" Utena had protested. "You promised her she could be here."

"But what if she can't perform?"

"I can't play! You told me it didn't matter!"

"What if she spoils everything?"

"You have to keep your promises! Otherwise I won't play either!"

"What about the very last scene?"

And then Utena sees the mysterious set designer, and it's her purple-haired girl.

"Do you remember all our adventures?" asks the shadow of a pie on the prettily decorated wall. "No, I don't remember at all," says the shadow of the other pie.

And then the purple-haired girl takes a bow and smiles.

And Utena remembers. Oh, she remembers so well, and tears well up in her eyes.

"Anthy," she whispers.

Anthy keeps smiling, but everything changes. Suddenly there is warmth and happiness in the way her mouth curves, even though so little changes.

"Let's finish the play, Utena-sama," she says.

- Newsflash! Newsflash! Newsflash!

- When the hero saw the devil's sister, he recognized her!

- He married her and they were very happy!

Utena has taken Anthy's hand. At this moment, the world and the play mix a little, and maybe in real life some birds fly away from pies or from curry dishes.

Utena's kissing Anthy, her lips so warm and soft on her temple, on her eyelids, on her mouth. Then she stops, looks her in the eye like she was trying to be sure she's not dreaming.

"I'm sorry I forgot," she says. "I just wanted to free you. I promise you. I forgot about everything else. I shouldn't have."

"It's okay, Utena," Anthy says. "You were right. And maybe it was not even my brother's curse, maybe it was a blessing for you. But after I was free, I got to choose what I wanted, and what I wanted was you. Even if I was selfish for it."

"I would have wanted you too if I felt it was my choice," Utena says very softly, and it closes all the old sword wounds in Anthy's heart.

The curtain falls, and they kiss again.