A Sorta Fairytale: Or, How I Came Down to Earth
When we think of fairytales, we see Disney dance before our eyes like leaves in the wind. We think of clean and shiny, and of those words that end the tale: “And they all lived happily ever after.”
We forget the beginning and the middle of those stories — where Cinderella is in rags or Snow White being sent into the woods to be killed; details glossed over like they don’t matter to the story. But they are a huge part of the tales that begin with, “Once upon a time.” In fact, they are part of why we tell them again and again.
My story five years ago began with those words, because once upon a time, I was a fallen angel who crashed hard to earth.
When people think of fallen angels, they think of descending from heaven, when in truth I came from an unusual purgatory. It was pristine and clean; the better to hide the cracks under the surface. It was the place where you had dreams and illusions of what it was, but then you woke up to find that those dreams were your protection against what was actually there — waking in the middle of the night in cold sweats, my walking on eggshells and forced panic attacks, his short fuse, complete with banging on the walls and the high pitched screaming echoing in my ears.
There was only one option for survival, which was to fall away in a blur of colors — white walls and doors with silver handles, black coat against a cold January night, a red duffel bag with orange fluorescent lights and a green prayer book. And before I crashed on the slopes of the dry brown hills of this place, I let a prayer escape from my lips.
When angels fall, where do they go? When they crash to earth and are abandoned by those they thought loved them, where do they make their new home?
Luckily for me, there is a City of Angels. It is full of dreamers and drifters, of dirt and grit that coexist alongside sunlight and glimmering gemstones. It is packed with people constantly talking and honking their horns, charging through with coffee cups and their latest projects. Where I used to live, they called it La La Land. It was known as unreasonable, impractical, awful, the other, the fear — all this despite the fact it was my birthplace. And it was the place that would give me the anonymity to grieve.
I had returned to be born again, naked and crying to the universe. Back in the city that was once home, I was crawling on the floor in the ashes, the agony of what I lost. My soul was shaking in agony, trying desperately to learn to walk again as a lone entity when accustomed to running with a weight tapped on my back. All the while, I was lying in strange dark rooms, and all I could ask was, “Who am I? Where did I go?”
One night, another cold night, I met an older gentleman with a guitar. For an hour and a half, he sang holy prayers and told stories of Jewish sages and wisdom beyond compare. His melodies were beautiful and his words inspiring. But then he sang a prayer in Hebrew. “Lord, guard my tongue from evil and my lips…”
These words, this melody were already a part of me; I used to sing it. I first heard it in a coffee shop over the loudspeaker, and it merged into my being. Music was the only place where safety lived in my past and my happiness dwelled. It defused bombs and replaced fear with laughter and dance. And in the darkness, where I fell to earth, this song was a light waiting for me.
I rushed to the man afterwards. “How do you know that song?” I asked him.
He looked at me, shocked. “I wrote it,” he replied.
It was a flicker of a phrase, but one of the many bricks in the foundation. It told me that I could create a new life in this strange place that was now my home. A door had opened, and there laid out before me was a narrow bridge for me to cross over into a different world. Strapped to my back was the darkness and the baggage that came with the past, the things which I couldn’t leave behind just yet. But as a childhood song taught me about those bridges: “The most important part is not to be afraid.”
When I started, I began crossing that bridge as a lonely soul. People whizzed by my ears, as if everything was perfect and nothing could catch them. My inadequacy threatened to take over. Yet even when things got dark, there was a whisper, both inside my head and outside of it: “Keep going. I promise it will be worth it.”
It wasn’t long before I met people on the path and they began to walk with me. When the sun shone, they taught me to glow alongside it. When world got colder, they kept me warm. And when the road narrowed and the fear threatened to take over, they kept me from falling over the edge.
Others along my path were not so lucky. Some flung themselves off the bridge; others fell away as their days were numbered. I thought I could catch them, but even though I was a fallen angel I had no wings to fly far enough so they could stay in my grasp. All I had were the memories they left me with, and the long path ahead. In being on the bridge, there were sacrifices to make.
There were little stumbles and celebrations along the way. There was singing and cheering under full moons and tears standing in food pantry lines with an empty belly. There were phone calls, stolen kisses and warm embraces. They resided alongside the heartbreaks and death, and the moments in between where you’re laughing and crying all at once. They all live on the bridge, waiting for you to discover them and then fall away from your hands, but not how they felt emotionally as they were coursing through your veins.
Time passes, and as we move along there comes a moment where you realize the bridge has gotten wider. The smile grows broader on your face and sleep gets a little easier. Your laughter flows out of you lightly, and there comes a breath where you look up at the blue sky, and you’re able to easily say, “Okay. I’m okay.”
Recently, my fairytale has progressed to the point where people have been seeking the end. Where was the prince that was supposed to sweep me away and take me to his kingdom? Where does the happily ever after come from?
This was a question that was brought up over Christmas Eve. After whiskey and wine, my friend and I stared at each other, blissfully happy to be in each other’s company after many months apart. I kept lamenting that I should go to one of the many Jewish singles parties pulsating through the city. My weariness of the search was catching up with me, but several people in my life seemed to be begging me to find someone; they didn’t want me to be alone.
“I don’t get the push,” he said to me. “You have so many amazing friends, and family who loves you. You have a great new job, you live in a place that you love. You’re smart and funny, an amazing writer and have so much going for you. So what if you don’t have a man? That doesn’t make you who you are. A man shouldn’t define your worth.”
As the Chanukah lights flickered, I realized that this is why I fell to earth in the first place: Because I knew that there was more to life than what had happened. That being an angel, or someone’s idea of one, isn’t worth sacrificing yourself for. Sometimes you have to come down to earth to realize that.
As I headed home later that night, I took a deep breath and soaked in the lights. Here I was, home again in the City of Angels; a place that gave me the anonymity to grieve, but when it came time also gave me the brilliance to shine on. It is where brown hills turn green after the rain and sky somehow becomes bluer, where glasses are raised high and the laughter is louder, where dreamers find their sanctuaries and their compatriots. It doesn’t come without sacrifices, but there was no happiness like the one I was experiencing in this moment, right now.
There was no prince, but I had a kingdom all my own; it was in a place where fallen angels can hit the ground, get up and walk the path to becoming a queen. And this fairytale has only just begun.