I read on Wikipedia that some people believed fairies are like condensed cloud, and best seen at twilight. That they are most clearly seen, in all their painful and mysterious beauty, in the soft rays of the dying sun.
I looked them up after my fiance and I went to the exhibit. He works for a gallery and I write for a well-known fashion magazine. We both studied art. We live in New York and tell ourselves we're not hipsters. Our apartment is Zen – it has to be when it’s tiny – and we're atheists. We joke about how it's an allergic reaction; we both grew up in houses overdecorated with potpourri and wicker and Jesus. My wedding dress is a minimalist white bubble.
We went to the exhibit ironically. It was called "Faeries," with the "e" instead of an "i." It was at a gallery we'd never been to before, in a neighborhood that was new to us. The little girl I had been would have loved it, the gossamer wings, the woodland world of toadstools, morning dew and honeysuckle, hummingbird creatures, acorn and moss. The adult I am now analyzed it coolly and recoiled at the gift-shop kitsch.
In a dream that night, a soundless voice told me that I used to believe in things. I lay awake on my back next to my fiance in our steel-framed bed.
I read on Wikipedia that fairies fear cold iron; some people believed fairies were a race of conquered people, and the conquerors had weapons of iron.
My mom went through a phase in which she collected porcelain dolls from QVC, the home-shopping channel. They filled our attic guest room – in glass-fronted display cabinets, on antique tables draped with doilies. Their unblinking glass eyes shone in the dark. As a child I would go up and name them and thought they had souls. As a teenager I cited them to my friends as the epitome of bad taste.
The conquerors had weapons of cold iron.
In the days after the exhibit, I got these notions. I envisioned stringing white Christmas lights across our apartment in a sort of firefly web. I thought of making mobiles of butterfly wings that drip from the ceiling. The fairies are infesting my mind, I thought like a crazy person. I shook it out of my head with a laugh. I never did these things; I got over it.
I read that some people believed fairies were deities left over from a religion that died when Christianity arose. When no one believes in you, do you still exist?
I wondered about the last believer.
I saw her in a dream I had. She had walked off to her death. She didn't throw herself off a cliff or drink poison. She simply walked deep into the woods and kept walking. She let herself be dazzled and swallowed. She walked so far that her tether to the real world snapped, and she joined them.