“She was free in her wildness. She was a wanderess, a drop of free water. She belonged to no man and to no city.”
Roman Payne (“The Wanderess”)
How this quote became so popular, I have no idea. I wrote it about one woman: The heroine of “The Wanderess,” Saskia; yet I wrote these lines to describe Saskia at her best—praising the qualities of a heroine that all women should strive to have, or keep if they have them. I wrote these lines to make Saskia be like a statue of Psyche or Demeter. The masculine sculptor doesn’t see rock when he carves Aphrodite. He sees before him the carving of the perfect feminine creature.
I was creating my ‘perfect feminine creature’ when I wrote about Saskia. She is completely wild and fearless in her dramatic performance of life. She knows that she may only have one life to live and that most people in her society wish to see her fail in her dream of living a fulfilled life. For if a woman acts and lives exactly as society wants her to live, she will never be truly happy, never fulfilled. For societies do not want girls and women to wander.
I am surprised that this quote became so famous, since I didn’t spend more than a few seconds writing it. It was written merely as three sentences in a novel. I didn’t write it to be a solitary poem. This quote that touches so many people is no more than an arrangement of twenty-four words in a book of three-hundred pages.
What touches me the most is when fans send me photos of tattoos they’ve had done of this quote—either a few words from it or the whole quote. The fact that these wonderful souls are willing to guard words that I’ve written on their precious skin for the rest of their lives makes me feel that what I am writing is worth something and not nothing. When I get depressed and feel the despair that haunts me from time to time, and cripples me, I look at these photos of these tattoos, and it helps me to think that what I am doing is important to some people, and it helps me to start writing again.
Am I a masculine version of the wanderess in this quote? Of course I am! I am wild and fearless, I am a wanderer who belongs to no city and to nobody; I am a drop of free water. I am—to cite one of my other quotes—“free as a bird. King of the world and laughing!”
(-Roman Payne, January 1, 2018, Marrakech, Morocco)