Have I ever told you about my own personal demon? It’s a story for those who encircle me in the darkest of times. I think he’s always been with me. Me aging, the years enveloping me, but he always looks the same. Time just doesn’t permeate his visage. Some of my earliest memories have him painted in the periphery.
This particular story took place in the late 1990’s in a town called Kalamazoo, Michigan. I found myself invited to a local bar called Bourbon Street. I had never been to this fine establishment, but I had listened as people talked about it for years. I closed my shop early that evening and met my friends there.
When I arrived, my friends were already inside. Upon initial evaluation, I found the great Bourbon Street to be too dark and too loud, but to be fair, anyplace that wasn’t conducive to reading would have fallen into that category. My friends mingled their way into the room and I meandered. People watching was the only way I would salvage this social miss step.
I found a chair and parked myself, thoughts settling on the bound prose I had concealed in my satchel. Just then a man started in my direction. As he drew himself closer, I realized as uncomfortable as his closeness was, I could not hear him otherwise. He told me his name was Nathan. His friends had gone their own way, abandoning him. The conversation was pleasant. Now looking back, I see I was painfully ill equipped to converse with him because I lacked both a backbone and boundaries, but I did have a demon.
Nathan told me about his work and his family, who lived in Wisconsin. In a very unguarded way, I told him about my little shop situated in the next town over and I told him about my lovely grandmother best friend. Conversation spilled easily between us which gave me a false sense of ease.
Nathan knew of another place in the social district called the 211. It was a classier place and they had a jazz band that evening. They had lite fare and I was famished. I agreed to meet him there. As I drove the two minutes towards my new destination, all the episodes of Unsolved Mysteries resurfaced in my mind. As scared as I was of doing new things in a new town, I knew this was how people grew up. They collected experiences and tucked them in pockets until the pockets were overflowing with life lived.
A very young version of me ventured into the 211. As I think about it now, “211” must have been the address of the place. In the late 1990’s, people felt that was a clever way to name things. I found Nathan straight away and we sat down. The server brought our place settings and spoke to us as I figured out what I could eat gingerly and not appear to be a wild animal. I decided it would be a bagel and earl grey tea. He ordered a glass of wine. Nathan spoke of his grandmother and how special she was to him. They collected readers digest volumes together. The weight of the day and evening hit me all at once and I felt like I was ready to go home. I wanted to politely take my leave, but I honestly didn’t know if that was ok to do. I expressed my thoughts on calling it a night and Nathan suggested we exchange phone numbers.
My demon had been quiet until this moment. “Leave now,” he whispered in my ear. I recognized his voice like a gift from your favorited gifter, all beglittered, festooned with fancy paper and ribbons. “Gather your things and go” he said again.
I didn’t listen to my demon, instead, I gave the man my phone number. Nathan just kept talking and my demon became agitated as he spoke, urging me to leave. I told Nathan I really had to be going. As I started the motion to stand, he aggressively put his hand on my thigh, pressing me back down in my chair. He did not remove his hand.
I looked at Nathan in disbelief, I told you to stay awhile and relax” he said. He was upset that I wanted to leave, and now, he wasn’t going to let me go.
My demon laughed, “I told you to go and you didn’t, what will you do now?” I didn’t know. In my head, I silently asked for help. What I did not bargain for was the price I would have to pay. Please help me, I thought. My Demon replied calmly, “Now you must stab him. He won’t let you leave. Pick up the fork and stab his hand.” I knew he was right. It was the only option I could see.
My hand found the fork, nestled sweetly with the spoon and it joined the cast of characters, assembled under the table. I drew back in one quick movement and stabbed him hard. Nathan jerked away leaving blood on the leg of my pants. The fork, the deliverer of women, fell to the floor.
My demon broke the spell, “Get you things and go now, do it!” he insisted. His magic had teeth and I know now, never to doubt him. I quickly gathered my coat, purse and the fork and headed to my car.
As I settled myself in my car, I looked to see if I was followed. “He won’t follow you,” said my demon. “What about my phone number?” I said aloud. “I can fix that” my demon replied, as his voice filled my brain like smoke filling a glass jar. “How?” I asked. I knew his magic would bite, but I just didn’t know how deeply his teeth would sink in. My demon replied, “My price is something you don’t yet have. I will take care of your phone number and Nathan will never find you, in trade for one hour of your grief. One hour of time, spent with someone who you don’t even know yet. One hour, many years from now, as your dearest prepares for his final journey. That’s what I want.”
It was easy to give up something that wasn’t mine just yet. “Ok” I said. I was so afraid Nathan would call the police and I would be charged with assault. One hour of unclaimed grief seemed so far away. Grief wasn’t worth anything anyway, right?
I am a lot older now. I’ve experienced grief. My dearest is dead. My demon, who has been fed by my bargains, remains. He is full of my most vulnerable moments. He sits in the corner and waits for blood or something equivalent. He has become a time capsule of precious things I was willing to trade. Nathan never called.
The story of Demon at 211 and the images are copywritten @2022 My Dearest Witch, all rights reserved.