Besting the Devil
I beat the Devil last night.
That’s the wrong phrase, I know; no one can beat the Devil. After all, everyone dies.
I was with a friend. I didn’t recognize him, but then I didn’t recognize myself either. I was in my friend’s car, a large SUV beast, entirely more room then anyone who isn’t a logger or parents to sextuplets needs. We had been out for a drive and stopped at a scenic overlook to talk and think and reflect. He was going through a divorce and I was experiencing a rough patch in my marriage. He would vent, I would question issues and actions, we would be silent.
And then I said something. I almost wish now that I could remember what it was – almost. But when I try to recall it’s as though someone dubbed over my voice. It was hastily erased and then crudely dubbed over in an obvious manner. What ever I did say had depth and weight and seemed to echo or reverberate in the car and change the air itself.
When I went to continue my companion held up his hand to stop me.
“Shhh!” He seemed to be listening for something, but didn’t want to look around for its source.
“What?” I demanded, nervously chuckling.
“He’s here.” My friend, visibly shaken, started the car and began barreling down the road.
“…Wha?…” I asked slowly, stiffening as I realized what I had done. I simply felt it, as my friend had.
You see that sentence I spoke, the one I can’t remember, conjured the Devil. Back in the ‘80’s there was a TV series called The Storyteller and one of the episodes featured the tale of a man who could look through a glass of water and see Death sitting at the foot of a person’s bed. I remember thinking about that, thinking if I looked in the back seat I might see the Devil, but if I looked into the rear-view mirror I knew I would see him staring at me. I couldn’t bring myself to do either.
Satan as depicted by Botticelli
Photo credit Fishing
As we flew down the road, destination unspoken, I gripped the side of my seat.
“What do I do?” I asked wide eyed, scared.
“I don’t know, but he’s here for you.”
“What?! What did I say? Will he go away?” I practically shouted.
“I don’t know!” my friend barked. He was scared, too. “Maybe,” he continued forcing himself back to calm, “Maybe you have to be content. You’re looking for new and shiny things to make you happy. He feeds on anger and unrest. Maybe you have to prove that you’re happy with what you’ve got.”
I thought about this as we drove, digesting each word, feeling the Devil’s stare boring holes into the back of my head. What my friend had said was all true and looked to be my only option, for the time being. After all, most times you see the Devil it’s because somebody wants something so bad they’re making a deal with him. I was going to have to figure out something. It wasn’t my pride that made me want to rid myself of the Devil. It was a feeling of being spoiled and desperate for humility.
My friend dropped me off at my house. I stood a moment outside looking nervously at my home. I thought of my boyfriend inside. Though I hadn’t heard him exit the car, I knew the Devil had gotten out of the SUV when I had stepped out. I knew he was standing just behind my right shoulder. And though I couldn’t bring myself to look at him, I knew he was smiling.
I walked to the front door and let myself in. There was my boyfriend: kind, warm, and welcoming. Though he doesn’t normally cook, he had dinner made and was preparing to dish everything out. And my boyfriend, so naturally truly happy, couldn’t see the Devil as we walked in together.
This is where things get disappointingly hazy. I could feel a malcontent emotion welling in my stomach. I had the sudden desperate urge to shout at my boyfriend while he was setting the table, like I needed to get something out.
I needed more.
The house projects needed to be completed.
We needed to spend money.
He lacked motivation.
My boyfriend didn’t argue, he just listened. Each word I spat made me angrier, I didn’t know where it was all coming from and yet it had all been there the whole time…and at the same time each comment made me heavy with guilt. I had to stop. I stepped back, though a shadow of myself remained shouting.
The guilt; everything I said was needless and wrong. It was then, while watching myself attempt to argue needless wants and justify unnecessary needs with a boyfriend who was willing to give me the world, that the Devil became satisfied. I could feel him content, so sure was he that he had won – that he would be taking me away – that he called his mistress to my home to join in my downward spiral.
I looked at him this time. I needed to see the smile I could feel spread across his etched and leathery face. I could see his mistress merely watching and standing at the door, disappointed in her own existence, but not above watching the destruction of others.
I looked at my boyfriend, who had all the while been trying to please me for no other reason then he loved me. My throat closed so fast I struggled to swallow. I looked down in shame and the shouting shadow was gone.
“No,” I said quietly.
“What?” asked my boyfriend politely. The Devil cautiously dropped his smile and knitted his brow.
“No, Chip, I was wrong.”
“What?” repeated my boyfriend, confused.
“I’m sorry I want so much. We have so much already – everything else is superfluous. I see that now. I want simply because I have nothing else to do. I feel stuck and just want things for happiness, but that’s wrong and I see that. I see what’s created from it. The projects we started will get done eventually. We don’t need anything new. I’m – I’m sorry. I’ve been so wrong.”
The Devil was angry now. I watched him move toward the door. I sat down in my chair at the dining table and took a breath. I closed my eyes believing prematurely that it was over, that the Devil would leave me be.
When I opened my eyes there was the Devil inches from my face. Only now my boyfriend could see him as well and was frozen in fear. Moving so quickly it took all of a moment the Devil shaved my head. I stood up, leveling his glare, not angry for the loss of my hair, but angry for knowing that I had done the right thing and the Devil just wanted to have the final move after the game had ended.
“Went for my head? Miss his?” I tilted my head toward my boyfriend’s shoulder length locks, much longer then mine even before the shave.
The Devil picked up on my sarcasm and seemed nervous. I took a quick stomp toward him taking advantage of the upper hand while I had it. Speaking as wholly as I could, I shook as I told the Devil “Stay away from my home and stay away from my family.” I half shouted, half growled.
Angry now the Devil pounded to the door. With one look back he and his mistress were gone.
And that’s how I beat the Devil, though I know that’s the wrong term.
Archangel Michael slays Satan (Raphael)
Photo Credit Logoi
This is a dream I had this past Autumn and my reasoning for it’s clarity, yet bizarre aspect was this:
I blame that funky dream and others I’ve been having (like the cupcake-jello race car from two nights ago) on the heat. My boyfriend and I are from the Northeast, but have lived the last few years in Texas. At halfway through October I am really bitterly against the 90 degree days and I’ve found us both “willing” the season to actually become autumn. I’ve been burning candles called Fallen Leaves, Chip has been drinking Pumpkin beer and we’ve been trying to sleep with the windows cracked instead of using the AC. I hate the AC, but sleeping without it means I wake up at 1am, both Chip and I drenched in sweat, the blankets kicked to the floor and the thermostat reading in the mid 80’s.
So it must be the heat.
Though I could have had this particular dream because it’s true.