A Man, the Devil, and a Fractured Mind

Foggy Night

What follows is the first of a series of conversations with a man I have known for decades. This is his account of how we met, and yes, I play the Devil in this story. I have arranged the language and structure of the original post to fit the style of this blog.

My Conversation with the Devil

Submitted by and anonymous friend on September 18. 2017

Search as I may, it hadn’t proven easy to find catharsis in the streets of the old city before that night. Her bars and bottles offer respite and her denizens a glimpse into how much worse it could all be. Of all my silent pleas, my orisons of despair, I wouldn’t have known that it would be the Devil who would answer me.

It is, of course, up to you to accept the integrity of this story; I can only tell you that it’s true. I write it here as it happened.

The Devil Unbound: Where the Devil Sits
Where the Devil Sits

What do you want?” He asks me as we now sit with each other on that park bench in the nipping cold of a Montreal autumn’s night. “I don’t want much,” I reply… “I want to see Marrakech on a cool autumn’s night; And I want to drink cheap wine in Lyon with a stranger who will hear my most intimate secrets…

Can I visit Maricela in Bahia and tell her how intrigued I am by the sway of her hips?

I want to hold my former lover’s face in my hands and have her look back at me like she did when we loved each other so profoundly.”

His eyes, which look like mine, are now fixed on my weakness with contempt and ridicule. “I can give you much more than that,” he submits, with a disdainful smile too familiar to me.

“But do tell me what negligible pleasures you’re after,” he continues with soft, mocking laughter. “I will only if you let me,” I say, looking away from a face I have always known. “I want the warmth of a woman wrapped in a cold set of sheets.”

“No, you want her,” he interrupts in a seemingly compassionate tone. “You want her wrapped in the sheets of your dignity!” He says with that ostensibly merciful tone escalating to condemnation. “For what she has taken isn’t only your heart, but your power. A power I can return to you if you embrace us. A power that will have anyone you look upon wrapped in the silky black sheets of desire.”

My body retreats in anger as his truth burns too close to my self-deception. I am a fraud, and I know it. Yes, I do want her, but not for love; only to own her how she owns me.

Pretending to ignore his challenge to my hypocrisy, I continue to tell him what I profess to want. I do this while apprehending the notion that I can’t lie to him — he is inside my head — he has been there for longer than I remember.

“You see, I don’t want much, simply the impossible. I want to imagine praying like I did when I believed that someone was listening.

Most importantly, I want to sleep; I want to sleep again like I did when I was a boy — when morality and ethics were something tangible — and not the detestable obstacles they have become.”

“I am listening,” he says, as he smiles at my reproach of human hypocrisy — he finds it agreeable. His smile helps me realise the extent of my circumstances.

I continue as I begin to dissociate, floating away from that bench.

“And if I were to fall on my mother’s lap begging forgiveness of the world, I want that judgement to hurt, as much as I want to hurt others. And I need that hurt to remind me that I am still alive and that I will get another chance to lie in the bed of my own innocence for a good night’s sleep.”

“Revenge,” He says with glee, “Over too quickly, and too simple for someone like you.”

I can see us sitting on that bench, knowing that there isn’t anyone to see.

“Still, taking what’s ours, what belongs to us; especially from those who stole it, that is expected of people like us.” He says, knowing what I’m feeling exactly.

It’s true. I want to take what’s mine back, what’s ours, as he so directly puts it.

But who is he? What is he? How can he see from behind my eyes and examine my weakness with the scorn it deserves? And he knows what I truly want.

I can’t imagine how he knows about her. Why does he know what was taken from me?

The Devil's Bench

Why can I now see us from behind the trees in the park? And the bench is empty. There is no one with me, and he’s there again. And I can’t see myself.

“What do you want from me?” I exclaim in a typical rejection of ensuing self-awareness. “What do you expect from me?” I shout, standing from the bench, where the Devil sits. “I expect the truth,” he asserts confidently and ready to walk away from me. “As you can see, I don’t want much.” He continues. “Perhaps, like you, I only want the impossible, or for you to accept who you are — what you are — for the sake of power.”

“Yes,” I say, merely thinking of my resolution to give in to his request. “I know,” he says, once again knowing my thoughts. “And now you have it. You always had it.” He whispers as he vanishes into the midst and night’s cold air.

Since that night, I am still close to my Devil, and his testimony that I always had it might have saved my life. I returned to that bench the morning after, but he wasn’t there. I did find, however, the sense of catharsis I had prayed for for so long.

brown wooden park bench under green leaf tree during sunset
Where the Devil sits

An anonymous friend

— The Devil Unbound

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