“To what do I owe the pleasure?” the demon said, coming into my door. “I’ve been stopping by for quite some time. I didn’t think you’d let me in.”
I eyed him quietly. He looked like someone I wouldn’t trust, someone that’d hold me back. But he looked normal. Looked like I would pass him on the street. He was wearing a button up shirt and some denim jeans and dress shoes. A bit upscale, but still casual. Business casual.
“Care for a drink?” I said, gesturing him inside and closing the door behind him. I pointed towards the sofa, inviting him in. His eyebrows rose, surprised at the hospitality.
“Sure,” he said. “Mead?”
“Of course,” I said. “I always treat my guests with the best of what I have. It is my hospitality.”
He nodded, making his way to the couch. He sauntered the last few steps, falling back into the middle of the couch. He stretched a bit, and let his arms extend along the backside. He seemed pleased with himself.
“I forgot how quaint your place is, if not a bit… well, bachelored,” he said, looking around. “But quaint, nonetheless.”
I finished pouring the drinks, making my way from the kitchen to him, handing him a glass and holding my own. He took it with a slight nod, giving a bit of a sip. His eyes followed as I sat opposite him, in a chair. A coffee table was between us, and the living room had a few pictures hung. A 60” plasma TV sat behind me, and the kitchen was just beyond. Bachelor pad, yes. But, it was mine.
A look of disappointment crawled across his face. “You’re not going to join me?” he said. “I won’t touch you, I promise.”
“I can’t look directly at you if I am sitting on the couch,” I replied. “You always consoled me—told me to just relax, and let things wash over me.”
He nodded, taking a sip of the mead that I had poured him. “That brings me back to my original question then,” he said. “Why did you let me in today?”
“Well to be blunt, you’re quite annoying when you knock on the door incessantly and won’t go away,” I said. “You come by here, some weeks more often, and it was distracting. I can’t get anything done.”
“But that’s what friends are for!” he said, gesturing with the glass. “I’m always here for you.”
I took a sip from my own mead, then looked at him. “You’re not my friend,” I said flatly.
His face dropped slightly. “Well, that hurts a bit. I’ve listened to you, given you advice on what to do in particularly tough times—“
“You used me at your convenience,” I interrupted. “The only reason you ever listened to me or gave me advice is because it allowed you to stay here. To eat my food, drink my mead, and sleep in my home. And frankly, I’ve never slept well when you’re here.”
“But you felt comfortable in what I gave you,” he said. “It was a blanket that I swaddled you with. What I told you to do, what advice you took from me—you’re still here, aren’t you?”
I set my glass of mead down firmly on the coffee table. “That’s the problem. I’m still here.”
An almost sarcastic frown took hold on his face. “Surely, you’re not thinking about suicide, are you?”
I took a deep breath, ensuring that I kept myself in check. “No, as in I am still here,” I said, gesturing around. “I am just here, and not somewhere better because I’ve spent money and time on you being in my home, instead of being able to progress with things in my life.”
His face grew genuinely concerned. “The times I’ve kicked you out and told you to stay away,” I continued, “I suddenly had the ability to grow. You kept me from graduating high school. You kept me from getting my GED. You kept me from realizing my potential. But every time, after a bit, you come around knocking, and I think somehow that you’ve changed, and you’ll be better this time.”
He took a sip of his mead again, a bit more solemnly. “So you’re telling me to get lost again, are you?” he asked. “You know I’ll just be back.”
It struck me. My gaze showed it, and he smiled slightly before he took another sip of his mead. It frustrated me that I was being hospitable to this thing that continued to pervade my life. But the damning thing was that he might have been right.
The silence grew between us once more. If I had a ticking clock, I am sure it would have been as loud as the heartbeat in my ears. I regained myself, grabbed my glass of mead and sipped at it again. He looked at me over the top of the glass as he took another sip. It was a waiting game, to see who would talk next.
“Are you enjoying the gym?” he asked, breaking the silence. I had not been as persistent as I wanted to be, but I had been going.
“Yes,” I said, looking over the glass at him as I took my own sip. “It’s hard going, but I manage.”
“I admire people who are able to go consistently,” he said. “It’s easier to just relax at home. There’s only so much time in the day to do things that you enjoy, like video games.”
And I felt it. I felt the will to nod in agreement, and I knew that I was falling into it again. He was so good at it, making me want to fall into a lull. For a moment, I had forgotten why I had invited him in. I had to be careful. I took another sip before I set the glass down again, this time gently.
“Why do people go to the gym?” I said. “I mean it. I don’t want the answer to be about something like how they have no life, or that’s all they can do. Why do they go involve themselves in fitness at all?”
“Well, I suppose to become more fit or strong,” he said, eyeing his mead a bit as he swirled it around the glass. “They want to become stronger.”
“Repetition does that,” I said, my gaze fixed on him. “Doing something makes you better at it, to the point of being proficient and doing it second hand.”
He nodded, pursing his lips. “I suppose that’s true of many things,” he said.
“Indeed,” I said. “Like throwing you out.”
He stopped swirling the glass. His worry became evident on his face as he tried desperately to conceal it. I continued.
“Every time I’ve thrown you out of here, I’ve become a bit better at it. And it frees me up to do more things, and I remember these things—if not eventually—when I have to throw you out again. You’re crafty, I’ll grant you that. But I am catching on to how you do things as time goes on. And every time, I have to face you and tell you to get out of my life.
“Sure, it may not be the last time, but one thing is for damned sure: I am getting better at it. And there will be a point where I only look at you in passing, and you’ll be alone. So yes, I am facing you, and I am telling you to go. ”
The demon finished the mead in a final gulp, without the grace he had been practicing the entire time. He, too, didn’t know if it would be the last time he’d be with me. I felt it steel me a bit more, and I am sure he saw it in my face.
He took one final look at me before he got off the couch, going towards the door of his own accord. He stopped short of it, his hand resting on the handle.
“You have other demons beside me, you know. They’re not the same,” he said, tossing a look over his shoulder.
I nodded, relaxing a bit in my chair. “It’s true. And I may not be as successful with them because I don’t know them as well,” I said. “But one thing is for sure. I am facing all of my demons, and while you’re all not the same, you’re similar. You’re all like stained glass—different in color and shape, but I will break you.”
The last sentence hung in the air, and he and I both knew the conversation was over. He turned the handle on the door, and took his leave. The gentle thud of the closing door announced the end in my apartment. I sat there for a moment, taking in what I had just done, remembering each bit the best I could. For all of the things I had done, these conversations were always the most difficult. But today, I had won.
And so I rested on my laurels, deciding on what to do with my time now that he was gone.