Dream Journal: To Beat the Devil

I’m packing to go somwhere. I’m not sure. But I know I have to finish before the Devil shows up. Of course, I can’t find my toothbrush. I can’t leave without my toothbrush.

There’s a knock on the door. I tell her not to open it. She can’t hear me because of the TV. The door opens and there he is. He steps through. He’s smoking one of those wrapped cigars. “It’s time,” he tells me.

“But I’m almost finished,” I say.

“Not soon enough.”

“Can I make a deal?” I ask.

He laughs. “You don’t have anything to bargain with that I don’t already own.”

“You let Casanova have a chance.”

He sucks on the cigar. “That’s right, I did.”

“Let me, then.”

He thinks about it. “Casanova lost.”

“Just give me a chance.”

He looks at me through the smoke. “All right,” he says. “Here’s the deal. That Casanova story; it isn’t exactly how it went down. Here’s how it works.”

He told me to sit down. She brings me a Coke. He has a Pepsi. I always knew Pepsi was evil.

“You win this little thing and I’ll let you go.”

“Okay,” I say, waiting for the other shoe.

He sips the Pepsi, sucks on his cigar. “You lose, and you come back here.”

I point at the house. “Here?”

He nods. “Yes. Earth. You come back here.”

“I don’t go to Hell?”

He smiles. He has white, white teeth, despite the cigar. “You come back here, except I get to make you. Not Him.” He points up. “And you come back here for my purpose. To fuck with everyone around you. To make you such a shallow, evil bastard that you’ll do nothing but bring others pain, misery and sorrow.”

I think about it.

“Don’t think too long,” he says. “I’m almost done with my cigar.”

I see her moving in the background. She’s watching Friends. I’m wearing my wedding ring. I look at the copies of my books on the shelf. There’s a thought brewing in my head. Something dangerous and ugly. I have to ask.

“I’ve been here before, haven’t I?”

He nods. “You have.”

“I’ve made this choice before?”

He smiles. “You have.”

She’s in the other room, watching Friends.

“I’ll pass on the deal,” I tell him.

He puts out his cigar. “Good boy.”

Comfort Food Friends (A Conversation with My Sister)

I have two sisters. One of them lives in Seattle. The other one lives in my dreams. We’re eating sushi at a restaurant that was closed down five years ago. My favorite sushi restaurant in the world. She’s mixing wasabi with soy sauce. I hate that.

Our first plates arrive. Mine is white tail. I have no idea what she just ordered. I can’t even pronounce it when she says it.

“Why do you order that?” I ask her.

“Because I like the taste,” she says. She points at the white tail. “Why do you order that?

“Same reason.”

She gobbles up whatever it is that’s on her plate. “You’re like that girl.”

“Which girl?” I ask.

“The one who likes comfort food friends,” she tells me, just as the miso soup arives.

“You mean fair weather friends,” I tell her.

She shakes her head, sipping the miso. “No, I mean she likes friends that don’t challenge her.”

My miso soup is gone before hers is. I love miso.

She puts down her bowl. “Like people who go to sushi restaurants and order teriaki chicken.”

“We’re still talking about her?”

She nods. “You already know this, though. You just need someone to say it out loud.”

A year before I was born, my mother had a miscarriage. On my thirtieth birthday, I had a dream. My sister was in it. I wrote a story for my mom’s birthday that year. She never got over the miscarriage. Not really. She always wanted a daughter. I told my mom, “When I tell people I’m a lesbian trapped in a man’s body, it isn’t all a joke.”

My sister shakes her head. “That wasn’t the right way to tell her.”

I nod. “I know. But she laughed anyway.”

“I wouldn’t have told her that.”

“You aren’t me.”

“Thank God,” she laughs. And the next dishes arrive.

“Think about it,” she tells me. “You surround yourself with people who are smarter than you. Who challenge you. Who push you. Look at what’s-his-name…”

“Yeah. Smartest man I ever met.”

“He makes you feel dumb. Why in the world would anyone want to feel dumb?”

“I think, sometimes, the feeling is mutual.”

“And the goth kid. What was it you two said?”

I laugh. “That as long as both of us believe we’re the dunce of the group, we’ll be fine.”

“You fucked up with that girl,” she said.

“Which girl are we talking about now?”

“You know who I’m talking about.”

I pause. “Yeah. I know.”

There’s a long silence then until the next dishes arrive.

“But this one,” she says. “You need to hear this said to you. And nobody’s going to do that.”

“Hear what?” I ask her.

“Hear this.” Another piece shuffles away. She waits until she’s done chewing before she talks again. “How many times have you given her your phone number? And how many times has she called?”

“None,” I tell her, eating my bbq eel.

“Can you send her a birthday present?”

I shake my head. “Nope.”

“Why’s that?”

“We know why,” I tell her.

“Say it,” she tells me. “Say it out loud.”

I eat the other eel. “Because I don’t know her address.”

She nods. The sushi chef, Yosh, is standing by. He shakes his head. We both look at him. He’s smiling. “Not good,” he says with his thick Japanese accent.

My sister laughs. I laugh less.

“She only flirts with you when she wants to feel pretty,” she tells me.

“That’s assuming a lot,” I tell her.

“Look,” she says, turning in her seat at the sushi bar so she can face me directly. “You surround yourself with people who challenge you. You like that feeling. That’s why she’s so compelling. Because she stays in a distant orbit, never coming any closer. And you want to bring her closer. She’s a challenge.”

“Okay,” I answer.

“But the problem is, you challenge her. You’re not a comfort food friend. You don’t tell her she’s beautiful, smart, and talented. You push her. You challenge her. And that terrifies her. And that’s why you’ll never get any closer. Because you scare the living hell out of her.”

Yosh announces our next meal. She shouts it back at him and buys him a beer. He bows and thanks us. We eat the plate of seared tuna.

“I’m dreaming right now,” I tell her.

“Yeah,” she says. “But you needed to hear it said out loud.”

I eat some of the tuna. I sip the sake. “Saying it out loud is scary.”

“Yeah,” she tells me. “Because there are always consequences.” She touches my head. “But you’re a magician. You know that saying things out loud always has consequences.”

“I have a gesa,” I tell her.

She nods. “You can break it. If you want to.”

I think about it for a while. Then, finally, I smile.

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