©2021 Michael Raven
The following was originally posted 9 Nov 2019 on social media and showed up in my “memories” feed this morning. Any edits made are for only the most egregious of errors, which might (honestly) be the whole of the piece.
“Every night is the longest night of my life,” she said over the coffee I’d ordered for her. She hadn’t touched the coffee yet but just hovered over it, breathing in its aroma. Her voice was weary, tinged with fatigue and, maybe, just maybe, a little apathy.
“I sleep, but only as much as I absolutely need,” she continued. “But mostly, I lie awake all night.”
I was about to say something, she added without looking up from her coffee but exquisitely timed. “Night is where my demons dwell.”
As far as first dates went, this was going in the direction of the two-stars-thanks-lose-my-profile-cos-I’m-gonna-block-you box. But it was early yet. Maybe my date was just nervous, I told myself.
“Demons?” I mean, what do you say after someone says something like that?
“Demon demons,” she said, looking up for the first time since I’d placed the spider-cracked porcelain mug in front of her. Her eyes were like dark pools of water, an abyss of cold emptiness.
“There are demons, you know. We just like to pretend otherwise. And I’m just fated to have to deal with them nightly. You have demons yourself, or you wouldn’t be here.”
She waited for me to confirm her assertion and shrugged when I did nothing of the sort.
“My guess is you can ignore them,” she added, looking back down at the mug. “I can’t.”
That was it. I’d left my last girlfriend because of her mental issues that she’d refused to take her medication for. I didn’t need this in my life, this gal was obviously cut from the same crushed velvet tapestry. Maybe, I told myself, I should take mom up on that nice daughter her coworker was willing to set me up with as a favor.
It’s best to avoid prolonging the inevitable.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “Not to be mean, but I can already tell this date is not going to work. I don’t want to waste your time or mine.”
She shrugged and finally sipped the coffee.
“I didn’t come here to see if we could date but to take some of your demons. You could thank me later, but you won’t find me. The demons do that to torment me. You will forget my name, you forget most of this evening. That’s okay. I’ve gotten used to it.”
I’d had enough and was about to get up. My companion put a hand on my shoulder and stood up before I could do so. I could feel her cold flesh through my shirt.
“Stay,” she said. “It’s better that way. Less confusing when it fades.”
The strange woman turned to the glass door and let in the Seattle autumn wet and chill to disappear around the edge of the window.
Aside from me, there was only the barista in the cafe after she’d left. I looked up, “Man, I dodged that bullet. I’ve had some weird blind dates, but that one was off her rocker.”
The barista looked at me, bewildered.
“Who? There’s only you and me, man.”
“But the woman who was just here…?”
“You came here by yourself, brother. Hey… Are you okay?”