It happened late that Thursday night after all the guests had gone home. Technically, it was already Friday because it was sometime after midnight when the visitor came. That year, I had volunteered to host Thanksgiving dinner at my parents house and I had gone to great lengths to ensure that the evening would go off flawlessly—arranging the table centerpiece with care, decorating the house with Fall and Winter hues to inspire coziness and conversation, and putting just the right amount of red paprika on the deviled eggs. The guests had started arriving, filling the house with laughter and conversation and a steady stream of food being brought in to the kitchen. There was a sense of contented relaxation in the air, with soft music playing in the background and twinkling lights hung up in preparation for Christmas to further add to the ambience. Even I was able to sense the joy in the evening through my haze of hopelessness. The evening progressed and we said our prayers, thanking God for everything He had given us that year, and then we proceeded to have a fabulous Thanksgiving dinner. After the tea and dessert were consumed and the guests were warm and sleepy, the families started packing up and heading home. It was approximately after 10:00pm when the last guest had left and I didn’t want to go to sleep without first bringing the house to order and cleaning up after the entire affair. By the time I had washed the last dish and was ready to retire to my room, it was well after midnight. My parents had long since gone to bed so I quietly let myself out of their house and stepped out into the pitch-black and deathly silent night of the countryside. Situated on 5 acres in a farming town, they lived well out on the outskirts of the town amidst their neighbors who also owned large swaths of land. I picked my way through the yard to where a small guest dwelling sat on the very edge of their property, bypassing dark shapes in the form of bushes and skeletal trees that I kept reminding myself were not reaching for me in the dark. Making it safely to the small dwelling place, I quickly stepped inside and locked the door. Turning on the electric fireplace mounted on the wall in the room, I started preparing for bed. Feeling chilled and somewhat jittery, I sensed that something about the night felt off, but I couldn’t quite put a finger on it. My skin felt too tight on my frame, like it was trying to shrink itself to become less visible. Chafing my arms with my hands, I forced myself to start thinking about how positive the night had gone and thanking God for helping to pull it off. Not feeling comforted, I started thinking about all the things I was grateful for while still resuming to put away the dress clothes I had been wearing that evening. Then, an ominous cold descended on the room. I felt myself starting to hyperventilate and cast about frantically in my mind about what to do. I knew that running outside into the freezing, deserted night was not an option, and yet I was alone in the room and possibly the only one awake at that hour. The ominous feeling turned malicious, and I started fearing that I was going to be hurt in some way. I darted to my phone and with shaking hands turned on some music. Rising up and spinning around to the closet, I was standing there attempting to calm myself when I heard something angrily hit the heavy drapes hanging on the window. Jumping clear out of my skin, I turned with eyes wide as saucers to see the drapes go flying from the force. Time froze. I was a solid block of ice for what seemed an eternity and yet only lasted for about 3 seconds. In my frozen and shocked state, I also happened to register that after that angry outburst from the invisible presence, the ominous feeling of danger had lifted and was no longer present. Still shocked and not quite believing what I had just seen and heard, I tiptoed to the drapes and forced myself to peer behind them to see if there was anyone there. There was no one.
The words looked harmless at first, standing there dressed up (or is it down?)
in their elegant despondency. Beckoning
each passer-by with delicate wares made up of images like “palest eyes of Sunday blues” and “languid Friday.” A mere glance was all it took for their siren’s song to be unleashed. Weaving through the air, they danced in slow motion, falling, burrowing through
creases of skin and tears and “have mercy” and wreaked their way through lungs and fingertips and memories tinged in shades of coral. The human heart stood not a chance. Beating out its last, an almost-whisper echoed on the breeze—
Is this exquisite death or
*Photo from ArtStation by Alexey Popov
Everyone has heard of the damsel in distress who was saved by a knight in shining armor, but why does no one tell the tale of the knight? Why don’t we know about the demons he had to overcome and the distress and failures he encountered along the way? What treacherous path was he forced upon that gave him no recourse but to become the hero of the story? Perhaps because these are the parts that are unromantic, and so, people are simply not interested in hearing about that part of the story.
Sometimes we wait so hard for someone to sweep into our life and save us that it takes far too long to realize that we are, in fact, responsible for saving our own damn selves. When does one start to realize that they are the knight in the story? That the plight of the princess is so unrealistic that it does little girls everywhere a grave injustice in teaching them to rely on someone to rescue them. That the line between good and bad is sometimes so blurry that you can’t distinguish one from the other. That people are not necessarily against you, they are simply for their own selves, and that indifference can cut deeper than a well-placed sword.
When does one start to understand who the true unsung hero of the story is?
Somewhere along the way, someone messed up a few details in recounting it altogether. The knight’s armor was not shining when he came to rescue the princess, it was dented and torn and covered in the dust of the journey he had to undertake.
Because a knight in shining armor is one who has never known the gruesome rigors of battle in the first place.
It caught me unaware, seeing you standing there in the parking lot, talking to her. I had finally decided to call it quits on our relationship, and this time I had made up my mind that it was going to be the last time. I thought I was prepared for it too, as our back and forth had worn me down to my very bones. But leaving the store that evening, I was not expecting to look up and see you standing there looking so put-together in your snug blue jeans and my favorite grey hoodie.
I quickly blended into the shadows and cursed myself as I stopped and watched your interaction with her take place. She had said something that made you laugh. My breath hitched and I couldn’t tear my eyes away from your face as every familiar emotion played across its surface. The way your brown eyes became soft and crinkled at the corners before your husky laugh rolled like sweet molasses out into the chilly evening air. I watched her place her hand on your arm and noticed that you didn’t shrug it off. You were still looking at her with that soft smile—the smile that was only reserved for me when you were being incredibly indulgent with whatever shenanigans I had gotten us both into.
Closing my eyes and taking several deep breaths, I quickly got into my car and pulled into the busy traffic, letting autopilot take over. Feeling something steadily drip off my chin, I swiped my hand across my face and realized I was crying.