Some of you have read Ghosts and Ballyhoo. You know that although I’m not religious, I believe in a Planner, I believe that we’re part of a system that meshes destiny and free will, I believe that we have multiple lifetimes to get it right, I believe that we’re given signs to help us through extremely difficult times, and one of my heroes is Saint Michael the Archangel because he fearlessly confronts evil.
After my father died, the chaplain told me that Saint Michael is also the Angel of Death. He’s so ferocious because his job is to protect the souls of the departed on their journey.
January through March of 2013 was an unending series of assaults and bad news, most of which I will never divulge. Let’s just say that I was preyed upon in ways I never thought imaginable, and that my hard-fought positive worldview was tested to the limit. My doctor told me at my last checkup, “You don’t want to go back to how you were before.”
I don’t, but the black wings of rage began beating softly on my windows again. My demons whispered seductively, asking me to let them back in. What good is happiness when you’re forever confronted with lies, contempt, dishonesty, incompetence, denial, and selfishness? Why bother trying to improve yourself when so many others seem dedicated to bringing you down? What’s the point of trying to be a better person when so often you’re alone in your aspirations? How can you be happy when your approach to life automatically cuts you off from the vast majority of your fellow humans?
On Easter Sunday, March 31, 2013, I was at an ATM in the vestibule of a bank, transferring funds from my savings account to my checking account to pay for my health insurance. Dad used to pay for it; he offered, and I accepted. Though he had ample time to do so, he hadn’t made the last payment, his impending death having driven him mad with terror. I discovered this in many ways, one being when I got a notice telling me that my insurance would be canceled unless they got a payment by April 4.
In the bank vestibule, the transfer of funds wouldn’t go through. I tried three times, and it kept giving me the balance instead of making the transfer. I got angrier and angrier, and suddenly every horrible development of the previous three months came crashing down on me, making me nearly hysterical. It’s the closest I’ve come in my life to pitching a massive tantrum and just trashing the place, like a gorilla doing one of those smash-it-all-up displays in the jungle.
The door behind me opened, and someone came in. I turned around; it was a young man in tight jeans and a form-fitting white T-shirt. Tall and olive skinned, he was the most physically fit person I’ve ever seen, with immensely broad shoulders, a V-shaped torso, extremely muscular but not large arms and legs, and spiky black hair. His face was perfectly androgynous; it was literally and completely without gender. I knew he was a man only by his body. He struck me—and I have no idea how I got this impression—as incredibly kind and utterly dangerous, a fierce warrior calmly holding himself in check. I didn’t feel a threat directed at me but rather at anyone who messed with him and those he cared about. He exuded supreme confidence and peace, as though nothing could possibly anger him. If he resorted to violence, he did so without malice and only when necessary. His expression was complex, a faint smile and what I can best describe as concerned impartiality. He was intensely present yet detached.
“I’m really sorry about this,” I said. “I can’t get this thing to do what I want.”
“Don’t worry, sir. It’s all good,” he said. His voice was very strange, eerily musical and neither male nor female. There was something distinctly hornlike about it. And what a bizarre choice of words for the situation. Even so, I felt deep gratitude toward him, way out of proportion to his polite patience. He made me almost want to cry. I relaxed, the urge to destroy gone in a flash.
After one more try, I gave up and went into the bank. As I passed through the door, the young man advanced to the ATM. Inside the bank I turned left toward a teller, and when I looked over at the ATM again, only two seconds later, nobody was there. The young man had vanished.
But he was right. I shouldn’t worry, because it’s all good.
Supplement to “Confront Your Demons,” page 278.