This I Believe

Lai - Marietta, Georgia
Entered on December 13, 2006

“You can’t go home,” the psychic told me. “Your parents are not really your parents.”

“What do you mean?” I asked, intrigued.

It may have appeared to be a pleasant scene: two little girls squatting in a rose garden, whispering secrets over uprooting thorns and petals. For me, it was a dark terror, real and deliciously frightening as my friend related a gruesome account of demons possessing my parents and turning my home into a devil-lair. She finished with a caution: “When your parents call you home, they are really beckoning you to the lair. That’s why you can’t go home.”

A wide-eyed six-year-old, I had a blank slate and a vague perception of evil shaped by fairy tales. I believed my friend, who was several years older and claimed to be a powerful psychic.

Faithful to the psychic’s warnings, I began darting quick glimpses at my parents for unexplained oddities. But I never dared to look them in the eyes. The eyes were the window to the spirit dwelling within, warned the psychic. Once I made eye contact, I would be sure to discover piercing red pupils and be transformed into a demon. Since this was confirmed by the cartoons, I accepted it.

To this day, it is still difficult for me to make eye contact with others without flinching.

I became very thin, but inside a greater change took place. I became fearful, disturbed by the dark, and afraid of looking at the sky after a girl informed me that her dead father was watching us from the clouds. I also became totally dependent on the psychic; believing that her presence provided a shield from the demons, I became her shadow, and she became a frequent visitor at my house.

One thing about this psychic: she stole. One afternoon, I showed her my new necklace and a toy duck that my dad bought. I then left the room briefly and returned to find that the necklace had vanished, and her pocket acquired a suspicious bulge.

“The necklace is gone,” I said, surprised at my calm.

“You must have misplaced it,” she answered.

I stared at her for a moment and plunged my hand into her pocket. Out came the necklace; down went her head.

The blade of betrayal cut through me. I felt immediate anger, a desire to hurt her back even more. But I remembered two little girls squatting in a rose garden, whispering secrets over uprooting thorns and petals. She wasn’t the psychic then; she had simply been a friend with a talent for making up stories. I knew that her parents were in an estranged relationship, and she was struggling with schoolwork. She shared the same fear of darkness and demons as she told the stories. I could no longer be angry at her.

We never spoke again because I left for America the next day. I placed the toy duck on her doorstep. She wasn’t at home. But I knew that in a few hours, she would come home, find the duck and know from whom it came, and what it meant between us.