Someone in my massive Guyanese family decided to get married in India. More than half the members of my ‘family’ are not actually relatives. Being from the same small South American village is enough to qualify individuals as ‘cousins’ ‘aunties’ and ‘mussies’. Hundreds of names and faces encountered once, maybe twice in a life. Asking “you don’t know who I am?” What this also entails is tons of wedding and funeral invitations. Hindu ceremonies called ‘jhandis’ and ‘jags’. Prasad dough with raisins and loot bags of fruit and soft rice. Flowers and flaming props. Alters. Saris and yellow dye.
My grandma was back from the dead for the 8th time. Like the other times, I wept in disbelief. I told her I was sorry I hadn’t treated her better back when I was a self-absorbed teen. After all the years she’d taken care of me, I told her I wished I’d done more for her. Spent more time with her when she was depressed, old and wishing for death. The disturbing evangelist on the tv screen in her room, her closest friend, seemed to care more for her than me. And all he wanted was her money.
She held me and told me I was forgiven. That she was Ok. But still I wept myself to sleep on a strange floor, crammed amidst 14 other ‘relatives’.
I woke up and dragged my heavy self into the dirty little kitchen in the apartment my family had rented for the weekend. As foreign, hot and uncomfortable as a baked potato in a deep fryer. Smelling of garam masala. Brown skin bustled around me. Me ignored by those buzzing and chatting. Then abandoned all together as I often am at such gatherings. Generous loving people, but not quite the right fit. One edge of my puzzle piece damp and torn. Everyone knew everyone but I knew no one. Southern-Ontarion more than South-American.
The room was vacated. Save for me, a few grains of stray rice, a greenish-brown smudge of spilled curry on the counter. I rifled through the cupboards – more of a sweet in the morning than savory sort. In the freezer I found the unexpected. A beacon of beaming yellow. Eggos!
I excitedly popped the slightly freezer-burned mass-produced cardboardesque circle into the toaster. I opened the fridge. Over-ripe pineapple cut in cubes in a large white bowl. The yellow fruit’s outsides had been rubbed in salt and weary weary pepper. A deceptively innocent looking currant-like specimen. So hot it made even the most hardcore spice enthusiasts weep.
At the back of the fridge was a wee bit of table syrup in a plastic bottle. I grabbed it. Turned it upside down and shook it a bit, watching the cold drops slowly drip down. The waffle popped up, startling me. I rushed over with a chipped plate. Quickly transferred the hot morsel to it. Spurted the syrup out, a flatulent sound. I rummaged for cutlery – all the knives were serrated, the only fork left in the drawer was bent.
Upon the first bite I was surprised. I’d been excited and yearning for some Western junk food, but it was more than that. I thought “This is the best fucking waffle I’ve ever tasted. This is the highlight of this whole damn trip!”
But as I ate, I started to feel an immense pain like no other in my gut. It was far worse than food poisoning or ulcers or stomach cancer. A terrible burning, but no acid indigestion could be as fierce as this excruciating burning. Weakened, I had to sit down but I couldn’t stop eating. I looked at the waffle and it had an evil smile on it! If I wasn’t aware of the fact that the cunning culprit of cruelty was the source of my pain, I would have thought it was cute. The two spots for eyes, the simple curve for the mouth and angular dashes for brows. Like many cartoon devils I’d drawn myself.
I knew then and there it was a demon waffle, but it tasted so damn good ! It felt as though with each bite instead of me eating it, it was eating me! The sensation of being eaten alive was a horrible one, of course, but the waffle was so delicious I couldn’t cease. Bite after bite I grew progressively weaker and eventually had to lie down, but even then I kept eating.
Later that day, I told my friend Drew who had come along to the wedding, what had happened. She told me the same thing happened to her! And my grandma overheard and told me the same. They both got sucked into the painful situation because no one could resist the demon waffle’s strong spell. Truly the work of the devil.
I wandered off to an empty room. Lay on the floor. Paralyzed as I wracked my brain trying to figure out why the demon chose to attack us of all people. It eventually dawned on me that we all had ties to my home in Galt. My grandma and I had lived in the house while Drew was my neighbor for a short while, though we didn’t really know each other back then because she went to private school.
The pieces fell in place and what a horrific picture it was indeed. The goblin on the edge of my bed when I was a child. His green face. His snicker. His sickening smugness. He cackled. I ran. Almost breaking my neck when I tripped. Tumbled down the cement steps. I was lucky I didn’t need stitches. I was lucky I had a hard head. Everyone said.
My mom, who still slept with the lights on at age 60. How I overheard her on the phone, telling a friend that it was because once she turned off the light and a threatening voice told her to turn it back on. She obeyed. Telling herself it was God protecting her, but never stopping to ask from what.
There were the footsteps nightly at 3am. Dragging across our plush rose pink carpet. I heard them. Accompanied by the sense of being watched. Vicious nightmares. Repeated instances of robbers breaking in and killing my grandmother and mother. Other times, they featured flashing lights. An inhuman voice. Branch-like arms trying to grab me. Fleeing up the stairs from the basement. Which I grew more scared of as I grew older. Unable to stand the rec room space no matter how cozy my mom had tried to make it. I couldn’t practice piano. The demon ruined my dreams of becoming a concert pianist. He ruined my relationships. With my mother, my brother and my grandmother. With my young boyfriends and girlfriends.
Teen angst and failed electronics. Mechanical pencils. Crackly phone lines as if they’d been chewed. Yet no mice in sight. My room 10 degrees colder than the rest of the house. My uncle thought I had a poltergeist. But when I read about them, it just didn’t seem right. The angst came from within, not from without. The angst came from somewhere, maybe something, that knew what I was all about. That knew how to pull my strings tight. To stop the air from reaching my vital points.
When my mom found me smoking pot, she blamed the devil. My brother suspected the same of my obsession with the Smiths and aggressive alt rock which had only been a brief phase for him; his tastes had softened quickly. I had previously scoffed at this devil notion. But the incident with the demon waffle changed all that.
I saw that the demon had always wanted me all to himself. He wanted me to knock myself off some high shelf. I came close. He was disappointed when I moved away. It seemed at first he may have followed me, but he grew tired after a couple years. He thought it was inevitable I’d crumble and turn to dust he could devour to make him stronger for the other victims he tormented. His time was better spent slamming their doors, hurling plates at heads, scrawling Latin across windows.
It crossed my mind that perhaps the demon always hoped one day I would become a writer too –a difficult state of being in itself, let alone for a severely sensitive soul. Turmoil. Doubt. Slim chances. Dashed dreams. He was certain if anything would be my end, it would be my desire to be a writer. The way it would conflict with the sort of person he knew me, perhaps crafted me, to be.
But he’d been wrong. I’d been saved, but not by god, by good friends. The first I’d ever really had.
It crossed my mind that my mom told me she knew the date she was going to die. But she refused to tell me how or when. Vexing. But I suddenly thought, what if it was the voice who told her? What if the demon took the shape of god to win her confidence? An image crossed my mind, my mother’s eyes closing for the last time. I knew in that instant that the undead unliving thing was on its way back to my home in Galt. I knew I had to get home. I had to stop it before it was too late.
I ran out to my uncle, a Hindu priest, and a few others who were present. But no one wanted to believe me. I yelled at them, clutched at their beige robes. Pleading with them on my knees. No one would listen. Everyone believed in God, in good, but no one believed in evil.
No one would take me to the airport. I finally convinced one of my aunts to let me at least try to call my mom, to warn her. But the phone rang and rang. There was no answer. Demons answer for no one. Demons answer to no one. Demons will chew you up and spit you out, and worse of all, they will do so by making you do it to yourself.