Untitled (Spring 2022)— Grace Jones

I don’t know if I believe in God, and I don’t know much about real things. But I am attuned to the Universe, and hear the messages It sends me. I'm not a psychic; I don’t see ghosts. But three years ago, when I moved to the West Village, I think I met the Devil.

There was an old man who roamed between Bleecker and Sixth. He moved at a surprising speed for someone with a walker. You’d have to jump out of his way so he wouldn’t run you over. He muttered nasty words beneath his breath, and his face was covered in growths and blisters. The first time I saw him, we nearly collided around a sharp corner. He barked something and I scurried off. I was a twenty-two-year-old preoccupied by beauty then. I couldn’t understand how someone could be so ugly.

I mean really ugly both outside and in; the anger and misery he harbored so clearly expanded around him, casting ugliness wherever he stepped.

Soon our encounters became a weekly occurrence, and I would see him only on particularly bad days. He was an omen sent from the Universe, a sign something awful was manifesting. I would avoid certain streets I knew he took, but always, he would find me. I didn’t know if he was The Devil or a sad soul stuck in purgatory. I didn’t know where he lived or where he was going. But I imagined he hid beneath the subway grates, waiting for me to cross his path, waiting to reach out his brittle hands, and drag me down beneath the city, to turn me into whatever he was.

I wasn't the happiest then, but I was very hopeful I could be. I believed that true, unbridled joy was just waiting for me: all I had to do was transform into my higher self. But here was the old man, trying to lure me off my path, trying to stop me before I’d completed my journey. He wanted me to be just like him: just as sad, just as angry, just as ugly.

My mother, the analyst, would say: You have an overactive imagination. You dwell upon unfounded anxieties. You should put this energy to better use, like making art or working out. And I would say: But my third eye is open! I’m sensitive to the truths around me! I’m a Scorpio rising!

Three years had passed, and I was walking down Bleecker on the first nice day of Spring. A tulip sprouted through the concrete cracks of the sidewalk. I smiled at her sheer persistence to thrive. And it hit me: I had not seen the old man in weeks, maybe months.

I knew then he was gone.

I felt relief, and felt guilty for feeling relief. But had I finally been freed from his curse? Had I escaped from whatever damnation he faced? I hoped he'd reached heaven and known joy.

I still don’t know why the old man came into my life, but now that I’m nearly twenty-five, I do believe a little more in God, and I do know a little more about real things.

Grace Jones is a girl in New York City.