Category: Alyssa Beaty

Demons of Head and Heart and Left Kneecap

Sep 23  |  Alyssa Beatty

It’s good to be alone, I remind myself. Alone doesn’t mean lonely.

Alice, the demon who holds my heart in her delicate claws, disagrees. She sinks a slender talon into my right ventricle; the pain makes me stumble. The man walking too close behind me steps on the back of my sneaker.

“Stop it,” I hiss.

“Sorry,” he huffs, aggrieved. His shoulder slams mine as he pushes past me.

“At least someone touched you today,” croons Betsy, the demon who sleeps in my brain.

“Shut. Up.” I force the words through gritted teeth.

“Make me.” She giggles, sending buzzing bees down my spine.

Carly, the demon who curls around my left knee, must be feeling left out. She shifts my patella slightly to the right. The stab of discomfort reminds me how old and breakable I am. And alone. But not lonely, I insist.

The demons sigh in unison. My skin prickles as the frigid wind of their breath races through my body.

“We liked it better when you were married,” Betsy whispers.

“We got to come out and play!” Alice wails.

“We’re bored,” Carly whines.

“Too bad,” I mutter, veering into the coffee shop.

I wait in the longer line because it’s the one that leads to my favorite barista.

“Hey, Ms. F! Your usual?” Roy’s ridiculously young and good looking. Sometimes all you need to get through the day is an interaction with someone who knows your name, to remind yourself you exist. And if he’s cute, that’s just a bonus.

“Thanks, Roy,” I say, slipping a five into the tip jar.

“Always a pleasure, Ms. F.” He winks, and I blush.

“Flirting for tips. I respect that.” Alice sends a pulse of blood to regions I’d rather forget existed lately.

“He calls you Ms. F because he doesn’t know your actual name. He probably thinks of you as Old Mrs. Over-tipper,” Betsy says.

“Watch him laugh when I make your decrepit knee crack,” Carly squeals.

She makes good on her threat. Roy doesn’t laugh, but his perfect forehead crinkles in dismay.

“You okay? That sounded painful.”

I stop myself from bending to hold my knee, aware of how that posture will make my stomach roll over the waistband of my jeans.

“Fine. Just, you know. Old age.” I smile to show I’m fine with this.

“Age is just a number, right?”

“Mine’s a big number.”

“Ancient,” Carly whispers.

“Unloved,” Alice says.

Roy hands over my latte, festooned with a cursive F.

“Go ahead. Ask him,” Betsy says, daring me to humiliate myself in front of my one reliable social contact.

“Fine.” I turn to Roy. “My demons want me to ask if you know my name.”

“It’s Fiona, right? I’m terrible with names.”

I smile. Alone doesn’t mean lonely. My demons grumble, but Carly shifts my patella back into place. Alice eases her grip on my heart. Betsy curls around my spine to sleep once more.