What would you say, he said, if I told you I was a vampire?
I was eating my lunch at an outside table for the first time all summer. It was the first warm day that wasn’t too hot or too humid and I was finally in the right mood for some people watching. Against my better judgment I caught the eye of a middle aged man, clearly stuck on hard times, who had been canvassing passers-by for change and small talk.
I smiled at him. He was likely a homeless man and my instincts were aflutter with fear and derision and, in all honesty, not one wit of compassion. His head nicked to one side sometimes and he made a fist at random moments as he paced back and forth on the sidewalk. He was agitated. He was stressed out.
I finished my sandwich and refilled my soda with lots of ice and mostly sprite.
I regained my seat at the sidewalk. I was in the shade as was the other chair at my table.
The man glanced in my direction again.
Against my better judgement, I nodded to him and gestured that he join me in my other shady seat. I offered him my soda, which he accepted gratefully.
I said nothing. I leaned back in my chair with my arms folded and smiled nervously at the happy day and the busy city bustling around me. The man at my table sputtered and sighed heavily.
He said “thank you.”
He then asked me a question. “What would you say” He said “If I told you I was a vampire?”
I responded cooly, and with neither a flinch nor a pause to betray my startled amusement. “I’d say that you must be on hard times indeed.”
He nodded. “Aren’t you afraid of me?”
I scowled. “Should I be?”
He winced and kicked his chair nervously. “No. I’m not that kind of vampire I guess.”
I nodded. “No. You aren’t. You’re new to this, aren’t you?”
He nodded again. “Yeah. Why’s it have to be so hard?”
I sighed and said, with genuine sadness “I don’t know. But I’d be sad to know you didn’t go get help.”
He cringed and kicked his chair again. “But you should run and hide. I might find you and drink your blood!”
I shook my head slowly. “But you don’t know who I am.” I pulled my necklace out at that moment, my shining Mjollnir, my Thor’s Hammer. His eyes grew wide. I said calmly “You see, you have no power over me. I’m not a Christian so I can’t be of any use to you.”
This frustrated him. “You’re a witch!”
And I chuckled and said “Do I look like a witch? No. I’m no witch.”
He shook his head again and agreed with me. He stuttered. “You have magic though.”
And, noticing that we pretty much had the entirety of the sidewalk café to ourselves now, I said “Yes. I do.”
He bit his lip and coughed awkwardly as he bit the straw and looked around us. “You do. Can you fix me?”
My heart sunk. I frowned. “No. I don’t think I can. You need stronger magic than what I have.”
I could tell that his heart was weakening too. He was less frantic now, and our conversation seemed to be the most coherent thing that had happened to him for weeks, so I allowed it to continue just a little longer.
I said “Give me your hand.”
Which he did. He reached across the table and his muscles jittered and fluttered against his will. I wrapped his fingers in my two hands and I stared at his eyes until they stilled. I said “Seek help, find your strength, stay safe, and your miracle will come to you.”
His whole body slowed. He bent his neck and touched his forehead to my kuckles. When he raised his face again it was wet with tears. I offered him a napkin and smiled warmly at him.
I looked over my right shoulder. Counting signs and looking for the awning.
I pointed behind me and faced my lunch date. I told him “Take heart, young soldier. Your salvation is at hand. Cross the street alongside strangers, so that you blend in. When you see the red awning, go inside. You will find mercy there.”
He bounced out of his seat like a golden retriever and shook my hand fiercely. “Thank you, miss” he said “You saved my life.”
“I did no such thing.” I reprimanded. “Tell no-one of your affliction. Instead pretend your hardest to be a human, as I do, and all shall be well again.”
He nervously patted his head and carefully picked his way toward the street corner. As people gathered, his confidence built. He crossed with them and made it safely to the red awning. A church. They were about five minutes away from their next mass.
I wished him well.
The store manager popped his head out to see if I was allright. I was. I thanked him for his kindness and he thanked me for mine. And then we all went back to work as if nothing unusual had just taken place.
Because nothing had.