If you Jacknicholson me, I might go all Eastwick on you but this has nothing to do with me having mastered The Craft. Well… it is a superpower, a blessing and a curse, but despite what some think it is not magic.
At some point during my living in Barcelona, I shared an apartment with an Angolan-Brazilian capoeira instructor –yes, he was exactly how you imagine him. He had two personalities though: the kind, tender and sometimes shy cat and the violent looking alcohol and coke induced lion. To his own surprise, he never scared me; I could tame him, I knew how he functioned. Our home was always filled with his music and friends. Some days, it bothered me but most of the time it did not: his friends were all sweet and fun. One of them, a 25-year-old, would stay over a lot and became part of our family. I had never had a cousin that superstitious. He would wake up and start bleaching the house, for example, swiping the floors towards the back garden to get the spirits out because they’d come to him in a dream. So, it did not come as a total shock when one day, after I had guessed for the umptieth time what their thoughts were, my flatmate and his friend nervously laughed:
– You’re a witch.
– I’m not. I know you and basic psychology; it does not take a genius. And now you’re thinking I’m playing mind games with you because I refer to psychology.
– Woh! See?! You’re a witch!
It was a game. At least, that’s what I thought. When my flatmate left the country, he left his place and me to a friend I hadn’t met before, but he was a cool cat. He only worked during festival season, selling caipirinhas – yes, living with him was exactly how you imagine it. He sometimes would travel for weeks in winter and that year, he left for the US. In exchange for some home improvement, he let the superstitious cousin stay in the spare room. I wasn’t too pleased, but I wasn’t the one with the lease. Having him there only made me feel irritated as he stole my food, but not safer. He was a scaredy-cat. One night, I came home to realise I couldn’t open the door; something was in the way. As I pushed, the wooden security door from ancient times that had been pushed against the modern door gave a little way, enough for me to see a matrass was in the entrance. I slipped in through the opening and realised my temporary flatmate’s bedroom panelled wall was unhinged. I thought we’d been robbed and whispered his name. I heard him moan from somewhere on the floor. My heart started racing. I stumbled over the matrass to switch on the light. He stood up, all wobbly.
– Are you OK?
My concerned tone turned into maternal outrage as soon as I realised:
– You’re drunk! Again? You stupid moron! I thought you’d been attacked! Look at the mess you made! And your pants are falling off! What a sight… You should be ashamed of yourself!
I stepped in my room but as I turned to slam my door, I came face to face with him. He was standing in my very narrow doorway, the hall light in his back. He was a shadow with eyes. It all happened in a split second. Suddenly his hands were around my neck. He didn’t really press, but I knew he could snap me as a twig. He was a professional capoeirista, I had only done Zumba. His mouth inches from mine, he mumbled:
– You… you should die. You’re a witch.
When I told this story 20 minutes later to the friends I had taken shelter with, they were all amazed by my sangfroid when facing such danger. I personally think it was two things that gave me composure: one, I couldn’t flee, I had to fight; two, I had no respect left for the guy. As he repeated I should be killed as I was a witch, instead of pushing him away, I hugged him and whispered in his ear:
– You are right, I am a witch. I’d be careful if I were you.
He jumped back, terrified. It only took one nudge and he was on the floor. I jumped on my bicycle and rode for the life of me; only then did I start shaking. The next day, I managed to get a hold of my real flatmate. The crazy cousin was evicted.
Why am I telling you this? Why is this anecdote coming back to me for the past couple of weeks? Because I keep forgetting and I need to remind myself: I am a witch. I am fearlessly good at reading people. Why don’t I listen to myself? Why am second guessing my intuition? I am not a scaredy-cat, I am wise. It is not my fears talking but my instinct. When anxiety overwhelms me, it is not because I am afraid, it is because I’m out of balance. I know my answer, but I refuse to listen. I see the forest from the tree, but I shut my eyes.
“The witch knows. The witch saves herself. Respect the witch.”
Always remember. I tell myself and you.