I was thirteen the first time I met a spirit at a crossroad. I hadn’t gone there to meet him. I went to meet a friend, though I must not have waited long enough for the spirit’s liking, because later that night, he led me back there. Once there he told me stories, showed me things, and talked to me of magick. Later, when I would speak of him, and the things that happened that night, no one I had been with remembered him, or the things that happened the way I did. From the moment I stepped away from him, to this day, I can’t recall his name. It was very much as if, at some point in the night, I had fallen asleep, and experienced a dream no one else shared, but I had been awake, and I, and everyone present, had been stone cold sober.
In my town in the 80’s, Eastwood was a local bowling alley where sketchy kids and adults who hadn’t grown up, went to do everything but bowl. My friend Mara and I were weekend regulars. It was Saturday night and my Dad had dropped us off at an intersection down the street from our friend’s house. I don’t exactly remember what I had told him. He wouldn’t have cared if I was going to the bowling alley (even though he knew what went on there) but our friend was sneaking out of her house to go with us. Likely, this also wouldn’t have bothered him, but I’m still sure I lied about something to get him to leave us on the corner in the dark, and I’m sure he knew it. He was to be back to pick us up there at midnight. Yes, at thirteen. As a teen, I wasn’t well supervised, and house rules, when it came to my Dad, were very pliable. It turned out, our friend had a family crisis and ended up not being able to get out that night, and I honestly don’t remember how we got to Eastwood. It wasn’t unreasonably far. Maybe we walked?
Soon after our arrival, we heard from some guys, a few of whom were acquainted with Mara, that there was a party going on the south end of town, and everyone was invited. We all piled into cars, three I believe, and I remember not being very happy that we had ended up in a car with a lone guy neither of us knew. There hadn’t been room for us in the other cars. It was just him and us. The only part of driving to the party I remember is him, and that his car was a large, green, boat of a thing, or maybe it was black, or maybe it had seemed green when we left, but black once we arrived. Either way, once we got there, we discovered, there was really no party. There were a few people sitting around in an apartment getting high, but nothing resembling a party. Another case of a someone told someone, telephone-game-like rumor, that seems to be ubiquitous when you’re a teenager. So everyone left.
I’m still not sure why we didn’t just go back to the bowling alley with everyone else. I had mentioned to our driver that we needed to be back at our intersection by midnight, or my Dad would worry, (Ironic, right?) and he insisted on taking us there, though, since there hadn’t been a party, it wasn’t nearly time yet. When we parked beside the curb on the corner the car seemed much smaller. It still had a back seat, but almost could have been a hatchback. He wouldn’t just leave us. He said it wasn’t safe. (Since we were in a car, in the dark, on a corner, with a strange man, again, ironic.) He said he would wait with us until my Dad arrived. It had begun to rain. It was late autumn in Oregon. It always rained. The windows started to fog up. He and Mara were in the front, and I was in the back, behind him, and we began to talk.
As things always did with me at the that age, the conversation soon turned to the supernatural, and since he showed an interest in the topic, the discussion became intense. After a while I noticed he was in the back seat with me, though I’m sure he hadn’t climbed over the seat, and no one had opened a door. Mara seemed to fade away and become quiet in the front. We talked, and talked, and the longer he spoke, the more his face began to change. Early in the night he seemed to be a tall, thin, rather plain-looking dude, with short black hair, and a long black coat. In the car, however, his hair seemed longer, his eyes darker and brighter, and the left side of his face began to look slightly crooked and sinister. For a long time I thought it was simply shadows from the street light, until he asked me if I had noticed the difference. He showed me how he could manipulate the changes I saw and made the shadows that had appeared dance and grow as if lit by a flame and he asked me if I believed in magick. He performed little party tricks for me. He asked me if I was able to tell when I was being watched by someone. I indicated yes, that I almost always could, and it’s a sensation I often have even when I’m alone. He proceeded to turn completely away from me, and told me to let him know when he was looking at me. There have been a few times in my life in which I have been attacked by animals, or experienced solid objects seeming to defy the laws of physics. Preceeding these events there has always been an electrical charge in the air, the kind that makes your eyes water and the hair on your neck stand up. I didn’t just begin to feel watched, I began to feel stalked, in a very primal way. There was no doubt in my mind that man knew my every expression, move, emotion, and breath, even facing completely away from me. With the windows fogged, and the light coming from the outside, there was no reflection in which to see me. I suppose for someone else these sensations would have been red flags and left them terrified. For me, I was impressed, curious, and excited. He was also able to move energy in ways that could trigger certain emotions, or give the sensation of being physically touched, even with more that a foot of space between us. It was clear he had the power to take advantage of this situation, and my growing fascination, but he didn’t. Though he did seem to enjoy showing off, he seemed far more interested in sharing what he knew. He began to explain the changes in his appearance, that he allowed both light and dark to move through him and he rolled back his sleeve to show me a tao tattooed on the inside of his forearm. He explained how these forces are inexorably linked and the power and freedom one can find in the knowledge of, and immersion in, both. Our conversation seemed to go on for hours and much of what was said, I don’t consciously remember, but occasionally I will experience or read something, and it will seem familiar to me, and my mind will drift back to that evening. I remember insisting to my religious and magickal friends after that encounter that there “is no black or white, only gray” to which they would roll their eyes at me, and become exasperated as if I must have missed some fundamental life lesson.
The headlights from my Dad’s car across the windows as he turned the corner and parked were blinding. I felt as if I was waking from a long, weird, dream. I noticed our driver had returned to the front seat, and we thanked him, and got out. Though I’m sure Mara stayed with me that night, I don’t remember discussing the evening with her. Honestly, I felt a little guilty. It had been quite rude to talk with him for so long, with her right there, completely excluding her from the conversation.
The following weekend, we ended up at Eastwood again, and ran into some of the guys we’d gone with to see about the party. Of course, I asked about the friend we’d ridden with, and everyone stared at me as if I’d lost my mind. No one had any idea who I was talking about. So I described him in detail, in the hopes of jogging their memories. At which point the guys excused themselves and backed away slowly. Mara asked what was wrong with me. There was no guy. She insisted that we had ridden with them. I tried to remind her of the long conversation we had at the intersection and apologized for ignoring her. She looked at me as if I had grown a third eye and told me that her guy friends had taken us there, and we were only on the corner for a few minutes before my Dad arrived. There was no other guy.
I’m still not sure what happened that night. Mara and I never discussed it again, and despite my efforts, I never did find anyone who remembered the man, or knew his name. Although, a few years later, early on Halloween morning, I was running late, and my Dad was driving me to school. Fog blanketed the city, and I looked out the passenger window just as we rounded a corner and passed a historic grove of oak trees. There, standing among the trees, in the mist, was a tall, thin, plain-looking man, with short black hair, in a long black coat.