Sympathy for the Devil
by Laure Alexander
Someone turns on the radio and the music brings me back to myself. I settle the bar on the supports, and close my eyes briefly as I recognize the beginning strains of the song. When I work out, I tend to let my mind go. It escapes the drab, gray room full of out of style and sometimes dangerous work out machines. It flees from the armed guards stationed fifteen feet apart, their hands resting on their weapons.
But, now my mind's back from its wanderings and something tugs deep inside of me. I try to distract myself with the motions of wrapping up my workout, but the memories hover, just waiting...
As I sit up on the bench and reach for my towel, I catch a glimpse of the guard to the side of me tightening her hand on the hilt of her gun. I've learned to ignore such reactions. I guess I've earned them.
Not many women can bench press as much weight as I do daily and not break out into a sweat. That bothers the guards and some of the inmates. I'm such a scrawny thing in their eyes. How could I possibly be so strong?
They all seem really glad that I don't use my strength to do anything more than lift weights. The occasional newbie learns the lesson really quickly.
Danger can come in very small packages.
The palms of my hands are damp from the bar, and I use the rough cotton towel to wipe them clean, then rise to my feet and stretch, the music embracing me.
In the reality of the prison gym, I listen to Mick Jagger singing, his voice whisky rough, and the words wash over me, sweeping me back to a time I wish I could forget, a life I wish I had never led. It's useless to fight the memories, so I don't even try.
'Sympathy for the Devil'. That song and the smell of cheap vanilla perfume mingling with cigarettes and despair, are all I really remember of my mother. Before the Watchers came and bought me from her for enough money to buy enough crack to kill herself, my mother used to listen to the one tape she owned, this song in particular.
She used to call me the spawn of the devil. I was too young to understand what that meant, but I knew I was bad and that my mother didn't love me.
Am I the devil now, mama? I gave myself to one, body and soul, and he treated me like a princess. I killed for him. I would have fucked him, but that's not what he wanted from me. I worshiped him for treating me like no one ever had.
You, mama, you saw me as an annoyance, as a thing in your way, to be beaten and yelled at. If I'd stayed with you, would I have screamed in vain like Anastasia the first time one of your creepy boyfriends decided that a cute little virgin was more exciting than a used up, strung out whore?
The Watchers took me away when I was six, but they treated me little better. To them I was a tool, to be honed and sharpened and readied for battle. They stuffed my mind full of useless, esoteric knowledge, and expected me to obey their every wish.
I rebelled. I guess I get that from you, mama. When I was thirteen I began sneaking out of the house, hitching into the worst parts of Boston, making friends with the lowest kind of people. I drank and smoked and partied and fucked like there was no tomorrow.
After all, everyone had been telling me that all my life.
Then I became the Slayer, and, well, we all know how that went.
But, here's my last chance, mama. Sympathy for the devil might just go both ways. This time the devil is really an angel.
Angel and I have everything in common, everything that matters. We both have dark sides. We've both done evil. The others will say that he's good, that it's his demon that's the bad one, but I can see it in his eyes. The darkness, the desire. He wants so badly to be good, but the evil in him threatens to ruin his redemption at every turn.
It's the same with me. This is my last chance, I know it in my heart. To survive, to make something of myself, to be more than what you saw in me, mama, more than what the Watchers wanted, to be more than just the Slayer, I have to redeem myself.
I know I can't do it alone, and so does he.
That's why he comes here at least once a week. Why we sit on opposite sides of a piece of bullet proof glass and talk through telephones about...everything.
He sees me as I really am. He sees Faith. Even when I can't. He understands the darkness within me, he knows he can help me fight it, to become something better than anyone ever expected.
And I want to do that for him, but I want to do it more for myself.
We have a sort of sympathy going...no, it's more like empathy. On a deep, subconscious level inside us, we understand the other better than anyone else.
I know he loves Buffy, but I also know that she's moved on. It kills him, but it also makes him so happy, because he knows that Slayers don't lead long lives, and he doesn't want her to be alone.
Yet, he lives his life alone. I tease him about dating and girlfriends, but I know there's no one in his life. He's solitary and celibate.
I can certainly empathize with that.
I'll be out of here within a year--with good behavior--and he'll be waiting to take me into his life. I just know it. I can see it in the dark ocean of his eyes. They're the windows to the soul, and though the demon flickers there, too, his soul is in control, and it's lonely.
I know he'll never love me like he loves Buffy, and that's fine with me. I don't want to risk losing him to the curse and...I just need someone to care about me, to want me for what I am. Not the Slayer, not a killer, not a whore.
I want someone to want Faith.
And, I think Angel will be the one who can do that for me.
The song ends, something melancholy by some other decrepit band from the sixties replacing it, and I wrap the towel around my neck, holding onto the ends as I rock slightly on the balls of my feet.
The memories of my past don't bother me as much anymore as they used to.
Maybe it's because I think I finally have a future to look forward to.
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