When I was in high school I became friends with this Iranian kid named Pej. He was first generation Canadian. His parents fled Iran because of religious persecution and somehow they ended up in Brantford. I was the first real native person he’d ever met from Six Nations.
Everybody thought Pej was a cool guy. He was hilariously funny and he had a car so he became the defacto “designated driver” for our whole crew of friends. One particular summer day we were hanging out at Dairy Queen, eating Dilly Bars and laughing up a storm. It was getting late and I had to make my way back down to the rez but Pej wanted to keep hanging out – so he offered to drive me home so we could chat the night away some more.
We took the long way home. By car the trip from Brantford to the Rez is about twenty minutes but we took full advantage of being sixteen and having the car and the night so we cruised! It was awesome. The summer night was warm and humid. There was not a cloud in the sky. I could see a million stars on our drive home. We listened to house music, smoked cigarettes and talked about cool things like God and who we had crushes on – totally embracing the moment of being sixteen, having some freedom and being good friends.
“I’ve never been to the reserve before. It’s so dark out here. This is scary.” Pej said.
“What?!”, I laughed at him. “What’s scary about it?”
“Well you know all the magic and witches and curses and stuff,” he replied. Now I was only sixteen so I didn’t have the knee-jerk reaction of smacking him upside the head yet.
“What are you talking about Pej-y? There’s no demons or witches on the rez. This is just like Brantford but with more trees.” I laughed at him. “Heck you’re ghant!”
He looked at me with big eyes kind of quivering and afraid. “Wh-wh-What’s ghant?”, he stammered. I couldn’t believe he was serious!
“Ugh, nevermind!” I groaned. “Here’s my house on the left.” We pulled into my parents driveway, shut off the car and sat side-by-side out on the hood.
“Geez Pej who told you that the rez was full of witchcraft and demons?” I asked him seriously.
“What?! Everybody says that about the reserve.” he said. “That if you come down here alone at night people will capture you and burn your car. Put hexes on you and curse your family.”
“Pfft. Dude relax. That’s not true at all.” I said. I was trying to be patient with him because I could see that he was legitimately scared so like a good friend I changed the subject and we sat on the hood of his car in my parent’s driveway talking about cool things for a while longer.
Now that particular summer night – like many other summer nights on Six – the air became thick with humidity and a dewy mist started to pour in all around our feet. A nice thick fog was just starting to creep up the hill from back the bush when I raised my hand in the air, smiled and said, “Hey! I can feel the night dew.”
That is when my cool Iranian friend jumped up and started running around the car in circles, screaming like a little girl and yelling frantically at me in Persian. “I can feel the night demons?! That’s what you said! I can feel the night demons!”
“What?!” I shouted back.
“Get away from me you witch!” He yelled in English this time. “I knew it! I knew you were a witch!”
I looked at him and then burst out laughing. From the look on his face I could tell that this frightened him all the more to see me, “the witch”, maniacally cackling away in the dark misty dew feeling the night demons.
“You just said it!” and then he started frantically fumbling to get back into his car, screaming something at me in Persian again. Then he jumped in the driver’s seat and slammed the car door.
“You ass!” I shouted at him. “I said I can feel the night dew. You know – dew? As in the wet stuff that shows up on grass. Put your hand in the air dummy you’ll feel it too.” I laughed again.
“But you said….” he stammered. And continued to look at me sideways as he started up his car. That’s when I started to get angry – angry at him but also angry at whoever started the rumor that Six Nations was a dangerous place for a 16 year Iranian kid to be. He came from Iran! His parents fled the country because of religious persecution. His people were being rounded up like cattle and hung en masse because they did not recant their faith and pledge allegiance to an Islamic State – and somebody told him that the rez was a dangerous place? ‘Good grief!’ I thought.
Eventually we sorted out his faux pas. I tried to convince him that I was not a witch and that there were no demons in the air on the rez. And for a while I think he believed me. But from that day forward he always looked at me kinda sideways like he was doubting my sanity. Likewise, I never felt like cruising around with him again and talking about cool stuff because he wound up being an idiot.