I met a genie when I was sixteen. Seriously. The thing came out of a lamp I found right behind a Baskin Robins with a wisp of smoke just like in the cartoons. The guy was a trope. He had the sash and the long eyebrows and the archetypical accent. It was hard to take him seriously, reinforcing stereotypes like he was, but the dude seamed legit—glowing eyes, eerie music, aforementioned wispy smoke stuff. But I was only given one wish. Something inside me, something instinctual and basal, told me that my soul would be forfeit if I pulled that whole “wish for more wishes” gag, so I didn’t even try.
I thought and thought, and eventually wished “for a life surrounded by women.” It seemed such a simple paradise at the time. The genie just nodded once with an arched eyebrow, and I felt it. There was a dry pop in my chest, like something opened up, and I felt the wish take hold. The genie disappeared, accompanied by Middle-Eastern pomp and circumstance, and then I was alone, standing behind a Baskin Robbins, fated to be surrounded by women for all of eternity. But then a niggling doubt came to life. Saturnine thoughts blossomed in the background of my consciousness, dark and brooding: distrust. What was up with that arched eyebrow? His expression reminded me of one of an old-timey villain who’d just tied to the railroad tracks his black-and-white damsel. Distressing. Genies are always the good guys in western cartoons. Poor souls, doomed to serve their masters’ whims, but always the good guys, always on the right side of morality. But the old-school tales talk about the not-so-Sunday-school genies. You know, the dark ones who trick and murder their way out of enslavement, the shiesty ones who feed off unfortunate lamp rubbers. Genies weren’t the good guys; they were just another culture’s version of the malicious leprechaun, the two legged el chupacabra, the lamp based version of a skin walker.
A random story from my childhood popped into my mind. A man caught a leprechaun. He made the leprechaun take him to his pot of gold, buried by a tree in a forest. But the man didn’t have a shovel. He told the leprechaun to tie a red scarf around the tree marking the treasure: don’t touch the scarf he said, wait here until I return with a shovel he said. The leprechaun was true to his word. He didn’t touch the scarf. But when the man returned, he found a red scarf tied around every tree, tied around every sapling and bush and up-right stone. The leprechaun stood with a smile while he watched the man dig for a life span, dig until he died in the forest for his lust of gold. The leprechaun, the dark creature, got the soul he wanted, because that’s obviously what such creatures eat. So, where did that leave me? Would the women destined to surround me also find me repulsive? Would they be near me only because of the genie’s power, thereby making me feel inadequate? Would I always wonder if any woman truly loved me because every relationship would be tainted by the curse that came from behind Baskin Robbins?
I’m in my thirties now. I have a wife. Two daughters. They all three have loads of friends. Young ones with their incessant questions. Teenaged ones with their bulletproof self-absorption. Older ones who remind me of my inferiority on the regular. They swarm around me like a hive of only queens, directing my life, shaping it, changing it. My women, the three in my home, give me a ration of shit that’d bring mutiny to a captain’s mind, they test me with their felinity to the breaking point, but guess what: I love it. These creatures are so powerful, so ridiculously masterful of their domain that every day of my life is a lesson learned about wonderment, about women. I got what I wanted. I might be a masochist, but I got my wish. And the victory is mine. I know that genie, that dumbass Aladdin-look-alike genie, did not get what he wanted. He did not get his tormented soul. And he’s squandering in that lamp right now, shaking his stupid, bejeweled genie fist, because I won. He is lost, trapped until there are no more hands to rub lamps. I am free, surrounded by women.