Years ago, before I got married, I had a necklace I loved. At the time I bought it, I didn’t know my future husband had the same necklace, or that he would end up with a tattoo of the emblem before we wound up together. I wore it a lot then and I wore it all the time after we became a couple, as it was one more link between us, something valuable when we were on opposite sides of the globe.
Generally speaking, nobody noticed me wearing it. Occasionally I received comments from people who recognized it. And then there was one evening at work where an elderly gentleman took notice of it while I was ringing up his purchases. He didn’t comment, though, just staring until I found myself so unnerved that I stopped what I was doing. That was when he finally looked me in the eye and said “Where did you get that?”
“This?” I asked, trying to be polite, though I knew what he was looking at.
“Yes,” he said. “Your devil breaker. Where did you get it?”
I told him I found it online and bought it there. He looked at me oddly and asked if I knew what it was. I laughed nervously, telling him I was under the impression it was a cool necklace from a video game.
“It’s a devil breaker,” he said. “See? It’s just like mine.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a green stone. I don’t know what sort of stone it was. It looked too dark to be jade, though the color was smooth and uniform, so I’m not sure what else it could have been.
It was badly chipped and scratched, missing a piece from the tip, and most of the carving’s details had been worn away from years of being touched. But it was there, and he was right. Whatever it was made of, it was carved into the shape of a lion’s head on a cross.
I was surprised, and also confused. I’d never seen the symbol anywhere but this game, nor heard it called by any names but those that related to the game it was from. So I asked him what it meant and he smiled, telling me the story.
He had served in the military when he was younger and, near the end of the war, it was given to him by a Vietnamese refugee. He said the refugee had carved it while the war was going on. He claimed it had been his protector, and now he wanted to pass it on as a gift, because he knew the soldier in front of him would have many demons and hardships to face–both during the end of the war and long after it. The lion would be his protector, the refugee said. He called it a “devil breaker.”
The gentleman told me he was skeptical at first, but as the war drew to an end and he went through a lot of close calls that should have taken his life, he always felt like he was safe. And after the war, when he was struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, it helped more than anything else. Every time he’d have a flashback or nightmare, he’d touch it and his panic and fear would be gone in an instant. And so he never left home without it, keeping it with him since it was gifted to him by its creator. A treasure kept always in his pocket, and laid at his bedside when he sleeps. He said he was happy that I have my own and told me I should always keep it close.
When I got home, I spent a great deal of time trying to find information on the symbol and the name the gentleman had used for it. But I turned up nothing, no matter how I phrased the search. But the story spoke to me, and made me stop and think about why I was wearing the necklace in the first place.
Out of all the symbolism in the world, it was a lion on a cross. An emblem that just happened to be tattooed on my fiancé’s arm.
Something strong and reassuring, something to protect me and help me feel safe. Something to encourage me and help me find peace in troubled times.
My love, my guardian given flesh.
My devil breaker stands beside me every day.