ONE DECADENT LIFE
[ PART TWO commences with Chapter 26 ]
Angelique settled back in her rented Cadillac, soothed by its red leather interior. The chauffeur gently clipped her door to, got into the front seat, then turned to remark:
“You may have to direct me once we’re in Union City. I’m not familiar with it.”
“Who is?” Angelique laughed.
Within half an hour they were underneath the Hudson River, speeding through the tunnel that would bring them into Weehawken, and beyond that, to Union City, New Jersey. Now they were mounting the ramp, climbing that asphalt curve around and up and facing the western panorama of Manhattan Island.
Whenever Angelique left Manhattan she anticipated this view, the glory of the town splayed out for her, waiting to be retaken. To feel that sense of satisfaction, as you left it behind — a pleasure, say, even if you’d met with little success. That vista was a kind of dramatic finale, to wherever, whatever you’d been in the great capital, fighting whatever bad or good fight. (For how is it — that even the smallest of lives take on a mythical importance — if they’ve been lived in New York?)
As she turned her head to the right, to take in that inspiring vista, Angelique gasped. The view was gone! Some well-meaning idiots had put up a concrete ‘safety wall!’ The view was destroyed.
Her driver heard her exclaim, and agreed, “Yeah… they gotta make the whole world safe for drunks and crazy kids. But after that last car-full of teenagers went over the embankment…”
Angelique stared at the blank concrete wall, where once had unfurled the splendid vision. The only way you could possibly see the view was if you “went Greyhound!” The high windows of that bus would give the lucky plebes the imperial advantage.
But why shouldn’t alcoholics and juvenile delinquents be allowed to sail their cars into the Hudson River at ninety miles per hour? Wasn’t that better than being smashed flat against a concrete slab? This indignity to the eyes made Angelique again wish for an Aesthetic Police, a body of legislature to prevent the destruction of Beauty — for example, the loss of that inspiring view. What better civic duty could there be?
They were already reaching Union City, and her reverie was interrupted by the driver’s inquiry. They were on Kennedy Boulevard, a broad main road; its residences of red-brick and human proportion dated from the forties. At Eleventh Avenue she had the car swing left, where were lined up tiny houses, panelled inelegantly in aluminum — the homes of the working poor. And why is our heroine travelling to this seemingly inconsequential burg?
The Caribbean origins of the quarter’s inhabitants showed in the brilliant pastel shades the homes were painted; in a shop selling live chickens; in cafes fragrant with pungent coffees, chicory and chocolate; from the spices wafting from fish fritters and fried plantains, sold on the sidewalks from portable grills. Despite the brisk December chill, groups of all ages, families, children, crowds of friends sat outside on odd chairs and the occasional sunken sofa… Some of them gazed with curiosity as the shiny black sedan pulled up before the botanica of their local santero, Orestes.
That is Angelique’s reason. The lady had met the Santeria priest, Orestes, about a year ago; peculiarly enough, her psychiatrist at the time had recommended the shaman. As a true doctor of the psyche, moreso than any Westerner, the genius of Orestes had instilled in Angelique an immediate trust — by means of his methods unconventional, as we shall see demonstrated.
His shop, painted a bright lime green, had no sign. Angelique let herself out of the car, waving the driver back to his seat and reminding him, “I’ll be at least an hour. Maybe two.”
First and foremost, Orestes had implanted in Angelique a stronger self-respect for her Work as a Dominatrix. She discovered he had a complete acceptance of that Work, as a form of sexual healing. Granted such an idea cannot be understood by an average mentality — it’s so, nonetheless.
Angelique’s self-esteem was in a condition of desuetude, after years in ‘the Business.’ No matter how proud one may be, at first, of being an Outsider, over time it becomes depressing and wears on the nerves. One cannot help but absorb some of the world’s negative attitude.
But even had Angelique decided to forego her Practice, extensive psychic repair work was still in the diagnosis. But whether she retired, or continued on: how was such a “psychic repair” to be effected? Not through conventional psychoanalysis… not through any kind of modern self-help, job coaches, college, or whatnot — but through the arcana of Orestes’ religion — Santeria, the premier Religion of Nature.
Through Orestes’ powers, Angelique had been taught that she was the child of the goddess OSHUN MIWA, who was specifically dedicated to the interests of the Sorrowful Sisterhood. Oshun being a Venus, was a protector through love, compassion, service to others — and a certain ‘good money karma,’ which for many of the Sisters can be a downfall. Angelique’s proper re-focussing of her functionality to the higher concept of service and healing had pushed her into an entirely different realm of her Practice.
Still, one thing would not be alleviated: a true and personal love — love, marriage, children — will in that Sisterhood ever be afflicted. She had still to accept one essential reality — that she very well might remain unmated for life.
Thus had she come to see her Master Orestes, the shaman, or in the terminology, a BABALOA — as a man who could read her, discover and tell her — what was binding her to David. She knew it was the past life, through the novel Salvatore. But why? How could she break the spell? Could she correct it, redeem their relationship, bring the connection to some kind of resolution?
As long as she remained masochistically in love with him, as long as he continued as a heroin addict, she understood she was condemned to an eternal round of entropy and torment. She needed help beyond her own Will.
The botanica’s doorway she passed through was set back from the street, between two large display vitrines. These were chock-full of plaster statuary of a strange, barbaric theogyny; the Gods and Goddesses of Santeria. Whilst all these images displayed a superficially Christian cast, there was something more, something to unsettle the average white church-goer: an element florid and living, blood-filled and enfleshed.
SANTERIA, the African mystery religion, has withstood many trials, lives on despite the attempts of the intrusive Christian slavers at corruption. Its source of power lies in a profound understanding of the forces of nature, in a matrix of ritual and magickal working. Through the images of the imposed Christian cult, the Santeria ORISHAS, disguised as Christian saints, wield their powers of thunder, rain, gold, honey, iron, wood and green plants, amongst other materia; are able to live and move and have their being, exalting the souls of Her believers.
The smile on their “Mary” is not insipid, but lovely, her face encircled with gems. Goddess of the Sea, Gemaya, adorned with pink seaweeds on spangled blue velvet, she is attended by a school of most reverent plaster fishes. She is the Goddess of motherhood and children.
Babalu-aye, his black face always smiling, despite the realistically painted sores covering his body… is The Man Come Back From The Dead, St. Lazarus if you will, the crutch he leans upon garlanded with roses. He is the Orisha for the working out of most difficult problems.
A Mercurial figure, Papa Ellegua, stands by his Gate, scowling as usual. One may understand him as a dour St. Francis, as birds sit comfortably on his shoulders. He is the Orisha who has first to be called before any other, “to open the Gate,” before any Magick can be realized. None of the other Orishas will answer until you have propitiated him with rum, cigars, cash and fresh coconut.
Angelique stood in the dusty main room, with its shelves to the ceiling stacked with the statuary, other clay figurines, bottles of herb-essence and holy-waters from throughout the world. On the floor lay open sacks of roots, herbs, bundles of dried flowers, fading wreaths of eucalyptus — all from Orestes’ home, the Dominican Republic. She examined the display of candles in seven colours for the Seven Powers… a shallow, fragrant breath lingered over their stillness — Haiti, Cuba, Martinique — all the bounteous and faraway lands. With Orestes, their distillate vitality would not slumber long.
The Babaloa himself pushed through a flowered curtain and greeted the lady:
“AYE! Ma Anhel!”
He was dressed in a clean white cotton t-shirt, old blue jeans and sandals. His thick grey hair was mussed up and standing on end. They faced each other — the tall, well-built woman in expensive leathers, and the bull-like, lively form of the middle-aged Spaniard. He offered his proud head to her, for a kiss… she took it in her two hands and planted one on his forehead.
Angelique had never come alone before. Her first time, when her psychiatrist had brought her, there had been a large throng. She had witnessed two exorcisms, one of a teen-aged girl, who apparently had convulsive visions that had rendered her bed-ridden; the other a thirtyish black man addicted to heroin. The second time she had returned with an emissary from the therapist, a woman named Dale Stern, who was to oversee Angelique’s own exorcism. At that ceremony several white-robed women, daughters of Oshun, had sung the songs, and danced the ancient dances, throughout her ordeal.
In short — what was called a ‘psychic parasite’ had been removed from her astral body. In her case, it had been the soul of a man who had been killed in battle. He had died in a rage, sadistically screaming and fighting the enemy. It didn’t really matter what enemy, what war. The point being: an unquiet spirit, who had died untimely, had latched onto her energy field since she had come to adolescence, and had continued to live through her.
When it had entered her, she had changed; even she had considered that sudden transition as ‘only puberty.‘ But the spirit was wild, had filled her with rage and mockery, threw her from her safe home into the difficult, violent life which she had even relished — even as it made her, and others suffer. Because that spirit had fed on and loved the continuing violence… as the spirit infused her with his satisfied (and unsatisfiable) lust.
Once this parasite had been ejected from her astral field, had been sent into The Light through Santerial ritual magick, Angelique began to lose her endemic anger, and its long-wrought result: her sadistic leanings. She was still a Dominatrix; she still attracted, and was attracted to that specific victim, the masochist; but the emotional stream that attached her to that milieu continued to weaken. The libidinously-based need for cruelty was in its death-throes, as the possessive spirit that had been nourished by it was gone. In the past year, she had discovered herself using her intellectual and analytical powers, her long-acquired knowledge of the clients’ neuroses, with a new detachment. Paradoxically, she was more effectively Dominant than ever.
Orestes drew back the heavy curtain that separated the botanica from his Workshop. This was a large, square, fake-wood-panelled room with a central skylight, which now admitted a faint twilight. Dozens of metal folding chairs lay closed along the walls.
“Sweep!” he told her, and she took up a broom, to clear the room of the stray unwanted spirit… Flower petals, chicken feathers, dust and soot flew as Orestes emerged from the kitchen area with a big brandy snifter filled with fresh water. At the altar-cum-card-table she took her place, rested her forehead on the edge of the snifter, and closed her eyes.
So went Orestes’ method of reading: upon the surface of the water would form the images from her astral body. She heard him humming the beautiful invocation to Ellegua… to open His Gate:
Papa Ellegua. come and open the Gate
Papa Ellegua, come and ride your Horse
The babaloa referred to himself, or sometimes to the sick person, as a “horse” that he invoked the Orisha to ride. Angelique had seen that teen-age girl actually galloping around the room, as Gemaya took her, rode her, made her her own…
She felt Orestes taking one of her hands, and now heard the new song, the invocation of Oshun:
In the Land of the Flowers, aye-yi-oh
In the Land of the Flowers, aye-yi-yi-ohhh
In the Land of the Indians, ayi-yi-oh
His eyes stayed upon the surface of the water, where the colours of her aura reflected pink and rose-gold. He smiled to see them — the sign of the Beloved of Oshun. Her exorcism was holding. No more the black and red-bloody streaks of the parasite, like a filthy mesh through her astral system.
“Write,” he adjured her, as he could read English better than he understood it spoken. She took the short pencil, and hesitated. “Write your BIG THINKIN’.” Thus Angelique inscribed for him:
WHO IS THIS MAN DAVID MANFRED TO ME?
Orestes read the sentence aloud, then repeated the name: “Dahveed Mahn-fred.” It seemed to Angelique he was resounding the name with an Italian accent, and her body went cold with a sudden dread.
‘LOOK!” sang the babaloa, “My Anhel, you LOOKIN’, wif de Thir’ Eye open!”
Angelique bent her head, gazed upon the water’s surface and, in the way he had taught her, unfocussed her eyes to look into the shifting light, letting it flow to her —
And it seemed upon the water was a dancing stream of light, merrily shifting to and fro — a sort of gay search-light. Orestes observed her Eye go prowling; perceived her astral halo glowing brighter, absorbing Light, til it seemed a refulgent nebula, surging round the filament of her body.
(This constant, rushing stream of fluidic immateria is ever pouring into us as energy from the astral. The human soul is its conductor — so this substance/Light was infusing her soul, washing in, ebbing out through the seven founts of power, the seven apertures of the chakras.)
Orestes sang more softly as the Light increased brighter, denser, massing into the shape of a human being. As he looked, he saw its eyes appear.
“T’ink!” he urged on Angelique, “T’inking HARD, of Dahveed Mahn-a-fraid!”
She herself was seeing many small figures, mostly greyish, glowing, vague. The spirit world was trying to speak to her… one slid forward, then back, another pressed forward, and back. These were signs of astral bondage, where the still-ungratified spirits lived a half-life, unable to manifest in the physical, and unhappy in the astral.
Angelique described one of these figments to Orestes, “Around it is a halo of greenish-yellow flame.” He focused again on the water… he sensed this spirit as old — very old. Upon its breast he made out a sigil, poised black amidst the flames. He had never seen such a sign, then it came to him —
“AH! EL BRUJO!” Master of the dark spirits, “This spirit, he a WISH…” Witch, he meant. “Spirit, he is BOUN.” Bound, of course. “This one, he KILL HISSE’F.”
“Who is it? Who’s going to kill himself?” Angelique gave a low mean. The brow of the Santero creased with worry. The roseate envelope of her astral self was now irradiating gold, sparkling and strongly pulsing. It knew, before either she or the shaman knew, as Angelique’s airy spirit was drawn like the proverbial moth to the strange green flame of… who?
Orestes focused again on the spirit’s breast. But the sigil kept changing — fading — returning in another guise — shredding itself, then reassembling. What was Orestes witnessing, but David’s Will-To-Dissemble.
Orestes recollected his own babaloa back in Cuba, in his early days of training, telling him: some people cannot be helped. So now this he said aloud,
“Some pipples… they cannot be he’ped.”
bringing Angelique to tears. For some, there is operative a rigid Karmic imperative, to which they must submit; to a punishment prescribed by natural law, which cannot be undone even by the most powerful of healers.
Still, Orestes went closer, in the Astral, to this burning figure. In its center was a vortex of black, a tornado of self-fulfilled darkness. Around the head and spiralling to the foot of it were chains enwrapped, links of flame that contained the seething black core. The imprisoned spirit burned, yet dissipated not, self-tormented, and the chains kept it whole. And Orestes read that never would the pain cease… and never would that spirit die.
He backed off with a shout to keep the thing down, brushed his arms and his head vigorously, in disgust, with muttered invocation. The next moment he was laughing, as the pink Light of his ‘Anhel’ fluttered up against him; Ah that perfume of the Goddess Oshun! Her soul was a refreshment.
He opened his eyes and stood Angelique up, noting how lax and unvigourous she felt. It was strange to him, how he’d read another living person entirely through the eyes of the woman who loved him. He’d had such experiences with mothers, and their children… Angelique had absorbed this man’s spirit profoundly, too much so for his liking.
In the Astral he made a close exam of the back of her head, “Aya!” he exclaimed. The medulla oblongata was wide open. Any demon that wanted to could walk right in. “Amore, ah amore,” he (cynically) sang to her, and spat on the floor. Angelique wanted to flee. She was cold all through her bones, and that semi-Italian phrasing he kept doing was making her feel ill… Now all that Orestes needed to do was —
“Salvatore!” he started to laugh.
“You are incredible… yes, that was his name…”
“Salvatore, and he save no-one. All dese womens, dey love dat t’ing dat kill’em an’ eat’em. Whaffor?” He gave Angelique a look of such pained tenderness that she began to weep in earnest.
“What good dis crying’, dis dyin’? So he kill ha’. So she die. Kill ha’, for hiss POWAH. Yiss yiss! She let herse’f go. But why? Why keep on lovin’? S’no good no moah.”
As he spoke he was bringing his strong, gnarled hands down over her head, her ears, his fingers were spread along her jaw, his thumbs at the back of her neck. He clenched and snapped the raw opening of the medulla shut. She screamed and fell forward, as he held her.
“Mebbe for one OW-WAH“ he meant ‘hour,’ “dis man know how good you are! Then he eat you.” Her crown chakra, aligned to the physical medulla oblongata, Orestes had closed in upon itself, so her energy was restored to its proper circuits, sealed against intrusion from any passing demon.
Angelique was unaware of details of the Operation. She’d heard a loud crk-CRK and was able to weep freely: her love! She could not have her love! And that was Orestes’ answer.
His hands remained enclosed about her head; she could feel every bone in her skull easing into place. A shattering relief worked its way up and down her spine. A surge of blood, slowed by the misalignment, engulfed her starved cerebellum. She felt her obsession falling from her like a filthy scab. And Orestes began the songs again, continuing his Work of healing. He urged her to try and sing with him:
In the Land of the Flowers, aye-yi-oh
In the Land of the Flowers, aye-yi-yi-ohhh
In the Land of the Indians, ayi-yi-oh
He moved his hands away gently, increasing the volume and fervour of his singing:
Que linda es, o mano mio
Que linda es, quando la practicando
“Now, your heart!” and he made her sit before the snifter again. She felt on the verge of collapse.
He travelled to her breast, but he did not see a face there, and one might when the obsession was clear. No — but there was a sort of film over it. As he observed its movements, he sensed that it was going slower, and slower… there. Jus’ like a bug. It was a little parasite, moving all over the surface of her heart. It dragged something along behind it, like a tail, scratching and irritating that precious organ.
“Ver’ ver’ bad.” The thing had taken up residence there, using the blood of her life, of her love, as its daily sustenance. Orestes saw it could be possible, that by this infestation alone might the man David Manfred be keeping himself alive… for her heart was never wholly devoured, nor was the pain of it ever to end.
As this thought came over him, Angelique trembled and cried aloud. Orestes saw what had to be done. But it was not time.
“I want you bring this man to me, Dahveed. Ecco, Salvatore. You bring him,” that would be the only way to free her. “Something is… he is… on your heart.”
“ON it?” The preposition was horrifying.
“Dis man, he is sick?”
“He is a drug-addict.” The harsh truth made her nauseous; but it was a relief to no longer pretend that it might not be true. Orestes nodded as if it all made sense. Then his eyes glassed over, and he appeared infuriated.
“Maetro Orestes, what is it?”
He had to laugh. Whenever she tried to speak a little Spanish, it came out Italian. “No worrying. No worry, my Anhel. Jus’ — you need a strong, strong protession right now. Because mebbe this man — he can kill you.”
“No! I won’t let that happen.”
Orestes stared at her with pleasure and amazement. Already she healing so fast. Just like all those lady of Oshun. “You thinka the whole WORL’ be made good, by Love!”
“Well —- won’t it?”
Orestes tried again to impress her, “Tha’ worl’ HE from. Be a ver’ bad place,” and Angelique’s bright face grew solemn and sad.
All Rights Reserved & Copyright Held By
The Author, Terence Sellers