One Decadent Life: Part Two
DEBBILS IN DE HOUS’
At seven the next morning, Eunice let herself into the house; stopped stock-still, exclaiming in disgust — Whut in HAIL? Someone had vomited right by the front door. She’d almost dirtied her new shoes.
Her West Indian blood was riled; all the little hairs along her forearms rose on end: Puke be a debbil sign. She’d taken care of sick New Yorkers before, but this felt different. She sniffed along the hall, placing her wide feet down carefully. She swore again when she observed the disordered grand salon, then something captured her attention: she sniffed again —
Daid one in de hous’?
She moved silently down the stairs to the bedroom suites, peering in at the first. She gasped to see Tere lying on the floor with wide-open eyes. Upon the presence of a witness to her agony, Tere groaned and uselessly writhed. A rank stench as of unwashed clothes told Eunice she had found the vomiting culprit. Well ennyhows… dat lady be libbin’.
She huffed down the corridor to the master bedroom, her employers’ private quarters, which she had told David he couldn’t use… because he’d be spewing out that sickness, and she’d have to scrub the whole place out, ceiling, walls, baseboards, shampoo the carpets, everything. She wanted him in one of the ‘sick rooms,’ which had tile floors… But he’d moved in despite. She swung the door to without knocking. The man lay stretched across the bed stark naked, in a cruciform pose, awash in greasy sweat. She glowered at him through the stink, hands on hips, taking in the criss-crossed scratches scored red into the pasty flesh.
“WHAT! What is it?” Panicked by her indiscretion, David grappled with the blankets and covered himself.
“Uh uh UHN!” exclaimed the maid, lowering her head like a bull about to charge, “You Noo Yahk debbils shore are a pain!”
“How dare you!” David weakly bellowed,“would you PLEASE get out?”
As David stared, her big nostrils flared, so she moreso had the look of a mad bull. Yes and the woman sniffed him…! which sent him over the edge. He mustered the strength to scream “I SAID — GET OUT!”
Phee-yew! Stinks wuss in heah… one real sick, dirty debbil in DAT man! Somfin ol’, rotten, and daid. She backed out of the room and shut the door. Laik mah Daddy teach me… don’ nevah turn yo’ back on no debbil.
This Daddy… was a babaloa, like Orestes, a Santero of some power. While Eunice, being only seventeen years of age, was not yet initiated (and Oye might not be her orisha…) still she came from that family of the most powerful… of the many healing families inhabiting the islands round.
Her father was a man of Oye, the orisha goddess of the cemetary, whose devotees hold to the most serious Workings. (In the Initiation, Oye’s people must cut off all their hair, spend an entire year practicing celibacy, and wear nothing but white — which restrictions none of the other orishas demand.)
Eunice’s interim apprenticeship with Marilyn and Bramwell… and apprenticeship is what it was… would lead her eventually to greater Works. Her apparent commonplace domestic servitude thus masked a potent reality behind the Causewell’s ‘heroin retreat house.’ Its vaunted curative value lay not only in the addict’s removal from New York, being placed in isolation, and supported by the Causewell money and care. But its power was rooted in the wielding of a healing genius. While the fact of this Santeria influence was not touted abroad, it was what made the enterprise so effective, and subconsciously desired, by those in need. (Both Marilyn and Bramwell were themselves Initiates, of some years’ standing.)
Thus, as part of her education, Eunice was learning about a very specific form of insanity, one that was part and parcel of the white man’s culture: that very specific, parasitic possession that was the result of his culture of drugs.
Only Rene Lepine, the poet, had been aware of the activities of the Santeros… had participated fully in the rituals, and his own exorcism. And he had been asked to never speak of what he had learned…
An hour after this confrontation, David appeared in the kitchen, swathed in a sheet and a shaky hauteur. He extended a hand full of money towards what he thought was a mere maid-servant. “Rum! Vodka! he commanded. This kind of insult she had become accustomed to, but still… Eunice slowly shook her head and from her stomach came a deep sound of disfavour:
“UM uh um uhm UHN!” Like I cain’t unnerstan’ no good English!
David glared at her in fury. Was he going to have to call Marilyn and Brawwell and go through some ordeal to discipline this beast? As if reading his mind, the woman sent a glare back —
“Mebbe you oughter jes’ FERGIT dat mess… and set ye’se’f down here, rat here. GOWAN — SET!” and David found himself obeying her, forced down at the kitchen table. He realized how drained he was… his head bowed over a flowered china plate.
The woman moved comfortably, competently around the kitchen. It was a beautiful room, done in dark blue with brass fittings. On the windowsills were a multitude of potted plants, what looked like herbs growing, some curly vines, and a little yellow canary in a cage. It was Eunice’s domain, and he suddenly understood: he had to behave himself in it.
Just as he was starting to relax, under her command, with the idea of actually eating something, that sound came out of her depths once more:
“Umm, umm uhn uhn UHN!”
It made his blood go hot and anxious… and the voice went after him:
“Know what I seed? Mmm uhn uhn. Yeah, when I come in de hous’? Nah? You dunno? You don’ WANNA know!”
“Ah, I guess the place was kind of a wreck…”
“Yassir — and dat too!”
“Now see here Eunice you listen to me…”
“NAW! I don’ hafta lissen to YOU, mon! ‘Cause you don’ hafta KEER… do ye? Naw.”
David tried to retaliate, “Ma’am I do beg your pardon, but how…” but his aplomb abandoned him. Eunice glanced round sharply to see him going green.
She grabbed his head in two strong hands and turned his face to the morning sunlight. His eyes were glazed over, and she could feel his strength ebbing beneath her pulse… Debbil’s got ‘im strong. A gasp fled his lips as he felt her power, his head in her grip throbbed, melted. He needed this… whatever it was. This feeling coming over him, from her hands…
He started to come to from his faint, and caught her eyes boring into his. He felt her reading the full, awful knowledge of his addiction… but then the hands left him, were busy again.
Well of course she knows. There’s nothing mystical about it. Junkies come down here all the time for the cure. It dawned on him that very possibly Eunice herself was The Cure.
Then he heard another voice from her, a soothing, musical tone, wheedling him, like he was just some boy, “Nice li’l bit o’ toas’ heah. I’m puttin’ the buttah on it, see? Okey?” David listlessly raised his eyes to her kindly face. He saw how young she was, despite her grand size… She watched and waited for the man to put the toasted buttered bread in his mouth. He bit — tears filled his eyes.
December 10, 1985
I just got off the ‘phone with Andre, after some most disturbing gossip. At least I know that David isn’t just ignoring ME. He’s vanished! And not only him, but Tere, and Paula, and some drug dealer named Lola — all four seemingly DISAPPEARED. Andre thinks they’ve gone out of town, on some kind of heroin holiday.
So now I have to swallow the fact that all this little society knows, has known, that David’s a “torrid junkie,” as they say. Seems I was the only one in town still wondering about it.
But still I wonder… if he hasn’t decided to kill himself. Like Orestes had fathomed: it would be logical, if he’s an Incurable. That dreadful Paula was allegedly on her way to the Golden Hills detox center. That was the last anyone heard of her… she never made it there. And Andre says the dealer is a rat, had been talking to the FBI and the DEA. And she was David’s dealer? Godawful! And Tere, who knows? Andre says she’s probably with David. His theory is that all four are together, somewhere. Maybe it’s a suicide pact.
The more he blabbed the more upset I got, finally I demanded he go over to David’s apartment, and see if he was there, or not… I don’t know if he’ll obey me. I may have to go myself. I can tell the Super we think he might be dead, rotting in the apartment…
Andre had called about the Salvatore book party, when he segued into all that… Stupid goddamned book-party/reading/signing, which I already told them I don’t want. But they don’t care about what I want, I’m their creature. It’s going to be at Jacky 90, that damned nightclub! Why can’t I have it in some nice, clean place in midtown, near the publishers? At some elegant restaurant, with good lighting, and a five to seven PM time limit? With venerable middle-aged tweedy publishing types, and old bookish dames, no, it has to be in some dirty old pitch-dark hole, at midnight, because I’m a dirty old “underground star.“ They want to make it into some kind of “groovy scene,” which will make good copy, and sick gossip, which to me is incredibly boring… partaking of some cliche fantasy of the ‘avant-garde,’ a dead ideal.
And it’s not like “Salvatore” has anything to do with my first book, “The Dungeon.” They are two ENTIRELY different Works. I see I am going to have to live that subject-matter down — forever. It’s a scourge.
When I complained about the venue, Andre was very conciliatory, talking at me as if I didn’t understand how terrifically COOL Jacky 90 is! Like I haven’t been going to the dump for seven years! I know what their ‘literary evenings’ are all about: a sound byte in the center of a maelstrom of nonsense. He told me I’m expected to give a reading performance. No way! I refuse to stand up before a passel of drunks and junkies, who don’t have their wits about them and probably don’t read anyhow.
I’m not going. But I didn’t tell him so. I’ll just no-show, that’ll fix their bloodie wagon.
David, David where are you? I feel desperate… weirdly desperate, like I need him but no, I don’t really…
I’m going to try to find Rene, he’ll make me feel better. Maybe he’s heard from David, or the others. And he’ll understand about the abominable Jacky reading… he hates to perform too.
[End Diary Entry]
Tere lay flat out on the white sand beach, under the noonday sun, dressed in a pair of Marilyn’s lace panties. Her chubby breasts were turning pink, her taped-down penis a little bumpy. David was under two umbrellas, hunched over on a rickety beach chair, again garbed in the winter woolens he had arrived in. Sweat was pouring off him and of course he stank, but he barely noticed for despite the heat he was shivering, freezing, in detox agony. The morning of the fourth day out, without heroin, and neither seemed in a state even approaching what might be called an improvement.
David snapped at Tere, “I’ll have to ask you not to speak to me — unless I require you to!”
“Oh OH oh!” she snarled back, “so it’s that old Victorian rule, ‘Be seen, but not heard,’ or is that ‘Don’t speak until spoken to?’ How terrifically quaint of you David; you make me feel like SUCH a woman!” She sat up on her beach towel and fluffed her hair, “Really Daddy-o you are such a bore.”
“I know I’m a bore. I don’t care if I’m a bore. I’m kicking. I’m supposed to be a bore.”
Tere imitated his tone and his words, “I’m a bore, I’m kicking, I’m supposed to be a bore,” simpering and giggling.
The evil smirking enraged him, “Can we please have some fucking QUIET, so I can hear the goddamned ocean?”
At that moment a large cargo liner passed into view, on the horizon, and for a few seconds they meditated upon it, each imagining themselves travelling away, far from this travesty of a Caribbean holiday… A couple of small vessels, possibly police boats, came out of a cove and headed for the freighter.
Aside from Ste. Barthelemy’s obvious attractions and pleasures: pristine white sand beaches, crystal waters of aquamarine… its international population, its wild night-life, chic restaurants and shops… its Port de Gustavia, crammed with multi-million-dollar yachts… the island is famous for a relentless police activity against the drug trade. One main section of the island is dotted over with sonar, radar, antennae and personnel, monitoring the still-constant plying between North and South America. So any vessels as might be guilty kept well off the coast of the island.
And though neither David nor Tere, in luxury on their private beach, squabbling over nothing, could possibly imagine it… their two old friends were travelling away, very far away, on that very ship, deep in its hold, inside a container buried so deep, under a dozen others, it would take three days to exhume and search.
Tere, on all fours, her face red with fury, was shrieking under the blazing sky, “I’ll not be told to keep quiet, not by you, or anybody!” Appalled by the sight, David placed a magazine in front of his face.
“I’m just as fucked up as you are so could you please have some pity?”
The concept of pity was only bizarre to Lola and Paula’s ‘nurses’ on duty; these captors never ceased to describe the fate that awaited them — just for fun! For the pleasure of holding horror over their heads. Why not? It was a good, devilish sport. In their hermetically sealed, air-conditioned comfort, each victim had an IV of morphine sunk into their arteries. Though the superior-quality drug keep them quiet and pleasured, it could not allay their psychological dread. And the two residing on the clean, pure sand of a Ste. Barthelemy beach imagined they were in torment.
So here are the four ‘missing’ friends, on their Heroin Holiday, not quite as Andre had surmised. A mere week earlier, not one of them had imagined the Fates they now faced. Contrast the peril of the two women, with the misery of David and Tere. Yes, all of them indeed ‘together,’ and for the last time, until the cargo ship faded from view.
Perhaps it was the subconscious proximity of the subject matter — for whatever reason — Tere felt a sudden urge to confess all to her friend.
“David, there’s something I’ve got to tell you.”
“Oh God what now?”
“Well I really had no intention of coming down here to kick. I mean, that wasn’t my primary motivation.”
“I thought not. You had a stash in the luggage?”
“Yes, majorly. And money too, thank god in my attache. Because David, I had to quit Anya.”
“You quit? What do you mean? What happened?”
Tere hesitated. Once he knew everything, he could triumph over her. He’d never wanted her to deal, and she’d have to admit he was right. But should she implicate herself? That a crime had been committed was more obvious to her now. For what other reason had Anya tried to get her into the van? She was a witness… and she hadn’t gone to the police. She’d left Paula and Lola to their Fates.
David was waiting. Tere decided she had to… she had to tell someone.
“Well… I was at Anya’s the night before we left… just four nights ago, seems like years. I mean, I was over there, at midnight, as usual, getting my stuff. Li had bagged it, and I was ready to go. But then Lola came by, with Paula… and David,” she took a deep breath, “I think she hot-shotted them.”
“Who? Anya? She … KILLED Lola, and Paula?”
“I’m not sure. I watched them both pass out, then she had two of her flunkies put them in body bags…”
“BODY BAGS? What THE FUCK Tere?”
“Well we all knew she was pissed off at Lola. She wanted her business… but I think she only meant the shot for Lola, But Paula got dragged in, so she had to go too.”
“She had to GO?” Tere’s monotone delivery failed to convey the horror she actually felt; it disturbed David deeply. But she was trying to keep control…
“Like I said David — I don’t know if they are dead, or what! These guys put them in a silver RV parked out in front of Anya’s. Then she tried to get me into the RV too but I took off running… and then… I decided I could never go back.”
David looked hard at his friend. As much as her story disgusted him, even moreso was he shocked by the condition she was in — detox was not doing her any favours. She’d been clawing at The Face, and what looked like a open wound was oozing under her jaw. Her small, ferrety eyes were red-streaked and bleary, and revealed to be not so pretty when un-made-up; her glance was hideous. She was shaking, crying and — worst of all — she looked like a man. Or, more specifically, she looked just like what she was, beneath the veneer of sophistication: a frightened, chubby twenty-four-year-old boy. A boy with long hair dyed a filthy sort of yellow, and coming out black at the roots. And he/she/it needed a shave. All her refined affectation of manner, the carefully acquired feminine persona had dissipated under the stress of the last four days.
“So anyhow when we leave here, I’m going to London. And I don’t know when I’ll see you again.”
David felt suddenly sympathetic, and frantic, “Tere, stay! Don’t leave. Let’s just stay here — we’ll get some little shack on the beach — ”
“Daddy, I love you. I’ll always remember you said that…” she started to cry again, “but doll, I gotta go. I gotta get high.”
“No you don’t Tere, please,” but the two went silent. They watched the two small boats worrying at the cargo freighter. Someone was climbing a ladder up its side.
“But you understand now. I can’t go back to New York. You see — I took all the money.”
“Oh God Tere tell me you didn’t.”
“Fuck them! I’m dead meat anyhow. I saw what I saw. They were going to get rid of me sooner or later. At least out of New York I might have a chance.”
“Close to forty… forty grand.”
“Jesus Christ Tere we could set up down here…”
“David. I’m sorry. My mind is made up.”
Two more little boats came to circle the gigantic freighter, but then sped off on some other errand.
Whenever Angelique wanted Rene, within a day or so she would see him on the sidewalk. He had no telephone, and she did have a series of numbers she could call to try and track him down. But she never found him in that logical manner. All that she needed to do was to want to see him, and he would appear — in the Village, in Chelsea, or at some gallery show…
She had a six o’clock appointment at her Chambers and was trying to hail a cab at rush hour, when one pulled up, and Rene’s head popped out of the window —- “Going my way?”
“Rene I have been dying to talk to you,” she embraced him in the back of the cab. “Twenty-third and Park,” he told the driver.
“Now how did you know?”
“Not hard to figure my dear, you’re such a recluse. Home and dungeon — dungeon and home.”
“Rene, I’ve been having the most awful time… David seems to have disappeared.”
“Oh really? Well I know where he is. And Tere too.”
“I even have a phone number.”
“Let’s go to the Whipshack and order in. We’ll try calling, but the phones down on St. Bart’s are notoriously buggy. And he’s kicking… it might be better to leave him be, at least for a few more days.”
For the first time in days Angelique relaxed. She’d obey her friend, do his bidding — her Beloved wasn’t dead, and whatever else might happen, she had that.
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