It is 5:36 A.M. and amid the morning’s mist, the sound of crowing roosters from afar and the rising sun Thelma and I make our way up the precipitous hill. We had just finish contemplating as to whether or not we were at the right place and became convince upon seeing a red flag on a tall bamboo pole. This place had an eerie feeling about it; nonetheless, we continued in silence our walk. Suddenly the silence is broken. Thelma’s boot heel got wedge in stones and tumbled her to the ground. Her frock flipped upwards, her legs spread wide open upon the rocky yet grassy slope, thus infesting my mind with instant flirtatious moods. My thoughts deepened and my eyes exposed a desire which was immediately suppressed by her prompt chastisement that as a good friend I shouldn’t be looking at her with such lustful carnal passions. Reaching for my out stretch arm she quickly pulled herself up and onward we trod to the Obeah man’s dwelling.
On arrival, the gate is made of board with a horse shoe nailed to it. A black painted cross in its centre is encircled by a white ring. The property is obscured with high zinc fencing and the ground outside seemed presumably just swept and sprinkled with water. A strong lemon or lime scent filtrate the air. No other houses is nearby nor is anyone in sight.
We push the gate open and there in front of us resting on a rock made altar is a chipped enamel basin with water. A wooden cross towers above the altar while six lit candles burned beneath. A dull beat of a drum comes from a wooden structure in the centre of the yard, its getting louder as we advance. To my surprise it’s a church, about twelve people inside. A church service so early, Gosh! Behind the church the visibility of a two room house with a verandah attach poke out at us. I could see a large grey monkey prancing up and down in a cage through the window panes. I’ve heard stories in the past about what the creature and those who seek the services of the Obeah man had to do, and seeing it in someway confirmed the rumors. I don’t know if Thelma knew or heard of those tales but for fear of jeopardizing our friendship I didn’t say a thing, nor did I make her aware of me seeing the Ape. To this day I wonder if she had ever heard those rumors, and whether she had seen the monkey or, if she was up to whatever was said of the visitors and the monkey.
“Rock Ho, Rock Obre, O Zion Children Rock Obre,” is sung over and over again as the ritual of a spiritual dance continues around a central table of the dirt floor church. Dress in a long white robe, red head-rap with pencils stuck inside and a tape measurement around his waist, the Obeah man who is the spiritual guru leads the congregation along in a fey and clockwise rotation, the disciples are similar fashioned. They are following his movements that are synchronized to the kumina beat of a Congo drum. In a crouching posture they moved, heads going out and in like geese stretching their necks while their hands display a motion similar to that of kids doing the “Wheels on the bus goes round and round.” Their faces beamed with felicity upon seeing us, their bodies exuding sweat and slowly the music and dance fades to a virtual halt.
Standing my ground I allow Thelma to move forward to the waiting Obeah man. Why she has made the trip I do not officially know, but I was able to deduce an idea from the things she was saying since picking her up from the Airport. She was complaining furiously to her mom during the drive of how she’d work hard in the cold, saved all her monies and sends for Devon, married him and gave him his permanent status and now he was moving out on her and the baby to another woman. A welfare recipient stayed at home mom with five children, all fathered by different men. To me that was a mighty stab of betrayal, an unpardonable sin, a blatant act of cruelty and wickedness, the ultimate destruction of family values and moral decency. I knowing that they both were “together” from high school days angered me, yet I was in no way supportive of the visit even if that was the cause. My anti-superstitious and Islamic beliefs would not have allowed me and my only purpose there was that of a tour guide, a male protector for a lone female in unfamiliar terrain and at the same time a friend. For this I am remunerated with little gifts of soaps, lotion, socks, briefs and a few shirts, sneakers and trousers that Devon no longer wore, all for which I am thankful and appreciative given my pauperizing needy state.
In confidentiality Thelma and one of the ladies spoke. She is then summoned to the elder among them, he is the Obeah man. He listens attentively with head slightly tilt to the heavens, constantly nodding to her statements while resting his left hand gently on her right shoulder. His nails are long and need cutting. Her body is at an adjacent angle to me and so I couldn’t see her lips to read what she was saying, that’s an art I could master. I could however see the Obeah man’s face; it had a weird look, something between a devilish and an angelic spiritual clam. They chatted about three minutes then both disappeared into the house behind the church and in her doing forgot to bid me the gesture that she’d soon return. I was beckoned by a few in a compelling way to step inside the church. I complied, and was then wheeled trice in an anti-clockwise position while one member broke a bone dry coconut above my head.
Frightened by the experience and shivering with coconut water all over me I nonetheless pretended every thing was ok. My thoughts were to make a dash for the gate but I couldn’t, something was preventing me, my feet felt heavy as if they were planted in mix cement that was about to dry. Now a beautiful young lady among them was steering at down, her smile carried a seductive feel; never could I resist her charm, and in eagerness I lurch forward holding on to her and throwing my arms around her in a delicate way whispered a line borrowed from a song, “Baby, you’re my angel and I love you darling, just one kiss before you leave me baby,” at that moment I felt a sharp pain in my side that turned out to be a kick from my brother causing me to wake from my dream and just in time to hear him say, get your “ flipping” hands off me while screaming slurs as he left the bed.