every time magicman billy moved to his beat his knee knocked mine. it was tight seating. i followed orders & took a drink from bakara rum bottle & kept it moving along. being the closet man to billy the magic priest, bakara came back to me on the return journey. a necessary 2nd top up completed the round & i hand bottle back to billy. before the night is over, i think i could see about six bottles at the feet of billy. I think
how did i end up in a magic ceremony with billy to begin with? i’m still trying to figure that out but it all began with an honest guinness at the total gas station at fleuriot
aristide was coming back the following day & i wanted to see what it was like down the road in front of his house.
nothing.there was no one or no happenings when i got off the tap tap. this wasn’t what i expected. i thought i’d see crowds & music & people having fun & frolicking in the streets. i was disappointed.
water was still flowing in abundance down the hill towards the gas station. it’s never stopped since i’ve been here. i followed it down the hill & into total.
i had two beers before philippe arrived. our phone conversations are always difficult. i don’t speak his language & he speaks a little of mine. in person we communicate great, on the telephone confusion reigns. everything gets lost in translation. he thought i wanted to hire him to take me somewhere.
you need me? yes?
if you have some time, let’s have some beers. i’m at total gas station
you want to go see some girls? i know a place
i don’t understand you. we talk when i see you.
excitement is in the air. there is a pre-election party across the street later in the night by candidate sweet mickey. lots of people are already gathering in anticipation filling up the gas station parking lot. the sound-man is warming up the system. beers & drink sales are brisk
a police officer walks to the front of the line with a couple packets of cassava flour. the cashier refuses to serve him & checks the next customer. he looks like a body builder. his shirt barely fits. he glares at the cashier. his radio is crackling. you can hear sirens in the background. you can feel the tension building as the cop demands to be served. cashier gives him a guyana suck her teeth & continue on barely acknowledging his presence. cop get furious. i take note of my escape route if i need to drop my shit & run. Haitian police are known for their violence
after initially refusing the next guy in line who’s two times the cops size allow him to go. the cashier stare him up & down. he says something in disgust to her & chucks his money her way. she mumbles something back to him, another guyana style suck teeth & chuck his change back across the counter. he’s got his cell-phone tucked into his ammo pouch close to his big gun. maybe my mind was playing tricks on me but it seems as if he was reaching for his big gun. he gives the cashier one more glare & stalks off. Everyone start breathing and talking again
philippe & his uncle show up with two scantily dressed girls in tow. from the looks of things this is a clear mismatch. these girls are built for speed. Uncle on the other hand hobbles along in the slow lane. after a lot of back & forth & haggling & uncle trying to get a free feel here and a free feel there they look ready to head off for greener pastures. uncle has no money. we load up into the truck. destination unknown. girls turn to give uncle one last look. one gives him a cut eye & the other a suck teeth before disappearing across the street.
we head back up the hill past aristide’s house. still nothing doing. the water is still flowing & the place is still quiet. pass the us embassy. the lights are still on. The lights are always on. I asked a guy about that he said when that light goes off, they not in haiti no more. He laughs uncomfortably as he thinks about what he just said. un base. guards still looking bored. left turn down a dusty road to a bar next to a car wash, doubling as a portable water station & public bathroom.
ok marko we go to this bar here
ok. i want a beer
oh they don’t have beers. let’s go in
but i want a beer. this is a bar?
ok. yes. it’s a bar. we go get beer & come back
a bar with no beers. all righty we making progress. half a mile walk further down dusty trail we buy two round of beers from a freshly painted shop named el dorado. i ask about the name. no one seems to know or care. i tried explaining walter raleigh & city of gold etc but it gets lost in translation & no one seem to care.
we head back to the bar drinking & talking. we stop outside & drink & talk some more. to call it a bar is a bit of a stretch but…small talk eventually leads to
you want see magic?
magic! you know magic!
right here. come on let’s go in
billy meets us at the door. he’s an older fella of about 55. he stands a bit over 6 feet tall. oddly to me, billy seems excited to meet me. Maybe that’s just his style I rationalised. he’s smoking a cigarette which he firmly bites down on showing his front teeth. one teeth is covered in gold and shines in the low light. with a short wave of the hand he welcomes us in to his bar.
his son who caught a ride on the truck joins us inside. seating is scarce & the bar is empty. directly ahead about twenty feet is a doorway that leads to a lighted room off left. on the immediate left is a spill over area for excess dancers i suppose. to the right is the main area of the club. it’s about ten square feet.
billy will do a magic for my uncle
Him billy. he’s a magician
who? Billy? Billy is a magician?
yea he’s a good magician.
very good magician. i’m a magician too
you’re a magician too!!?
yea but i no practice magic for many years
my uncle. somebody did something to him. billy will do a magic for him
who? one of his ladies
we both laugh.
come on let’s go in
billy leads us into the lighted room. a counter runs along the left side & coke bottles are stacked in crates on the right. an old gadget of some sort sits at the end of the counter which runs the length of the room. Looks like an old typewriter
billy takes his seat on two coke crates in front of a lighted candle. two light-bulbs are on overhead so the room is very bright. yours truly, soon to be elevated deputy master of ceremonies follow uncle who’s behind billy. behind me is the son, another young man & philippe who’s slapping his belly.
billy sits facing the door or make that the entrance. there is actually no door. to his right uncle is stooping partially under the counter. i sit on an empty bucket facing billy. the other young man stoops to the left of billy off to my right. billy son’s behind him. philippe is behind me leaning against the door frame & the counter.
like magic two young ladies appear in the doorway. they’re dressed for a port au prince night of cocktails.
billy is part humming, part singing a joyful song he began from the time he led us into his shrine. he’s a chain smoker & keeps his cigarette firmly gripped between his teeth.
the magic ceremony is slow in starting. take that back. actually, i’m not sure when the magic ceremony began if it did at all. occasionally i’m forced to bite my bottom lip to hold back myself from outrageous laughter which would be hard to stop once started. i’m not sure what’s about to happen next, but everyone seems to be playing their roles sorta seriously. i occasionally say little things to myself like don’t laugh. this is serious business. this too shall pass. are these motherfuckers serious? Are they trying to pull a prank on me? ok. don’t laugh. Maybe we’ll all have a good laugh at the end.maybe
being a rank magic ceremony novice, i assumed as soon as we entered billy’s lighted room we should behave accordingly. Whatever that is. i observed everything in silence staring directly at billy. there’s a lot of banter & small talk taking place. not quite certain if this is part of the ceremony, i say nothing & keep my eyes trained on billy. young man to billy’s left is now holding the candle.
billy maintains a happy go-lucky demeanour about him the entire time. smiling, winking, moving his shoulders to his humming & making sounds musicians make when they feeling it. quiet. cheerful. confident.
a telephone goes off startling me. Did I just hear a fucking cellphone go off in my first magic ceremony? Say it ain’t so.
philippe answers after a few rings as he tries to find the phone in his pocket. He engages in a few minutes of lively conversation. Oddly to me, billy never misses a beat. he continues on throughout the phone call. it seems like we are waiting on something cause I couldn’t see anything resembling magic happening. Or maybe it was just me
marko let me borrow your phone.
your phone. let me borrow
i have to call & i no have minutes to call.
bro you’re making a phone call in the ceremony. i whispered over my shoulders
oh it’s no problem. let me borrow i gotta call. it’s no problem
billy pauses humming to take a draw of his cigarette. you can make a fucking phone call in a magic ceremony? i ask myself as i handed off the phone to philippe.
billy smiles, exhales & smiles again. almost as if her was giving his approval for the phone call to go ahead. he continued his humming where he left off. I’m staring at billy, billy’s looking at me. billy smiles, exhales & smiles again then says something. The translation comes back from phillipe almost instantly
billy say why you keep looking at him?
He want to know why you keep looking at him
tell him because I want to see what he is doing
billy smile. I smile. He takes a long pull of his cigarette and picks up bakara bottle number I’m loosing track. He takes a drink and hands it to me. I take a drink and pass it along. Billy picks up his song where he last left off and moving to the beat.
I’m almost beginning to not notice his knee knocking mine