Chapter 17 Ci-Ci: Tituba

I knock on the door of the small but grand looking home, waiting for an answer but none comes. Another knock and nothing. Did I have the wrong address? The lawn looked well-manicured like the other homes in the neighborhood. The only difference is this home still held an old style, unchanged by the arrogance of gentrification. I knock a third time.

“The door is open,” A voice calls from inside.

I enter and the home is charming, almost library like. Not what I expect of a voodoo priestess. Tall bookshelves line the walls, where valuable artwork and antiques aren’t stationed. I can’t help but wonder why she doesn’t lock the door. Making my way through the foyer, I find Tituba sitting in front of a fire place reading a book. She’s not as old as I expected, nor as young. She couldn’t have been over seventy, and she still had some weight to her.

“I don’t lock the door because everyone knows not to cross me,” she answers as if she read my mind. “I don’t read minds either. Now come, sit and tell me what you need.”

“I need a resurrection,” I say bluntly taking a seat.

“Ah, I don’t have anything for that.”

“I was told you could help me.”

“No,” she says bluntly.           

“What?”

“Make me lunch,” Tituba says pointing to the kitchen.

“I’m sorry,” I asked confused.

“Make me some lunch, black rice, fried plantain. After, I will tell you a story. Then I will ask you to reconsider your request.”

“How do I make black rice,” I don’t have a choice clearly.

“Boil the mushrooms, take the black liquid, cook the rice in it. Make sure to wash the rice snow possum.”

“What is a snow possum?”

“Whitey,” she giggles at her own joke.

“I’m not white.”

“You are if you have forgotten your culture. Now go,” she lights up a joint as I head to the kitchen.

Ingredients and process is really simple. I grab a pot and a strainer before setting the water to boil. I dig through her fridge until I find plenty of mushrooms, I wash them off quickly and toss them into the pot. It doesn’t take long for the mushrooms to start leaking the black liquid. I let it cool and strain more liquid from them.

“Make sure you roast some peas and oil in the pot before you cook the rice. Don’t forget to season snow possum. I know you people do that. Use a bouillon cube if you can’t handle it,” she laughs harder. She’s really feeling that joint.

I do as she says, toss a couple of table spoons of oil into a pot with a few of the seasonings I’ve heard off before, then add the peas. Once they seem ready, I fill the pot with black water and wait for it to boil. In the mean time I wash the rice a few times to remove all the starch before adding it to the pot and covering it. I let it simmer for about 15 minutes before checking.  

“Skip the plantain, I don’t think you could fry it any way snow bunny. throw some chicken in there,” Tituba calls back to me.

“I grab some of the leftover chicken she had in the kitchen, quickly shred it and toss it into the pot. It’s not perfect but she can’t be making last minute changes to the recipe. I plate two servings, because I deserve lunch too, and head out to the dining room. Tituba has already moved and is waiting at the table. I sit the meal in front of her. She sniffs it, and pokes around the plate before I take a seat. She finally takes a bite.

“Not bad, you might not be a snow possum after all,” she takes another bite.

The next half hour we eat as she interrogates me, prying to see what I know. How much of the extramundane as she puts it. I’m not stranger to all the things she mentions although I’ve never seen a Skinwalker or Chupacabra, she assures me they’re real. Especially the Chupacabra, who move around and hibernate like locusts. I clear the table, wash dishes and return to her in the living room.

“Are you ready to hear my story?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“I can’t remember where I was born, some say Barbados but I never felt any connection with the land there, nor the people. They weren’t bad people, but when I visited, I could tell it wasn’t there where I came from. It isn’t important to the story. What’s important is I was born free, not guilty of any crime, nor was my birth a crime. Existing is not a sin. Existing, is not, a sin,” she repeats the phrase for emphasis.

She pauses, “I was enslaved before the age of six. My entire family was. With the import of enslaved peoples banned, they would take those of us born free. Break our wills to fight. Beatings, rapes, castrations, the men and women all suffered the same. The only difference is the women would be forced to carry some slave master’s bastard child and the men had to watch as their babies were snatched from the wombs of the white women they were forced to impregnate. They murdered those babies to hide the shame of having a black baby, but not the shame of black cock. They called us savages and cannibals, but they sold our flesh for food. They ate us, as if we were livestock. Your history books will not teach you the true horrors of slavery,” her eyes burned even without the reflection of her fireplace in them.

“I was sold to an American. As a young woman, I married a man named John Indian. I was an idiot. Young and dumb, he was the first man that ever treated me with passion instead of just brutality. We were both slaves to man named Samuel Parris, and we actually asked for his permission to be married. I raised the children of that ungrateful son of a bitch. Do you know how they repaid me? They accused me of being a witch, not the priestess you see, but a witch. They said I flew on brooms, and summoned demons. I was guilty of warding their home from evil and curing a girl of her nightmares. They beat me in shifts for weeks until I had no choice but to confess to the lies or die. When it was done, they put me on trial and sentenced me to death.”

Tension held in the air, and I didn’t dare ask her to continue the story, I knew not to interrupt her and I could watch the rage in her eyes. She once again lit the joint she had been smoking earlier and offered it to me. I inhaled, a few times. The smoke burnt my throat. She got a laugh from this, I’m not as experienced as her when it comes to smoking. After a few puffs, she had calmed down and continued her story.

“I prayed to every Loa I could recall, and they all rejected me, would not hear my call. But it was Wednesday, and I had been beautiful. Ogoun heard my calls. At the time, he was the Loa of smithing, but he had all the makings of a warrior. Mangos, cigars, and rum, these will all please him. But he also loves the taste of women. I pledged myself to him, and that night we made love. I would live under his protection as long as he never forgot me. When I awoke in the morning, dozens had been slaughtered, slaves had been set free and Salem burned, smelling of rum. As they fought the fires, I listed myself as purchased and left. History will not tell you that story either. Do you believe my story,” she suddenly stops to ask with a tear in her eye.

“I do.”

“Yet you still wish for me to broker a deal with the Loa? I have walked this Earth hundreds of years, because I could not accept death. My memory perfectly intact, and it will be that way for many years to come. I cannot forget the horrors that I have seen. My children have all died, I am alone. A deal with the Loa will bring great results, but the pain it causes is forever. I ask again, do you want this?”

“More than you know,” I wipe a tear from my own eye.

“Then be prepared to deal in terms that are uncertain.”

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