Disturbing the Spirits

All rich thieves have something to do with the government. Although Isa knows a girl whose parents are wealthy in that way, and the girl is very nice. I can see, says Isa, how if you grow up with a lifestyle and understand that you have to rob to maintain it but it is all you have known, how you might come to live that way.

Do you have a knife, Maria? Johann asks to tease me. They poke the bag. That has to be the belly, Maria says, swollen with death. I don’t look, walk forward. I look back. Johann has succeeded in rupturing the bag. The stench is unbearable. The blood is slow, black, trickling. Bueno, vamos yendo, Maria says. Let’s get going.

Every wise woman I have met, she says, be she rich, poor, young, old, has listened to her intuition. That voice inside or outside.

I ask the Diva for advice about life as she gets us strange crunchy bread. We are standing on a very steep street. There is a green light above the plastic bread box. We hug our jackets around us. Every wise woman I have met, she says, be she rich, poor, young, old, has listened to her intuition. That voice inside or outside.

And when we finally find our way out of the cave the tranquility has a strange… not edge, but backside. A wealthy sort of suburb, yes. But the city hides things. The city scarcely exists.

In an artist’s hangout, a cave-like bar in the historic part of town, the Diva’s picture is on the wall, part of a mural of the artistic greats of La Paz. A couple makes out in the corner. A large table of people laugh and talk in the tavern room. We sit at the bar and sip spiked tea. And do you not like girls? asks the Diva as we labor up the hill in the neighbourhood in which she was born. She is looking for her traditional dance troupe. She is not sure where they are rehearsing. Black people shipped as slaves from Africa, dying of altitude, sent down to the mines. It’s the dance of their children, who mixed with the indigenous inhabitants, the Diva is learning. Not many lights, not many stores open. I say no, I’ve tried to like girls, but I don’t. The Diva knows what I mean. I think it’s a fault that I don’t have a girl in my life, she says.

In any white minibus people get on and off in a constant stream. Some know each other, may even be related, others have nothing to do with one another. In the white minibus of my brain, Wyatt sits alongside Oppen and Paz and a beautiful boy I saw in the plaza today. One by one they leave, replaced by others, sometimes leaving an empty space. I think of an almost empty minibus rocking its last passenger into the night. Maybe that is sleep.

One by one they leave, replaced by others, sometimes leaving an empty space. I think of an almost empty minibus rocking its last passenger into the night. Maybe that is sleep.

But you should see us in La Paz when we are out protesting against the government, the Diva says as we leave the hole in the wall, violencia, policia — princesa, that last word she says at the same time as a young woman with heavy eyeliner sitting on a bench with a rod full of woven bracelets. They chat and the princess offers me a bracelet to buy. We descend a long series of steps and the Diva says she is a wise one, she is. I was upset because a guy hadn’t called me and she gave me a bracelet and said it would be fine. He called right after that.

We come upon the crowded rotary and I show the Diva tokens I wear from people that I believe protect and care for me, but also tell her I realized recently that superstition is a form of self-defeat. Why assume the world is a disastrous place and disastrous things will befall me if I lose a certain earring, that good things only befall me because I don’t? At this the Diva guffaws.

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