Into the World
I put my headphones on before I get on the bus. Most nights I put on soaring beautiful vocals that make me close my eyes and rock.
If my eyes are closed and my head is full of Maria Callas or Marvin Gaye, I can’t see them.
Tonight, none of my usual playlists will work. I shuffle albums with crackhead concentration. Opera? No. Delta Blues? No. Old country? Not even the voice of the dying Johnny Cash can save me. .
While I wait for my bus I see them fluttering at the periphery of my vision. Shadows darker than the night as gossamer as silken draperies. They are bold tonight, their edges glide across my face, they tug at my braids. I close my eyes, trying to will the music pumping in my ears to do what I need it to do.
I switch stations, Billie Holiday crooning so sweet and sad won’t do it. I frown down at the screen of my phone, scroll faster through noted playlists. Killing Time. Buried under Etta James and my Bad Girls Twerk Forever playlists.
My Father told me once that we carry the blood of mythic ancestors. He claimed that we came from bloody Haitian rebellions. He told me violent extravagant stories about The Ancestors. He taught me about machetes and graveyard dirt.
While the shadows writhe and start to whisper I duck behind the bus stop to get ready.
My Mother taught me too. From her I learned the quick and dirty magic. We spent many afternoons cuddled together on the couch, her teaching me the stories of peoples from all over the world and how to spot the truths.
I screw my earbuds in tight and tuck my little mp3 player into my bra. I stash my backpack under a bush and squat a few feet away to pee.
Always pee before going into battle. Mama’s cardinal rules. Never go in with a full bladder or hungry. Always warm up at least a little if you can.
After I finish peeing I slip out of the world and into The World. It is so easy for me now, the words come almost unbidden to the beat of 2Pac speaking in my ear.
All I need in this life of sin…
In The World my swords are stashed right where I left them and the shadows look hungry tonight. I say one more prayer and let the thousand names of my ancestors ring in my ears while I pull my blade across my palm. I smear the blood across my face and hit my stance.
“First blood mother fuckers. Come and get it.”