He needs to finish what was started. The ancestral journey from Glasgow to Belfast, the reward a ship to the New World and indentured servitude that led to a sorghum farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The flight from Virginia to Arkansas; Ira on to New Orleans. Adore’s story, the way she told it to him. Where his heart claimed entry, other lives better left alone, perhaps fragile from his solicitude, intense and known mostly only to himself now, going nowhere, and if two were here, one in Manhattan, one whose man sacrificed his art to heal her soul, and his first love a widow in a cock-fighting town inland from the Pacific, why should he remember what he did not need to brood over–how he had been the man whose affections were paltry and swept over and under by his vain effort to do art with words, what no one in his family save one had even attempted. He thought of Carlos, then: another need, to prepare the novel his brother left behind in his van when he walked into the Chesterfield gorge. He needs to finish what he started.
Adore said, I kept that little bird until it died. I took it everywhere. I was called Bird Girl, then Lady. No one gave me grief. I was in the company of the gods who measured life not in altitude but in the way you soared high, then low, landing on both feet at once; you saw eye to eye with the fates. Mama Ju-Ju taught me. I started doing gris-gris in her back room. That’s why I always go to the back of my house with a client. Same place the bed is, but I only make love with men I love. Never women, I’m not made that way. Besides, a bed means nothing, it’s there only to enjoy, where it can keep you warm, even safe. I can count on two hands the men who were in bed with me. It took a long time, but you know that. I felt I was robbing the cradle with you, at first; believe me, you disabused me of that notion, or I you. What do you think, Juan Flores? Juan was listening hard. He still needed to know more about Madame Ju-Ju and her back room, so he asked, and Adore said, She let me live up to the name I gave myself. Adore. As in: The loas adore you so you will be unsure if it’s you they are riding or you riding them . . . Madame Ju-Ju maintained the candles and said it was the loas who did it all. All you had to do was leave the back door open and entice them through.
Adore kept going back to that house in the bayou, after she had sworn she would not return. She had to have a home of her own. The bird felt at home: She would set it free and it would fly and always come back, landing on the sill of the open window where she waited, saying the words over and over until she knew she had by heart what Madame Ju-Ju had taught her in the city. She wanted the boy to come back, but he was afraid now he would lose all he knew to make his way in New Orleans. She wanted to tell him he had nothing to fear, this was New Orleans too, just the outer edge, that was all. She saw the boy in town and he always wanted to talk, but by that time she was visiting a man in the Quarter who was willing to pay her top dollar to talk him back to health.
Cathleen came in and made love to him, not with him but to him. She always recalled for him his mother and her mother and her mother’s mother. She was far more beautiful than any of them and she may well have been a better lover. She made him think about Adore, and thinking of Adore and how she made love to, not with, him, led in a circle back to Cathleen.
(3 July 2011)
copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander