December 16, 2021

Writing Exercise #8

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Another inspired by beloved Chiwan.

that held death and love so closely together.

I lived in the type of neighborhood that the news people would call “struggling” with their fake concerned faces. They only came when there was violence, or when they needed image for their urban decay segments. We called it home. Home ain’t always good, we all knew it. Sometimes in the morning someone would be hosing blood off of the sidewalks while detectives walked around trying to talk to folks. Nobody talked.

Once, when I was about 19, a cop asked me if I’d seen the stabbing. I looked up at him and shook my head, “of course not.” He glared at me, “how do you people live like this? You should be ashamed of yourself. What is wrong with you?” He got loud and some of the fellas took notice. I know he expected me to cower, to cry or do something arrest worthy. “Sir, I hope one day you understand.” My voice was so small, gentle he flinched. He would, they all would.

I walked away from him, and the fellas relaxed, I heard later he quit the force, citing inequalities and the thin blue line. The boys always wanted to ask me but, I’d just smile and ask after their aunties. As I got older, I felt the heartbeat of our neighborhood. I became, in whispers bruja, the old folks called me obeah woman, one of the young girls I saw all the time took to calling me Mambo and following me around.

-that held death and love so closely together.

Mama always said I was an old soul. I made her laugh. I was serious. Her little Ole ‘livia. I took my silences and dove into them like prayers, like Sankofa knowledge, like home. She called me her witch baby, her spooky sweetheart. Where she walked in light and bright expansive energy, I walked in shadow and secrets and pensive observation. Most of the time, she let me be. I had to grow into what I could become, and she knew well. Too well.

Another time, I sat in an interrogation room with my hands folded on the table, my back straight, the detective in front of me was still being the nice one. “You know why you’re here Ms. Olivia. Why don’t you just, relax and talk to us.” As he yammered at me, I watched his partner. He was handsome, tall and well kept. I could see how vain he was, how hard he worked to keep his vanity a secret.

I waited the good cop out. I could smell the decayed soul in his body. His breath reeked of sour blue raspberry candy, rot and sleep. I turned back to the other one he was so engrossed in building the rapport between us, he hadn’t noticed I wasn’t paying attention. I smiled and sighed; I gave him my softness. He wanted to see me cry, I could taste his desire on my tongue. I had to wait his partner out.

When I was growing up, I caught Mama watching me all the time. Her head would tilt, her mouth would turn up at the left corner and after a while she’d always smiles. “Baby, what you know?” She observed me, it wasn’t really that she wanted to talk, she wanted to see. Mama saw me, truly saw me at the core. She knew me.

The mediocre cop thought he was the good cop. He tried his tricks, “listen we understand you might be nervous Olivia. We are here just to clear things up. “His breath was nothing, his eyes while pretty held no secrets, no depth, no nothing. The other cop, the good cop made a low murmur and they decided it was time for a break.

When they returned, the mediocre cop sat next to me and offered me a cup of coffee. I knew it was time, I ignored his shitty coffee and turned to the other one. The one sour with rapacious desire, fear and lack of power. He sat in front of me, flexing his jaw and coiled like a snake. I faced him and leaned forward, his gaze lowered from my eyes to my lips, to my throat and when he realized his face tightened, I spoke so soft, so sweet. “Detective, I only want to speak to you.”

When I leaned back, I felt their exchange, the wordless acknowledgement and they thought they had me. The Good cop couldn’t help himself, as his partner left the room, he let me see him feel his own power. “So, Olivia. What do you have to tell me sweetheart?” The way he said sweetheart tasted like body odor in my mouth, “I want to tell you a secret detective. I do know why I’m here but, I can only tell you. Can I tell you my secret, detective?”

I had to wait for him. For his pleasure, for him to believe in the pull of his tense smile, his flexed jaw. I let him see the promise of secrets only for him, for his glory in my eyes and when he took it, I knew. “All right Ms. Olivia, I promise I will do everything for you that I can.” Yes, he would. I let him have my profile, just the hint of my lower lip trembling before I spoke.

“I want you to see detective. I want you to know, to be my most beloved gof’nn hupadgh Shub-Niggurath.” His soul, what was left of it at any rate tried. It did. There was a single spark of knowing, of caution, of pure animal terror but, his ego was too hungry. When I looked back at his face the effulgence of blooming allegiance and lust shone in his eyes, he whispered to himself. “Most favored, rebirth, eternal-”

When his inner eye opened to see, the smell of rotting blue candy filled the interrogation room, the scent of his rot and greed made me wanton and ready. I had waited a long time for him, too long. “Speak then my love, speak and see.”

The light above us dimmed, his eyes went wide as he stared into the cloud of me. He saw the reality of me in his deepest nameless self and he began to gibber. “Mouths, touch me, so many t-tentacles. Mother. Lover. I am a son of Sarnath, please, I want to come home.” I nodded, “go make preparations and have your partner take me home. I will wait for you in the Black Wood.”

At home the boys were waiting, my beloved children. When they gathered at Black Wood, they stood rapt. I stood before my sweetlings, watching their true forms flicker under the sodium vapor lights and encroaching fog. I stood before my beloveds and raised my arms.

“My children, my beloved dark young. I return to you with glad tidings. I have found my gof’nn hupadgh Shub-Niggurath. He shall come here to Black Wood and I will swallow him with my soiled mouth and birth him and he shall live ever after, father, lover, penitant. A new Capra hircus. And unto me, you my loves, my dark young shall spread the joy of worship to the world, we will turn this vile plaece into the shores of ever welcoming Hastur.”

My children, my thousand young began to shed their human skins, more of them crept from the ruins of the projects on the next block, they rose from the gutters, their calls rose into the air on the reek of the open grave. And as they called their impending victory, I could hear the voice of my mother, “Ole ‘livia, my outer goddess, -that held death and love so closely together.”

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