Excerpt from DARK GLASSES
This magic moment,
So different and so new
Was like any other
Until I kissed you.
And then it happened,
It took me by surprise.
I knew that you felt it, too,
By the look in your eyes.
Sweeter than wine.
Softer than a summer’s night.
Everything I want I have
Whenever I hold you tight.
“This Magic Moment” by The Drifters
Pierre LaPorte’s power was potent, palpable, and if you could appreciate his style, poetic. Throughout the ages — and it was rumored that he had lived through quite a few — the most frequent requests he received, from Marie Antoinette to the Queen of Sheba, from Napoleon Bonaparte to Shaka King of the Zulus, were for love and money, in that order. Contrary to what many believe, there were as many men on a quest for love as there were women, and as many women hungry for the acquisition of money and its accompanying power as there were men. Pierre’s women craved amour that would answer their own, generally unrequited I-just-want-him-to-love-me kind of love. His men, victimized by maximum amounts of testosterone, usually wanted I-want-her-on-her-knees-loving-nobody-but-me-not-even-her-mama kind of love revenge.
His clients were all people of color. They crawled, limped, strutted, jogged, and Concorded to get to him. They were feminists and chauvinists, bankers and bookies, PhDs and GEDs, professors and hairdressers, pugilists, cashiers, diplomats and dayworkers. Some had escaped from Brazil to avoid trials for crimes of passion. Some had been near-victims of these same crimes. Others had scarred the sacred faces of their beloveds with drain opener and Gillettes. Extra sharp. Others had destroyed Goodyear radials, Visa and MasterCards through misuse; or they murdered marriages by stashing soiled panties inside wives’ purses, interrupted wedding vows by not holding their peace or piece, and acted as the mind behind poison pens. All were in the various stages of amoritis, lovesickness, on either the receiving or giving end.
How and when Imani came into the knowledge of Pierre and his mean and ancient craft she never told Cassandra or Anita. Pierre LaPorte bore no resemblance to that which most minds conjure. He was neither shadowy, mysterious nor frightening. He was tall — six feet five-and-a-half inches. He was sinewy, and when Imani witnessed him in his glory, nude from the waist up, manipulating the sleeping power of speech from bata drums, gourds, whips and other instruments of his trade, coaxing the powers-that-be with his French-English, her heart turned weak, her pussy wet, and her knees unsteady.
She thought he was sinfully handsome, his skin the color of chocolate Swiss Miss pudding and just as finely textured, his set of Haitian teeth strong and unchallenged by refined sugars, carbonation and the like, and though he was an avid partaker of Budweiser and one hundred and eighty proof white rum combined in equal portions, his presence of mind was unshakable.
For a sum of money which Imani never disclosed to her friends, Pierre worked a complicated and determined series of rituals on and for her, all with the intention of removing the evil eye, clearing the negative vibrations, and calling down spiritual, ancestral aides to accompany her on her single-minded quest for this man-to-drink-her-cup-to-the-very-last-drop. Some of these rituals Cassandra witnessed, some she did not. She helped Imani to bury mottled urns of curious concoctions in both Central and Riverside Parks on nights fit only for Lon Chaney. She was, as always, more of a lookout, lackey, go-fer, really, than a participant. She rubbed Imani with oils, potions, salves of God-knew-what in places where even Imani’s long arms would never reach. To Imani’s delight, Pierre himself bathed her thrice in earthly, earthy and unearthly fragrances by the light of mad candles and to the sound of bells and whips.
Oh . . . if curators or archaeologists could have been fortunate enough to even hear of the rooms of Pierre’s inner sanctum. On every surface, wherever the eyes could stop, were fine pots of porcelain and terracotta, some lidded and some unlidded, some housing grains and some harboring liquids, some bare and some laden with draped ropes of magnificent multicolored beads for every West African and Haitian orisha of the pantheon.
There were books in French and Haitian patois, some opened, crumbling and bound in faded brown leather, some closed and guarded with straps secured by small locks of burnished hand-hammered brass. There were saucers of foodstuff, wet jars and dry jars of things busy with the eternal process of propagating their own kind, cigars smoked and unsmoked, hats of all manner whose brims and crowns and ribbons and veils were tattooed with stains of intense conjuration, figurines of Indian chiefs and cripples, chicken coops with temporarily live fowl. There were Quasimodo-sized bells and it-is-time-for-tea-sized bells. There were whips soft with wear and whips hard with attitude. Everything in those rooms looked ancient, serious, and not for the feeble of heart or spirit.
During her first bath, Imani’s ego was assaulted and diminished when Pierre commanded her to remove the delicate gold chain she had purchased at Fortunoff’s especially for the occasion. Her mind was more occupied with seduction than purification.
“You do not need all this cheap ornament. It mar your beauty.”
“Fuck you,” she mumbled under her breath.
But Pierre replied, “Hmmm . . . yes, we shall see.”
A month later, after the second bath and during the oiling of her nipples, she decided to press her luck, though Pierre’s gray stones in the earthenware bowl had already informed her that she had none. Her long nails were brilliant with yellow oil, Oshun’s, the orisha of attraction and seduction. With both hands, she removed the excess oil from her nipples and began to apply it to Pierre’s nipples.
When he smiled, she thought he was pleased, though his nipples remained nothing more than flat dark discs.
“You do not need all this cheap trick. Leave them to the whores.”
During the third and final bath, he asked her to spread her thighs and cheeks so that no part of her would escape his magic. She obeyed, all the while gently tugging at the resistant knot in the drawstring that kept his white cotton gauze pants above his waist.
When he looked at her and smiled, she was certain he was pleased. Then he laughed. His laugh was deep like a volcano trying not to explode. “I am not the one for you, la belle. Do not squander your energy on the improbable. I only try to protect you. As you people say here, let sleeping dongs lie.”
“That’s not what he says.” She stroked his pants where his dick had begun to rise. “Arf, arf. Oh, come on, Pierre. That’s French for Peter, isn’t it? Be a sport, sweetheart.”
He reached behind her to rub the potion into her ass, and she moved closer to him.
“I am not a sporting man. Do not seek danger.”
“Pierre, I thrive on living dangerously.” She bit his sharp chin.
“Then it will cost you. Extra.”
“I’m willing, sweet chocolate papa. How much? Huh? Name your price.” She grew bold enough to let her hands cradle him, but it was the cartilage in her knees that nearly went liquid.
And then she saw something rumble in him. His eyes were only half-open now. She waited. And then he spoke.
“In the state you are in, your mind. Later . . . your life.”
“Down, boy,” she coaxed his dick, patting the head before removing her hand.
But he grabbed her hand, opened the fingers to re-form its cradle, and then guided it back to him. Imani looked into his eyes and wondered, Are you the one? When he inched his slender tongue deep into her ear before he folded her entire lobe into his mouth, she said to herself, Yes, you must be. Then she found herself wondering how he managed to say these words to her:
“Do not let your tongue, la belle, offer petitions before your mind has thought them through. Otherwise . . .
His lovecraft was so strong that even he fell, temporarily, in love with his own patrons, young and old, male and female alike, but his immutable wisdom prohibited him from committing the final act that would satisfy his transient and unsanctioned hungers. He liked to think of his craft as part science, part art. Science manifested results, and art was dignified by the elegance with which he produced those results. Without the marriage of art and science, there was no craft for him. He remembered an article he had read, by Jonas Salk, he believed: There is a dynamism, a dynamic force that propels us into the future. And a few highly evolved people like himself — mutants, he called them — are blessed with the ability to tap into the current.
The current. Pierre liked that. They can, the article went on to say, sense which way evolution is going and hurry it along. And that’s what he, Pierre, was. A mutant. And that’s what he, Pierre, did. He hurried things along. He tailored his work to the nature of each client and cringed when any of them told him, “Pierre, you are a magician, sure and true,” for magic, he said, was a trick, an illusion, a short change, artifice. His authentic power, he said, lay in the recognition of a truth that not even he could manipulate or alter; that is, he knew they would meet the love they deeply yearned for, which was not necessarily the love their tongues spoke of or the souls their cameras captured on celluloid. Their objects of desire would be the culmination of all their thoughts, words and deeds. The only act his rituals performed was one of acceleration. He manifested his results by hastening the appearance of circumstances that would cause the loved one to appear. Even his most sophisticated clients, whose thought processes had been retarded or completely annihilated by love, thought the lovers and their love to be a direct effect of Pierre’s rituals. They insisted on clinging to their belief in magic. Pierre could only shrug and ward off the inclination to be completely disgusted by them.
Imani continued to obey his directions. She sprinkled unlabeled grains and powders at her doorstep and strutted with them in her shoes. She and Pierre kept long hours together behind closed doors of the many rooms of his apartment, chanting in a patois to the sound of a solitary conga, and sometimes Cassandra thought she distinctly heard a third voice, though no third party ever emerged from the doorways of Pierre’s dark rooms.
Cassandra sat in the sweet-smelling living room with mostly women and a few men. Many of the women watched her through eyes of the jilted. Some of the men spoke with tongues of the bewitched. Cassandra could not decide which were apprentices, clients or groupies. Together they wet-thumbed through issues of Essence, Good Housekeeping, Jet and Cosmopolitan. This scene occurred several times through seven months, from mid-March until Daylight Saving Time.
When Imani walked Upper Westside streets, men and women alike-mouthed moist syllables to her in their mother tongues, from Afrikaans to Zuni. Mexican street florists tucked birds of paradise into the waistband of her skirt. Korean greengrocers dropped mangos and lemons into her tote bag. Bus drivers created uncharted stops for her and covered fare boxes with their hands to prevent her from paying fares. Small male toddlers tore themselves from their mothers’ bosoms to cling to her billowing skirts. The homeless opened their bags and poured libations of broken belongings at her feet. Panhandlers tossed everyone else’s spare change — including their own — to her. The sirens and wheels of ambulances, patrol cars, and fire engines were silenced and halted so that she could enter a crosswalk. Limousine drives and private chauffeurs offered her rides to wherever she might have been destined, always examining her with the tumescent eyelids of the moon- and lust-struck. Wives and significant others ogled her suspiciously with one eye closed as they crossed themselves, and block after block Cassandra became less visible while Imani seemed to inhabit more space than usual, her aura that of royalty, head sitting high upon her neck like that of a Masai princess, stride long and cocky, ass high and rolling like that of a Benin matriarch.
Seven months advanced, and this so-called man-to-put-her-in-her-place had yet to make his advent, but she could not know that he would, on October 31st.