The people in attendance paid homage to the deceased Voodoo woman by throwing handfuls of dirt into the grave and striking the lid of the coffin. With the condolences extended and the consumption of the communal food, they left in small groups. Only two people remained near the grave, steadfast in their sorrow. The sun slowly set, and they stood in the backyard of the house they had shared, near the mongo tree that would stand guard over the grave of this person whom their both loved to the lengths and breaths of their hearts, this wife, this voodooist, the woman who had raised and tutored the girl they named Varue, the replacement that her husband brought home after the death of their biological daughter.
“Quite amazing, in the middle of violence and death, good can come-along,” The old man spoke, as he looked at the back of the last person making their way down the muddy path near the shedding hibiscus hedge.
“What violence, and what good, papa? She’s gone from us.”
“You know we had another girl before you came.”
“You tried to tell me abut her a long time ago and I broke into tears,” Varue said to the old man.
“Yes, you did,” he replied.
“I think you misunderstood my tears, Papa.”
“Maybe I did, but this time listen, just listen, and think of it as your birth, your second birth,” the old man saw a weak strand of uncertainty on her face and wondered if she was pretending for his benefit.
“Almost thirty years ago and I remember it as if it happened this morning. The car came rushing down the road, fast as hell. It happened like that,” the old man snapped his fingers, “knocked her out of my hand and out of her shoes. I saw no plate on the car, but the face of the man at the wheel stuck in my brain. He sped on as if he just hit a dog. I recognized him, a member of the Ton Ton Macoute, from Cap Haitien. I snatched her out of the ditch and held her in my arms pleading, Olarum Papa, please don’t let her die, her mother will kill me. We buried her quietly, right there,” he pointed to a spot near the fresh grave. “Anything else would mean big trouble, not for him but for us.” The old man paused and looked into the eyes of the young woman standing near him. He thought he heard her snuffle. “Two days later, I sharpened my Machete, left your mother in tears, told her I’ll be driving a truckload of provisions down to Port- Au-Prince. I’ll be back in two days. I saw him drinking in a café, downtown Cap Haitien, laughing and talking loud. I found his car, parked just down the street, the shape of her little skull still in the grill. I hid between two buildings, along the route I hoped he will take to the car. He came staggering down the street, alone in the dark, and I hit him hard on his throat with the blade. He fell to the ground, remained on his knees for a moment as if praying, and then he fell over. I hit him twice more, had no idea how hard it would be to separate his head from his body, even my rage didn’t make it easy. Then I went to the warehouse, apologized to the foreman for being late, got into the truck and drove to Port-au-Prince, just like I told your mother. And that’s where I saw you, crawling through a hole in that fence around the orphanage.”
“You didn’t speak her name?”
“Her name is your name.”
“Weren’t you afraid the police would come looking and asking questions?”
“You were both too small and insignificant for anyone to worry about. You both had never even attended school. And your births may not have been registered. We didn’t register hers. The midwife gave us bad news. No more babies.”
“My memories of that day, in Port-Au-Prince, so fuzzy. But your face, I still remember. You looked very kind. That’s why I got into your truck, and I had never ridden in a vehicle.”
“Six years old you told us.”
“The look on Mama’s face, the first time she saw me, looked as if her eyes might bleed. She kept that look on me for many days, but then she showed me the clothes and shoes, helped me to make up that little bed in the corner. The clothes fit. I had to put a little paper in the toe of the shoes. I remember asking, ‘are you adopting me?’ I was always afraid that the owner of the bed would come to bed with me because I knew she was dead. Then the night after you tried to tell me about her, she came to me, told me it’s okay to have her name and all her stuff, she didn’t need them anymore. But I should do something in exchange, hug and kiss you and mama often.”
“You remember all that? You said your memory was fuzzy. You never told us.”
“Girls will have their secrets. After all, she was my sister.”
“Yes, she was.” The old man shook his head and looked at the ground as if reading something in the grass and weeds at his feet.
“I went searching for that orphanage,” she said.
“You did? Why, what for?”
“Wish I could give you an exact… I wanted to know something about the girl who existed before you took me home with you. Does that sound foolish?”
“I wouldn’t call it foolish,” the old man said.
“I mean, I’m right here,” Varue tapped her chest with the palm of her hand, “I wanted to know if …but they knew nothing, they looked at me with utter confusion on their faces, asked me if I wanted to speak to the police. Ten years, no records, no one who remembered the disappearance of a little girl. I looked at the other children outside and I realized that I was lucky.”
“Varue,” the old man said, “I’m so sorry. I didn’t realize…Is that why you fought with your mother so often?”
“It would have been so wonderful if someone had just remembered my name from before…I cried all the way home on the bus. I knew whoever that little girl was, she was now gone, it felt like a death. I was sixteen years old, but I fell into mama’s arms like a baby. I told her of my pain and desire. She told me all that would just make me stronger, that’s the way the Africans felt when they were brought here and realized that they could never return to their homes. That’s when she truly started teaching me to be a servitor.”
“Your pain, I cause that by bringing you here?”
“No, papa, I started putting things into perspective when I was about twelve. You and mama were always good to me, even when I was a troublesome brat. But a certain desire remained.”
“She expects you to be a better Mambo than she was.”
“I know, papa. She taught me everything she knew, but will that be enough?”
“Enough for what? They will come to you seeking advice, and you will reach into you heart and soul, tell them what the Lwa of your mother imparts to you. You will not be alone.”
“Papa, what if I’m inadequate for this task?”
“You are Haitian, Varue, born and trained for this. You think this was some kind of accident?”
“Papa, you think the spirits and ancestors brought us together for a reason?”
“Girl, the spirits and ancestor have their own reasons and we as humans must just serve instead of trying to figure them out.”
“I’m going to make a terrible Mambo, papa. I can’t just serve. I must know reasons for what I’m doing.”
“If you ask the Lwas for the reasons they may give some to you. But you must know how to ask without arrogance, exercising modesty.”
“This will be a hard task. Will you help me with this, papa?”
“I’ll be at your side as long as there is life in me and I’ll be there after death, both of us. Her qualities are now yours. I placed them within you after her death. That’s what she wanted. You were right there, you saw me in the bed with her body and her body rising as she released her spirit into you.”
“I feel none of that papa. When will I feel her power in me?”
“Give it time, girl. Only time will tell you what you want to know. Night is coming. We can leave her alone now.”
“Yes, papa, we should let her rest.”