Blood of the Houngan
My father’s father was houngan, just as his father had been before him. My father’s brother was houngan, but my father was a hunter. So I became a hunter. Now, I am many things; a man, a husband, homeless, a widower, a killer and a thief of a life. But I am still the blood of the houngan, it is not so far removed.
When I became a man (12 years as you would reckon it), my father’s brother drew the scars on my face, my arms and my back. He rubbed them with the ashes so they would not fade. He gave me food and drink on the third day. And I was a man.
When I wed Harika, my father’s brother led me to her. He lifted the veil that covered her face. He stood before the door through the night. And I was not only a man, but also a husband. I was 14 years as you would reckon it.
When I became homeless, my father’s brother went out to speak with the strange riders. They laughed at him and struck him on the head. When I became homeless, I stood before the door of my hut while Harika hid inside. They shouted at me and blew thunder into me. When I became homeless, I lay bleeding in front of my hut while Harika screamed inside. They carried her outside afterwards and chained us all together.
When I became a widower, I sat in a stinking house on the shore. When I became a widower, Harika’s heart was already dead. When I became a widower, she thanked me and declared our marriage a thing of the past. When I became a widower, I carried her to the door myself. When I became a widower, they refused to let me return her to Mami Wata.
When I became a killer, the fever had not yet broken. When I became a killer, the sailor had taken a knife into the hold. When I became a killer, I learned that death can be an ugly thing. When I became a killer, I dipped my hands in white man’s blood and painted our faces.
When I became a thief of a life, my hands were still bloody. When I became a thief of a life, Agwe Taroyo spoke into my heart. When I became a thief of a life, I took up a rope and tied the first of many knots. When I stole a life, I became the new me – and still blood of the houngan