I am on a boat.
Rather, I am on a ship big enough to support the weight of a boat. It even has hand railings and, if I lean far enough over them, I can see the water rushing by and the froth and foam kicked up by the propeller at the stern. It’s a fine ship and it’s a ship I have put quite a bit of effort into building and maintaining via emotional struggles, tears, and pure sweat equity. Roughly half the ownership of this fine vessel belongs to me, with the other half belonging to the Mister. It is our ship and has been built to suit our transient and changing desires. I have learned how to be a ship’s mechanic, how to take up the wheel when the Mister steps away to tend business or otherwise watch me stand firm behind the spoked monstrosity, and how to make sure there is always a hidden away cache of whiskey for when I am literally and figuratively caught with my pants down. It’s a good ship and a good existence and I am comfortable with both of these things.
I am standing on the foredeck and the breeze brings the spray of the salt water onto my skin. I hate deep water, but I love this ship.
“A fine day, isn’t it?”
“Certainly.” I turn to face the Mister-shaped figure behind me, finding Him clad in a suit reminiscent of an admiral’s uniform. I find this terribly amusing and He raises His eyebrows at me. I swallow my smirk. “What may I do for you today, Sir?”
He looks past me into the horizon. “Perhaps you might like to go for a swim.”
I almost roll my eyes, but stop myself before my impulsive, emotional reaction gains me another eyebrow raise. I hate swimming in the ocean and He knows it. I am terrified of deep water and my compulsive tendencies have me twitching about all the stuff in the water with me—all the garbage and creatures swimming around hundreds of feet under me and…the seaweed. Ugh. No, NO, NO. I don’t mind wading into the water [but never past my knees] on the beach now and then and swimming pools are just fine, but throwing myself off our ship into the great deep blackness that I cannot haul myself out of quickly when something unknown brushes my feet? No, thanks. That sort of vastness terrifies me. I am but a tiny, albeit juicy, piece of meat and could be swallowed in one gulp. Nope.
He and I have had this conversation before and I expect it to go much the same way. I will demur, inform Him why I think this is a bad idea, and offer to splash around up to my waist on the beach. He will shrug and not be terribly pleased, but He won’t be displeased, either, and I will be satisfied with that.
“I believe I would find that terribly unpleasant, Sir, and I’d rather not. I could certainly find you another cute boy to go splash around for your amusement and pleasure, though.” I gaze at Him, set on doing the dance of negotiation that He has taught me so well.
He meets my eyes and, with a sinking feeling, I recognize the immovable iron force that has taken up residence just under His skin and it tells me that I will not win this round at all.
“I didn’t ask for your opinion.”
I swallow. “No, you didn’t.”
“Give Me one good reason unrelated to your general distaste for and fear of the deep open water and maybe I’ll reconsider.”
Oh, gods. Oh, GODS.
“These are the boots that You have expressed a fondness for and the salt water would ruin them. I also just purchased this suit and would hate for it to be useless so soon.” I know the moment the words fall off my tongue that He is not going to buy.
He snaps His fingers and, to my dismay, I am nude in the cool ocean air under His glittering, uncomfortable gaze. “Problem solved.” He begins to close the distance between us and I am terrified.
My back bumps up against the railing before I know I had moved. “Please, Sir. I do not swim well enough to swim in open water and I am really, REALLY terrified of something eating me.”
“Nonsense.” He scoops me up over His shoulder and I resist the urge to beat on His back with my fists. “You know how to keep your head above water and nothing is going to eat you. I have put far too much effort into your continued existence for you to end up as some half-digested lump of meat bobbing around in the ocean. Off you go!”
Before I have a chance to protest any further, I find myself flying through the air and the ocean rushes up at me. My skin burns as I enter the water and I am surrounded by cold, inky blackness. My claustrophobia kicks in full force and I find myself unable to breath, which is not a surprise being that I have not yet learned how to make my oxygen-craving lungs breath heavily salted H20.
I am surrounded by pressure and the relative dark and I scratch at the water, as if that will get me back on the ship and out of this nightmare. If anything, I feel more pressure and my body feels squished flat while my heart is doing it’s best to explode from terror.
Fuck this shit.
My rational brain sputters to life and I kick my feet until I breach the surface of the wasteland of water. My lungs burn and I take gasping and undignified breaths while glaring at the Mister leaning against the railing.
“See? No drowning.” He straightens and reaches into His jacket pocket.
His lips twitch in an amused smile. “Hardly.” He produces a small tin whistle and begins to toot out an upbeat version of ‘Nearer, My God, To Thee‘ while I seethe. The water is not nearly as cold as I thought it would be and His ridiculous musical accompaniment to my distress distracts me from the possibility of Cthulu draped in the dreaded seaweed circling my toes.
My patience is wearing thin and I am already getting pruney. “Alright, Sir. Why the fuck am I in the water?” He looks down at me and I notice the tin whistle has disappeared from His hands. Maybe He tucked back in His pocket, maybe He threw it overboard, maybe He shoved it up His ass. I don’t know and, unless it gets me back on our ship, I don’t care.
“You need to learn how to swim.”
“I can swim!”
The Mister leans on His arms once again. “I want a breaststroke, backstroke, and butterfly that would leave the Olympic judges needing to change their panties. There’s also the matter of you not being terrified of that which lies beneath.”
I glare at Him, but say nothing. He’s right, per usual.
“And, before you ask, no, I am not leaving you, you silly, foolish, sentimental boy.” The words were said with fondness, not malice. “Now get to it.
The above is largely a metaphor for the past week and a half, though some of the dialogue is stunningly accurate. That, and it amused me to write it which counts for something.
Two Saturdays ago was Fete Gede at the sosyete that has started to become a bit of a home away from home for me. I wasn’t terribly excited at the prospect of taking my only night off in two weeks and spending it an hour away from home and wide awake, but I was very excited to see all my vodouisant friends I don’t see often enough and greet the Lwa and be the awkward white weirdo dancing. Regardless of what does/does not happen, I always have a good time seeing people who See me and value my company and presence.
I had also made a promise last year to come back and see Papa Ghede and you don’t break promises to any Lwa, but especially to Him. Since He can show up at any fete, that means I go to all of them as far as it is reasonable. He did come this time and I got very gently chewed out for spending more time with my other divinities than I did with Him and for slacking off in general. It’s all true and I affirmed that and thanked Him for His correction and patience. With an admonishment that nothing would progress for me until I was right with Him, I promised I would do better and He was off to greet more of His people.
That was the easy, no-stress part of the evening. Somewhere in the back of my head, I knew it was coming and I’m grateful that He saw fit to pull me up on it, rather than just assigning consequences.
Earlier in the evening, I watched a variety of friends and acquaintances greet the Lwa and go through the ritual movements associated with each of Them. I idly noted that I should perhaps have one of my friends teach me the basics of what to do for the Lwa that most often come down at the sosyete so I don’t look like a fool if one of Them ever wants to formally speak to me. I’ve spoken to a few of the Lwa before, but in rather informal ways that do not leave me needing to do more than shake Their hands and listen carefully to what They say.
Not even five minutes after I had watched my friend spin around several times and land on his knees in front of a paricular Lwa, I got summoned forward by that same Lwa. Everything that I had just watched evaporated, my Kreyol trickled out my toes, and I stood in front of this Lwa looking helplessly at one of my friends, mouthing ‘I don’t know what to do’. I can’t ever remember going so full-on deer-in-headlights before, but there I was.
May all the gods bless my friend and make her prosperous forever, because she stood behind this seated Lwa and mimed all the motions that I needed to go through while I did them. I think I only looked a little ridiculous, but I got through it and ended up on my knees in front of this Lwa no worse for the wear.
This Lwa is not a big talker and, even if He was, my Kreyol was gone. He began washing my hands with Pompeia Lotion, which is this incredibly heavily scented cologne. That was all fine and good and vaguely normal, until He got to my right hand. I was clearly not picking up what He was throwing down as He began gesticulating expansively at Manbo and she stepped up and asked Him a few questions in Kreyol. He nodded and vigorously began to scrub the ring finger of my right hand as she bent down and informed me that He was asking me to marry Him.
I swear to all that is holy that I thought I was going to vomit on Him or pass out or something equally dramatic. I do not get stirred up that often anymore—I’m very much a big picture guy—but I almost lost my shit right then and there. Contributing to this was that this proposal happened in front of almost 100 people, give or take, and I am very much an introvert who is not into being the center of attention.
I managed to tell Manbo to convey to Him that I needed to think about it and He accepted that without issue before releasing me and moving on to His other people. My initial reaction was to scream ‘no’ and run for the door, but I somehow managed to draw on all the logical diplomacy the Mister has taught me. Saying ‘yes’ without any divination or reflection or meditation or communication with my other divinities would be stupid at best and ridiculously offensive at worst, and saying ‘no’ outright to a Lwa is a pretty foolhardy action as well.
After I was no longer in front of Him, I had to get the fuck out of the temple which was a feat unto itself as it meant pushing past the dozen or so people on the stair case to get up into the house. Once free, I paced Manbo’s living room and frantically texted a few friends telling them the basics of what has just happened and asking for divination as soon as they could deliver it and prayers for my continued sanity, as my life had just gotten way more complicated. Had there not been a full three quarters of the fete left, I probably would have thrown on my coat and gotten the hell out of there.
Instead, I sucked it up and Had A Moment, which involved me babbling at a few of my friends there about what had just happened and generally being a momentary basketcase. My houngan friend who had brought me to the sosyete told me that he wasn’t surprised this Lwa had asked for marriage and that marriage was not a gender-specific thing in this house, as women marry female Lwa and men marry male Lwa. I hadn’t even considered how I would feel about the gender thing at that moment, but it was a nice reassurance.
The rest of the night was fairly uneventful for me, save for Papa Ghede’s telling-off, and for that I was immensely grateful. After everything was over, I sat in Manbo’s living room with a few of her children and ate incredibly spicy Haitian food, which was damn delicious. I poured myself into my car not too long after that and managed to get home with only a few tears.
The first thing I did when I got home was scrub my hands. Pompeia Lotion is not my favorite scent and He practically poured half the damn bottle over my hands. The second thing I did was throw myself in front of the Mister’s altar and cry, a lot. I wasn’t angry or upset and I didn’t get the sense that He was, either, but I was incredibly overwhelmed and full of fear. I told Him that I didn’t understand why this had happened and wasn’t sure if His hand was on it or not, but would He please explain to me what the hell was going on?
I passed out and slept fitfully. When I got up, the panic started and no matter how logically I was able to think, it kept creeping in. This is pretty unusual for me, as I can usually talk sense to the crazy pretty easily, but man…this panic and anxiety wouldn’t quit. As I told a friend late last week, I felt every inch of my mental illness for a long set of days.
The problem was that I couldn’t figure out why this had happened. I could reason out why it might be a good thing and what benefits it might have to me personally, but I could not fucking figure out what the Mister’s angle on this was and, if He was telling, I wasn’t putting the pieces together correctly.
He wasn’t angry or surprised, nor was He handing me off to this Lwa. I got the distinct impression that He had arranged this and got a vague sense of why it would be a good thing, but no input that I could read as to why He had allowed it to happen, as He is nothing if not possessive in an intimate way. He never promised me monogamy and I have both never wanted that or offered it to Him, but this was a blow not even out of right field—it came from a ballpark in the next time zone. I would have been less surprised if this Lwa told me I needed to get on a plane to Haiti the next morning, initiate immediately, and that my only means of transportation for the rest of my life was continuous cartwheels while wearing a purple tutu.
I spent most of last week trying very hard not to engage my feelings on the matter while I waited for divination, only to have moments of curling up in a ball in front of His altar and muttering that I didn’t know what was going on but that I trusted Him. I also outright begged Him and my Father to relieve me of the burden of the panic and anxiety as it was starting to render me useless, and I am so grateful that, between the two of Them, They took most of it.
I spoke with a good friend and amazing diviner early this week and she was very patient while listening to me babble about just how much this was fucking me up. She helped me sort out what the actual issues were for me and it’s pretty straightforward—I have an incredible amount of personal baggage around the concept of marriage and romantic love and I am extremely wary to the point of running screaming for the door when it comes to committing to communities of humans.
These are both very true things. Because I am a fool, I have said many times over in the last year that I am not interested in marriage in any form to anybody, human or divine. Most of my reasons are based in the fact that most of the examples of marriage in my life have been extremely dysfunctional and because romance is really not how I relate to other individuals. While maryaj Lwa is done for love and intimacies, that is a secondary purpose in a lot of ways—the big reason to marry one or more Lwa is because They strengthen and balance parts of your personality and help you be a more complete and functional person. Many/most vodouisants who marry Lwa marry more than one. The classic examples are of a vodouisant who marries Ezili Freda must marry Her sister Dantor both for balance of the qualities each of Them brings but also to balance Their jealousy of the other. Those who marry an Ogou often marry Damballah and Azaka—Ogou is hot and Damballah provides balance by providing cooling, while Azaka grounds all of that out.
While my head knows that there is a business arrangement within the maryaj, it doesn’t provide me any ease. There’s also the fact that a maryaj Lwa also makes you a part of the sosyete you are married in and you gain godparents in the process. I have made it this far in my life with very few oaths and responsibilities to other mortals, and I like that quite a bit.
When my friend pulled out her cards, I halfheartedly hoped that the Mister would say quite clearly that this was a moment where Someone Else had tried to step in where They were not to tread, but I knew that was likely a fruitless hope and I was not wrong. As it turns out, the Mister is strongly in favor of me marrying this Lwa.
The reasons why make total sense, but they were still a bit surprising. This didn’t happen as an afterthought—a lot of planning went into making this manifest—and the Mister selected and propositioned this particular Lwa for very specific and careful reasons. In essence, He picked out the perfect Lwa to complement and balance who I am and what I need in my life. It sort of makes my heart hurt because it is very clear that He has done this out of deep love for me and not what He gets out of the deal, because He’s not getting much directly.
This was very much done for my benefit to help me sort out some of my issues and to help me learn things that He can’t teach me and I had a good cry about that, too. It isn’t something that leaves me sad or unhappy or anything, but it sort of reaches into my chest and pumps my heart a bit. It was a happy cry.
There are other less important reasons why He coordinated this, but the Mister masterminded the proposal for me as a gift so that I may sort out my shit and be the best person possible, versus the best boy for Him. He’s not getting immediate benefit out of and is very likely losing a bit on this if I say yes because it means I will have to pay attention elsewhere. He’s not relinquishing any sort of hold on me or sharing what’s His, as maryaj Lwa doesn’t walk on things He holds the reins on currently.
He leaves the decision to me, though, after expressing His desire for this to happen. I haven’t made a formal decision yet, as there is still a second round of divination to be done and that’s before I call up Manbo and ask to talk, which will inevitably lead to more divination. It was noted in this first round of divination that, should I choose not to marry this Lwa, the Mister will likely resort to more…creative means to have me learn and experiences what He sees as necessary. That alone has led me to give the Mister a provisional ‘yes’, contingent upon all the other divination returning with similar results. Overall, though, I trust Him implicitly in that if He thinks that maryaj Lwa will bring me closer to my Self and lead me to where both He and I want me to go, then I will believe Him.
That’s not to say that I am not scared. I really and truly am because I have no idea and no real control over how this will change me, if I give more than a provisional yes. The only things I can say for sure that will happen is that I will end up married to this Lwa and that I am going to get ripped open. The proposal has already left me feeling incredibly vulnerable in ways that I find really hard to cope with. I am very much a private person and I feel very, very on display, which leaves me wanting to flay my skin off.
At the same time, I’m eyeing this Lwa in that ‘I don’t even know You’ way. I have seen Him in possession several times before, but He has never even looked at me once while He was embodied. That doesn’t mean a damn thing, but I sort of feel indignant and all ‘You want some of this? Better get to work, because I am no starry-eyed boy who is going to be a good husband just because You asked’. I’m quite sure that’s not how these things work, but we’ll see.
If I do say yes, there is a staggering amount of stuff that will need to happen. There is an actual marriage ceremony performed by a lay Catholic priest, a marriage contract, actual rings to buy, and a huge party to throw that I would be footing the bill for, with drummers and special clothes and tons of food and all the stuff you need for a wedding. I find that sort of horrifying by itself, but if I decide to do this, I’ve got to do it right—no half measures.
Right now, I’m treading water pretty well and have been considering how to best test on my backstroke without gulping down water. The panic has mostly abated, though I keep wondering when something is going to bite my foot. I am profoundly grateful and in deep awe as to how much the Mister loves me. I have done nothing to deserve this sort of attention and I will never be able to adequately repay or return those feelings. He is so large and I am so very, very small and human in comparison, with my tiny human feelings and my expansive human failings. I don’t even know if I am capable of expressing how much I love Him and how grateful I am that He moves in my life and cares for me. May the work of my hands, the dust under my feet, and the love on my lips continue to please Him until I myself am dust ground under His heel.