Diving Into Afro-Caribbean Religion: I WILL BE the Greg Louganis of Santeria

It’s been a long time since I’ve written. I apologize, but I’m still* in the process of moving into my new apartment. Just now, I finished emptying some boxes full of books.

I’m a bit worried about my life right now. Have you ever seen Lost? Well, I feel like Hurley: I feel like someone has put a curse on me. I mean, what are the chances the following situations happening to someone in just three months:

–November 2011: the toilet in your apartment explodes with waste water from the floors above you; suddenly, your apartment is inundated with an ocean of waste; caca sailboats are everywhere; there is actual tidal activity and simple harmonic motion in the black water that has become your home. Turns out your apartment was the only one affected with this problem. Your landlord doesn’t want to take responsibility [even though the toilet-gate has to do with the ancient 1970s plumbing in the building and with nothing you yourself have done to the toilet], so now you’re living in an apartment that is a health hazard: everything in your apartment (except the kitchen) may be contaminated with Hepatis A, B, C and the eight kinds of Herpes along with malaria, salmonella, dengue and of course, our favorite bacteria: E. Coli.

As a result, you end up sleeping on the kitchen floor from November 2011 to January 1, 2012, when your lease ends.

–January 1, 2012: you have no place to live unless you renew your contract for the caca-laden apartment. Obviously, you’re not going to renew the lease, unless you’re a masochist. So your choices are: It’s either shacking up with your uncle, who thinks that the bidet is a contraption made exclusively for men who need to to make #2 [he leaves the bidet rimmed with his own waste], or living in your car in the parking lot of the Presbyterian Hospital, a place people go to die. But if you live in a car, where do you go to the bathroom? Where do you shower? In essence, you have no place to live, because you’re LITERALLY surrounded by shit by the choices available to you at the present moment.

SO you create a third choice: end up shacking up in an uber-clean guest house for a month and work as a waitress, but the net effect is: you lose a lot of money in the process. However, the psychological effect is better: you can now sleep on a bed and not worry about fecal-oral route diseases for you and your dog.

–January 26, 2012: since it’s high season in Puerto Rico, you need to vacate the guest house to make room for tourists. So you shack up in a friend’s parents’ apartment…without her parents’ knowledge. Once you get there though, you find that the apartment comes with a housesitter who is a pervert and arrives at the apartment every morning at 5:45 a.m. to make sexually suggestive comments. This is really bad, especially when you partly work from home and you have to *share* the apartment with a pervert who just won’t stop talking about horse sex. “Have you seen horses have sex?” Sorry dude, while I have seen horses have sex, it really doesn’t excite me. I love horses, and I just see their act of reproduction from a purely biological point of view. OH and by the way, I have four jobs so SHUT UP, so I can get shit done.

–February 14, 2012: This is your deadline for finding permanent housing. Why? Because at this date, your friend’s parents are returning to their apartment from a trip to New York, and if they find you there, you’re going to get arrested for “squatting.” Getting arrested is currently not on the agenda for February 2012.

However, the future apartment that you and your dog are holding out for is actually under LITIGATION. Why? Because the former tenant decided NOT to pay his rent for 3 months, along with electricity and water. At one point, he flees to Venezuela. The landlord is going to war with the tenant, who [after coming back from Caracas] has decided he is going to STAY* in your future apartment illegally just because that’s the kind of person he is.

–February 6, 2012: In order to avoid bumping into your friend’s parents [now it turns out they’re returning on February 8, 2012], you join forces with your future landlord to get the criminal tenant out of your future apartment. You succeed….only to find out that the tenant has DELIBERATELY chosen to destroy your future apartment–everything from the furniture to the washing machine to the iron to the air conditioner remote controls (out of spite, he has emptied every single remote control of its batteries). He has also connected the waste pipe to the shower pipe, so that when you take a shower, you smell like shit. Oh and by the way Mrs. Landlord: I demand to get my security deposit back.

Who IS this guy?

–February 7, 2012: You finally move into your new apartment…your future landlord has been working hard to fix the apartment as much as possible…but there’s one thing she forgot: there’s a severe roach problem in your future bedroom because the former tenant has deliberately left corn bread on the floor, on the bed, and inside the bathroom’s medicine cabinet. I hate corn bread.

The corn bread is not the issue, though. The issue is that you suffer  from a debilitating cockroach phobia that leaves you rocking back and forth on a chair with severe panic attacks that activate your latent childhood asthma. So…even though you have a new apartment, you really don’t have a place to REST OR BREATHE. So you spend the next several weeks fumigating and sleeping on the couch in the living room with one eye open, ready to attack any cockroach that falls on your head from the ceiling. (Since it happened the first night in the apartment, the chances of this disturbing event happening again are rather HIGH given your bad luck in the past months.)

–February 2012: you spend the entire month not resting because of the cockroaches AND balancing four jobs at once: SAT instructor, copy editor, waitress, and tutor for elementary school children. Every time you wake up in the morning, you look sub-human. Your curly hair is frizzy, your face has broken out in cystic acne, and to top it off, your teeth are sporting braces. Bonus: your hyperthyroidism is making your hair fall out, so you’re going bald in your thirties. You’re even losing hair from your eyebrows.

–March 2012: you decide that enough is enough. After contacting an exterminator used by the Puerto Rican government to clean its piers, and placing roach motels everywhere, you have lost 10 pounds and look like you’re about to die.

Something needs to be done  because it’s survival of the fittest and prettiest, not survival of the dumbest and ugliest.

There will now have to be a tradeoff, in order for you to survive.

A job has to be given up, and it has to be the most unpleasant (and least productive) one: waitressing. While I love waitressing because you get to meet a lot of interesting people and you learn a lot about human nature, it’s hard to wait tables at a restaurant where the chef shows up whenever he feels like it [sometimes it’s 8 a.m., even though the restaurant opens at 7:30 a.m., and sometimes it’s close to 9 a.m.] AND there are no ingredients in the kitchen. That means: telling your customers that there is no milk for your coffee and no onions for your omelette. As anyone who has worked in the service industry knows, you become the target of the customers’ vitriol, while the chef and cook in the kitchen don’t have to deal with the unpleasantness. At one point, a customer leaves you a tip of $1.35 for a meal that cost $40.00.

This is when your inner Steve Jobs comes to the surface: I took the tip and returned it to the customer. Surprising myself, I calmly stated: “I have done everything I could to make your experience here pleasant. It is not my fault that we’re missing ingredients. So please give this to someone who actually needs it. In fact, please donate it to UNICEF. But my sense of dignity does not allow me to accept this oh-so-generous tip.” The customer and his wife, both trashy-looking people, are speechless. I’m glad I have done this, because all throughout their meal I have heard them make racist comments about Puerto Ricans. I will not tolerate ANYONE making racist comments about my people or anyone else.

You leave the restaurant job on your birthday, March 8th, and finally feel a lot better about life. No more upset/racist customers, no more irresponsible chefs, no more non-existent restaurant management living in Philadelphia. How you manage a restaurant in Puerto Rico from Philadelphia is beyond me.

Why am I stating all of this? Because like Hurley, I think I’ve been cursed. So tomorrow I’m pulling out the real guns: I’m visiting a botánica and talking to a Santería priest/priestess, so that he/she can get rid of the curse someone (or something) has put on me. I cannot accept the fact that I may be a statistic outlier, so I’m going with the mystical explanation. It’s obviously a curse, a juju, a malediction, an execration, a malison, and what the Scots call a “winze.”

What is Santería? Only the most awesome syncretism of West African religion (particularly from the Yoruba people) sprinkled with a sci-fi version of Roman Catholicism. It has some loose ties to Haitian voodoo, a religion I find fascinating. I’m going through with my visit to the botánica because I am gathering every single supernatural force to extirpate this curse out of my life and soul.

I refuse to give up. Losing is not in my dictionary. Enough is enough. I have no other recourse but Santería.


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