|FLOR DE MUERTO|
by Silvia Ji
All my adult life I have existed outside of initiation. My right of passage was excommunication; I was cast out into the liminal spaces with the rest of the devils and fallen and wandering ghosts and found that I quite liked that crew. Understand I am talking a literal and ecclesiastical excommunication here, excommunication with a capital ‘Ex’. No more family dinners, no friends from childhood, and the whole of the worldview I had been inculcated with since birth smashed to pieces. Purposefully, hammer of the gods’ style with a straight up old world liturgical excommunication. I was 16 and it was my punishment for a violent unrepentant youth. Bad as that sounds, I welcomed it.
Here, in the West the Ordeal of the Street is the needle and the pipe. These are the first great temptations and in many ways I was lucky because it was in some sense the needle that got me excommunicated in the first place. I already knew that was a road to nowhere, a path that turned endlessly back into itself. It was the way to failure that emptied everything of meaning and that my escape from it was pure unadulterated luck. A luck not shared by many of those I thought of as friends. Once they have given themselves over to it they were fucked right and proper. The lengths they would go to were devoid of meaning. They were not gangsters or whores or hustlers, they were not the crafty children of Cigana and Gerere, they were empty needles waiting to be filled. The Kingdom of Malandros teaches compassion because compassion is survival. The needle and the pipe emptied them of this and the longer it went on the more monstrous they became. They would thieve from their friends, they would betray their crew, they would surrender to their disease. This is not life on the Street; it’s not life at all. They were not children of Cigana, they were the cautionary tale she tells her children. If the needle and pipe were the markers for the whole of their journey then they were not children of the streets, they failed old Gerere and could claim no lineage. Whether they lived or died from it we regard them as casualties because that’s what they were.
I hate talking about the needle and pipe. Literally hate it. It is a remembrance of casualty, of the old crew/new family that betrayed us, of loss without meaning but the monstrous must be confronted. The heartless need to be exiled for the good of all, to preserve the crew and keep Cigana’s children well. Gerere’s compassion is a thing of iron and does not yield to sentiment or romance. The Nago are not cruel or inhuman, they are unflinching and unafraid in the face of the monstrous.
The lengths they went to fill their needles had no meaning. They were not whores, not gangsters, not hustlers. The lengths they went filled them with hatred not compassion and convinced them that the world was as empty as they were. Fuck ‘Trainspotting’, they were upright, shambling corpses with no room for a soul and until they could admit that they remained exiles from the Kingdom of the Street. It wasn’t the whoring and the hustle that left them empty and desperate, it was failing the righteous of Malandros.
I hate talking about the needle and the pipe. It fills me up with sadness and I remember friends who wasted away until they looked in the mirror with their piss-yellow eyes and gave up. They loaded their needles and collapsed their hearts because they thought it was their hearts that had made them weak. I rage away all full up with despair as the lucky survivors lay claim to some greater insight that the other’s had lacked, when really they had run out of weaker souls than their own to prey on, when it was the strength of some Saint that carried them out when they themselves had given up to the needle or the pipe. The exiles are not authorities on anything except exile and if the darkness of the Street isn’t velvet to them and all they learned there was how deep and inhuman desperation can run then Cigana never lived in their hearts.
Most of you will not really understand this rant. We all look the same to you. What difference the reasons, a whore is a whore right? For most all gangsters are thieves and all violence is Hollywood. For most there is no discerning between the unfailing confidence of Cigana’s children and the arrogance of a collapsed heart. It all looks the same when you are looking down from the university windows at us. No scholar is equipped to tell one of us from the exiles, no scholar has ever had to draw that circle around a brother to quarantine his disease from the children. Has wandered dazed about the refuse with eyes full of tears collecting what remained vowing that next time they would try a bit harder, hold out a bit longer before they turned away from the black-purple bruises and the piss-yellow eyes. You all want it to be ‘Trainspotting’ because then you don’t have to learn to discern one from the other and the answer can remain daily doses of methadone and encouraging us to trot out our sufferings for your next post-modern art show, the exiles turning on their family and blaspheming Malandros is so very cutting-edge. Bring out your dead. The street teaches compassion because compassion is survival. It is never the heart that makes us weak and we love the darkness because it eats our shame.
Learn discernment. Learn to tell Cigana’s children from the exiles turned away with Gerere’s full and heavy heart. Or we will stop listening and we will stop sharing.