* * *
Since the early evening, Ipanema Beach had been crowded with white garbed Cariocas. A cool breeze was coming from the ocean, blowing fine particles of sand. Fireworks burst along the strip of beach, cascading in golden and silvery sparks from the buildings surrounding the area. The samba music was deafening as it poured through the loud speakers.
An amphitheatre had been created at the centre of the beach where there was a circle of meticios women wearing laced white gowns and minuscule bras. Their faces glowed in the candlelight and they wore plumed hats, a symbol of the Yalorixa the Macamba priestesses. They looked like they were in a trance, possibly drugged with marijuana. Their eyes rolled up in their sockets, while their bodies twisted with the rhythm of the music. They danced, hips swaying, in a circle, and the crowd around shouted their approval. But where was the fetish that I had always read about? I couldn’t see any, only normal offerings. No goat intestines, decapitated roosters or other devilish things.
‘I’m going to get a better look.’I told myself, getting closer to the circle of priestesses. I had completely forgotten the advice of many, who had warned me about not getting too involved with the cult.I don’t know how long it took me to reach the inner circle. But I knew that I was part of the crowd, swaying with them in the rhythm beaten through the sand, by the tempo of the dancer’s feet. I was eagerly dancing with them and it seemed I knew the steps instinctively.
Then a woman and a man took my hands. Finally, I had joined Isa and Paulo, and they lead me into the circle to dance and drink with the others. They made me repeat unknown words, making gestures and touching me.
Then they handed me over to three beautiful women to be prepared for the final initiation into their cult. They were dancing, drinking and showing me all their eroticism. They invited me to dance while they were discarding the few tiny pieces of their bikinis. I felt that I had been hypnotized by them and I followed their request. I thought later that it was an absurd necessity being paraded around by those women in that sort of poetic nudity.
‘You must dance with us.’ They kept repeating, while they were caressing me with their bodies in the rush of the sambas.
‘Relax, below this equatorial line is not a sin dance nude.’ Sonya, one of my dancers told me.
She smiled invitingly to me while she took my hands, and positioned them over her solid bottom. She floated toward me, and rode the top of my thigh, like it is not a sin to dance nude it was a fire pole, and in the delirium of the music pressed her body hard against mine, staying there for a long time, until a cry erupted from her throat and I found myself inundated by her wetness.
Isa and Paulo returned to get me again. ‘It’s time now.’Isa told me, and taking my hand she directed me toward a larger group congregated at the centre of the ritual place. They were humming a hypnotic melody and swaying from side to side with their eyes closed. They faced an altar, and my companions gently pushed me into the circle and we melted with the acolytes. A sea of impassive and inscrutable people closed behind me as I entered the altar ground, and there was no escape.
Suddenly I felt hostility from the ones surrounding me. I wasn’t one of them, I was the only white man there, and immediately fear overcame my excitement. I was completely in the power of those frantic people and I had to accept the consequences of my rashness. I should have listened to other people’s advice.
The altar was in front of me, massive with intricate carvings of skulls and human bones, yellowed by time. Lit candles reflected a pale golden penumbra, and I was expecting a bloody sacrifice to follow soon. At that moment my knees buckled, showing the panic in me. I bravely collected my energies to turn and run, but the circle of people was tight and unbreakable.
An imposing old priestess with gold beads moved to the altar and with the help of two younger Macamba Yalorixas, started a complicated mass concluding in a communion with everyone drinking from the same stained cup. The believers raised a hand to their eyes before taking the chalice to sip from it. I was pushed over by Isa and made to kneel in front of the priestess, who considered me an unworthy being. I lowered my eyes into the cup ready to take communion. In the cup I saw reflected a vision of me fighting for my life into a battered boat in the middle of a cyclone.The ship sank while men and women struggled to survive … Then the vision was over. I was again myself, purified by the communion and allowed to live after my previous sins. The priestesses around kissed me, inviting me to join their circle, where drinks were constantly offered to me.
Then the head-priestess seized my hand. She slid a sacrificial knife across my forefinger, and let my blood drip into the communal chalice. Blood of others was mixed with mine, and when the cup was full it was offered to those present to drink. It wasn’t unpleasant, but was musky and thick, with a fruity flavoured taste. That drink was intoxicating, and it was like I was in someone else’s body. There were flames all around, and in them I could see Clare next to me. It seemed that the two of us were etched onto a large mirror. The portion in which Clare was reflected burned rapidly, but the other half representing me did not burn. The fire only licked my image without harming my figure. Soon it was all over, and daylight dissolved the obscurity of the night. I had been left in a stupor after drinking from the cup and I was uncomfortably nude on Ipanema Beach, but I wasn’t alone. Other men and women were nude like me and hadn’t roused from their night of stupor. I was properly awake and I was surprisingly calm. I knew that my future had a new turn and Clare was moving out of my life. I had to wait and see. More than likely on my return to Australia she would ask for a divorce, a much simpler and better solution for both of us.
* * *
What Juanita told me was true. Separation had created in my memories a better picture of the past. And as I was now back in Australia, I realized how thinking of her love was relaxing and peaceful.
It was something that would always be there and I knew it would never die.
My past love was jealously preserved and only seldom did we mention it.
She told me once,‘It’s painful for me to know that you belong to another woman. Don’t forget I’m a Brazilian; therefore, I have hot blood and instincts. The thought of you making love to some other woman is unbearable. Please leave the moments we have been together unspoiled by today’s life. Live them and keep them as the best memories we have.’
We had become good friends and since that time she had always confided in me of her struggles and her future plans.
Dolores was growing into a young, well-educated girl. Her English was good and she enjoyed exchanging messages with me on the internet, to prove how good she was.
‘I miss you so much, Uncle. I’m still and always will be your little girl. I hope one day to come to Australia and live there with you.’