Tuesday 16 January 2018

Nightwatch: Ailbhe Malone

Ailbhe Malone

Have you ever had a bad night out? I don't mean an "oh, the music was a bit rubbish, one of my friends had a fight with her boyfriend and then she got sick in the toilet" kind of bad night out.

I mean the kind of bad night out where you lose your shoes. Or everyone in your group gets their purses stolen. Or someone falls down a flight of stairs. It happens, right? Just bad luck, right? Wrong.

Don't ever call her 'just bad luck'. Don't ever call her 'I was just drunk'. Acknowledge her. Know that you've angered her. And repent. Who am I talking about? Erzulie. The Patron Saint of Bad Nights Out. If you could call her a saint. She's more of a spirit, really. And she's some wagon.

I text my friend. "I'm writing a column about Erzulie. Not sure how she'll take this." She replies promptly: "She'll either love it and leave you alone forever, or she'll hate it and turn your life into a living hell. If it's the latter, I'm no longer your friend." I'm willing to take the risk.

This needs some background. It's difficult to explain when my relationship with Erzulie began, but I'll try. I'm in my second year of university. Over the course of a week, four of my friends -- myself included -- have our purses stolen on a night out. I lose my jacket. Someone else's shoes are taken. Another friend takes a tumble down a flight of stairs. It's all a bit sinister.

In a post-Colonialism lecture, that same week, we learn about voodoo. The professor speaks of a Haitian spirit, named Erzulie. She is the spirit of dancing. We stop listening and begin to talk among ourselves. A spirit of dancing? One who is fickle and fond of mischief? We agree that the appearance of this spirit and our stream of miserable nights out are inextricably linked. Erzulie is definitely out to get us.

Over coffee after the lecture, things become even clearer. A swift Wikipedia shows that Erzulie "is femininity and compassion embodied, yet she also has a darker side; she is seen as jealous and spoiled". We reason that we have angered Erzulie, and must make a sacrifice. Obviously.

Time ticks on and Erzulie is pushed to the back of our minds as essays loom. Disaster inexplicably strikes -- I lose my notes. A friend's essay is eaten by a rogue hard drive. Someone breaks their hand and can't type. Tears are shed. Why is this happening to us? And then we remember our spirit nemesis.

To Wikipedia again. It says that Erzulie's favourite sacrifices include rum, perfume and cigarettes. We make a plan. On our next night out, we take a moment in the smoking area, and each drink a rum and coke, and spritz on some perfume. Fingers crossed, we enter into the night.

It works. We've satisfied her, and our evening is pleasant. She's not finished with us yet, though. Over the course of the next two years, Erzulie pops up again and again. Difficult exam question? Erzulie. Freak acne attack? It's Erzulie. Tickets to a gig sold out? Erzulie, naturlich.

Each time, we patiently wait it out, bemoaning each other's bad luck, and making silent rum-and-cigarette sacrifices. Sometimes it works. Most of the time it doesn't, and we are forced to concede that perhaps Erzulie isn't behind a particular piece of ill fate. She's powerful, but she's not almighty. My brother reckons that Godzilla could take her on and win.

Nonetheless, Erzulie's influence hasn't dwindled and even to this day, she is still in our lives. Recently, my flatmate had her shoes stolen from her handbag and had to walk home barefoot. Another friend's passport was taken just before she went on holiday. And a friend's entire Masters essay disappeared into thin air. You may doubt these coincidences if you wish, but at your peril.

Hopefully, writing this column will please Erzulie enough that she'll leave us alone for a bit. If not, however, and you spot me at the bottom of a flight of stairs, shoe-less, wallet-less and phone-less, you'll know exactly who to blame.

Irish Independent

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