Ceremony

It had already been late, but they didn’t want to sleep. And because they were worried that Keshet would complain again about them being too loud, they decided to leave the kitchen. First, they thought they would go to the shala. But then Mauricio asked, “Shall we make a fire?”

“Yeaaah!” Checo exclaimed, and they had to shush him, so loud he was.

They were seven people walking away from Nicte, on the gravel road. The only sound disturbing the silence were the stones crunching under their feet. This night was very dark. No stars shone in the sky, and under the trees, the darkness blackened their eyesight so much that without using flashlights, they wouldn’t be able to see to the tip of the nose.

Now, Checo had learned that the first building on the left when coming to Nicte was Mauricio’s home. Checo had seen the house many times before, but he never knew who lived there. It was a dingy bamboo hut with lots of junk and clothes hanging on pieces of wood and branches.

There was a small bridge that stood over a shallow ditch by the road. Checo thought there was no purpose for the bridge to be there. They crossed it and turned right passing the garden and the house to continue on a narrow path between the bush. Shining on their way, it created the impression of a walk in a tunnel. It was only a few steps when Checo stopped at a big wooden triangle that was levitating above the path, hanging on a rope that disappeared in the darkness above. “What is that?” Checo laughed at seeing the object. He was about to pass round it, but Eva stopped him. “No, no! You have to pass through!” she insisted.

“Seriously?” Checo felt it was silly.

“Yes, come on!” She gestured with her hand, and Checo walked through it and so did all the others behind him.

And here they entered a circle surrounded by trees. In the middle was a fire ring and next to it a quilt spread on the ground. The place, the way they appeared there… it was a magic. There were so many secrets in the jungle. Your only had to be brave and walk into the unknown.

Ξ

Eva, Kakanka, Yaxkin, Mauricio, Karmina, Rachel and Checo sat down in a circle. The fire crackled and the wood hissed. The flames danced their sensual dance and their dull shadows whizzed past the trees like ghosts. Light smoke rose up and vanished in the dark, its smell was spreading out and settling in the air.

Until the fire started, it was impossible to sit still. The people were being attacked by a swarm of mosquitoes. But the smoke had repelled the vermin, and now with the light cast on their faces, they didn’t move and were placid as they stared into the orange, yellow, red, and their eyes burnt in mystery and passion, and their souls melted.

“What is more powerful? Fire or water?” Checo asked after a while breaking the silence. Nobody answered. “I think it’s water,” he answered aloud to himself hoping somebody would respond.

“They are equal,” Karmina said.

“I think they are equal,” Rachel joined in.

“You hardly ever get as much fire as water. There seems to be more water than fire on this planet, so that’s why I think water is stronger,” Checo said.

“Maybe on this planet, yes. But how about the universe? How about the sun? So much fire in the sun, and the sun is much bigger than us.” Karmina said. They didn’t talk about it anymore, and again they watched the fire for another long moment.

When Checo went to bring more wood, he noticed that near the trees stood some kind of structure. He came closer and saw it was a dome the size of a tent made from bamboo sticks. It wasn’t finished yet. The first thing Checo thought it was for, was that Mauricio had probably been building a tent into which he would be bringing women of which none of them would really be his. But for that one night, yes. And perhaps for a few more nights, too. But especially for that one night the women would truly be there only for him, and so much that it would feel like they had spent an entire life together.

It was obvious by now that Mauricio adored women, too much. He just loved them. And Checo always watched him interact with the girls. It was a joyful learning experience. Mauricio had charisma, he had this personal charm and glamour. He was so natural, so masculine and relaxed. He talked and talked, and the women laughed and laughed. They blossomed with him, their eyes opened wide, their mouths opened wide, and their hearts opened wide and then, then he made them happy, like never before, because they made him happy, too, just for being, just because they existed, the women.

Π

“Let’s play pendulum,” Eva said to Checo and pulled out a stone dangling on a little chain. She hung it over her finger and continued, “Pendulum, show me how you say no.” It tilted slightly. “Now, pendulum, show me how you say yes.” And it really tilted to the other side. “Start asking,” she bid Checo. He wasn’t really interested in playing this game. But he tried and asked, “How many times have you taken a shower today?”

“Only yes or no questions,” Eva answered promptly.

Checo didn’t want to let go. “Have you taken a shower today?” he asked her now. Rachel gave a sigh and shook her head. “Different question,” Eva said.

“Why? Yes or no questions,” Checo objected and was pleased that Eva didn’t want to answer. “No,” he said aloud.

“You’re not taking it seriously. OK, then, we’re not playing,” Eva said, and the game was over.

There was friction between Eva and Checo. When they talked, it was often as if they were playing some kind of psychological game, as if they tried to outsmart one another. The above conversation is a good example of the play in which Checo was just taking his part. It could be only one sentence, one word, and they would start a long and tiring exchange of opinions. But it was pointless, Checo realized quickly, and as more days passed, he learned to, actually, not take her seriously at all. He decided to only pick up what seemed to be interesting to him. But he would do this very carefully, and to the rest, there was no need to pay attention.

Mauricio left for a while and when he came back he held a big bowel of water. He drank from it and let it be passed around the circle. All the others drank, too. It was lime water, cold, refreshing. Then, Mauricio disappeared again to be back just a moment later, but this time, when they saw him, they were caught off guard.

Mauricio was on all four, slowly prowling the ground like a cat on a hunt, a jaguar. His eyes were focused, fixed on something that no-one could see, and his face was serious, like if he wanted to kill.

Frozen, the people stared at him. His body was almost completely bare as always. He advanced closer to the fire and there, he stopped, and he began arching his back up and down, and he turned his head in a strange way, wildly, as if some devil took over him.

The fire burnt, and the man, or what it was, was now squatting, like a frog. But it didn’t jump, it walked in a spider-like manner, and towards everyone in the circle.

It approached you, it was very close, its eyes were looking directly in yours, yet they seemed somewhat absent, like dead. And it sniffed at you, at your neck, and you smelled the body, you felt the wilderness and excitement and fear. And you found yourself believing that what you saw was not a human but a beast, or maybe a cross between a human and animal, a man and jaguar. Provided this was really true, then you were its prey, and you had already been caught. You were helpless. Because you were awestruck. You couldn’t move. You voluntarily let the animal come right to you. It could have eaten you, but it hadn’t been hungry, and so it crawled away, and it jerked and turned its head back at you, like a crow, and you saw the eyes again, and they said, “Next time, you be more careful.”

Finally, since the beast was done with everyone, it went back to the fire, and almost touching the flames, it squatted and spread its legs wide, and its upper body moved in strange interrupted movements. It was a tribal dance. It looked primitive, savage, ancestral, even obscene, yet it was still so much absorbing. At that moment, Rachel gave a laugh and Checo had to laugh, too. Not because it was funny, it wasn’t, or perhaps it was, but it was just crazy. It was that kind of laugh when you suddenly realize that your life is absurd and that it doesn’t make much sense. You try to comprehend, but you fail and give up and that’s exactly when you start laughing. It’s a joke. We have only been told to take it too seriously.

A few seconds of profound silence followed when the performance finished, as if everybody needed a short moment to gain an insight into what they had just seen. “Wow. Thank you, Mauricio,” somebody said. “This was nice,” another person said, and all the others agreed, and their gratitude was honest.

There was really something about this man, Mauricio. He had this gift to make you richer each time you met, richer with experience, memory, appreciation. Mauricio was a brave man. He amused people for free. In this world, to do something like this, without being paid, that’s a very brave thing. It deserves respect. This wasn’t a circus show, the people didn’t buy tickets to come and have a laugh at trained animals. This wasn’t planned, this was spontaneous, this was life. But somebody took the initiative, somebody knew what it means to give, and this man just gave it all. Thank you, Mauricio.

Kakanka stood up and with him all the others. The ceremony had officially started. It seemed to also happen naturally, but it is possible that the people had planned it and talked about it. But Checo couldn’t know because they spoke Spanish much more than English. For him, all that was happening was just a sequence of events.

They held each other’ hands. Kakanka began a speech. He praised all the Gods and Lords and Mother Nature. They bowed to the ground. Then, they sat down. Kakanka pulled out his pipe and the moment he asked who wanted to start, Checo was sure that he was going to smoke the herb again, and he also knew that it was going to be much different this time, he was going to have some hallucinations for sure. His heart pounded.

The mixture was called DMT. Yaxkin started smoking first. He sat down cross-legged, holding the pipe and inhaling while Kakanka squatted in front of him, assisting with the lighter, and producing strange buzzing sound with his mouth. In less than a minute, Yaxkin seemed to be changing. He was rather tense at the beginning, but now, his body appeared to be entering some radiating lightness. He was almost levitating, and he smiled. “Tritinata cojita, cojitana tritina,” Kakanka whispered several times and made odd postures and signs in Yaxkin’s proximity. But Yaxkin didn’t see, his eyes were closed. He was taking deep regular breaths and exhaling loud. Then, he started humming some peaceful melody, and finally he was in awe, as if he was looking at something that was to be truly admired.

He lay down. Kakanka helped him. This act looked like if Yaxkin was nestled in a soft comfortable bed. And here he exhaled with genuine pleasure, almost singing. After a few minutes, he was coming back. He raised his chest and sat down again, and in a tight hug squeezing Kakanka like his beloved brother, he said twice, “Thank you. Thank you so much.”

It took around fifteen minutes or more. Checo expected the pipe would move clockwise, which meant that there were three more people to smoke before Checo. He didn’t want to wait so long. He was already nervous enough, afraid of the unknown. But at the same time, he knew he was going to do it. He tried to relax, but he would rather be done with it already instead of having to wait. But Mauricio left again, which was one person less, and unexpectedly, Eva, as if she was reading Checo’s thoughts, asked him, “Do you want to smoke next?” That question both relieved him and scared him. “Fine,” he said. The “fine” was not so appropriate an answer. If he had been absolutely confident, he would have said yes.

He was sitting with his knees up, his elbows resting on them and with his right hand he held the wrist of his left hand. Checo hardly ever sat crossed-legged. He found this position rather uncomfortable. Kakanka had just approached him and began preparing the pipe. Checo was silent. His heart pounded like it hadn’t yet pounded this night. The air was thick, and the life was too serious again. “He is not ready,” Karmina said suddenly. It was the most unexpected moment. Checo now felt the pulse pumping in his neck. But he managed to remain calm. There was no point in defending himself, that would be childish. And there was also no reason to prove somebody that he was ready, because that wouldn’t be true. He wasn’t ready. He didn’t even know what should he be ready for. There are people who travel to Mexico specifically to smoke DMT, but Checo had never even thought about coming to Mexico. He had no idea what DMT was.

“He is not ready,” Karmina said again. Kakanka turned at her. She said something in Spanish. Even Kakanka himself doubted for a moment. “Do you want to smoke?” he asked Checo.

“I’m OK,” Checo said again avoiding his direct yes, looking around the circle, but not at Karmina. He didn’t like that she had said it so openly, and it hurt that she didn’t believe him even though she was probably right. But not for one second he thought about not doing it. All those seconds, however, he feared the experience. But that wouldn’t stop him, not now, not anymore. And so Checo grabbed his best friend’s hand, and together they began the journey.

He puffed from the pipe once and held the smoke in the chest. He had smelled it again, the very strange smell, it almost irritated him, and he made sure now that he didn’t like it. He is not ready… He is not ready… Why doesn’t she believe me? He inhaled again. It’s OK, I understand her. Kakanka bid him to smoke more but Checo raised his hand slightly, he wanted to be careful. “It’s OK. Enough,” he said.

His eyes closed, he was waiting. He heard Kakanka made the same sound he did with Yaxkin. It sounded like some kind of bumblebee’s buzz. Suddenly, in the center of his blind vision appeared a blue three-dimensional dot. It was blue like the small flame of burning gas. It seemed that it was getting closer to him because it was getting a little bigger. Yes, it was. The buzz ceased. “Tritinata cojita,” Kakanka whispered. And then, Checo was sure the dot landed directly in between his eyes, on his nasal bone. He opened the eyes and realized that Kakanka’s finger was touching him right there. But when Kakanka removed the finger and Checo closed his eyes again, the blue dot remained there.

He watched it quietly. It moved away a little. It hovered and pulsed with gentle white aura around its body. And suddenly he noticed that there were some lines slowly being drawn across the full size of the dot. The lines were negligible at first but soon clearly seen and perfectly sharp. Moreover, they formed many triangular and rhombic patterns that fit together like pieces of puzzle. The patterns glittered in silver and white colors, but the whole object which was not a dot anymore remained being blue with many other shades of blue.

It was a diamond. A magnificent diamond. A phenomenally precious piece of art. Its geometry was flawless. It was precise, perfect, sharpened meticulously. And it was turning around slowly as if it was being displayed in a window of a jewelry shop. But this started changing too. The sharpness and light was quickly fading. The patterns were melting like brash-ice in spring, disappearing in the blue color. And when it was almost the same dot as before, two tiny points emerged from its upper part – the eyes. Then, in the center showed up another point – the nose, and underneath the nose was drawn a horizontal line with a peak in the middle – the mouth. Next, the dot was filled with patterns that resembled a mosaic – that was the skin. And finally the dot shaped into a head, the head of a snake.

He faced it. It moved slightly from side to side, up and down, just like when a snake slithers, and it also flicked its tongue out every few seconds. It regularly changed and blended pleasant colors of pink, red and purple. Checo couldn’t see the body, there was only the head, but he felt it was the biggest snake, the Anaconda.

Unlike Yaxkin, Checo neither uttered any sounds, nor did he move. He was sitting very still and deeply focused, facing the snake that was just as quiet as him. He felt no fear, but great respect and admiration. The two entities looked into each other’s eyes for a long time. They were like two gurus who came to meet and learn something from one another. But what was it? There were no words spoken, no thoughts thought, and the silence was penetrating. And then the guru left, faded away in the darkness, and Checo opened his eyes.

“Nothing?” Kakanka asked him and began filling the pipe again for Eva. Checo didn’t understand this question at all. He didn’t know what was the question’s purpose and what did it refer to? Was he supposed to see something else? Was he expected to have a different reaction? Or should he start telling everyone about the experience? No. He didn’t say anything, not now. But he thought about it and concluded that something was missing. Checo hadn’t seen enough yet.

÷

Karmina was rather quiet, too, but much more relaxed than Checo, and she also laid down. Kakanka appeared not to change at all apart from that he was coughing loudly after inhaling tons of smoke from the pipe. He also had no assistant. Rachel left. And Eva was probably beyond control. She was so loud that Checo thought it would scare even the silent trees standing around them. Her body was loose like wet clothes hanging on a washing line. She fell deep in Kakanka’s arms who held her in a hug. One moment she bent backwards far behind her spine, her mouth fully open, as if she saw something unimaginably mind blowing up in the sky, and another moment, she laughed, cried and sobbed rubbing her nose against Kakanka’s shoulder and neck. “I was there! I was there! Oh my God! I was home! I was home!” she repeated, and it was difficult to tell whether she was laughing or crying.

They all wanted to smoke more. Yaxkin started again, Checo after him. “Now, you keep smoking until I tell you to stop,” Kakanka said deliberately. Karmina stayed quiet this time. “Can you sit more comfortably?” Kakanka asked him. He considered changing his position, but, “No, this is comfortable for me,” he said and remained sitting just like he did before. And meanwhile he noticed that Eva started recording him which made him feel an immediate disgust towards her, but he didn’t say anything.

This time, Checo inhaled three times to the fullest of his lung’s capacity. He kept his eyes open for now, looking into the fire. Quickly, his vision changed. He had never seen anything like this before. The fire began to look somewhat glossy and glassy, like if it burnt behind glass, exactly. Then, the glass started to be wavy like the surface of a lake onto which blows gentle wind. And the sound of the fire was very sharp, as if the glass was breaking into millions of tiny fragments. And then he saw it. The fire burnt in water, it burnt submerged in water. All the air around was water. Having seen this, Checo knows since than that water and fire are perfectly equal energies.

The colors gained on intensity and contrast. It was so vivid, there was so much to see that he couldn’t take it and closed his eyes. But there, he saw even more. It was incredible. There was a huge circle covering almost the entire space of his vision. And in the circle sparkled and glittered and flickered millions of patterns and colors. And the whole circle was moving slowly like a mill wheel. It was dazzling beauty. But there was so much in it that he just couldn’t keep watching. It was unbearable. And it was bad because he realized there was no chance to escape. The eyes opened or closed, it meant the same thing.

“Are you OK?” Checo heard Kakanka ask him.

“Yes.” Direct yes. He avoided it earlier to hide the truth, now he used it to hide the truth. But even if he was honest, he wouldn’t have time for a chat with Kakanka now, he was dealing with something far more important.

A surge of panic arrived like an unexpected dangerous flood. He got an intense head rush. He felt the pressure in his head made his eardrums whistle. It was deadly scary, and he feared he was not going to make it. “Fight!” he commanded himself. But his inner self didn’t like it. He knew this voice didn’t really belong to him. It was his mother. No! He refused it. But he had to act quickly now. Control! He focused. What makes you happy? And so he thought about her again. It was nothing specific. He only imagined she was there with him, that was all. Then, it was all gone. He opened his eyes. The fire burnt and the people sat there quietly as they had been all the time.

He tried to make the conclusion of what had happened. Sadly, it was more of a disappointment that he felt, almost as if he had been cheated. But by whom or what? Nobody gave him any promises. Nobody said “Trust me.” Nobody forced him to do what he didn’t want to do. He went to heaven, indeed, but he questioned whether it was worth the hell that came after. And one more thing, he knew the heaven was an illusion, but the hell was damn real. And so he thought about the real heaven where he had already been so many times, the simple things – the beach, walking in the sand, the sun shining in his face and the sound of waves; or standing on the top of a mountain and looking down, feeling the wind blow; or her eyes and the most beautiful smile; and the other moments of fleeting happiness.

He looked into the fire again, he looked at the people and the trees. These were the real millions of patterns and colors, he thought. Nothing could be more real than this. But people don’t see this everyday, because they don’t pay attention. They are constantly distracted, always running somewhere. Yet all we have to do to see this heaven, is simply to just be here, be present. This is what is worth living for, Checo knew.

Perhaps, if Checo had more experience, if he really had been ready, he would have been able to have more control over his experience. But that was when the conclusion came – he had some control, that is, he realized he had the power to change the way he felt. He brought himself out from a dangerous situation. And surprisingly he managed to do it by thinking about somebody who meant a lot. That consoled him, and he shared his experience briefly, he pointed out that he had to step in, but Eva immediately opposed, “Control, no. You have to let go of control otherwise you won’t enjoy it fully,” she said. “No. Control is important,” Checo said feeling irritated by her again, and he stood up and went for some more wood.

It appears that control is mostly associated with something negative. Partners control each other. Parents and teachers control children. Employers control employees. Governments control people. This form of control is meant to take away freedom and is so prevalent that it almost can’t be viewed as good. But Checo wants to control only himself. Is that bad? No. Because this kind of control actually grants him freedom, and it also educates him. This kind of control is merely an act of self discipline. To see is to use the eyes. To observe is to use the eyes and the heart together. And to control is to decide what the eyes will see and what the heart will feel.

Λ

“Does anybody have some weed?” Checo asked when the second round was finished.

“Weed? How can you ruin such a beautiful experience by smoking weed?” Karmina asked sounding upset.

“I would like to smoke weed, too. I could smoke weed all the time,” Kakanka said, and they laughed.

So they smoked weed. “Kakanka,” Checo said.

“Yeah?”

“Thank you for asking me if I was OK.”

“What do you mean?”

“When I smoked, I didn’t feel good at one point. Thanks for asking me. Other people might not care.”

“Ah. Yeah, thank you.”

“Please, I want some more. I want to be there, again. Give me a lot now, I want a lot,” Eva begged Kakanka after a while. She didn’t have enough. She wanted to go back home, again. But the way she asked Kakanka, Checo noticed, it sounded personal. And also when she was in Kakanka’s arms, he didn’t hold her only around her waist. They actually looked almost intimate at times. But Checo wouldn’t think it could be possible, and he would explain it by Eva’s willingness to completely let go. Then, she was there, again… back at home, crying and sobbing and laughing. And each time she arrived, she sounded more emotional, more hysterical, more happy, like if she literally let go of all her control, and what was going to happen to her was purely at the whim of God’s decision, or perhaps Devil’s.

Yaxkin left around a half an hour before, but now he was back. He seemed to be worried. He talked in Spanish to Kakanka. Checo listened carefully but he didn’t understand anything. “What’s going on?” he asked Yaxkin. “There is some kind of gigantic insect flying in my tent,” Yaxkin said nervously. That was a little funny. This guy had just smoked DMT, he may have seen and talked with all kinds of creatures, and now he was scared when seeing it real? “Aah, what are you going to do about it?” Checo asked feeling amused?

“Maybe you could all go with me to my tent and get that thing out,” Yaxkin said. Checo looked around. Nobody seemed to be bothered by Yaxkin’s proposal. Kakanka and Eva were still sitting in embrace. Karmina was almost sleeping. “Kakanka, I’m going with him to his tent, OK?” Checo said.

“Yeah, OK.”

Σ

The two walked together only a few steps when Yaxkin stopped and said, “I actually think that maybe something else happened.”

“What do you mean?”

“When I slept, I had a vivid dream. I heard somebody coming into my tent. I thought it was Eneida. “Eneida, is it you?” I asked. Nobody responded, but the zip opened, and I saw her walking in. But then, she just turned into the insect right in front of my eyes, and it started flying in the tent like crazy,” Yaxkin said all serious. Checo felt the hair standing on all his body. Is he still hallucinating? “Man, you’re crazy,” Checo said laughing, and was thrilled to see the insect.

“Do you think I could still be tripping?” He asked Checo again seriously.

“I don’t know, maybe.”

Then Cosme came from the woods, and soon after him Mauricio returned, again. And instead of going to Yaxkin’s tent, they got stuck for another hour or more smoking more pot. They were sitting aside from the fire now. Yaxkin told Mauricio and Cosme about his dream. Mauricio reassured Yaxkin that it was nothing to be scared of. Then, their conversation ceased, and they didn’t say anything for a long time. Suddenly, they all started laughing for no apparent reason. Eva noticed them and said something to Kakanka. “Don’t worry. They’re protecting us,” Kakanka told her.

What was next was very confusing. All the boys stood up and Checo walked away, but when he turned after a minute or two, he realized that he was completely alone, and he saw the three of them in the distance walking in the opposite direction. He walked back thinking he would catch up with them, but they were too quick and disappeared in the trees.

He came back to the fire. It only flickered now. The couple was still sitting there in their endless hug. He sat down to where he was sitting with the boys. The night had matured into an old wise woman. Somewhere, she had been sitting there with them, in her black attire, sunken deep in her old armchair, watching them play. Tomorrow morning she would tell the story to the new day and then to the many other days after – her children. And they would listen and grow up until one day they were old and wise people, too, like the black nights. He was tired. He put some more wood into the fire for Kakanka and Eva. Then, he walked to them and rested his hands on their back. “Good night,” he said.

“Good night.”

Ο

Checo was approaching Yaxkin’s tent when Cosme with Mauricio were just leaving. The problem had already been solved. “I was so afraid of it,” Yaxkin said, “Mauricio simply caught it in his hands, it looked like a huge cockroach with wings, it was hideous, “Open your hand,” Mauricio told me. I was terrified, but I did it and suddenly the thing was sitting in my palm and all my fear was gone. It walked up on the whole of my arm. I went out my tent, and it just took off from my shoulder,” Yaxkin said happily. They smoked some more weed and after Checo finally went to sleep. There, in his tent, he ruminated over his experience until he was asleep. “You don’t need to do this again,” was the last thing the old woman heard him say.

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