In the waiting area an old woman places a different offering of food in front of each candle. These are the kind of candles I see in the market – candles in glass holders decorated with an image of a saint. I don’t know what gods these saints represent. I am vaguely curious, but I don’t want to ask the old woman. She is dressed all in black, like so many of the old women here, and her face is hard. No, I do not want to talk to her, but I wonder, how long is the food left before it is replaced? I imagine vermin, maggots, but there are none here. Everything is orderly and clean.
There are a few other people sitting in the worn sofas and chairs. One, a thin blond woman, hugs herself as if she is cold. We look out of place here, where everyone is Hispanic. She speaks with a German accent, which surprises me. I think, how did a German girl end up here? He is very helpful, she says. She looks desperate. Do I look desperate? Am I desperate?
The palero is a young man dressed in jeans and a t-shirt. He is a little heavy, with a pudgy face and wavy hair, jovial but not particularly charismatic. He reaches into a small cloth bag and tosses what look like shells on the table. You have a lot of anger, he says, from when you were a child. Someone has hexed you, someone from a long time ago. My mother will prepare a mixture with herbs. You must pour it over you when you bathe, to protect you. Hexed, I say. It may not have been intentional, he says, but the results are the same. Not intentional. Perhaps I hex people many times a day, I think.
What do you want me to do, he asks? I hand him a photo. I want her gone, I say. I hand him a second photo. I want him back.
He says, I have a servant, a spirit from among the dead who does my bidding. If you want this, my servant can break the bonds between these two.
I have the skull that belonged to this spirit in life, and he must stay there until I call. I ask a question. He hesitates. From a cemetery, he answers. You do not need to know the details. There is a ritual. The skull is placed in a cauldron and I call upon the spirit to act. This is not a ritual you are allowed to watch.
By my car in the dirt lot, I look around. I do not know this part of town at all. The desert sky is wide and emptied of color, but the air is still hot. I feel confused, then panicked. I can’t find the paper with my scribbled directions. I can’t remember the street names, the turns I need to make.
I am lost. I am so lost.