Lespri Ginen

by Guidel Presume


From Soul in a Bottle, by Madison Smartt Bell

Ginen n'ap vini nou 

Meanwhile, on the balcony of the Oloffson Hotel, the spirit of Ginen was breaking out all over. Later on I put it down to the benediction I had brought down from the north, in a sealed envelope, as it were, which Lôlô had the power to open and disseminate. What it felt like was a euphoric overflow of goodwill toward other people, which was returned in kind. I scurried around all over the hotel trying to hook up connections, encouraging people to go north to look at Présumé's paintings, trying to get work for Xavier. So many favorable arrangements of kalfou seemed possible; I thought I could manage matters so that all the synapses would fire for goodness and the glory of God.

Basically you just wanted to help people, forgive your enemies, sell all you owned to give to the poor. The charismatic Christian flavor of it all was no coincidence. On bright mornings like this one, Ginen and Christianity reflected each other with a charmed perfection.

L'esprit Ginen would follow you on your journey, to the Port au Prince airport lounge (where once you had cleared the entire maze of security, you also felt the euphoria of relief). At the airport bar a temporary community formed itself, including several Haitians en route to the states, and a number of blan who were returning home. All these people bought each other drinks and shared advice, information, even opinions-- this close to the plane itself it was almost possible to speak freely (though certain subjects must still be skirted for a little while longer). L'esprit Ginen persisted even in Penn Station in Manhattan, where a black lady you didn't know from Adam's house cat bought you a beer for absolutely no reason, where you had a truly genial conversation with a homeless man who was selling newspapers to raise money to feed some of the unhouseled children of New York. The really dangerous crazy people were repelled by your aura and left you alone.

But you knew it could not last forever. If you remained away from Haiti (or at any rate outside a community of Haitians) l'esprit Ginen would fade and dissipate; you could not cling to it, try as you might (unless of course you returned to Haiti). Eventually, you would lose it.