The Tower, XVI in the tarot card deck, is a solid structure. However, it has been built on shaky foundations representing false premises. The lightning represents sudden energy and insight. Change is inevitable, destroying illusions and leading to a purer life. In the United States, slavery became acceptable because of the slaveowners’ narrative that said that not only would your slave(s) become, in effect, your 401(k) retirement fund (Miss Watson’s runaway slave, Jim, in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn), it also would benefit the slaves, who were black and, therefore, inferior. Lightning strikes!
Pain tweaked at Orelia’s heart when Adrian did not return the next day. Or the next. Or the next.
“Ah,” she thought. “It’s happened again. Another man breaking his promise to come back.”
Before she ate her meals alone, she thanked God that she had not lost her head again with Adrian and that she was an independent woman able to care for herself in every way. Orelia had anticipated cultivating a friendship with Adrian. She winced at the loss of what could have been. She tried to put the matter to rest.
She found that she could not.
After the third dinner during which she kept herself company, she fell into a dreamy sleep in which Adrian nuzzled his face close to hers. She heard him whisper her name, the sound warming her cheek. However, when she reached for Adrian’s face and touched her own, Orelia awoke disappointed. The dream had felt so real. She released the sorrow from which she had been running in a torrent of tears.
Later that morning, her heart skipped a beat at the rap on the open door. She almost tripped as she whooshed from the back to the front room. Adrian stood on the other side of the door with his head bowed down. Orelia was relieved to see him but frightened of his mournful demeanor. So, she did not throw herself headlong into his arms as she would have done had she been true to her dream. Instead, she took his hands, led him into her house and sat him down on a chair. She released his hands only long enough to place the other chair opposite his and take her place on it. Adrian lifted his head and recognized compassion in Orelia’s eyes. He poured out the story of his catastrophic farewell to the Good Hope. She listened, closely.
Adrian told her about Edward’s false apology and Trevor’s true burial. With the realization that Adrian had narrowly escaped death, she unknowingly squeezed his hands tighter. In her quiet way, she consoled him about his friend’s death and his other friend’s malice. She confessed her doubt about his return.
They spun around each other at the center of truth, illuminated by a pure white light and far removed from the gray sphere of deception of Edward and Yusef.
Before Adrian left the Good Hope, he had said to Edward: “You killed Trevor.”
“By mistake,” Edward had answered truthfully, “But you created Yusef intentionally.”
“No. Yusef was responsible for himself.”
“Oh, and you’re not your brother’s keeper. Be honest, Adrian. Even in your professed love for Orelia, you’re cleaning up the mess he left behind.”
“Leave Orelia out of this.”
“All right, I will. But if you had left Yusef to himself, he never would have hunted down slave ships and his fall from grace would not have been as great.”
“Is that your solution, Edward? Appeal to the lowest in everyone?”
“I’m realistic, Adrian.”
“So am I, Edward. I’m realistic about people. But I believe that if I expect the worst in them, that’s what I’ll get.”
“Have it your way. You’re just setting yourself up for a load of disappointment.”
“Like with you, Edward? Trevor tried to warn me about you. He said you weren’t to be trusted, that you could be dangerous. I spoke on your behalf. I believed in you, Edward. When given good reason to doubt you, I kept believing,” Adrian said, the last words taking off into a shout.
“Who asked you to?” Edward shouted back.
“You tried to kill me,” Adrian growled, looking him straight in the eyes.
Edward met his stare and threw down the challenge: “So you say. You can’t prove it, and I’ll never admit to it.”
Adrian shivered as he recounted the conversation to Orelia, omitting the part about her. He wanted to reiterate that both he and she had misjudged Yusef. Although it sickened Orelia that her dead fiancé had dealt in human life, her feeling for him was not diminished: it remained constant. She despised his life but if he had not been killed and walked back into her arms, she did not know whether she could turn him away.
“I still love Yusef,” Orelia said.
Adrian could have torn his tongue out for attempting to manipulate Orelia in this crude way. Above all, he wanted to be a comfort and a friend to her.
“I know,” he said, confident that, one day, she would love him.
“Why did Edward want to kill you,” Orelia asked, pushing past the mention of Yusef.
“He saw me as his rival for the affection of the men.”
“But you were leaving the ship anyway.”
“Yes, but in Edward’s mind, my existence on this earth would obstruct his plan to become the beloved one. He reasoned that if he rubbed me out, he would fill the void.”
“It’s not that simple,” she said.
“No, it’s not,” he said, thinking of Yusef’s death. “And neither is the cause of rubbing out slavery.”
“Will the ship keep to its plan of liberating slavers?”
“I doubt it,” Adrian said. “But I look at our mission differently now. I no longer see it as physical liberation. We freed people to talk about the unspeakable – slavery –and that can only lead to a genuine liberation of body, mind and soul.
“The Good Hope served its purpose.”
Some stories are not real but are as true as any reflection in the sea and as clear as the whistling of the breeze blowing off it. Such is the fable of the Good Hope.
For a few moments in time, good banded with evil in the pursuit of justice and balance. In the beginning, it seemed certain to Adrian that the ship’s mission of liberation fell on the right path. But after the buccaneers took it up, more questions about freedom arose instead of being answered. A good thing, Adrian realized.
Though respected by his men and feared by his enemies, Adrian walked out of step with the times. He had shed his notions of nobles and commoners and lived the principles of equality and humanity, while others had not loosened their grip on the keys of oppression. Most had not yet grasped that the sickness of slavery spreads like a contagion, which infects souls and contaminates the future. Even after its abolition, it stunts the hopes of the young and mars the memories of the old. It worms its way into the collective psyche and perpetuates its twisted legacy for generations upon generations.
The power of God and good must prevail. We pray:
“Our Maker, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day, our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen”
It rests upon us, the children of slaves and their owners, as well as the descendants of those who looked on, to break the fever of tyranny, lest we miss our chance at freedom. We must, with God’s help, deliver ourselves from this evil by pushing our way out of the vale of tears into the light of the sun.
The time for spiritual reawakening is now, or we shall seal our fate as slaves for as long as the earth turns and we draw breath upon it.