San Francisco, 1986 – a city where Dionysian liberation is beginning to pall beneath the first shadows of a strange new darkness. Bill Ticino’s fruitless and numbing marriage finally breaks up. Plagued by insomnia and spiritually lost, Bill finds a lodger as the solution to his problems: a handsome, charismatic Portuguese man named Peter, whose pet bird is a hoopoe named Maria. Bill finds himself drawn into a world of kabbalistic storytelling, charms and ritual. Peter ignites Bill’s repressed obsessions by telling him emotionally charged tales of hidden meaning.
One night they venture together into the Tenderloin district, a dead-end world of prostitutes and transvestites. Bill begins to see that his new tenant has plans that will force him down a perilous sexual and spiritual oath, with the power to both redeem and destroy.