island people make everything into a story.
Stories are our shock absorbers, and allow us to stay sane even
while people all around us are trying to drive us mad.
I decided this week to grab two.
sun was already searing all open surfaces by eleven o’clock, blinding
flashes on the galvanize roof of the vegetable stall, reflecting flares of
light from puddles in potholes, (the residue of an earlier, sudden sharp,
short shower), glinting on rain water in the crevices of broad, thick
leaves, causing vapor to rise from the uneven pitch roads.
was reaching for the most peculiar Siamese twin tomato I had even seen.
Two uneven, orange, fleshy globes glued together, one half of it
was indented giving it a third curve, as if
a human mouth had bitten into it.
by the heat, I was ruminating unimaginatively, but happily, over the
obvious analogy between lushness of fruit and human bodies, when the
pleasant-faced vegetable vendor asked me if I could write the story of
another kidnapping incident.
could even give you the headline,” she said pushing her wide palms apart
in a theatrical motion, tilting her head back as if she could see it
already in bold letters: ‘PARROT KIDNAPPED IN BROAD DAYLIGHT’.
laughed, rummaging around the shadon beni, inhaling its tangy freshness
next to dewy callaloo and bhaji leaves, enjoying their varying depths of
hear a shrill, low whistle, “That’s the parrot” she said.
spun around to the sight of a parrot perched on top of a cage covered in
its shades of pastels and moss green.
this,” I asked “THE kidnap victim?”
she said, emotionally. “I had it for ten years and came home one day to
find it gone. I couldn’t stop crying. I went looking for it up the hill
on our house. I was
pretending to look for shadon beni, but all the time, I was calling for
did you find it?” I asked.
heard it whistle from a house where I know very religious people live,”
tell them, “That is my parrot you have there?”
They tell me “you can have it back but only if you give us a
hundred dollars for it.”
was so relieved to get back my parrot I ran home for the money and gave it
to them. I couldn’t believe they did me that and they are a
religious family to boot.”
couldn’t tell from looking at the parrot, now holding its neck and head
erect to show off a resplendent lilac-blue streak around its neck like a
jeweled necklace, if it was traumatized from the event, but it was clear
its owner was overcome with emotion.
woman’s sister took over. “If
I only see those people I will give them a good cuttail.
Imagine taking my sister’s parrot and making us PAY to get it
back what belongs to us. We
didn’t even worry to tell the police because they ain’t do nothing
about the other two kidnappings either,” she said.
I got kidnapped my husband wouldn’t pay a ransom,” said a customer.
worry,” said another, “We will hold a barbeque for you to get the
would laugh, call us mimic men (parroting a kidnapping is mimicry), but
the stories our people tell have the magical properties of deflating
advancing menace that can warm up even chilling stories.
wedding, a funeral:
was hanging out with my golden girls, three feisty women over 50 who
between them have enough talent, wit, brains and heart to run this country
and can keep you laughing for hours with their stories.
them was telling a story about her older sister who is over 70.
And there she was, altering her daughter’s dress, sewing away,
just hours before a wedding, grumbling, “My daughter could have given me
this to alter last week but no, she had to wait until the day of the
funeral to give this to me” and I told her “It’s a wedding not a
funeral.” She ignored me
and kept on ranting, “As I said, I still have to do my nails, and my
hair, and here I am having to alter a dress, just hours before the
funeral.” “Wedding!” I
contradicted. She went on
calling it a funeral, I went on reminding her it was a wedding, until she
stopped, looked at me and shouted, “Wedding, funeral same damn thing!
Didn’t you know, when you get married you dead?”
of us spluttered into our rum punches, falling about, laughing.
thought of us, sitting in a boudoir-type space. Women manage to create
little charmed intimate halos around themselves every time we are
together. We share our pain and laughter in one breath.
If it is felt that women are generally emotionally stronger than
men, more able to cope with major stresses, it’s because we are one
another’s shock absorbers.
could dismiss this as small island talk, but they are our everyday fare,
put together, these stories are a testimony to our peoples’ resilience,
our sense of the absurd, our unending capacity for bouncing back, for
refusing to let anyone crush our spirit.