Early afternoon was always busy on the island, the streets were buzzing with traffic as people rushed to and from work and school. There was a policeman at the intersection just down the street from the school directing traffic, he stood in a small booth perched fifteen feet up on a wall dividing two streets, from his vantage point he looked down onto an intersection with streets that ran at a strange angle into each other, the constant stream of cars kept the policeman busy as he tried to keep them moving in an orderly flow.
The streets were lined with old English and French styled buildings they wooden walls beginning to deteriorate from years of mechanical weathering, at night, a still darkness engulfs these relics as if trying to hide the secrets of their past occupants, I used to live in one of them houses, inside, metal chandeliers hung from the ceiling, I tell you what, them bloody old time metal fixtures were always malfunctioning. I remember we handyman being electrocuted the poor fella was hanging from the bloody thing he eyes so big he looked like a sick fish.
I walked past the policeman his white gloves signaling the cars as they went by their horns blaring, he black pants were pressed with a sharp crease, the red stripe that ran down the sides a great contrast to the black and gray pinstriped shirt, he hat was tipped down over he eyes a futile attempt to keep them protected from the sun.
Anyway I loved living in the old house because of its history, but it was built into the side of a hill and bullfrogs and rats used to get into the back room. Once when I was nine years old I woke up in the middle of the night and was accosted by two beady red eyes staring at me, man, I swear that stinking rat was smiling at me.
I was almost hit by a car as I crossed the street, jumping out of the way just in time as the driver yelled at me as he went by and I shook me fist at him, bloody idiot. I stood there me heart pounding like crazy, and it was then I got a strange feeling that someone was following me. I looked round and there she was standing on the sidewalk staring at me, she eyes locked to mine as if trying to hypnotize me or something. The crowd of students walking by was like shadows, inconsequential to the psychological war waging between Alison and me. I wanted to go over and talk to she, but instead I turned and walked down one of the side streets. I did not feel hidden enough so I turned down an alley, its cobblestone surface was real slick and I was cautious not to slip, seven feet was a long way to fall.
I passed small shops as I walked trying to concentrate on them so I don’t think bout Alison. There were colourful displays of tropical shirts and shorts neatly placed on racks sitting on the sidewalk in front of the stores. The names of the shops reflected the Middle Eastern immigrants that live on the island; names like Abuds and Kerpalanies were painted on the glass windows and on the walls above the doors. I walked by a Barbour shop, a small boy was squirming in the chair he mother stood beside him adamant that he get he hair trimmed, Music filled the air from one of the stores a clerk was singing lyrics to a Jimmy cliff song as he swept the sidewalk in front of he store.
I left the Alley and walked into the market square, there was a cluster of mini buses in they designated area, red, green and gold colours reflected off they metallic bodies. Each bus had a name painted on the front or on the side, names like Charlie’s Pride and Hurricane Victory, I mean, them fellas really took care of they busses. There were also big wooden busses made from flatbed trucks and they traveled mainly to the Northern part of the island, they were real practical for the venders who carried big loads of fruit and vegetable to the marketplace.
I stopped and surveyed the venders me mouth started to water a little, I mean, there were Mangoes, Guavas, pawpaws, chinups, oranges, red and yellow plumbs, Mammie Apples and bananas all displayed on wooden trays or on the ground on caucus bags, venders haggled over prices with their customers they gestures emphatic, they voices rose above the melee. There was a large building behind the venders, inside, different types of meat were being sold, pig snout, Blood pudding and salted fish, even some of the wild meat on the island could be found in there. The fresh scent of Manique, Tatoo and Mountain Chicken filled the air; I tell you what, smelling that fresh meat always brought me to the verge of being sick. I walked across the square and onto the street that ran parallel to it and I stood in the doorway of a shop that sold chickens and chicken feed, the fowls clucked and chirped as workers and patrons walked by they cages.
There were lots of students from various schools milling round the square, it was one thirty in the afternoon and all of the secondary schools had let out for the day. The mixture of uniforms made it seem like there was a student rally going on, some of them wore white shirts with dark green pants while the girls were dressed in white blouses and dark blue pleated skirts. I smiled to myself as I looked at their uncomfortable faces, poor bastards, eighty degrees out here and they had to wear ties and blazers aimlessly walking about waiting for they respective buses.
People who worked in the stores nearby mingled with the students and I could tell by the looks on their faces they were annoyed by the student’s presence. Most of the young men were sporting big Afros and bellbottom pants, they hair fluttering in the slight breeze.
I was a little more relaxed now, observing the activities in the square was one of me favorite things to do, still, I found meself thinking bout Alison. It was not uncommon for some of the islanders to practice the religion that came out of the slave trade, most of the practitioners lived on the Northern side of the island where all those county people live, Alison grew up with she grandmother in a small village where the old lady was known as an Obeah Priestess, I had never met she, but some of me students who lived in the same village were truly afraid of she. I was interrupted from me thoughts by the sound of the young men round me whistling, so I turned me head to the right trying to see what was causing the commotion and found meself looking directly into the eyes of this beautiful young lady. She beige coloured blouse barely able to cover she bosoms, she full lips complimented she perfect Afro centric face, she skirt came to just above she knees showing off she long brown legs. As she went by, the scent of she perfume filled the air surrounding me, she hips swaying from side to side as she made a path through the hoard of admiring young men. I closed me eyes trying to store that image in me mind but when I opened me eyes I was startled to see Alison standing in front of me, man, why wouldn’t this obeah princess leave me alone? For a moment I did not move, the image of the young lady’s swaying hips bounced round in me mind like a tennis ball at Wimbledon.
“She go come back,” Alison said she eyes wild and shifty.
“I hope so,” I said unconsciously.
“Not she, Ah talking bout de La Diablesse, she go come back and take you away.” She was close to me now she mint scented breath tickling me face.
“You have to stop this nonsense right now. Those stories are just that, stories, there is no La Diablesse, no spirits that would come and take you away at night!” I shouted and started walking across the street to the buses, I bet me damn face turned dark purple as she followed me shouting.
“You go learn, and when you do, it go be too late.” I climbed onto the nearest bus trying to hide meself in the small seats. The bus driver climbed in behind the wheel and to me great relief drove out of the square, Alison stood at the corner, she face contorted with determination as she watched the bus pull away. The driver navigated his way through the narrow streets and out of the market square.