Let the sun set over the city. Let the lights bounce off the window panes and reflect off the still water in the habour. Let the people gather, their hums echoing through the narrow streets and cobble stoned alleys. Let the sound of soft steel drum music serenade man, animal and fish. Its dusk, and the assemble of merriment is a mystery to those who refuse to succumb to enjoying life one moment at a time.
What if this was your window, I mean think about it. Your wake up call is the spray from the cool ocean, and the rolling waves gentle crashed in under the rocks. That sky, well that sky looks like someone had clapped their hands filled with powder. And the sun reflects off the water droplets in the frame, as the wind rushes in from the ocean, you close your eyes as it tickles your skin. The good thing about it is, this window never closes.
Open your window, look out at the habour, let the trees be the frame to the scene before you. Feel the cool morning breeze bounce of your face, taste the ocean in the air, watch the bougainvillea glint in the early morning sun. Wave at your neighbor looking out her window, smile and shout, “Good marning me neighbor, it go be a real nice do you know!!”
I stopped and looked round and out of the corner of me eye I saw a white misty figure in the bushes just off the road, I froze, I mean, I could not move at all. The stinking figure froze with me and there it was that bloody feeling of helplessness, that same deafening silence, I could not decide what to do so I just stood there watching the figure. Then slowly it floated towards me no leaves moved, it seemed to walk right through them. I wanted to run so bad but me bloody feet felt like they had grown roots in the frigging dirt. Just as the figure came onto the road a car drove up and the figure disappeared, I mean, its like the damn car went right through it, I jumped out of the way the driver yelling at me as he went by. I stood there watching its rear lights fade away from me like eyes of a menacing animal. I turned back to the place where the white figure had stood nothing moved not even the leaves, I mean where the hell was all that damn wind, then like someone lit a fire under me feet I sprung into action and ran the rest of the way home. I got into the house and turned on all the lights and closed all the windows, sat on me bed breathing hard ever so often listening to hear if anyone or anything was trying to break into the house.
I spent a sleepless night thinking bout the day’s events and the encounter with the woman in white, stinking Obeah woman, she good for nothing ceremonies did not work at all. Then I thought bout Legba John, I mean, was the old man right? Did I not believe and the La Diablesse was back to seduce me. Outside the wind howled through the trees sounding like a lost child crying for its mother, I tried not to think bout the lady in white, I mean, I had to deal with the students in the morning, I had to focus on helping them get through the trauma of the attack. The next few days could be the most stressful days I had ever encountered as a teacher.
The next day I learned more about what had happened, the father of the opposition leader was shot and killed in the attack at the waterfront; bloody hooligans charged into the building and shot the man. There was this real tense silence throughout the school, angry students stood in the hallways talking but becoming silent when a teacher walked by, I tried me best to relate to them but they did not trust me. I didn’t blame they knew who me parents were especially me damn father, bloody monster always threatened people. I spent the next day or two doing me best to help the students who came to me.
Just before school let out for the weekend I saw Alison, she had a bandage on she head she looked at me with the usual suspicious expression. I asked she how she was doing and she seemed surprised that I spoke to she. She told me that she was healing and that she grandmother was taking care of those who had attacked she, yeah right, hope she had better luck with them than she had with me. I told she bout the white shadow I saw and she looked at me with disappointment in she eyes.
“You shouda believed,” she said and walked away. I walked to the teacher’s lodge just as Mr. Hopson was walking out; the pretentious old goat looked at me crossed eyed and strolled past.
That Friday went by uneventful the political situation seemed to have cooled down except for romours of clashes between young men and the police in the northern side of the island. I was real glad the week was coming to an end because on Saturday I was going to meet Jane and we were going to spend the whole weekend together.
When I got home Ken’s brother was home from jail and there was a small party going on in they yard. Every once in a while a police car would drive by slowing down as they passed the house, some of the young men in the yard shouted obscenities at them and the policemen shouted back waving their nightsticks, that day was the last day I saw Ken’s brother for a while.
Night fell and I lay in bed not able to sleep so I went and sat at the window watching the fishing boats go out, they engines roared through the dark as if talking to each other in some strange nautical language. Small red lights flashed on the bow of the boats cautioning other ships, the bushes swayed gentle in the breeze sometimes whistling when the gusts were strong. When all the boats were gone and the only sounds left were the ocean and the sound of steeldrums playing in the distance I closed me eyes and took a deep breath, it was so bloody peaceful. I saw the lights in Ken’s home as it reflected of the glass window, ever so often a shadow walk by beyond the white blinds. There was loud classical music coming from the house beyond the bushes and I heard old man Alexander humming when the wind blew in me direction, damn old man, probable happy because he killed some poor animal that day.
A couple of hours passed and all was completely quiet, no classical music no steeldrums not even crickets or frogs. I was bout to close the window and go to bed when I saw the bushes move. I wanted to hurry up and go inside but like a fool I kept looking, then slowly, piece by piece as if a puzzle was being put together, the white dress emerged from the darkness. I could have sworn I heard a female voice calling me name, I mean, it sounded like I was standing alone in a valley of rocks and the sound of the voice was bouncing off of them. I tried to move and thought I did but after a couple of seconds I realized that I was still standing at the window. She floated across the yard coming to a stop below me
window, I wanted to yell at she to leave me alone but the words got tied up in me throat. I was dizzy as hot and cold flashes rushed through me and I became aroused so aroused me stomach tightened real bad. The La Diablesse raised she right hand, shit, I tried to fight back but instead I leaned out the window reaching down to she.
“Come” she said she dress swaying gently in the wind. This was the first time she had spoken directly to me sending a warm sensation through me, I mean, I felt like I was sitting in a bell tower while the priest rang the bell. The ocean and the land blurred into one and my head felt as if a strong pair of hands was pressing it from both sides, I lifted me right leg in an attempt to climb out of the window and just like before that white dove swooped out of the sky and the woman in white disappeared and I found meself hanging out of the window. I quickly pulled me leg back into the house and fell onto the wooden floor me heart pounded so fast I almost fainted. From me position on the floor I saw the dove turn out to sea turning white to grey before disappearing into the night. I sprung to me feet and closed the window me hands shaking like crazy, I was still aroused me stomach tight one moment then relaxed, the sounds of the night returned but I think it was because I was listening to hear if the woman in white would call me again. I stumbled to me bed fell in and immediately passed out.
That night I did not sleep a wink, I mean, all damn night I had images of what would happen at Alison’s grandmother, in reality I never really been to an actual voodoo ceremony, I used to lay in bed at me grandmothers listening to the drums being played. I though bout Jane and got up and went down stairs to the phone, it was great to hear she voice man, it was such a relaxing melody. I wanted to tell she what was happening to me but I could not bring meself to do it so, I told she I was going to visit family the next day and that I would talk to her when I got back, she sounded a little disappointed but said she had some studying to do anyway. We talked for an hour or so and by the time I got off the phone I was a lot more at ease.
I went back upstairs to me bed and lay down and began thinking bout me visits to me grandmother’s plantation. Lying in bed listening to the drums of the Voodooist as they sang and danced through the night I always wanted to go out there to see what the hell they were doing, but I was afraid to, I mean, what if I had went up there and one of them crazy voodoo people put a spell on me. I wondered if this weekend would be anything like what I used to hear bout them meetings and them, are they going to be chopping chickens heads off, will they cast spells? Would I have to eat or drink anything disgusting, like pig guts or goat entrails, me stomach turned as I thought about what may happen. I fell asleep, me thoughts drifting from Jane to me grandmother, from Allison to the La Diablesse.
The next morning I took a quick shower then walked out into the yard, the mango tree swayed in the wind causing the ripe fruit to fall off they branches. I looked over at the bushes where the woman in white usually appeared, hesitantly I walked over and to me great surprise I reached out and parted the bushes, every vein in me body throbbed as I took a step into the darkness. The leaves immediately closed in round me and I found meself suffocated in the small branches, I stretched me hand out and tried to clear a path through the thick foliage branches whipped back hitting me in the face, me eyes closed as I felt round with me hands, me bloody skin tearing as thorns from the brush ripped into the flesh on me arms, still I pushed forward until I felt the sun on me arms, boy, I tell you it felt real good.
I bent down putting me hands on me knees like a marathon runner after a race, blood was trickling down me arms so I reached into me pocket and got out the handkerchief that me mother had given me. Gently, I pressed it against the scratches on me arms cursing like a prostitute after a bad client. I looked round me and saw that I was standing in the back of Mr. Alexander’s house, the vegetable garden was filled with all kinds of greenery imaginable, the house was bigger then most in the village and it stood in the middle of three acres of bushy land. I stood there gazing at the vegetable patch for no reason at all, all of a sudden I felt something brush against me leg and I spun round kicking as I did, a goat stood looking at me with what looked like a surprised expression on its face, stinking beast, did not know how close it came to losing its life. I looked over at the house, I expected the old man to come out and shoot the damn animal at anytime, I looked round searching for a place from where the woman in white would have came from, but I found none. Just beyond the house the ocean crashed against the rocks sometimes creating a hollow sound as it went through the holes in the rocks, I started to walk towards it but stopped, hell, I figured there was nothing to see there. As I turned and began to walk back through the bushes Mr. Alexander came out of he back door, he stopped and looked at me I waved at him and he was about to speak but I hurried through the bushes and back to me yard, hell, I did not want to speak to that beastly old man anyway. I went back into the house and spent the morning grading papers sometimes getting up to go to the window, I called Jane just so I could hear she voice, she sounded like she had been asleep so I did not talk for too long.
Streaks of red, orange and yellow exploded from dark clouds that formed round the late afternoon sun, the sea was calm except for the ripples made by a cruise ship lazily gliding by, small round holes lined its body from bow to stern, yellow glows escaped the holes like fading fireflies on a half moon night. I looked over to me left at the old French fort that stood overlooking the habour the eighteenth century building a constant reminder of the island’s colonial history, I heard the faint sound of music as the police band practiced they calypso tunes, tropical music flooded the air with plenty of rhythm. A seagull flew by and I followed its graceful motion until it settled on the roof of the house on the other side of me yard The yard was three acres of dirt that turned into a sticky mass of mud when the heavy tropical rainstorms drench the island. There was no garden of vegetables like the other houses, deep in me, me arrogance as a self-proclaimed intellectual would not let me work the soil. The only plant life that prospered back there was the large mango tree just to the right of some rocks, its big green leaves swayed in the gentle gusts that whipped through the yard, the sweet fruit, some green, some yellow hung from thin branches occasionally falling to the ground tossing up dirt as they landed. At the back of the yard a thick clump of bushes marked the boundary between me yard and the neighbour’s yard, prickled trees covered with vine leaned over as if protecting the ground from mechanical weathering. I peered into the bushes; it always seemed like a black hole even when the sun is in the middle of the sky. Me thoughts were interrupted when I heard a loud pop, it sounded like fireworks at Christmas, all the bloody dogs in the village started barking, I mean; you would have thought it was the second coming or something. Anyway back to me thoughts, I always wanted to walk through those bushes to see which part of the neighbour’s yard I would come onto but I never wanted to trespass, Mr. Alexander lived there and that man was a grim old fool who would kill any animal that ventured into he yard, bloody old man had a mean disposition, I swear, he had to be the devils prodigal son. There were other houses around, some concrete some wood, but mostly wooden, man I tell you what, some of them houses was so colourful when the sun shined directly on them it could blind god.
I was distracted from me thoughts by the thud of a mango hitting the ground, it rolled a short distance and settled at the feet of little Dexter who was sitting under the tree, he reached out and picked up the large fruit, wiped it on his shirt and sank his teeth into it, yellow juice escaped through he fingers and down his arm. A small bug hovered over him for a second then came to rest on he head and he swatted at the pest getting some of the yellow juice in he hair. He blue shirt was dirty from playing in the dusty roads all day in fact that child was always covered with dirt, mud was caked between he
toes as he swiveled he shoeless feet in the dirt. He finished eating the fruit and surveyed the rest of them lying round him. Then, as if a light bulb went off in his head, he gathered
the fruit into one pile took off his shirt and placed them in it, threw the laddened shirt over he shoulder and walked out the yard with a triumphant grin on he face.
He climbed over the wall and into the yard of the small house to the right of me yard, yelping as he jumped, he mother came to the window and yelled at him to come inside. She started to go back inside but stopped and leaned out the window, the large black wig she wore tilted precariously forward, I chuckled, pondering the idea of the wig falling off she head and into the pool of muddy water under the window. Just as it was bout to slip completely off she head she grabbed it, straightened it, looked round and went inside the white laced curtains closing slowly.
I heard she talking to Dexter from behind the wooden walls of the house she voice carried with the wind out to sea. That woman was usually the topic of discussion when the village gossips got together, some say she did not have a strand of hair on she head not to mention the fact that a local obeah man was the one who put a curse on she. I would always laugh when I heard that story because the whole idea of Obeah and Voodoo seemed real counter productive to me.
I turned me attention back to the sunset, the yellow globe was half way down as if hiding its complete beauty from the world, the sounds of steeldrums playing in the distance them pansmen and them were already practicing, preparing for carnival in August, I tell you what, they sure could play a sweet tune. I closed me eyes took a deep
breath and inhaled, the salty air bit at me nostrils causing me nose to sting a little but boy I loved that smell for so.
Before darkness devoured the daylight and the wonderful sounds that came with it. I pulled meself inside bumping me head on the window frame, this was one of the disadvantages of being seven feet tall me head was marked with bumps and bruises from all the doors and ceilings I bumped me head on. I was grossly under weight for me height, one hundred and forty pounds to be exact, as a child I was the target of every bully in the damn village, I mean, them little bastards would follow me home after school.
“Tall tin an terrible, bamboo in pants,” they shouted they laughter echoing down the narrow streets, bloody ingrates, it was they constant teasing that contributed to the present-day arrogance and disdain I had for the traditions of the island, I mean, I was likened to every bloody folktale character ever though of.
I left the window and walked across the room, a small maple coloured desk sat in a corner covered with papers, I stood over the desk surveying the mess, damn it, sometimes I hated being a teacher all those bloody papers to grade could spoil a man’s eyesight, but I sat down and started filing through them anyway.
It was one o’clock in the morning before I was done with the last bloody paper, I yawned stretching me arms to the ceiling, the rough surface jabbed into the soft flesh of me middle class palms. I yawned again and stretched me legs out me knees popping as I
did then I got up and walked over to the window. The full moon hovered over the sea its crystal light shimmering across the ocean causing the water to look like the sky with twinkling stars, the cool Trade Winds bushed against me face and I inhaled then turned and walked away from the window, I tell you what, the site of me bed was enough to send a wave of relaxation through me. I dove into the air and landed on the bed me body sinking into the soft mattress. I lay there thinking bout the next day, I was a teacher at a small Methodist school in the city. I had good pupils most of them loved telling stories and that is why I loved teaching writing classes. I fell into a light but restful sleep with the images of the day flashing before me.
One of our Christmas tradition when I was a kid was going window shopping. The sight of all the Christmas decorations in the windows of the store meant that Christmas was as around the corner. Oh the lights, the animation, the colours. I would press my face against the glass and lose myself in the fantasy of it all. The star at the top of the Christmas tree, the balloons hanging from the branches, the glittering ornaments, the soft melody of Carrols in the background. The streets were filled with other families window shopping, my mother would stop to talk to someone as we waited and jumped with excitement. Then the Pièce de résistance, the last stop on the sight seeing, an ice cream cone, oh the smooth taste of banana sprinkled with nuts, the cool trade winds sending a chill through my body. Oh yes, its Christmas time, I am ready for some real good Mommy Charles cooking.