VOYEUR

Paula David

A green mountain range rises majestically from the sea.  She blankets an island chain where the Bible is always the standard and often the only textbook. The mountain range dwarfs her children.  Her tall, jagged peaks impede movement and entrench isolation.  Blue waters surround her, genuflecting at her feet.

A red and white vessel, as large and ancient as Jonah’s whale, belches notice of its departure.  The boom bounces off the mountains through narrow valleys that act as echo chambers.  The sea is a blue marble tabletop, perfectly flat and polished to full luster.  Around mid-channel, flying fish hover blue grey above the blue-black sea.  The surf plays dodge ball against the sides of the ferry.  A white shrouded seagull skirts the sea’s surface, his telescopic eyes penetrating deep below.

A woman grooms her lover tenderly.  She examines her lover’s face, scratching at scars and stroking wrinkles while her lover’s head rests snugly on her lap.  They are an unlikely pair.  Neither pretty, one is ornamented beyond the bounds of decency, each earlobe bearing the burden of six ingot rings.  The other is clad in brown cotton which sinks into the brown of her skin making her as inconspicuous as a ground dove.  Bejeweled lover lazily traces her index finger from the forehead of her ground dove past her nose down to her lips.  Normally nosy islander passengers avert their eyes.

A young woman strains the seams of her tiger print blouse and black spandex trousers deliciously.  She walks across the deck, cell phone in hand, seeking out the right spot for reception.  With one practiced hand she languidly coaxes a light veil of dreadlocks which has strayed past her cheeks over her eyes back into place.  Her skin is the colour of slightly burnt toast luminescent with butter.  Her lower lip pouts just enough to suggest a hunger that bears no relationship to food.  Pie chart and bar graph in hand, she smiles at the speaker on the other end of the line.  She gestures to him, points at the charts, cajoles and convinces.  Her beauty is wisdom; the sweetness of her voice is reason and the bounce of her hips, purpose.

Tiger woman makes her way towards the staircase as the ferry pulls into harbour.  She skips down the steps.  The lovers wait patiently on their white wooden nest while the crowd of work-a-day passengers, eager to disembark, dissipates. 

The tigress is met at the bottom of the stairs by a tall man uniformed in Benetton khakis and white linen shirt.  His thighs and pectoral muscles are hard beneath the tropical weight clothing.  They shake their hellos, fingers pressed deeply into each other’s palms.  The fingers linger then, reluctantly, disengage.  Lips and eyes smile brightly as they stroll past the octagonal kiosk where minibuses swing by furiously to gather up impatient passengers.

Benetton and Tigress sit on deck chairs sheltered beneath a huge yellow canvas umbrella.  She shows him a balance sheet.  He nods approvingly.  The sun strikes the diamond studded band on her left ring finger.

Bejeweled and Ground Dove hold hands as they stroll across golden sand past rows of yellow umbrellas.  Drunk with love and oblivious of all other human presence, they sit on the sparkling sand in the shade of a Flamboyant tree.  One strokes the other’s hair.  The other wipes sea spray from her lover’s unperturbed cheek.

A waitress giggles a greeting to the tigress.  She looks pointedly at the young woman’s left hand as she smiles through a message to her employer to telephone his wife.  He dismisses the waitress with an impatient nod.  He moves his chair closer to the tigress’ and pulls a bank statement midway between them.  Their thighs touch. 

Benetton and the tigress linger over lunch.  He has not called his wife.  He reaches for the tigress’ hand beneath the table.  Her fingers tighten around his palm.  She leans close enough toward his chest to feel his breath.  Their upper bodies do not touch but waitresses nudge each other.  The tigress pouts playfully as Benetton steals a shrimp from her plate. 

The mountain sits tranquil in the distance.  Waitresses neglect paying guests in their eagerness to serve the pair.  One waitress outpaces the others to replenish a water glass.  She grins triumphantly at her rivals whose faces contort between scowl and smile in good humoured envy.  The guests, islanders with knowing eyes, revel in the neglect that gives them just cause to dawdle and enjoy the spectacle.

A patron reluctantly pulls himself away from the mid-afternoon entertainment.  His torn, once white t-shirt is blood stained from the fish he must resume gutting on a jetty two thousand yards away.  The Flamboyant tree stands mid-way between the yellow umbrellas and the jetty.  As he nears the tree he notices the lovers.  The mountain, now standing legs splayed and arms akimbo, commands him to action.  Her green cape shudders as she summons the chattering wind.  The wind strikes the flaming flowers of the Flamboyant.  They fall to the ground, shocked by the suddenness of the assault.  Air driven sand stings the eyes of the lovers.  The fisherman issues a war cry, plucked from the book of Genesis.  A woman joins him, then a man, then another.  Men and women become a river that swells and breaks its banks in furious deluge.

BOOM!  A rock crashes against the trunk of the Flamboyant tree.  Rubber slippers slap hard against soles that pound on hot sand.  

BYE!  Bejeweled stumbles and falls over driftwood that lies long and thick like a Python on the beach.

BYE!  Ground Dove turns back and swoops Bejeweled to her feet.

BOOM!  Bejeweled and Ground Dove outdistance the flood of island bodies that drip sweat and venom by sixty yards.

BYE!  A man, righteous wrath curdling on his chest, brandishes a cutlass high in the air.

BYE!  A woman hurls a rock, heavy as moral fortitude.

BOOM!  Bejeweled and Ground Dove slip between yellow umbrellas.  Bejeweled wails as she tugs at her lover’s sleeve, urging her to quicken her pace.  The lovers dodge behind Benetton and the tigress.

BYE!  The tigress lets out an agonized scream as a rock strikes her forehead.

BYE!  Benetton is on his feet, bewildered.

BOOM!  The tigress falls, blood drenched, to the ground.  The lovers gather her up.  Benetton leads the women past the bar through the solid mahogany door of his wine closet.

BYE!  The mob rushes forward, rock and cutlass armed.

BYE!  All four push hard to slam the thick wooden door shut. 

Image credit: David Pinto. Good Hope, Trelawny, Jamaica.

I was born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica.  I have lived and worked in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines for a little more than 30 years.  I am more curious about my own community than any other.  This leads me to borderline obsessive interrogation and consumption of the history, literature, music and art of the African diaspora in the Americas.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.