The first time was after a day at the beach. She should have walked away right then. Now she can’t. It was a nice day, too. Walking down to the beach she and he were talking when some boys, beach bums, started heckling her. At first, she wasn’t sure it was her. She was not wearing anything fancy, still had her wrap over her bikini bottom and still, they were real heckling. So she looked back. More to establish that she was their focus than anything like vanity or encouragement. She didn’t show them a bad face, but she didn’t encourage anything either. She knew the balance. She looked back and kept moving.
Down on the beach, they found it almost deserted. They set up in a nice spot and smoked a spliff. It was good ganja, they were both high, perhaps both a little paranoid. They sat, saying nothing, looking at the ocean in front of them. She wondered about its coldness and he was concerned with power. The day, though, was too hot and the sun was a slow, shifting god that moved their shade, so that an early afternoon heat emerged from across the sky to the west. Defeated, he stood with a sigh and began walking, she followed and they eased into the water. Toes and ankles first, then calves and knees. When it was up to his waist, he dived in head first and resurfaced, whooping, and she laughed. They forgot about feeling heat. The water was the exact temperature their skin needed . The movement of the waves distorted their shadows cast by the sun-god and spells were woven. His tallness, lengthened and he was transformed, his shadow slithering across the waves, hunting hers. She, already shorter than him, had a shadow that was wider than she actually is. It is as if their shapes were passed through different mirrors, the types meant to distort, to hide reality. He came closer to her then, the sand shifting under their feet all the time with wave after wave, in and out. In and out, again. He gripped her by the ass, his hand under the water but on her, feeling her compensate and balance, focusing on her movement and her muscles and becoming excited, pressing himself on her.
On the way out they met some friends now coming in and delayed a bit, leaving, but leaving slowly. No rush at all. And on the drive home, Bob playing in the car and another spliff, perfect beach day, until they reached home and got in the house. She didn’t even put down her bag. Her shades were just off her face and in her hand and he was hitting her, hard, in the back of the head.
He had never roared at her before. He didn’t even stay to see the effect it had. He slapped her, cussed her up and walked off. She is left there, feeling like a wave knocked her over from behind.
She loved his name. She said it all together, as if it was one word, but still, not too fast; each syllable getting its own place. Each with an equal breath between. Each with time to fill her mouth. To be savoured. Krishnamurtikibwejohn. A man of two worlds. His father was African, a unionist. A Black Power man, with a Black wife, Black family, an Indian outside woman and a mixed baby that looked just like him. Krishnamurtikibwejohn grew up with his mother always knowing his part in an open secret. The last child for his father, he tried to find ways to supplicate. Unspoken things that he believed they could share. He grew dreadlocks like his father and picked up his mannerisms, trying to pay homage /to the original. His mother’s people hated him, hated the black in him. His hair, too curly, his skin too dark. They didn’t want him as a Jagmohan and hated that he was a John.
Krishnamurtikibwejohn was born Catholic. At the time, his mother’s family was so vexed, that she was told she would be cut off and left to fend for herself with her married niggah man and niggah baby. It was then his father came with the talk that if his child not baptized Catholic, they have nothing to get from him. So he went to Catholic schools growing up, fascinated by the visual of Jesus on his cross and hoping to at least fall into his own father’s shadow. As a young man he married a Black girl and his father didn’t come. They dreamed about building a house, building a Black family and they had twins, and life was nice, until he hit her. He wasn’t married for long. Soon after that his mother passed away and his father never showed. So he only went after Indian women, not looking to do the marriage thing, just trying to bring his mother back. Then he met Sita.
Krishnamurtikibwejohn. A man of two worlds. One she came from and one she is never to go. Was never to go. He was like Rama. And he was Krishna. And he was Shiva. Many gods in one. Or different masks of the one God. Stories of joy and pain in the same being. Each face at a slightly different angle. Three eyes open on each face. Two turned out, one turned in. God sees everything. And this God, wishes to be held to her breast after their loving. His body, langourous, but from his mouth poured dreams and memories. He told Sita of his father and how it was, having a man’s face and his last name, but never his love or his time. He asked his mother once, about what happened between her and his father. She looked at him then, unmoving and with an even gaze, left the room and handed him a mirror when she returned. Sita looked at him as he told her these things. She wondered at this man, who when she holds him reminds her of something hard and alive, like hugging a tree; this man with rough hands and feet using his words to tell her, “Yes gyal! I is people, too.” The more he spoke the more she saw, looking down into his eyes, seeing herself reflected infinite times in pools that made her think of dew on a leaf.
Krishnamurtikibwejohn took root in her. He had hands that touched her everywhere, all at once, it seemed. Even in her dreams. Except then she saw all his hands. There is no deception in dreams. In life she only ever saw two. On top of him, she would cup them to her breasts. And then his touch would make her close her eyes and moan, and she felt them everywhere again. He was endless skin. Dark brown skin. Darkness to mix with her lightness. She is never to know how this tastes. Was never to know. There was contrast, but not much. Sometimes it looked like if you could rub where they touched, they would become one. Endless skin, and muscle, and sweat and bone all within the brown flesh of their bodies. Darkness mixing with light. She knows him hard and she knows him soft. Intimate. Vulnerable follows powerful, almost all of the time. Catholic guilt, he says. God feels everything.
She couldn’t have hit him that hard. Her cousin warned her about the state of it but she needed to tell him sorry.
She was too scared to face his people, whoever they were. But still, she killed him and she didn’t mean to, so she would at least apologize to his corpse.
Krishnamurtikibwejohn. When he is not below or beside her he tries to crush her. She knew she had to choose. No. It was no longer a choice after she tasted what she wasn’t supposed to and went where she should not have gone. After that it was understood. She was his woman now. Not even her father or mother wanted her anymore. She was his woman now and he tried to own her. He tried to own her laugh and tell it how loud it should go, and how high in pitch. And never, ever, around other men must it be heard. He demanded her eyes to narrow. To stop being oval pools that the evening sun loved to sink in and that could, if given the chance, birth a moon. He confused her waist. When he craved her love, he showed her hips where to find him and begged them to never leave. Beside her, he would whisper his name onto her cunt, softly, taking his time with each syllable, and her, in his mouth. Other times he wanted to outlaw her waist from swinging. Now she must walk different, her hips must never show that she knew all of him. God knows everything.
But then, when they separate, when he was owning, he told those same hips to stop sway and sashay. He grabbed her ass like he was checking livestock and called her fat. In daylight he could not stand her so he broke her down. At night, she was his heroine and he built her up. Inside, somewhere, part of her wanted to go, but she had no ‘where’ to go. She was not Mrs. John. She was not Seeraram daughter anymore either. Krishnamurtikibwejohn. Had two children from a marriage before and none with her. She had nothing to get from him, her owner.
“I marking you long time, Rasta.”
She heard a strange voice creeping up the stairs to her as she was coming down. She froze then, but Strange Voice sounded like he thought the hard part was done.
“What you have in this fridge here, eh? No beers? Ah could drink ah something before we get down tuh it.”
He was going through the fridge. She could see its shadow cast by the open fridge door. She stepped out. She grabbed one of Krishnamurtikibwejohn’s many things, a marble statue of a semi-nude couple, locked in a kissing embrace. They were standing, and thick, marble roots grew out of the ground between their legs, joining them at their genitals, which were roots too. They had legs and arms and torsos and faces but no parts for making love. She often wondered what was the point of their kiss. Now she was just happy they were heavy, and this young criminal had his head down, inside her fridge. He didn’t even see the blow. She got him good too, right across the temple. He was out cold before his body reached the ground.
Strange Voice is laid out on the table below and in a way she sees herself. Her mind shoots off, collecting panicked wonderings before sense prevails. But it is true, this is her. The split lip was where Krishnamurtikibwejohn butted her, the empty eye socket was her swollen eye when he punched her from across the table because of a cold meal. Bruises on his chest, her chest, even now, day-old bruising was turning colour under her blouse. That broken leg is her broken leg.
“I didn’t do this.”
That is what i try to tell yuh on de phone. but no, you still had to come…yuh all right?
She could laugh at that. All right? She was still feeling like she hit this young boy a spirit lash, hit him so hard, with all the vex she have bottled up for Krishnamurtikibwejohn, all the helplessness. That all her pain come out on him. One lash and she put her jumbie on him. Wasn’t she just saying this morning how much lighter she felt? Just before she opened the papers?
But she didn’t do this. The boy who she knocked out had both eyes and whole limbs. This body with the broken jaw, swollen face, missing ear, was not how Strange Voice was looking when the police took him last night. This was done after and she felt relieved. She felt guilty, too, but mainly relieved that she didn’t kill this man.
In the after, she is Krishnmurtikibwejohn’s favourite possession again. He told everybody the story about how he fell asleep on the couch and next thing he know, some man in the house and is gun in his face. He told everyone about how he was tied up and helpless. Watching this intruder go through his fridge and trying not to show fear, because, “Yuh know they bullin man in bottom this rounds too!” She is not allowed to tell the tale. To be the centre of attention. When his friends ask her questions, he answers, rushing to her side, kissing her cheek, taking her hands in his. She is his guardian and now he will be her protector. She glances ever so often at the sculpture of the rooted couple. She wonders about their pointless kiss.
Adam Andrews is a Trinbagonian farmer, writer, musician and part-time academic. He is a magical realist who is intermittently marooned in Moruga.