Sarah Leslie full ah faith; not the kind that triggered bowel movement, or emptied her bladder when she arse hit her own toilet bowl after a long day’s work. No. Sarah brim-full ah the kind ah faith that seeped from her family rosary, too dated to pinpoint its age. Banko Bacchus bursting with ah different faith; not the kind that steered him on the same motorbike responsible fuh he father’s sudden death. No. Banko mopped up every calamity in he path with meditation. He wrung life’s doubts from he system like water from a wet towel, securing he hopes and dreams with faith stronger than clothespins in a storm. Banko organized he father’s funeral, observed the mourners from afar and single out the only person bawling at the graveside, the family restaurant’s main cook, Sarah Leslie.
Sarah swore off men after her father, long gone, crippled she mother with one too many beatings. Before her boss lost control ah he bike and bruck he neck on the only stone in the river below the restaurant, Sarah’s life was a simple triangle: the restaurant, her disabled mother and the Catholic church. She started as a dishwasher at the restaurant more than two decades ago. She worked her way up, eventually mastering the main Indian cuisine the restaurant was known for, and delivered some ah the best rotis, dhalpuris and samosas in Kingstown. Sarah’s heart heavy at old Bacchus’ untimely demise. Fear for the future had her bawling like they were sinking she spirit deep in the ground. Mr. Bacchus was a god-send to Sarah, always respectful and encouraging. Bacchus’ son never showed much interest in the business; he was always on one excursion or the other, one cruise after the next, with he best friend Rasheem. Sarah fully expected him to get rid ah the restaurant and continue he island hopping hobby. She chanted the Apostle’s Creed like a litany between sobs at the funeral, ignoring snot running all in she mouth from her hysterics. When Banko asked her back to the restaurant, Sarah prepared sheself fuh the worst. Rasheem and Banko sat ‘cross from she. Rasheem handed her a glass ah water, nodded he head at Banko and turned he fingers into a drum-roll set. Banko cracked every knuckle on he two hands. Sarah was afraid he would move on to her hands when he said, real ‘matter-ah-fact’, “Well, Sarah, daddy gone. Nobody know the business like you. I say we marry and get on with life.” Sarah gripped she rosary, swallowed the glass ah water and she grief in one go, and surprised herself. “Mek sense. Gimme anoda glass ah water dey.”
They pushed off the wedding in three days. Business concluded swift swift in the Bacchus lawyer’s office, a paralegal and Rasheem as witnesses. The only thing that barred immediate nuptial was the wait fuh a marriage license. Banko spent less than a month with he bride before he and Rasheem resumed they island hopping. Sarah buried her mother within seven months ah moving in the Bacchus mansion. She laid her only family to rest on a Sunday evening, when the restaurant was closed. Then she went home to her empty house, quietly bereaved her loss, and sought comfort in the closest thing to company in the house, Banko’s new motorcycle.
Sarah loved the way Banko rubbed down the new Ducati scrambler Rasheem gifted him fuh he sixtieth birthday— eyes closed, head thrown back, always purring like the bike was a living thing. Sarah had no idea how to make anything purr. The closest she got to losing her inhibition was when she friend Sister Esther grabbed her hands in the throes of an intense Hail Mary. Sarah spent all her free time at the convent where Esther was Reverend Mother. She and Sarah did so many rounds ah the rosary that sometimes Sarah never bothered going home. She slept with Esther and walked to the restaurant next morning. Esther and the diocese Bishop close, so Sarah was like a member ah the convent. She go and come as she pleased. That is why Sarah understood Banko and Rasheem’s friendship. Same way she does feel happy when she was with Esther, as if the Trinity itself handed her a soulmate. Sarah and Banko sweet like two doves, nothing bothered them. She forty three and Banko hitting sixty-three. Life was good. Out the blue, the diocese announced the appointment of a new Bishop and Sister Esther got antsy. She begged Sarah to hold off the convent visits fuh a while. Sarah found herself going from work to home, church forced out the equation. Her solitary prayer sessions became the highlight ah she miserable existence. Sarah missed her friend so bad, Sister Esther’s face replaced the Virgin Mary in her coronation prayer, glowing brightly under a crown ah roses with each round ah rosary.
Banko and Rasheem paused they globetrotting around this time. Banko’s philosophy was that any rich man worth he salt should see the world. “Money mek fuh spend. Wen yuh dead, yuh done.” He liked to joke. Sarah noticed they stayed beyond they routine four-weeks break.
“Like alyuh tired?” she teased them, “Ole age catching up?”
Rasheem looked everywhere but at Sarah. Goosebumps took over Sarah’s body. She felt them stifling her laugh all between the plaits in her head. She directed her question at her husband. “Banko, Whey wrong?”
Banko stared at the floor as if the answer somewhere in the marble tiles. “People have he name in stupidness,” Rasheem volunteered. “Them say he funny. Me feel real bad fuh me partner. At least me have me wife and children. Nobody cyar point no finger pan me.”
Sarah was on the verge ah pointing out that Banko had a wife too, but Banko cleared he throat loud loud like he gullet turn ole iron, and he scraping he words with a rusty spoon. “Dem say de Reverend Mother movin’ to Dominica becaz she knock shallow plate wit yuh,” he growled. “I never hear more shit. Is like dem cyar see anybody happy.”
The floor like it shifted under Sarah’s trembling foot. She grounded herself in the sound ah downpour outside, and focused on a low rumbling like muffled thunder, not quite sure if it was coming from her or the weather. “Speak Lord, thy servant heareth,” she exclaimed, ordering Rasheem to get to he ‘wife-and-children’ in the next breath. Rasheem rushed out in the rain like the devil manifested in the Bacchus household.
Sarah instructed Banko fuh scrub he skin good, and wait in the only unused room in the place— the ground floor master bedroom. The ensuite guest room on the top floor was her personal space. Banko had knocked down the wall between two smaller bedrooms on the opposite side ah the house to make one big man-cave. Never mind he was hardly home.
Banko never touched a woman in he life, but Sarah didn’t know that. Sarah never touched a man in she life, but Banko didn’t know that. They took turns laying on each other with no response from either party. Then Sarah tie she head with a scarf Esther left fuh her, climbed onto the bed like she was entering a Roman arena, cocked her arse so high her spine creaked worse than if she dislodged some rusty, unused hinge. She thought of Esther’s face replacing someone else’s Virgin Mary, and bit she tongue. Hard.
“Duh study me, eh? Think ‘bout the brand new machine yuh collect yesterday,” she encouraged Banko.
Banko wasn’t too sure what happening, but he sensed an infectious desire in the room. He shut his eyes and tapped into it. He imagined himself climbing onto he latest motorbike, the handlebars vibrating with a familiar excitement. Banko revved the engine and head fuh Maroon Hill, the highest, and loneliest point in the area. Before he knew it, the wind whipping he mouth open and he screaming with a raw mixture ah invincibility and bliss coursing through he body. Banko heard another bike behind him, instinctively knew Rasheem had somehow joined the dreamlike reality, and the knowledge made him feel like a live firecracker. He glimpsed Sarah at the top ah the hill waving he favorite rag like a flag girl. He sped up. Spun donuts. Drifted into figure eights. Scratching tires. Blinding smoke. By the time Banko stopped, the place like Lucifer dragged ah pitchfork ‘cross the road. Banko couldn’t stop shaking. Same with Sarah; her head-tie gone and she hair like a wild hen who just win a fight with the yard cock. She grinned: “Faith, Banko. Dem soon get something fi talk ‘bout.”
That was sixteen years ago. Three weeks after Banko’s fantastical rally Sarah took to her bed with bad feelings; she retched even if she drank water. It was a long nine months. Oyana Bacchus ‘s birth, on the second to last day in March, was a three-day ordeal. Sarah was so grateful that her baby was safely delivered that she named the chile after the midwife; Nurse Oya. Oyana introduced a new kind ah faith in the Bacchus gene pool— the kind that made her comfortable in she own skin. Oyana knew her own heart from the time she entered the world; she rejected breast milk, refused to cry even when she was hungry, and wrapped her parents round she little finger like tie-back on fresh ducuna.
Is only after Oyana walked out the house at sixteen, insisting that she was “going j’ouvert”, that Sarah really took time to reflect on the name.
“Yuh cyar behave like a heretic behind bacchanal, like yuh nah grow up in a good Catholic family,” Sarah pleaded, feeling every ounce ah she fifty-nine years.
“De only Catholic in dis space is you, Ma. Daddy is a whole Buddhist,” Oyana told her mother.
“Shango in me blood. Yuh cud research de Goddess ah thunder and lightning wen me gone,” and with that Oyana strutted to the gate.
To tell the truth, Oyana never took to the Catholic doctrine. By the time she got to three Hail Marys the rosary done slip from her fingers. Her snores alerted Sarah that she wasn’t paying penace fuh all the wining she put down the second she hear a pin drop. Banko tried to get Oyana to meditate, only fuh Sarah catch father and daughter in a snoring competition. Sarah couldn’t even get mad at Banko— he was pushing eighty.
Banko declared that he dropping Oyana to the fete. “I go park and rest. When she done faylaylay, she go find me. Nah badah wait up.” Banko had transitioned to a jeep years ago, after he and he ride slip under an eighteen wheeler Leland truck on the way from Rasheem’s funeral. Banko slid to one side, and the bike turned metal soup on the other side. He told Sarah, “No mechanic can fix that. Time fuh me seek Nirvana and leave dem things to young people.” Sarah did not miss the contraption.
After Banko and Oyana left, Sarah settled in with her rosary. She only got to the first Our Father, before she heard somebody calling from the front gate. She gripped the rosary tight tight, when she recognized Tess voice from the Milk and Honey exotic bar ‘cross the road. Tess frightened Sarah when she tried to witness by the bar earlier that week; she’d glided on the stage like a human snake, bent over, and planted a smooch on she own coochie. Sarah sailed out the bar with she crucifix almost puncturing her hand.
She put down the rosary, walked real slow to the gate and flung it open. Tess flounced in the yard, smiling, her skin colored mesh dress leaving very little to the imagination. “Faith, Lord,” Sarah whispered, the Our Father prayer a vague memory.
Tess’s dimples overflowed with silent promises, and all Sarah could do was mash her own big toe, bruising off the top in she effort to quell a fire rising from her core. “Wat wud Jesus do?” she asked sheself, knowing fully well Jesus wouldn’t approve the things she was thinking ‘bout doing to Tess. Sarah put she full weight on her big toe, sparking biting pain ‘cross her limb like a red ant invasion. Agony morphed into a centipede snailing its way up Sarah’s leg. She braced herself on the gate, whimpering when the centipede inched past her inner thighs slithering towards her groin.
Possibilities detonated like a nuclear bomb, annihilating all Sarah’s self-control. She turned in time to see Tess’s backside sashaying through the front door, her head adorned with a glowing rose halo.