The one thing I had to do today was go and collect a barrel that my mom shipped to me via sea freight. This is very exciting because said barrel contains goodies like clothes I ordered online in August, hanging shelves for my closet, the rest of my flip flops, Bean’s train set, Bean’s books, my garlic press and obscenely large cast iron skillet, without which I cannot make perfect pizza, my new prescription sunglasses and a whole bunch of other desperately missed things that didn’t fit in my suitcase in July.
But on the way to town, the guy sitting next to me got off at the Carenage, and after he passed my seat he put down the folding seat, the one that blocks the aisle and people use when the bus is full. There’s a metal rod on the bottom, and my toe was caught, hard, between it and the floor. At that moment, I happened to be deep in thought about how I was going to be a good girl with the customs agent at the shipping warehouse, because these things can go smoothly or they can be difficult and it’s really up to me and my tone. So I was already a little wound up.
The blow to my toe hurt so much I screamed “fuck me” and then burst into tears, but then didn’t let myself cry because Bean was there and seriously, Mommy.
So instead of collecting my barrel, I took some deep breaths, then went to the market and got some gorgeous avocados. Now I’m home, and medicated. I’ll get the barrel tomorrow.
Today is Carnival Friday. In preparation, I’m stepping up my hydration routine.
[photo via grenadaphotoalbum.com]
It’s not just that Cheryl *knows* the rules, it’s that she was there while I invented them. The night Bean was born, she stayed overnight with my grandmother, so my mom could sleep in the other bed in my room at the clinic. Cheryl was still at the house when we got home early the next afternoon. For the two and half years that followed, she spent eight hours a day, five days a week with my family. She knows me, and she knows Bean, even if she hasn’t seen him in a year and a half. She’s also the only person he remembers from our life here in Grenada. Other than his father. He even forgot mangoes.
So when Cheryl called and said could she please take Bean for Saturday, and bring him in a sports festival t’ing for chirren, I said yes, of course, because she’s still his only babysitter.
This is Bean’s first ever sleepover with anyone who is not my mother. He’ll be back tomorrow.
When I informed Bean’s father, he frowned. Briefly. And then he said, “You know I hear dey say Cheryl have dem wild children.”
“Wild?” Like, what does that even mean?
“Wild. Like the big daughter.”
He shrugged, which signifies concession.
We didn’t go anywhere at all the first few days. Bean fell asleep on the New York to Miami leg of our flight, so I did too, which was great, because I’d barely gotten three hours of sleep the night before, and terrible, because when I fall asleep in cars or on airplanes, I don’t move, and I wake up with molten fire in my knees and ankles, the residue of my battle with Lyme Disease in high school.
Bean was a good sport about Mommy’s feet. I had new DVDs and books, fresh magic markers, and a sketchbook that I wallpapered in Buzz Lightyear stickers. We drew frogs, houses with plants growing from their chimneys, and a dinosaur that looked exactly like the Loch Ness Monster. I restrung my red coral necklace, slipping in a turquoise bead every five chips.
I’d promised that we would go the the beach the first day, and I meant it, but I had to let my feet - too swollen even for slippers - heal.
The storm, when it came, approached slowly. Bean was exhausted from the day before, had played for *hours* in the ocean, and didn’t sleep late the following morning because he woke up hungry. He ate three hard-boiled eggs and some ham for hops and went back to sleep.
“Mommy? Where is Woody? Did you pack Woody in the suitcase?”
“Yes, baby. He’s in the box with your Legos. See?”
“Nooo.” He sniffs air out at me, hard, a horrifying expression of impatience I recognized he’d learned by watching me communicate with his grandmother.
“Not THIS Woody. This is SMALL Woody. I want BIG Woody.”
“I didn’t bring Big Woody,” I reminded him. “We left Big Woody at Grandma’s house.. She’ll keep him safe for you. Also, sweetie pie? Big Woody didn’t have his hat. A cowboy can’t travel without his hat.”
“I WANT TO GO TO GRANDMA’S HOUSE!”
That was the beginning of an epic - no, no, literally! epic. - tantrum. It lasted about sixteen hours. Highlights include:
- This is not my house!
- I need space!
- I want to go to Grandma’s house!
- I want to go to the yellow house!
- I want to go to Hickory!
- WHERE IS UNCLE BOB’S DOG?
- I want to go to the beach!
- YOU ARE NOT MY REAL PARENTS! [blatantly lifted from Coraline, I realized later]
- I hate the beach!
- I HATE MY BED. IT IS NOT EVEN A REAL BED. IT’S LONG. AND MADE OF WOOD.
- I hate this house, this sink is OUTSIDE THE BATHROOM! TAKE ME TO THE AIRPORT RIGHT NOW! COME ON, MOMMY! WHY ARE YOU JUST SITTING THERE?
- YOU SAID THERE IS ALWAYS A BEACH AND NOW YOU SAY THERE IS NOT ALWAYS A BEACH. YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO TELL THE TRUTH, MOMMY!
- Go out and get me some sunglasses that fit me!
He’s yelling at me like third-year Harry Potter.
I know he got a whole lot of sun the day before. I also know he’s overtired and still catching up on hydration. That he has spent well over three days straight mostly stuck alone with me and my hurty feet. That some of the food is unfamiliar and that his daddy talks funny, funny enough that he doesn’t always understand.
Yet mostly I’m amazed at how quickly he just slides into Grenada. He drinks guava-kiwi juice and eats a breadfruit chip, and I’m relieved, because he can be very particular about food, and has recently declared that he does not like! chicken nuggets! any! more! So it matters when we don’t have Cheerios, his favorite, but we *do* have Alpen, a muesli concoction from Switzerland, full of peanuts and currants, and he clears the bowl and asks for and receives three refills.
His father makes him cocoa tea, and it’s not like the Ovaltine in our kitchen back at Amherst, it is not so processed, it is unsweetened; like real baking chocolate squares that you melt in a pan, fold with white sugar. The first cup is too hot and bitter, but his father quickly learns to let it cool, then add some sweet milk. Bean drinks it, gulping, and if he notices the bits of bay leaf, he doesn’t mention it.
In this photo, he stands on the edge of his bed, his belly pressed against the painted concrete wall, his fingers angled against the bottom corner of the window. After I take the photo, I walk across the mattress on my knees, duck my head under the lace curtain, join him between it and the window.
“What do you see, baby?”
“Kitties! There were kitties. Two. They might come back.”
The garden on the other side of his bedroom wall is overgrown and exotic, a sight with or without kitties, but Bean harbors a particular affection for felines.
My head level with his behind the lace curtain, I watch my son’s face. His mouth is open a little bit, enough that I can see all his teeth. His hands are aflutter (twitter? atwitter? ha!) and his eyes are fixed on the green beyond the screen.
He’s enthralled, delighted, eyes bright with the *possibility* of seeing the cats again. He’s riveted in *anticipation* - “they might come back” - of the sight.
It’s a quality of his I covet, that ability to so effortlessly pluck joy from the world, and eat it whole.
She has a special t’ing with one of them. He’s a Rasta in the fiberglass shop and he works with a piece of jersey tied around his head. It’s bright white and keeps the cutting dust from troubling his scalp and dirtying his plaits.
She’s 37 and he’s 23, which is how she likes it. “The young ones,” she tells me, “are very… enthusiastic.” She draws out the sound. En-thus-i-as-tic. She laughs then and that’s when I hear her wordless confession, hanging limp in the grinding pauses between each syllable. That’s when she admits that every day - right before she serves lunch - she meets him in the concrete shower block by the rigging shop, and there he picks her up and frankly fucks her against the tile wall. I almost missed this because I am too new and too foreign and too literal. I am still learning to see past the unsubtle.