“Every time I take a life, I cut my locks.”
It is between 2 and 4 in the morning on an island in the Caribbean. Your lover has been gone for hours. He fucked you furiously and deeply and in that perfect nightcap kind of way which makes you zonk out immediately after. Then he dressed and left, without ceremony, cuddling or explanation, which is rude, even for him. And when he comes back to your room at the Windward Passage hotel, he plops himself down in a chair overlooking the patio, which overlooks Waterfront Drive, and lights a joint and sighs.
Island nights are surreally bright, with the streetlights and the stars and the moonlight on the water, a gloss that refuses to peel, and the water on every side always like a warped funhouse mirror. It is never dark dark here, but that peculiar, velvety hyperblue that strikes your stateside eyes as artificial and makes you feel like you are living on a movie set.
They call it ‘rock fever,’ the angst and melancholy that sets in when a land person comes to live on an island. It is a geographically induced form of claustrophobia. Your editor tells you even before you arrive on island that it is a phase. Then every other statesider you meet says this. You start to crave weird things just because you can’t get them on island: Starbucks, bowling. It gets worse, then it gets better, they say.
Your rock fever began as soon as you set foot on island and has lasted a very long time. (The last time you were in a psychiatric setting and dared to ask what was wrong with you, the attending physician made vague noises about something called ‘adjustment disorder.’)
Your editor picked you up late at night from the airport, and your first impression of the island was from the passenger side of his Jeep. The air was clotted with humidity. A beekeeper’s spotted mask. The hillsides were mounds of black where the houselights had poked fingerlights. The roads were stacked and ran willy-nilly like an anthill. They said it was a small place, run on gossip.
The waterfront is always dead calm after 8. If someone passing by were to drop a quarter, you would hear its every ping and revolution. This quiet surprises the tourists, that and how run down Main Street is, with its weathered, beaten pastel shutters all drawn up behind cast iron curlicued bars like an unsung French quarter. The sun sets early all year round, and the nightlife is minimal. The only cheesy, raucous outlets cluster on the East End, where it is like Spring Break every week.
You and your lover avoid the East End. The Windward Passage has a series of jewel toned lights along the height of its exterior that blink in ascending sequence, and you can see them clear from the other side of the island. It is the only display of its kind, a singular attempt at the kind of garishness the tourists expect and which announces from the outside that it contains a casino. You would like to say that’s where your lover has been, the past four or five or six hours, but you know better, and you know he knows you know better.
On your second date, your lover stopped mid stroke and told you he had something to confess. The meat of his front deltoid was freshly sliced. He told you he didn’t know if you would like him enough, because you couldn’t see him all week because of work, and he weakened, he needed a “wife,” he said, and he slept with an old flame, and when she found out about you, she bit him, then she cut him.
“Did you use a condom?” you ask.
He has his back to you. He is smoking that joint and looking out at the ocean. The patio doors are wide open. The balcony is small. You are in bed still. He greets someone he sees passing on the street, and every word reverberates up. Then, to you, quieter:
“I cut my locks three times, b.”
Velocity, n., the speed of something in a given direction. In economics, the rate at which money changes hands in an economy.
When people drive on the island it is a lot like the way pedestrians negotiate a crowded intersection, more ambling and intimate than driving in the states. Signals and right of way are not as cut and dried. You top out at 30 mph and tend to blow a tire every three months. The West End is still mostly rural, deep bush, no cell reception in large swaths. People abandon cars on the side of the road, and they engulf in flames so commonly that in Bordeaux it is like another form of graffiti. The lover goes to Bordeaux to make deals, meet up with connections, play Dominoes at rum and hamburger stands.
Later you will tell a DEA agent that you were just happy to be able to take a bath in a bathtub and sleep on a comfortable bed. You leave out the air conditioning and the fact that at the Windward Passage you can expect to fall asleep without being pricked in the face or hands by mosquitoes, or dive-bombed in the cheeks by flying cockroaches, all regular amenities−along with a mildewed, crumbling, feebly streaming shower, and a stove that doesn’t light−of your efficiency. The efficiency sits on top of a hill which overlooks a bay. A steep dogleg of choppy, crumbling concrete leads to it, and when it rains your Chevy Aveo slides right back down it like a beetle down a rock. Black rats bottleneck and stampede in the gaping, hut-like eaves, fighting and fucking. The squealing and clawing starts as soon as you turn the light out. One of them dies behind the bed, and you think the sheets are strangely sour for weeks before you find him. During a rainstorm, because the landlord has misdirected the cistern into a water pipe directly above your toilet, you spend an afternoon taking buckets of water and tossing them out the front door. You hold the phone to the flood pounding the floor and yell at your mother, Can you hear this?
You are not on vacation. This is your real life, but even your West Indian boyfriend has had enough of your flimsy futon and offers to spring for a hotel room. You put the room on your debit card; he will pay you cash later. Why do you never go to his place? Because he lives with his parents, like all 44 year old drug dealers.
You will mean this bit about the air conditioned hotel room to sound much less unfair to yourself than it actually does. Later you will think you maybe came across as much cheaper and more damaged and reckless than you actually are, the idea that you could resign yourself to a local who is in the West Indian way−that is, he has a good government job but makes up the gap between what he thinks he is worth and what he gets from the territory’s socialist shithole Banana Republic-type government, by dealing−because he sprang for dinner at Old Stone Farmhouse and hotel rooms. But there it is. You say it anyway. Velocity. You don’t have time to pad your reputation like a warm Cadbury egg ensconced in plastic grass shavings in some precious Easter care package for the folks back home in Texas. In particular, you don’t have time because none of these explanations ever take place in the setting of a formal interview. You never even get the courtesy afforded a regular snitch. Instead, you end up trying, through a series of deflected asides, to broach the topic of your ‘personal life’ with one of your sources, because you are a reporter and you cover, among other things, drug trafficking on the island.
In the moment, in the immediate aftermath of the man you have been sleeping with for months confessing that he has killed three people, you bifurcate. You pretend that everything is normal. Po-po-pokerface. In his speaking, he wanders off into other quarters of his scattered, machismo-saturated, hothouse Caribbean existence. Four exes. Five known children. One grandchild. Vast, West Indian clan name with an intricate network of patronage and corruption to uphold. He has told you that his father used to be a police captain. He told you this on your second or third date while careering down the only decent stretch of road, running red lights, after a crab dinner in which he consumed way too much alcohol to drive safely but flirted with a baby girl sitting at a nearby table in such a way that, in spite of yourself, made your womb dump fluids into your vagina.
You started to call the Resident Agent in Charge a couple of months later, after your lover told you he “blazed” a man when he was in his twenties over a $3000 drug debt but got away with it because of his father’s position. The man he shot “squealed” but the department went deaf, and he had to pay for the victim’s medical expenses. He said it like it was thing he once did, but he’s glad he’s legit now.
You understand now that your lover was testing you. To see how you would react. He laces his tone with faux world weariness and regret. It seems this kind of behavior is a rite of passage for men in the world you are now in, shrunk to a rock. You know you are acting “out of character” but can’t stop yourself because the play is over. Your dreams are no longer set in Connecticut. You no longer startle when you wake up to the sight of the bumpy, bright white varnish of the efficiency’s walls. At night you stand on your hilltop porch, stare down the bay, and you feel in your homesickness and loneliness that you are trapped inside the cover of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince. The waves crashing is so much and so near and so constant you want your heart to stop if only for the precious silence it would entail.
You work harder than you ever have. You know that you can’t go to the states, even for a week or two, even if you had the money to do so, because you would not come back to the island. You work even harder, longer hours. You develop serious investigative intent. Ambition buries your spare time. You do what you came to the island to do. You break open a couple of scandalous, contest-worthy stories. People call you with tips more often, but you are acculturated enough to tell when they give you fake names. At least twice a month, you work back to back days on the weekend, churning out story after story about how fucked up the island is. It doesn’t stop the waves from crashing.
You can’t pay your student loans or your car note, but the latter doesn’t matter because it would cost the bank more to repossess and ship your car for resale than what you owe or than the piece of shit is worth.
If the ocean is a cosmic womb, you are permanently breach.
You wonder how long the vine that has grown up through the floor under the bookshelf in your apartment will take to reach the stove. If you pull it up, some of the tiles might shatter and then there will be even less of a barrier between you and the detritus of what appears to have been a years-long stream of tenants. When you came to view the place, an undocumented mother and her baby and her toddler were squatting there. Her only earthly possessions were blankets and toiletries. The children were sleeping on a mat on the floor. Under the house, it looks as if people inhabited the place for a few weeks at a time, then somehow the unit flipped upside down and discarded all their casual belongings like old, crusty French fries out of a fryer vat basket. A mini landfill of flipflops, bottles of shampoo, toilet seats, candle ends, stray drawer handles, broken brooms, picture frames, forks, old rugs, magazines, clumps of Latino hair from brushes, garbage no one drove into town.
When tourists balk at sudden rainstorms, you patiently explain that living on the island is like living in a terrarium. You will be drenched about once a day, but briefly. A three to five o’clock spasm. Some of the showers are so tiny and localized that you can outdrive them. Some of them will only shed on one side of the road. You imagine a cross sectional display of the moment you are in: hardened volcanic magma, humus, decaying bodies, garbage, shit, feral cats, vines, pizza-thin tile, you, better-constructed floor material, pot-bellied, Guyanese contractor landlord with his nice family, curried vapor, clouds, ozone.
Looking at your lover’s face while seated on a bar stool is hard because his face causes you to have a falling sensation, literally. You want him to snort you into him. Walking with your arm on his is like being escorted by a ravine in human form. He has an elephant tattooed on his chest. During sex, he says things like “Open your cunt.” He says to you once, “I want to breed you,” and every vestige of class you have ever had abandons you. You actually come to the thought of getting pregnant. You wonder why this has never happened before. You have a sense that your body is betraying you.
You wonder if this will change now that he is telling you he has killed people. You suspect it will not.
Yes, you say, to your lover, that night at the Windward Passage, you don’t understand why his son chose to name his baby boy ‘Nolan’ as it is a white, yuppie name.
You think that he cuts his dreadlocks every time he kills someone because of some distorted Ratafarian ritual of atonement. Later it occurs to you that it has nothing to do with atonement and everything to do with disguising himself and confusing potential witnesses. You will then use this too-late insight to beat yourself up, tell yourself how could you have spent years reporting on crime for newspapers and still you don’t know a cobra from a bull even when said animal has been inside you? Do other people use their own intelligence to make evidence of their own stupidity?
Like an overstimulated, unwelcome child at a party for adults, you grow sleepy. Like you could doze soundly face down in a pair of empty high heels while disco beats twerk the floorboards and people ash on your head, that’s how hard the lover’s confession has hit you. Like dope if you did dope. But before this primal panic reaction slides into your bloodstream full-force, your primary emotion is not fear or anger or revulsion or even disappointment; it’s annoyance. At the level of the soul. It is the same annoyance, the same deeply aggrieved, self-important, all-enveloping, jerkfaced existential howl that you feel at work.
About ten years ago, you wrote a poem about tranquil but suicidal ideations intruding on mundane action chains, or vice versa. The poem was called ‘Housecleaning.’ Most of it was about dusting and washing dishes and how for some people wanting to die is a natural impulse that has to be guarded against with active observation of the physical world. Since becoming a journalist in the Caribbean, you wonder how it is possible to envy your former self so much the envy is almost lethal. You think of that poem, and you think of the housewife who wrote it, and the irony gives you brainfreeze.
On the island, you work from 9 in the morning until 10 almost every weeknight, then take calls from your editors as they work into the wee morning. You keep Bandaids and safety pins in your desk drawer, to dig your cuticles up and peel them off in bloody strips. Your ears start to ring at night, like they are muffed in a high, fuzzy whine, like you have been at a concert but the concert is actually your head as you write four or five stories a day. You take deep breaths in the car and won’t go in your apartment until the ringing stops. It is a ritual to separate working from home. It takes longer and longer. The government owns everything: the ports, the university, the beaches, the hospitals, the waste and electrical companies, the cemeteries even. There is no adequate clearing of roadkill, and patches of stench bloom so strongly on the road home, you could mark your way with your eyes closed. The legislature takes all summer long to craft a budget. A funeral parlor mixes up the bodies of two elderly ladies. The hospital dumps boxes of medical waste onto a loading dock in the parking lot, to rot in the sun. A senator makes national headlines when she says she can’t understand why the territory needs to formally codify marital rape, because she doesn’t understand how a married man can rape his wife. A gas station explodes and for hours a tower of flame rises above Bovoni, near where they fight cocks. The island’s only bookstore closes. You find yourself straddling rusty decks in patent leather high heels, taking pictures of half-sunk boats that are being vultured for scrap metal, close to $1 million in scrap, even with copper prices down. Cops get arrested for selling coke and you think you have uncovered a chain of bribes and shake downs among contractors and these same cops and officials. Certain statements lead you to believe there is a fake fund for cancer victims or disadvantaged children or disadvantaged children with cancer that the governor and his friends use to launder the drug proceeds and bribes. The DEA pretends to give a damn about that, also the Office of the Inspector General. You start to leak interview recordings to both offices, because you don’t care anymore about walls of objectivity. You want the rich and bleach-white-teethed and dirty and scornful-powerful to fry.
1) A crime commited by an individual who is in a position of trust and has access to “inside” knowledge in relation to the crime commited.
2) Also a song by American rock band Pearl Jam.
1) The FBI agent used his knowledge of law enforcement to cover up his tracks after he murdured his wife.
2) Im listening to Inside Job right now.
People call to say that the remains of their relatives have been stored for years in a concrete barracks with no names on the squares, and the Director of Public Works screams at you on the phone that you cannot be allowed to call the graves “unmarked.” What then should you call them? He gives no answer but screams some more in his backward, ungrammatical jumble, a high-handed bureaucratic West Indian verbal haze.
One morning you get up and ask yourself whether today you would rather die than have to go to work one more day. Actually you do this every morning before you shower. Just once, you take a large kitchen knife and hold it to your neck. You feel the pressure you have felt for months condensed into the slim cold line of the blade. Then you put it back. For the rest of the day it is the best day you have had since you arrived. You are calmer. Because it feels like you chose it instead of just letting it happen to you.
A Google search of “Caribbean slang” + “inside wife” still returns “About 0 results (0.34 seconds).”
An ‘inside wife’ is one who stays inside with kids, a load bearing female, a drudge, while the ‘outside wife’ is one who gets to go on romantic dates, is displayed to the public, faces insecurity, does not hold a house, but forms a public persona. Arm candy.
You cover a parade that is the climax of Carnival week, and it is like a combination of Halloween and Mardi Gras, except more explicitly sexualized than either mainland holiday. Senators and businessmen and all of the island’s social strata, top to bottom, don racy costumes and start drinking at four or five a.m. and fake bumping uglies in the street to soca music. Tourists love this part. ‘J’Ouvert’ is a big draw for them. Derived from the French, contraction of jour ouvert, literally ‘day opening,’ or daybreak. Originally, this was the one day the masters gave the slaves to get drunk and mock them. Not even a whole day. From 6 a.m. to noon, six hours of revelry and social satire meant to diffuse centuries of homicidal rage. People on stilts with ballooning pants revive the folkloric spirit called a ‘mocko jumbie.’ Jumbie is a scapegoat figure, kind of. He is a clown who steals your socks from the dryer. Jumbie is why you can’t find your keys or your homework. He covers up minor peccadilloes and mischief among the oppressed. You marvel at the tropical flowers, the size of them, the almost alien springiness and neonness of them, mutant emblems of how the world’s craving for sugar was so intense that it was the yin to the yang of the world’s craving for bloodletting. Sugar is diamonds in the veins. Even the rubber trade is just lynchings or the threat of them made into commodities. Is pain and torment and forced sweat the ultimate fertilizer? Why do the most beautiful places have the ugliest histories? Does protracted genocide constitute haute cuisine?
You interview locals about “What J’Ouvert means to them?” A skinny man in his early twenties wearing a long, white baggy t-shirt and black jeans and a veritable wreath of gold necklaces and rings is pushing a tiny coffin he has mounted on a beverage cart. The coffin is black and has a small white cross upraised and glued over its center. There is a clear hose leading out of the coffin. The man lifts up the coffin lid. Inside there is a full plastic bag of rum that takes up the entire volume of the coffin. He is drinking the rum out of the hose. He is already clearly quite high.
“This is for my son who died a few years ago. He was two,” the man says.
You ask him what his son died of. He doesn’t really know or won’t say. He grins and drinks his hose rum and holds his hand over his heart and mumbles some inarticulate stoner bullshit about how ‘J’Ouvert’ is a time for taking pain and grief and making merry with it as a cathartic act.
You meander with your notepad and your reporter’s bag, smoking the length of the parade route, gathering less macabre, more user-friendly quotes. The music trucks are blaring Patrice Roberts’ “A Little Wine Never Hurt No One” when three people get shot. You run to the center of the route from the almost end. You see the ambulance doors close, and thronging, bellowing, queen-fat women made to look all the more imbecilic by the fact that they are ‘dressed’ in thongs and fishnets only as much as a stack of melons in a netted bag is ‘dressed,’ face plant in panting despair the ambulance windows.
You stop seeing your lover after he stands you up all day one Saturday and leaves you searching for a dive bar in Contant that only locals go to, the kind with no name and no glassware. You were supposed to go to the beach with him and his two daughters. It was a big step, him letting you meet his daughters. It is raining, his car is in the shop, you have offered to pick him up. He ignores your texts and calls the rest of the day, so you go to the office. He agrees around 11 to let you come get him. You find yourself driving in circles, parking, getting out and wandering up an unlit, overgrown dirt road. A man in a pickup is hawking you. He drives up next to you, but the headlights are so bright that his bass, black, disembodied voice is a cliff edge. You won’t be able to id him. He asks you if you are okay, and you say yes, but he parks at the end of the road, blocking it, and won’t stop watching, waiting. You call your lover and tell him you are lost. All you have is a purse and an umbrella. Your lover starts to give you directions, and you cut him off, insist snappy-Princess-like, that he walk out the bar and find you and escort you inside. He hangs up on you. Months later he says he did this because “I didn’t walk with my gun.”
You swear the lover off.
A man from Buffalo comes to the island to live the dream. He is tall and kind and was in the Marine Corps for seventeen years. You meet him at a waterfront coffee shop. You are immediately smitten with the normalcy of him. He has the charm and wholesome sexiness of the Jolly Green Giant. He calls you ‘Small.’ You call him ‘Giant.’ You gasp on the phone when he reveals that he reads books. He reads Heller and Hemingway and Dostoevsky, and his favorite book is high up on your to-do list: The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. He loans you his copy, the paperback spine of which is held together by clear medical tape. You have a sense of urgency driven by your smothered literary ambitions. You have a feeling that you need to get this man to be your new lover, and it is not unlike needing to shower and change into clean underwear after walking around all day in bikini bottoms sea soggy and heavy with sand. Sand on the inside.
For five weeks, you read to the giant at night from your novel. For five weeks, he listens. He can listen. You listen to his stories of being a Marine. He spoons you and tells you you are working so hard and taking in so much nicotine that you are dehydrated. He watches Pirates of the Caribbean on cable and fetches you water and food and stays in with you when you have diarrhea. Together you weather a Chlamydia scare that turns out to be an overblown yeast infection. You damn the lover to hell anyway. He takes it so well, the giant, that you reconsider your staunch, underlying atheism. Maybe there is a thing called grace. You take him all around the island. You take him to North Side Bistro, a piano bar that is the closest thing to “Casablanca” you will ever enter. You are not loving him when you are sleeping with him. You are not loving him when you are dining with him. You are not passing time either; you are suspending it. You entertain notions that he is immortal and was sent to the island to deliver some message to you. He tells you tall tales about how he has identical fingerprints and is adopted and no one in the enlistment department of the Corps could account for the abnormality that is supposed to be impossible, by the standards of that science we currently classify as genetics. To your naked eyes, they are indeed identical sworls.
You know exactly what you are going to do when he leaves.
By the time he does decide that island life is a crock, he has heard all of the novel. You cry at the airport and pretend it is because he is leaving instead of because of a gratuitously snarky email your editor sent you that you read on your smartphone while he was checking his bags. You hate that reporting makes you behave like an asshole Millennial. You feel every day of your 33 years.
The next day you put all of your important files and personal effects in your car and put your press badge and key card in your editor’s office door slot. You don’t even say anything to anyone.
Poverty is suicide in slow motion. For five weeks, you sell popcorn on the street while waiting for the bureaucratic wheels of the Human Resources office to turn at a local Marriott.
A pack of feral kittens ranges under the porch, in the landfill space. First, there are three, then two. The girl is black and white, the tom orange tabby. You start giving them the remains of tuna cans you eat with Coronas for dinner. The tom is always pushing the black and white out of the way, but he also defends her during the night time skirmishes you can hear when they are ambushed by the adults from the island’s feral pool. You think they are big enough to require shots, and you undertake to do it yourself as an experiment in civic duty. You buy long, elbow length garden gloves and plan to grab them by the neck scruff and inject them yourself. Does Ebay have veterinary vaccines? Will it ship to the island? The kittens let you come closer and closer, since the feeding started. Then one day you wake up from a nap, and find that the orange tom is in the middle of the floor, even though the front door is closed. He is looking at you with his adrenaline-dilated feline eyes as if to say, What the fuck are you doing here? He darts into the top of the closet. If you piss on my work clothes, you say, remembering the expensive suits you bought for reporting, I will slit your furry throat.
Once you are a cocktail waitress at the Marriott, you retrain yourself in personal hygiene habits that you have snuffed out as a reporter. Your hair and skin soften. You don’t look as cracked from the inside. You threaten to sue the paper for the $17,000 in overtime they owe you. They agree to give you about $2700 in a Department of Labor negotiated settlement.
You are just a cloud contemporary with other clouds. For a time, you go to the beach, do yoga, wander in and out of stalls and stores run by Hindhus with kitschy coins and jewelry. Shipwreck doubloons, shit like that. You peruse reversible sarongs and fake Michael Kors purses. You buy bugspray and a blue ceramic Buddha and candles. You nest. Then the settlement gets your confidence up, and you call the lover. You have a plan, a plan for getting details.
You make your fucking of him exactly the same, bare and primal, sprawling and unterritorial and basic, lots of grunting and licking and biting, Jungian kink. In spite of your mission, you do not have to fake ecstasy. It is all remarkably easy in a way that you know will only later enhance your self-loathing, with or without the plan’s succeeding. You have constructed a timeline of the deaths based on pieces of overlap in biographical information and what he has told you about the killings: the ages of children, the identities and relationship histories of the mothers. Credibility is more important to you at this point than respect. Fuck the DEA. This time, you will get the names, the goddamn names.
Things will have to be ruled out. That your lover is not being coy about being a killer, not, as the RAC suggests, “just talking smack” to you. That the deaths were not line of duty deaths, because the lover as well was once Army and because that, too, would account for the hair cutting. That the lover is not already an informant, and that that’s not why the RAC is so dismissive. You know the lover is not a UC because no one works undercover where they actually live and have family. One of the lover’s baby mamas runs the Rasta café where you get cassava and black beans and fresh juices and shea butter and scented oils.
If you get the names, you can leave the island. You will be a free woman, you think, then wonder what you did to get here that was so god awful and wrong. So damn…damnable.
On your first date, the lover told you he was an architect. His job is to rehab houses for sale to islanders who qualify for first-time homeowner’s assistance programs.
You stick with the plan for about six weeks, you fuck and you fuck, the architect, but you get no names. You suspect the lover suspects. He is even more erratic and unresponsive. Your 34th birthday approaches, and you start to bleed randomly. Your Depo injections are either not working or responsible for the breakthrough bleeding. Plus there are these new, low, rolling spasms that don’t hurt. You are either pregnant or diseased. Or both. Or perfectly healthy and experiencing normal biology playing peek-a-boo with your birth control method.
You text the lover, who has also turned spotty in his affections, disappearing when you need him the most. He refuses to come jump you when your car battery is drained, when someone rips the key lock out of the driver’s side door handle while you are at work at the resort, and you spring for a cab home. When you walk six miles in the heat on orange juice and milk because you are too broke to take a Safari cab back and the resort can tow your car after three days.
You text him because he won’t answer when you call.
“I’m bleeding. I’m not supposed to. I could be pregnant. I could be having a miscarriage. I could have AIDS.”
“You have AIDS, b.” he texts back.
“You gave it to me.”
YOU: “When do you find out you were positive?”
HIM: “In January.”
August plus four equals January. You gave him AIDS? He knew by the time you called him again?
You were negative when you arrived on island. Negative in August when you began seeing the lover. Negative in October when you tried to get into the National Guard but couldn’t yet because of an allergy to penicillin that requires more paperwork, a waiver. It was February when you started seeing him again. You were filling out apps for graduate schools, planning a Masters degree in International Relations.
Almost April, and you go to the clinic run by Dr. Flower, an old hippie. She actually wears floral broom skirts and tank tops to the office.
YOU: “I’m at the clinic. If I am pregnant, I will have an abortion.”
HIM: “You are so stupid and white.”
HIM, about ten minutes later: “You are white not only in looks but in action.”
A black hole that grows inside your life sucking in everything that ever mattered to you. Without even knowing it, you lose your mind and feeling to this void of damages and pain.
Like some monolithic creature from a Lovecraft tale, it warps reality from the corners of love and time, to the shadows of hate and deceit. Madness ensues and lays claim to your money, friends, family, and soul.
This is the danger of meeting a stupid wife, and the worst part is, that most men invite this deathly grip on normal happy life all on their own.
Stupid Wife comes into the house and yells about issues that NO ONE gives a dam about but her and then yells at the house for existing while she still has dick and Gin on the breath.
by DamonX9 August 20, 2011
Dr. Flower is gentle and kind and not too politically correct as she draws your blood. At some point, she actually uses the term ‘jungle fever.’ You know her and her fiancée from Hull Bay Hideaway, a beach bar at the base of the hill you live on. They like to play pool there. The fiancée is a Frenchie fisherman, a real live descendant of 17th century pirates. He and the other Frenchies are leathery and white trash thin. Most Frenchies are golden blond, and they have mullets and sound like Bayou people.
The lover’s best friend, Boogie, is also a Frenchie fisherman. He has three daughters and a son, all under the age of ten, and he is raising them by himself because their mother ran off and went back to New Hampshire. The lover once took you to dinner at Hull Bay Hideaway with them, and the girls were ferociously beautiful and inquisitive and polite, and you could tell they really enjoyed talking to you by the way they trained their blue eyes on you. Boogie dropped them off at the house and then the three of you all met up at the waterfront’s edge, where Boogie’s boat was docked. Boogie smoked with the lover.
“Sorry, I rolled a white man,” he said, passing the joint, and they laughed.
He talked about how his father was a fisherman and his father before him, and he was teaching his daughters and son, but the cottage industry was being crushed, the waters overfished by large-scale enterprise, regulators like NOAA and the EPA constricting the open zones, carving up the seasons, making it impossible for traditional line and trap fishermen to make anything above a meager subsistence out of it.
He said he didn’t know if any of his kids will be able to survive on it, that it’s hard enough to feed them as is.
“They don’t want us to even have kids,” he said. “They don’t want the poor to multiply. They just want us to go away quietly.”
Then he lifted his hand and gestured over the starry sky and the sea like he was casting seed. “Fuck it,” he said. “I’m gonna have ten more, twenty. I’m gonna fill the whole world up. They ain’t never gonna stop us.”
Dr. Flower is from the Midwest but has spent thirty years on the island, and she tells you that you probably don’t have AIDS. Still, it will take two days to get the results from the lab, and then, of course, six months to reconfirm. Dr. Flower says she has done this, counseled panicked white women, dozens of times, and that almost always, when the lover initiates it, the lover is lying. According to her, it is a not uncommon trick.
“Because you are nothing to them here. You are a white woman from the states. You are the lowest on the pecking order. I have seen women go through this for no other reason than that they keep other wives on other islands, one here, one on St. John or Tortola, and they just don’t want to do it anymore. She might have found out or might be having a baby. Who knows.”
At the end of the appointment, she pats your arm and tells you that she hopes you find a nice Frenchie man, because they are Catholic, and they have morals and “compassion.”
You go home and call your best friend, who concurs with Dr. Flower, except for the part about landing a nice, Catholic Frenchie man.
“This might be it for me, T.”
“I really don’t think so.”
“I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
You sit on the floor and chain smoke and do a jigsaw puzzle of a map of the Caribbean Sea. You pray for wiretaps. You pray for a network. You pray for vindication.
It is so hot that the resort shifts its dress code to include khaki and white shorts and t-shirts. You are in the staff locker room, applying makeup and whisking away tears when a security guard comes in. She is intimidating, has the look of a mad goose in her eyes. She wears her security guard garb tight and her butt is big and high, like someone cut a donkey in half and sewed her black slacks around it. She has the cagey, hairtrigger air of a convict on that show “Orange Is the New Black.”
She sees you crying and says, “You a cocktail?”
“They used to be all black.”
You blink a beat and say, “You mean, our uniforms?”
“Now,” she says, “now you are getting the way I speak finally.”
Your results come back. Negative. On all counts.
The lover is still not taking your calls. You let fly with a string of vituperative texts, accusing him of having multiple wives, of setting you up to conceal that he is ‘breeding’ someone else, of using too much of his own product.
Fuck the plan.
You can’t even type correctly. The rage comes all at once. Autocorrect keeps changing “fuck” to “duck.”
YOU: “You should go to rehab, if you have not already been compelled to by your family.”
YOU: “You know who else has a father/God complex? Julian Assange, who had to be trained by journalists like me not to KILL people. Such my dick, Cito.”
YOU: “Tee hee, Ho ho. It’s my birthday. HIS negative for now. Not pregnant, nor miscarrying. Tee hee ho ho. If you don’t love me, go make babies on Santo Domingo!”
“Oops. Type. HIV -”
HIM: “Happy earth day Gristelfink.”
YOU: “Did your wife have her baby/ies yet? Are you a happy Dad? Did you smoke a big fat spliff in celebration?”
“Did you see Zero Dark Thirty ? Do you think that woman has time to change diapers”
HIM: “What the fuck are you speaking. How crazy n sick are you?”
YOU: “Come over to my house and duck me in the ass, then tell me you have AIDs. Low down. Classless.”
HIM: “We have no business together.”
HIM: “What you told me you have AIDs. Why r u not happy.”
YOU: “No kidding. But if you gave me HIV then you may have some business with the law you have to take care of, among other things.”
HIM: “I never ever told you I have AIDs.”
YOU: “Because I don’t.”
HIM: “You ate a fool. I don’t have aids you are sick n if you text me again I will take out a restraining order on you. Stop contacting me. Your sick n I can’t help you. Leave me alone please.”
HIM: “I have saved all our text to show the authorities.”
YOU: “Great. Good for you. They will say you want to do everything by text because you are a coward. The Dr was right about you you just wanted a conquest. And because I am a white woman from the states and I am the lowest of the low here. And black women won’t put up with your crap anymore. Show the authorities. Be my guest!”
YOU: “The woman who owns the store where I buy my lunches and the mother of your daughter told me you called me a white devil when I did not want to see you because I was down and out. Do you think I have ever even in my head called you or anyone else a nigger? No. Because I have more self-discipline than that.”
YOU: “f you. f your whole f-ing family. Your dad is retired, Cito. He cannot protect you forever. happy carnival.”
HIM: “I never had any conversation to anyone about you much less call you a white devil. That sounds so Corny. I would never use that term. I would have said White Motherfucking Bitch. You always been kind to me y wild I have said that. I haven’t spoken to jahlijah in 4 months u crazy ass white bitch. Stay safe around my island.”
YOU: “Lovely hate speech. Just lovely.”
HIM: emoticon with frog sticking tongue out
HIM, about thirty minutes later: “Where are you now? Let’s go beach.”
YOU: “Do you have AIDS Cito? Were you telling the truth?”
YOU: “I am at home.”
HIM: “What the fuck are you talking bout. AIDs?????”
YOU: “You texted me that you had Aids.”
YOU: “I switched carriers but I was texting this number. Did someone steal your phone?”
HIM: “You are very very foolish. And a major waste of energy. You asked me if I had aids for whatever reason so I said yes cause I could not believe how stupid you were. I am not sick in any way.”
YOU: “Did you lose it at any point?”
HIM: “Stop fucking questioning me. I owe you nothing. Let’s go to the f n beach n shut the fuk up.”
YOU: “You have five kids by four different women, and you told someone under a lot of stress whom you had just had an Al sex with that you have AIDS. If I am sick, you are worse. You are cruel, and you hate women.”
HIM: “Someone that asked a stupid question how come you are dumb n stupid at the same time.”
YOU: “I feel so sorry for your daughters.”
HIM: “Thanks for caring.”
HIM: “I feel sorry that I saw you.”
YOU: “Do not contact me anymore ever. I will get a restraining order.”
HIM: “Do you need my mauling address.”
HIM: “Mailing address.”
HIM: “Fuck your dumb asshole. The text string is clear as to who is the aggressor. I have been telling you to not contact me. You waste your parents money going school.”
YOU: “I waste none of my parents money going to school. I have assumed the overwhelming majority of my debt and I am proud of that. My parents are old and relatively poor. I need to be able to take care of them now.”
YOU: “No. I am just fine, Cito. I have a job, a car, a place to live. People who love me and care about me.”
YOU: “Glad we got that out of the way. I will block your number whenever I have a spare moment and I am in town.”
HIM, about ten minutes later: “Let’s have sex.”
HIM: “Let’s fuck.”
YOU: “No leave me alone.”
I loved you better when you had AIDS, you write, then erase it without sending it.
Next thing you know it’s J’Ouvert!
You roll up late because you worked the night before. You enter the crowd and flow with it. You bump into a college kid dressed in a foam ketchup bottle. He has a Camelback backpack for his alcohol. You trample the route like you’ve never been there before. Like you are having a good time.
You hope you see the dad with the miniature coffin of rum this year. Your costume is a fairy costume. This year, you will drink from the same hose and apologize to him for being so judgmental prior. But he will not remember you.
How would he recognize you?
Nothing marks the spot anymore.
Gaslighted. Fool. Islander. Earthling. Native via suffering. Pretender. To be white is to be faceless and to be free, a housewife turned suited skirt with a notebook turned tourist turned shameless, drunk slut in lacy, black boy-short panties, haughty head five feet above the concrete above the same sun-drenched canker of land, the same rock, wherein the real son is really buried but possibly without something to mark his name.
Penelope Gristelfink’s first novel has been accepted by Propertius Press. She is a recovering newspaper reporter. Her fiction, essays and poetry have appeared in or will appear in the following journals: The Potomac, Eclectica Magazine, Bird’s Thumb, Adanna, Foliate Oak, The Seattle Review, The Pedestal Magazine, and Arlington Literary Journal. Once or twice a year, she holds forth on her blog:ungloved.wordpress.com.