Thursday, 12 April 2012

Exerpt from Jessamine - Enjoy!


She draws nearer, nearer.  I can feel her in the air…a disturbance, a shiver…like how I know when rain is coming long before it sweeps in from the sea beyond Headley Point.  She is coming, and we will speak.  We have a lot in common, we two, though she is alive and I am not.


The heat body-slams me as I emerge from the plane; a heat like the island is on fire, the flames around the corner, just out of sight.  I don’t know how I will stand it but Julian is waiting for me in the Arrivals area.  Back in Philly, his complexion was close to mine, but the Caribbean sun has burnished his skin to a deep coffee.  He looks good.  The smile on his face broadens as he looks at me.  He raises his open arms.
I drop my bags and run to him.  I hold him tight, and I breathe deeply, loving the musky man-smell of him. 
“Is this all your stuff?” he asks, looking at my two suitcases and my carry-on.
“They will do until the container gets here.  The shipping company promised me three weeks.”  I have not let go of him.  I’ve not seen him in six months, and I’ve missed him as much as I’d miss my eyes were a thief to take them from me in the night.  He kisses me, and I know he knows everything I’m feeling.  A little smile plays around his mouth as if this knowledge is a secret sweet to him.
He nods to a man in a red polo shirt who picks up the suitcases and follows us to the car.
“Yo, Mr. Hylton.”
“How’s it going, Mr. Hylton?”
            People watch me and call out to him as we walk over to the airport’s small parking lot.  Julian waves to them, answering some by name.  Their expressions range from calculating curiosity to mischievous lechery.  Foreign women are seen here either as status symbols or sexual doormats.  Julian blames it on tourism.
            “Do you know everyone now?” I ask to distract myself.  I have never lived in a city of less than a million people, and I think that will probably be the hardest adjustment.  St. Crescens’s thirty-two thousand worry me.
            Julian laughs.  “Not everybody.  Most, though.”  His tone is super-confident.  It is the way he sounds when he talks about the new political party he has formed with his friends.  I do not share his confidence but I’ve just arrived and I’m an American.  I’m terrified he’s making a mistake.  He’s come back to St. Crescens to live after twenty-one years in the States and now I have followed him here, playing the dutiful wife, but my thoughts are clouded with doubts.
            He points his remote at a shiny, silver Land Cruiser which beeps a response as the porter takes my suitcases around to the back.  I finally release my hold on my husband and walk around to climb in the passenger seat.  The Land Cruiser is new, its leather interior pristine, the dashboard daunting in its precise array of instruments.  In the rear-view mirror, I see Julian peel a couple of purple-colored dollars from his clip to pay the man.  The St. Crescens dollar is worth half of the American but St. Crescians, as they call themselves, are very proud of their money. 
            “How’re Dad and Mother July?” he asks, as he gets in and starts the car.  Mother July is his pet name for my mother, July Sommers.
            “They’re fine.  Mom went crazy at a rose sale a couple days ago.  She bought off probably their entire stock of white ones so now she’s stumped about just where she’s going to put them all.  She wants to be able to see them from the house.”
            He nods.  “Below the patio would be a great area.”
            I visualize the stone patio with its wide curving steps that lead down to a grassy area and the garden beyond. 
“Along the path, you mean?”
            “No, right below the patio.  Along the wall.”
            He’s right.  The dark gray of the wall’s stones would be the perfect backdrop for the potent beauty of white roses.
            “I’ll tell her you suggested it.  You know she respects your taste.”  It’s true.  My mother often turns to Julian when making decisions about the house.  A graduate of Stanford’s School of Architecture, design comes naturally to him.  He has a gift for it.  After he did Senator Langley’s home in Sag Harbor Hills thirteen years ago, a whole new high-powered crowd sought out his services, and his fees went through an already high roof.  This is the reason why none of our friends understand why he’s given everything up to return to a small island they only heard about through him. 
            “You know, there’s been a lot of development in the capital since you were here last,” Julian says.
            He brought me here eleven years ago, before we were married, and I haven’t been back since.  Not because I didn’t like the island.  I just found it hard to find the time and coordinate my schedule with his.  Now, I stare out the window as we head up one of the island’s steep hills.  The lush, direct beauty of the island, its towering hills, the shining emerald growth, the aquamarine of the sea shading to indigo as it deepens and disappears into the horizon; these are the things of which my memories are formed. 

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