Some Feet Not Meant for Shoes - Novel Excerpt
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The first time that I saw Falcon was in the doorway of the Candyo on the night of my arrival. He was standing half inside the hotel and halfway outside, in the light of a near-full moon. Having just come from a swim, his 25-year- old half-naked body was covered with beads of salt water. His long, heavy dreads were dripping and his thick black eyelashes were stuck together in clumps. He extended a wet hand. “Welcome to St. Lucia,” he said, squeezing my fingers, closing the small distance between us. The accent hinted at British, the rhythm was clearly West Indian. “Would you care for some chocolate tea?” He smiled, a wink perhaps. The way he said chocolate, it was as though he could taste it on his tongue. If only I were a decade younger, I tell myself. Even half a decade would do. That was a little more than a week ago.
The restaurant is on a spit of land just beside an ocean canal, a half mile or so from the Royal Saint Lucian, a five-star luxury resort behind electric gates with nightly room rates higher than what a St. Lucian typically earns in a month. Across the water is Gros Islet, the town where Fabian lives with his father. There’s a wooden bar, with locals drinking shandies–lemonade and beer. Our table is covered with a white cloth, set with silver and simple white china. Small candles flicker in the night breeze. The menu is pricey, Créole fusion fare for tourists, with most of the fish being offered boneless. Tourists are unused to bony fish, the waitress explains with both hands on hips. Falcon and Fabian are guests of the Brits, otherwise they’d certainly not be here. Neither would I.
Fabian’s eyes are small, red over white, from the weed and the anger. He has had a row earlier with one of the blondes, and when she arrives with her family she will not sit next to him. She is young but already knows the games. He stares across the water toward his home. I ask about his father. A womanizer, he tells me. Like father like son, I want to say from the feeling I get about him, but don’t. “He never home. He mother raise me up.”
“Will you carve a mermaid for me?” I ask. “Smallish, a plaque really, to hang on my wall?” He looks up at me, a curious stare, like a bridge that beckons down a strange, foggy path. I don’t go down those paths often enough, it seems. The strangeness I could handle, if it weren’t for the fog...
“Where do you buy your Nike clothing?” I ask him.
“In town, from a local guy, $125,” Fabian tells me, preening like some kind of rare bird.
“St. Lucians love the hip-hop,” says Falcon. “We too poisoned by white man capitalism,” he says rather loudly, moving his chair so that he can give me more Rasta rhetoric and protest without having to scream it. The black man’s lot, the white man’s plot and all that. When I look again at Fabian’s pale gray sweat suit, heavy and well-fitting and of very high quality, I am reminded of a book by a South American Marxist, How to Read Donald Duck, I believe it’s called. “Isn’t it really too hot and humid in St. Lucia to wear such a sweat suit?” I ask Fabian, thinking about the half-slip I have taken to putting beneath my dresses. Drop dead, he tells me, with his eyes.
I turn back to Falcon, ask him question after question. “So is it true that you swam all the way to Martinique? What was it like to be so far out in the sea without a boat, without something to hold onto for a rest? I have a friend in Martinique, a doctor. I met him just last summer. We went to a wedding together, a big family marriage. The old church in Martinique, the Catholic one downtown, it was so very beautiful. Have you ever seen it? Can you teach my child to swim?”