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Authors: Kerry Young

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Gloria (26 page)

BOOK: Gloria
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And right then I just turn ’round and I kiss him. With a full and open mouth like I never done before with anyone in my whole life. And he kiss me back with a tongue that was entwined with mine and a mouth that was giving and taking and guessing my every wish, even the ones I never knew I had. And just when I thought I was lost to every sight and sound of thunder and lightning and everything else in this living world, he slide down my body and put his head between my legs. And a soaring excitement and pleasure come over me from right down there in the depths rising up over my head.

He stop and say, ‘You like this?’ And then right after he put his head down again and start his mouth and tongue moving.

No man ever do this before. This was for me. It had nothing to do with money or him satisfying himself. Nobody was pretending anything. It was real and true and genuine. And I was real and I was true and I was genuine.

I didn’t say nothing to him even though I could hear some moaning and long, deep gasping that I think was coming to me through the darkness. Except I knew it wasn’t. It was coming out of me. Escaping. From a place I had never been to before.

Afterwards, he ease himself up the bed and with my back turned to him and our fingers entwined high above our heads over the pillow, he wrap his other arm ’round my waist and we fall asleep.

 

The half-light of dawn wake me up coming through the calico curtains. But I not ready for this to be over so I just take my hand and pull his arm further, tighter into me. And I close my eyes again.

When I finally wake up, the bed next to me is empty. The French doors is open so I can see clear ’cross the terrace with its little cobblestone wall to the hills beyond. The curtain pull back and wafting on the breeze, brushing the polished mahogany floor.

And then Ernesto is coming through the door, wearing nothing more than some loose cotton pants and bare feet, and carrying a tray with tostada and café con leche made, he says, ‘With the best coffee in the world.’ And I laugh.

He rest the tray on the foot a the bed and sit himself on the edge. Then he take off the pants and drop them on the floor, and slide himself between the white cotton sheets. He turn to me and say, ‘How you doing?’

And I say, ‘I am doing good. Thank you.’

We eat and drink, sitting up in the bed, breaking the tostada into pieces and dipping it into the coffee. Just quietly, taking in the view. Then he rest the tray on the floor. And while he doing it, I reach for the hem and pull the shirt off over my head. When he take me in his arms it seem like that is what his arms always intended to do.

I am encircled. Skin to skin. And then I am filled with peace and calm, and tenderness and joy, and anticipation. All at the same time. Purposeful but gentle, like the morning mist rising over the mountains on a bright, sunny Cuban day.

CHAPTER 24

When I come back and ask Auntie what Clifton Brown want she just shrug her shoulders and walk off.

And then I get a letter from Ernesto that I didn’t even know if I wanted to open. Because after everything, we shower and sit on his terrace and eat the fruit plate and omelette while I listen to him talk more about the right to insurrection in the face of tyranny, and how we must work every day to make our successes greater and our failures fewer.

And then finally he say to me, ‘You could stay. Stay here in Cuba.’

‘I have a child Ernesto. I can’t do that.’

‘Then you get her, bring her back.’ And he turn ’round and wave his hand towards the house. ‘There is plenty space. I build two, three more rooms if you like. It is easy.’

When I look at him everything in my heart want to say, ‘Yes, yes.’ Like when yu struggling with something and can’t make it work and then somebody come along and just say ‘forget it’ you don’t have to bother doing that no more. It is relief. That is what you feel. You breathe out and your shoulders fall even though yu know the answer come too easy.

‘What I realise this last two weeks is how much there is to do in Jamaica. How far we still have to go. And how important it is for everyone to make a contribution. Can you understand that?’

‘Jamaicans are not revolutionaries.’

‘Maybe not like you, but it doesn’t mean we can’t try to do something to bring some fairness and mek life better for people.’

‘No. But Che says the true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love. Is there great love of the people in Jamaica, Gloria? Is there love of the cause?’

And even after that, after he swerve the jeep coming down the mountain so he don’t run over the fat ten-foot snake that the rain wash outta the undergrowth into the middle of the road, after we pass another billboard that say ‘
Los principios no se negocian
’, he stand up with me at Rodolfo and Matilde’s gate and say, ‘There is still time to change your mind.’

I say, ‘Ernesto, I am not what you think.’

‘I know. Rodolfo told me.’ He pause and then he say, ‘And it is all right.’

My blood just boil. It heat up and bubble over. And everything that I was feeling about him and turning over in my mind and wondering what future we could make together come to a dead stop in that one moment. And in a voice full with rage and scorn I say to him, ‘Who are you to decide whether it is all right or not?’

‘I mean all right with me. Everybody deserves a second chance.’ I don’t say nothing, so he say, ‘I know it is what you do, not who you are.’

‘You have no idea who I am. Yu spend a few days with me that is all. Whoever yu think I am is something you made up. You imagined me, Ernesto.’

And just as I start to walk off he say, ‘We even have programmes for women like you.’

So I turn ’round and I say to him, ‘Yes, since yu make prostitution illegal and decide yu have to re-educate us.’ And I turn ’round and go inside the house and shut the door and never even look back.

The thing that hurt wasn’t so much the thought that all the time we were together he was thinking I was a whore. Even though what attract me to him was the look in his eyes that didn’t have that question, ‘How much?’ What really hurt was that after all these years and after so long of not seeing no customers, I still think of myself as a whore. So Ernesto was wrong. Being a whore wasn’t what I did. It was who I am, and that realisation I couldn’t run from. Not even if I run to Cuba and into the arms of the revolution and Ernesto Sánchez.

When I open the letter it says:
Nothing is perfect, Gloria. You have to work at it. But you have to work at it with a forgiving heart. And I don’t know if you can forgive me when there is still so much you have not yet forgiven yourself for.
I think the man presumptuous, even though I know what he say is true.

Then he tell me how the suffering in Cuba getting worse with the US not buying their sugar and refusing to sell them the oil and agricultural machinery they need. And then he write a poem.

 

For you there was anger.

For me there is anguish.

And a longing so strong

as to take the green from the hills

and the aroma from the coffee

and the light from the early morning

in which I saw, and held, and touched you.

 

It made the tears roll down my cheek. Not the sort of crying where your chest heave and your nose run. Just a quiet, slow line of moisture that yu can wipe away with a single finger and rub against your thumb almost like it was a memory of something past. But under it, under the tears, the anger was still there because I let Ernesto reach me and then he let me down. Or maybe I was angry with myself for wanting him and then afterwards not knowing what to do with him.

And when Pao turn up I didn’t know what to do with him either. I just let him stand there on the veranda ’til he say, ‘So where yu been anyway?’

‘Since when I got to explain myself to you?’

He stare at me long and hard and then he step past me and go inside. That evening when we go to bed we both knew something was different because halfway through I just stopped and rolled over with my back to him. So he reach his arm over me and rest his lips against my cheek. I thought he would say something but he didn’t. He just lay there pulling me closer into him and breathing like he choking back his worry.

 

Auntie say Esther too sullen for a child. A child should be happy and laughing and talk-talk ’bout her school day and such like. But instead, she say, Esther just come in the house and go in the bedroom and lock the door. And when she come out to eat her dinner she not got no more than two words to say to anybody. Auntie say, ‘Yu see di hole, someting a-go drop in-a-it.’

‘Yu think I nuh notice it myself??’

‘I don’t know what yu notice. Question is, what yu going do ’bout it?’ And she pick up the breakfast dishes and flounce into the kitchen.

So that afternoon when Esther come back from school I go knock on the bedroom door and stick my head inside.

‘How yu doing baby?’

She look up at me from where she sitting on the bed reading a
Archie
comic book. She don’t say nothing to me so I step into the room and walk over to the bed and sit down next to her.

‘Everything all right at school?’ She shrug her shoulders. ‘Something bothering yu? Yu got something on your mind?’

‘No.’

‘No? So how come yu so quiet and not got nothing to say to nobody?’

She turn to me. ‘Is there something you want to say to me?’

It take me aback. And then I see how she pile up in a corner all the presents I ever give her for birthday and Christmas that I say come from Pao. Some of them look like she never even bother open the box.

So I jut out my chin at them and say, ‘What happen to all a that?’

‘What do you mean?’

‘The presents from your father.’

‘My father?’

I put my arm ’round her shoulder and I say, ‘Come on now Esther, yu know he is your father and he love yu.’ But she just shrug off my arm and ease herself away from me.

‘Esther, he love yu.’ I can see she trying hard to stop the tears from falling. Using that same swallowing motion I did the night Pao tell me he was going to marry Fay Wong.

I ease myself up close to her. ‘Why don’t yu just tell me what it is?’

‘Because it isn’t going to change anything.’

‘So what yu want to change?’

She sit there and let me put my arm ’round her and then she lean into me little bit.

‘How come he never wants to see me? Don’t you want to see somebody if you love them?’

‘He come to see yu.’

‘No. He comes to see you.’ She pause and then she say, ‘You know he never came over all the time you were in Cuba? Not once. It was Uncle Clifton who made sure we were all right. Don’t you think he should have come?’

‘He didn’t know Esther. I didn’t tell him about Cuba.’ And I want to say to her again that Clifton not her uncle but I decide to leave it.

She sit there completely still, staring at me, and then she say, ‘Why doesn’t he ever talk to me, Mommy? Ask me about school or take me for a drive, or do anything with me? Why doesn’t he ever do anything more than come in the house and talk to you?’

‘That is how he is Esther. It nuh mean he don’t love yu.’

But that not doing anything to calm the questions in her head. And since I not got nothing sensible to say to her she just decide to get up and walk out the room, and a little while later I see her through the window standing in the yard swinging a hula hoop ’round her waist.

 

Auntie say the other children keep asking Esther who her papa is, and what he do for a living, and what they do together on a weekend, and why he never come up the school to see any of the activities that go on up there.

So I say to Pao that maybe he could make a point to have some kinda conversation direct with Esther. And he try, but he can’t make it last longer than two sentences.

‘She a child. What yu expect me to say to her?’

‘Say whatever yu say to Xiuquan or Mui. What yu say to them?’

He think long and hard and then he say, ‘I don’t know. I don’t think I say anything to them.’ And then he think some more and say, ‘They come and they go and mama see to them. And they play some stupid little games wid Hampton. And on the weekend they come wid me while I pick up the money ’round Chinatown and such. But talk to them? All I say is put on yu shoes, get in the car, mind what yu doing when yu outta doors, smile at the people when they smile to yu, say thank yu when people give yu something. That is all.’ And then he pause before he say, ‘Cho, Gloria, children not there for yu to be talking to.’

I let a few weeks pass and then I say to him that maybe he could go show his face up the school so that everyone can see the child got a father, and he say he going do it. But every time I tell him ’bout some event going on up there he say he busy. Week come and week go, and still he never make no move. In the end I just give up because it don’t seem like any fruit is going to come from my labouring with him over this.

Next thing I get a message from the school that they want to see me. When I get up there Sister Emmanuel tell me that Esther been telling lies ’bout who her father is and what he do. ‘She is telling everyone that her father works at a hotel in Miami and is seldom here on the island. However, she seems extremely vague on details, for example, the name of the hotel or the precise nature of his responsibilities there.’ And then she look at me over the top of the skinny little glasses she got perch on the end of her straight white nose.

BOOK: Gloria
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