Friday, March 12, 2010

Mi dun wid dis dread

I used to think he had my back. But when my back was turned
his demons made other plans.

A long-time friend of my husband, he went by many names - I can
think of at least 3 - but we called one another Catalina.
Cat-a-LEEEEE-na! Or just Cat.Our personal password to one
another, fren fi lang time. He was an on-again-off-again visitor
to our verandah, never too much hanging on but never just a
fair-weather friend. Catalina's visits were always welcome.

Until they weren't.

The first indication that something was amiss, was an offer to
watch the kids at the swimming pool at the resort next door.
Great, thanks, I wanted a little break to do some painting.
Within 15 minutes, Catalina sauntered back to where I was sitting
and casually asked me for $500 Jays. Said the bartender
demanded the girls pay a likkle munny fi swim in the pool.
Hmm. I often did just buy a drink at the bar while the girls swam,
just as a courtesy "thank you" for letting them take a swim.
But $500 Jays (about $8-9 US dollars at the time) seemed
a little steep. But ok, Cat, thanks - here's the Nanny.

A few days later, after the King had run out early on another whacky
bredren mission, leaving me at The Bird with the girls,
Catalina strolled into our yard. He was carrying what appeared to be
the tailpipe from his car. He was looking miserable,
asked for my husband, kissing teeth, rae rae rae. Sad story.
He MUST repair the tailpipe or his car won't pass inspek-shun
and he'll get a big tikket and (kiss teeeeth),
he have no munny fi get it done. He HATES to ask, but could he
borrow $1800 Jays to fix it quick? He will pay me back tomorrow
after he drives back to Sav and picks up some money at home and
rae rae rae. Just a loan, Cat, if you can manage it.

Sure. That's about $25 US, I could spare it. He seemed so
convincing in his promise to pay me back. He'd never asked
for cash before. I figured the fact that he even owned and operated
a car in the first place meant that he had some source of
steady income, even if I wasn't exactly clear on what it might be.
I went inside and fished a handful of Nannies out of my purse.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the stack of soccer jerseys I'd
brought down from New York -- some Brazilian, some Jamaican,
some Italian - and scooped them up, bringing them out to the verandah.
I told Catalina that he should pick one. I'd brought
them down for the bredren and he could have first pick.
His eyes narrowed as he inspected the lot. He slipped the
green and yellow Brazilian shirt out of the middle of the pile
and smiled. Tenks, Cat. Your welcome, Cat.

He tucked the shiny tailpipe under his arm, folded the jersey neatly
and slipped it into a lada bag, then smiled and headed out to the road.
"Mi soon come, Cat!" he shouted as he waved from the gate. Yeah, sure,
I know what soon come means. See ya tomorrow, Catalina.

It was a week before I saw him again.

He came by one morning with another bredren so I didn't mention the
outstanding debt. No need to embarrass him in front of a friend. But I
asked him for some help with a problem of my own. Nothing serious, but
our own car was in the shop, my husband was working on it out in Sav,
and I needed something picked up in Mobay. "No problem, Cat,
mi haff one bredren in Mobay who can can tek care of
dat, seen? Jess gimmee a likkle bit a change fi
him gas and mi gwan set him up fi yuh."

Sigh. The bredren in Mobay wanted $2500 Jays "fi gas and him
chobble". I had no choice. Catalina's debt to me couldn't be traded for
the efforts of a stranger in Mobay so I dug up the next $40 US and
handed it over. This unseen "bredren in Mobay" was doing me a huge
favor and I was grateful for the link up. Catalina smiled and patted me on
the shoulder. "No problem, Cat, we soon tek care of dis bizness,"
he drawled. He turned and slowly headed out to the car park.

And then I sat back and waited. And waited. And never heard
from him again.

The mission never took place. The "bredren in Mobay" never
materialized with my delivery. Catalina was AWOL for the next two weeks,
leaving only susu in his wake - gossipy tales of bad vibes, struggles with
"the rock" and one made-up storyfor anyone who would listen.

You think you know someone after nearly 20 years of kindness
and laughter, road trips and cooked food, pickney and dreams of farrin.
But things change, people change. Jamaica changes everything.........


A print of this painting is available here.

1 comment:

Jaime Haney aka ArtsyFartsy.Me said...

hey! I just found your blog through etsy. loved this story, felt like I was there. sorry about your fren not being a stand up guy. I love your work and look forward to seeing more and reading more. ~Jaime