By Delroy Nesta Williams
By Delroy Nesta Williams
"Where the hell have you been all this time?" She asked me.
Confused, I looked on. We had only just met about 20 minutes ago. I knocked into her as I was entering the supermarket, doing my weekly shopping for cereal and snacks. I was only now beginning to settle into a routine schedule since moving here to attend school.
She had almost dropped to the floor and after my incessant attempts at an apology; she agreed to have a hot chocolate with me. At first we didn't say much to each other, I was still feeling bad about knocking her down as I was busily fumbling with my phone. But then she started to quiz me and before I knew what was going on, she was giving me intimate details of her childhood.
She was an only child raised by a single mother on the outskirts of Bridgetown. Though she didn't have the luxuries of life, she was always happy until a traffic accident left her mother unable to walk, unable to work. She had to quit school and find work to support her family. Her mother has been her whole world from since childhood and they were more like siblings. She never knew her father and only had a few pictures stored away in a photo album to go on just in case she somehow managed to cross his path one day. She said she only wanted to have a short conversation with him and ask him 3 basic questions but if our discussion was anything to go by, I wouldn't bet on it.
Although she told me a very sad tale, she still had a glimmer in her eyes, like she expected life to give her as much as she had already given of herself. She had that assured confidence when she spoke although she was quite reserved at first, offering only one-word answers when I fired a question or two at her in my responses to her questions.
But the conversation didn't feel like a job interview or some police interrogation. Not at all. I felt at home with her, like I was speaking to my very best friend, a rekindling after spending the summer vacation overseas. It felt like a reconnection after a brief sojourn apart from one another.
And then she smiled. A smile that reminded me of a past life; my past life. One that I had left behind a few months ago before deciding that I needed a new environment. A smile that hid a sadness that's present deep down in your heart. I should know, I bore that smile for years up until a few months ago.
Dominica had become increasingly stifling for me with the political turmoil, and the indifference that was slowly but surely creeping into our society was worrying. I made a choice to leave to further my studies but in truth, I left so I could live my life without the restrictions that Dominica had used to pigeon-hold me all this time.
My every move was under the microscope. Everybody knew me. I couldn't go anywhere without being recognized, who could live like this? The last straw came a few months before I left, since then I had just be coasting through the days awaiting my departure.
I had opened up to Kevin, a very close friend about a secret and instead of offering advice and words of comfort he proceeded to belt out abusive, damaging accusations. In an instant he reduced our friendship to nothing.
Now here I was sitting next to this Bajan young lady, who was pouring her soul out to me. I needed to listen, understand and be there for her, in any way that I could. I knew what she was going through, that was exactly what I had wished I had received from Kevin back in Dominica. I had gotten the opposite though. Putting myself in her shoes, I knew that I couldn’t just walk away now.
"All she needed was a good makeover and she would be the envy of all the girls and redirect the attention of the guys," I thought to myself.
The conversation kind of got stuck and I didn't know what else to say or ask so I just blurted out an invitation to her. I hesitantly formed those words with my lips and was afraid of rejection the moment the words left my mouth.
"So you want to come over my place, I could cook or order pizza or something?" I asked.
The thing is I couldn't cook. I could barely fry eggs. I lived off cereal, pizza and KFC. I expected her to turn down my invitation but she surprised me.
"Let me just call my mom and let her know I will be out a little later," she said.
And with that, I had a house guest. We walked towards my apartment very quietly, until I started humming a Selena song. She joined in too, even twirling and dancing along the sidewalk. She had a beautiful voice.
I lived just two blocks away from the coffee shop but we took 20 minutes to get there, arriving at the same time as the delivery guy.
"Perfect timing!" I exclaimed as I handed him the money and took the box from him.
"Supreme!" She said as she breathed in, "smells like Heaven too."
"You're a foodie?" I asked.
"Not really but I love pizza," she responded, as I pushed my way thru the hall towards my apartment door.
I lived in a two-storey apartment building, near a small but beautiful beach. I would sit on my porch on most evenings and watch the sun set over the turquoise water but I never ventured onto the beach. I couldn't swim. That was one of my little secrets that I kept hidden from the world.
I opened the blinds so she could see the view but she didn't take any notice. I figured she saw these vistas all the time living in Barbados.
She had chocolate-brown eyes, deeply creviced dimples and the small scar on her right eyebrow that could surely pass for a beauty mark. Her skin glowed in the dim light of the late afternoon, the dirty-gold sun rays of the Bajan sunset that just crept in through the panel. Though her smiled seemed to hide something, it still was sincere. She was happy in the moment.
"TV or music?" I asked.
"Movie!" She asserted without even a slight hesitation, almost like she read my mind.
"Yea, anything will do!"
I sat back on the couch as she reached for the pizza box, placing a slice each on plates then handing it to me.
"You know what would be great with the pizza?" She asked.
"What?" I retorted gently.
"Wine!" She exclaimed, "Do you have any?"
"Yup, I do" I replied, lifting myself from the couch and finding my way to the kitchenette.
"Red or white?" I shouted.
"White! Please... Merlot?" She chuckled.
She was being funny but more assertive than I had expected. When I got back to the living room she was slouched back on the couch, leaving little room for me.
"So where am I supposed to sit? On the floor?" I asked.
"Yes," she joked, "but you can squeeze yourself next to me if you prefer."
I handed her the two glasses that I had poured, placing the bottle next to the couch and pushed my way under her so that her head rested softly on my chest. It didn't feel uncomfortable, I didn't feel romantic - it just felt like something that she needed at the time.
We sat there quietly sipping our glass of wine, taking small bites from the pizza and watching the movie. Every now and then she would let out this stifled laugh though, a hybrid of a chuckle and all out outburst. She still wasn't sure of what was going on. To be honest, I wasn't sure either, I was just glad to have some company over for a change.
Sitting alone in a room for months on end with only the TV for company can let anyone lose their mind at time. It was either the TV, books or my thoughts and too often my thoughts led me back to Dominica so her presence was more than simply welcomed between these four walls.
We sat there, quietly watching the movie and then instinctively she must have turned and softly kissed me. She was so nervous or shy about it that her lips almost didn’t touch mine. I almost didn’t feel it but it opened my eyes. Her eyes were closed as well. She must have closed them for the kiss. The movie had almost put me to sleep before the touch of my lips from hers.
"What are you doing?" I asked softly while gently pushing her away but not far enough that she would feel uncomfortable about it.
She looked into my eyes and I saw that look again, the lost little girl. The girl who had grown up all too quickly and faced the harsh realities of the world by her lonesome. Her face showed all the emotions of her past, the hurt and pain of a rushed childhood.
"I'm kissing you" she said. Her eyes falling to the floor as though now ashamed of what she had done.
"Why not?" She interjected, still not looking up at me.
"You can't! You shouldn't!" I replied.
"Why?" She asked, her tear ducts now swollen as the first signs of bodily fluid raced from the corner of her eyes unto her cheeks. She was crying.
“Because... Because... I am gay," I sounded as I wiped that first tear away. It was the first time I had told anyone since Kevin. She was the second person. This was the second time that I had blurted out something to her when I didn’t really want to; this was becoming a bad habit.
I got up from the couch, walked towards the window and stood there watching the horizon. I watched and just watched trying to block out what had just transpired between she and I. I too started to cry as I placed my hands up against the glass and leaned against it. It was cold, cold as my world in Dominica had become just before my exile to Barbados.
I remember the distance and darkness that had been dug between Kevin and me when I had told him. I had been completely honest with him. I hadn't expected his rejection and even after he scolded me I was half-expecting our friendship to continue. Instead he threatened me, hurled insults and was the main reason I had left Dominica. Although he hadn't told anyone, I was always afraid that my secret would get out. So as soon as I was able to get away, I ran to Barbados. I had tried calling him since I arrived but the calls were never picked up. I suspected that he changed his number. He wanted nothing to do with me. After all, he had made it extremely clear that he wasn't gay and wouldn't accept my lifestyle, not even as a friend.
Just then I felt her warm arms caress my waist.
"It's okay!" She said, "You’re no less of a person."