By Asha Graham
“Clear winner, excellent story..Really great descriptions; it pulled me in right away.” – JUDGE
It was the sickening smell of her perfume that seemed to be emanating from the very walls of his apartment. Maybe that was the main reason he hadn’t been home for two days – maybe. He knew it wasn’t. He was afraid of it all – the empty apartment, the heavy silence, the coffee maker she bought. He couldn’t even imagine his dressing table without her clutter of accessories; her nail polish decorating the edge. Somehow, he pretended that after three months that he hadn’t seen it all going up in flames.
‘Kiss me now,’ she teased, careening herself into his lap. ‘I’m busy,’ he laughed and indicated to the blank laptop screen. She always seemed to know when he had an important article to write, because that was when she proved herself as the ultimate distraction, and she was: her thick, black locks, coffee-stained eyes and a mouth set in a permanent smirk. She was sexy, and they both knew it. She had a quick tongue, literally. Her Dominican accent reflected the flair she exuded so effortlessly. ‘You busy an’ I wanna get busy,’ she whined and rested her forehead on his. They had just moved in together and were readily taking advantage of the privacy. Even now, she wore a pair of ripped shorts and a shirt that struggled to reach midriff. After working as a journalist at the Daily Trumpet for a year and a half, she convinced him that at twenty four, he needed his privacy. He knew he didn’t. At home, his mother would wash his whites and cook ducuna every Tuesday; his father even patted him on his head comfortingly sometimes. He was comfortable, but apparently, real men lived alone, but more so, with women like her. She constantly reminded him that she was a woman: when she needed money, when she needed space, when she “needed” him. I am a woman. Those were her parting words, though not followed by mutual sweet sorrow; just slamming doors and expletives thrown over shoulders. Often he heard her in his dreams, ‘Kiss me now,’ she cried over and over until he awoke in a cold sweat. It was reoccurring, like a tune stuck in his subconscious, in English, in Patois, in screams, in tears.
Ba mweh un bo achalma, (kiss me now)
Bo mweh (kiss me)
Mweh se un famme, (I am a woman)
Mweh que feh’w un l’homme. (I will make you a man)
He sat at his desk in deep contemplation, until a large hand slapped the back of his head.
‘Ian, the Boss say he wan’ you cover the Halloween Rave tonight.’ The voice came from his stoner friend and co-worker, Edison.
‘What? I thought that was Marsha’s assignment.’
‘Tall, she sick with something. Maternity leave, swine flu or whatever.’
Ian chuckled to himself. This was typical, contradictive Edison: a clueless, confused genius whose only intention was to maintain euphoria and employment.
‘They having it at that old warehouse place, Old Road side or someting,’ he continued, fiddling with the pens scattered on the desk, ‘but yeah, do ya ting.’ With that, he nodded and sauntered away with a handful of the pens.
If Ian had ever been to a rave before, a drunken stupor must have erased all memories from his mind. She complained about that, too. His lack of a social life had often irritated her to the point of frustration. The basic nag was always, ‘you always typing something, how many tings can one man write ’bout so!’ His reply would always remain the same: ‘Everything’.
After leaving work, he found himself by his parents’ house again. An old gospel song played faintly inside the house, and he heard his mother humming along to the verse. He met her in the kitchen, busying herself over several boiling pots. She stared oddly at him as he placed himself beside her.
‘You come here three days now. One time you wan’ privacy, next time you find it hard to leave my yard? I gonna hafta start billing you,’ she commented jokingly.
He hadn’t really explained what had happened, but there was something about his mother’s knowing smile, that reassured him that he needn’t say anything.
‘I can’t pass to show my face anymore?’ he chaffed, and she laughed lightheartedly.
‘You never wan’ show your face before, so wah change?’
‘… Plenty. Whole ton.’
‘Is that girl, I bet. She too pretty for her own good and I never trust a Dominican yet.’ Ian heard this all before. After they met, his superstitious mother made sure to tell him stories she had heard of the ‘bad magic dem Dominican does deal in.’ Later that night, when he told her his mother’s tales as a joke, she scoffed and spoke of prejudice and stereotypes and bias and Dominica and so many things that he forgot how it started.
‘-Obeah, dat is all they know. She doan sprinkle no dust on you?’
‘She not into that. What you know ’bout Dominicans anyway?’
Her eyebrows furrowed in agitation and the stirring stopped abruptly.
‘Enough to know, that obeah doan play. Is always the pretty tings that bad for you, watch an’ see.’
She went back to her cooking and he took advantage of the present tension, and left.
He found himself in a cycle of facing his apartment door then walking away. When he finally opened it, everything was as is. No mysterious damages or missing items, but he honestly would’ve preferred that to the loneliness that cloaked the room. The social scene was calling.
He heard the blaring music, and the neon lights glowed beneath the canopy of the trees. Ian approached cautiously and inspected his surroundings; there was a flood of people pressing to and from the door. Their skin glowed fluorescently, and as he inched closer, a bout of nausea overtook him. He belonged at home, not among whoever these people were under the masks and the makeup. After making a few notes and avoiding conversation, he sat by the bar. And there she was. She wore a long, madras skirt that practically brushed the floor, with one leg extended seductively. The thumping in his chest challenged the speakers as she approached him, her face hidden by her large hat and the darkness. He found his tongue and attempted to initiate conversation.
‘That’s a brilliant costume, y-you enjoying the music?’
‘It’s okay, nothing special. Wey your girlfriend?’
‘I don’t have one. What ’bout you?’
‘Do I look like I have a shadow tonight? No significant other, besides me.’
She was feisty, but subtle, and before he knew it, she had asked to take a walk. He had always lacked spontaneity, but of course, he agreed. She grabbed his hand and pulled him through the thick brush. The trees scratched his arms and face, but she simply glided through as if they were nothing.
‘Where we going?’ he asked jokingly. No answer. Her pace quickened. ‘Where we going?’ Still no reply. They were practically jogging now. A bush snagged the skirt. Her skirt lifted. He knew. It all made sense. She turned slowly to him, and he stopped breathing all together. The brim of the hat brushed his nose, and her hidden face was merely inches from him.
‘Bo mwen alchama,‘ she whispered.
The smell of dead flesh and bitter perfume overwhelmed him and he fell, to the earth, gagging. It was all a blur: the knife, the hoof, those words.
Bo mwen, bo mwen, bo mwen achalma. It was her and still wasn’t her. He had fallen for another devil in a dress.
Author’s bio: Asha is a 16 year student of the Antigua State College, who spends her free time writing and reading. She aspires to be a successful novelist in the near future. Asha placed third and first in the 13 to 17 category and best overall in the 2013 Challenge; she went on to participate in both the Jhohadli Summer Youth Writing workshop and the Just Write Writers Retreat – the latter part of her 2013 prize. In the interim she has also graduated Antigua Girls High School and gone on to College. In the 2014 Challenge she is again the winner of the 13 to 17 category and the overall winner of the 2014 Wadadli Pen Challenge.
Copyright written piece belongs to the author; so, no stealing.