Read part one here.
Grandaunt Delphine’s eyes are like silk. They glimmer, white, green, or blue, depending on what part of they sky she’s focused on. She unfolds history, while we stand next to grandpa’s grave. The cement block, emerging from the ground, looks like it can hold four people instead of one. I begin to say this, as the tall bamboo that looms over us starts to rustle. The clicking of the wood is loud as the wind runs through it, sounding like chatter, like someone trying to speak to us.
Delphine explains that the grave is for five people, not one. My grandfather lay in the one, I stand on, which explains why the scrawling of letters is only on one-third of the gray, cold surface, but his mother, his father, and two of his children lay beside him.
Someone used a stick to write, in the cement, “Do not mourn. I’ve lived my life. –Dr. Jeweler.” Delphine laughs, when she says that his most recent girlfriend did this. She snickers it as if we’re both not witnesses to Grandpa William’s lineage strewed carelessly across Jamaica, America, Canada and England. She smiles down at the middle of the grave as if her next tale will not be of two prepubescent boys who’ve died of pneumonia, during one of his drunken stupors—leaving them under the porch to get sick. We listen to the bamboo rattle once more, knowing it is an apology, understanding that it is a plea for us to the preserve the land despite.
Love lived in the hills of Westmoreland, Jamaica.
It’s buried in chronological order, from the top to the bottom. Even though it would find it's way to Lucea and evolve into the lie, across the ocean, it started here.
The first set of graves were next to a half-finished house, purchased room by room by a family that meant to make their way back home. The same could be said of William's great grandfather, a Jewish Cuban shoemaker who'd bought the land. Three years after uprooting his Spanish-speaking family to this new island he went out for a ride on his horse and hit a tree. He died upon impact. His wife heard the news later that evening and went to her bed to lie down. She never came back out. They found her, dead from heartache, a few days later. Their children, Enrique, Martin, and Lucea, were left to fend for themselves.
If you walked a few steps down the hill, behind the shanty home that Aunt Delphine called home, Lucea lay there alongside her husband. They were the only ones that stayed behind, harvesting and caring for the land her father loved. Lucea's husband was the only man in the area who spoke her native tongue. Although she'd picked up some English, she had difficulty communicating with the Westmoreland community. Her husband, who worked in the sugar cane trade, learned Spanish on his travels. The moment he realized he could understand the beautiful girl who grew up a few hills down from his family home, he made his way to her. They were instantly inseparable. She traveled back to her homeland, by his side, the smell of sugar cane and sweat permeating their clothes.
He would look down at her, while they crossed the ocean, and say, "Nothing in this cargo is as sweet as you."
They'd crossed the ocean six times and had two children to show for it before they settled back in Westmoreland. Delphine and William, three years apart in age, knew the land like the lines in their palms. They picked mangoes, ackee, and breadfruit to their heart's content. They watched their parents fall for each other every day, wanting nothing more than each other's company.
In the middle of the 1930's, Delphine and William's father fell ill with tuberculosis. The siblings were coming in from picking fruit for the house when they watched neighbors assist in lifting their father into a car headed to the hospital. Lucea ran from the home, screaming in a language the natives could not understand. While raising her husband into the back of the vehicle, they yelled, "Lucea! You cannot come. You will catch de' sickness."
She fell to her knees, watching the car descend the hill, wondering where they were taking her love. She grabbed William, seven years old but brilliant for his age.
"Where are they taking him?"
William replied, in his mother's language, "El hospital. Papa enfermo?"
She nodded, walked into the house to grab her purse, and took William and Delphine to a neighbor's home. This was the last time they saw their mother and father. They both passed away from the illness, three weeks apart from each other.
William could only remember the last thing his mother said to him. She said it softly, in his ear, before she turned her back to the children she'd never see again, "We are cursed. Love is not for us. We are cursed."
As Grandaunt Delphine pointed to each grave and told the stories, I interrupted, "Do you think we're cursed?"Delphine put her hands on her hips and sighed, "I'm still single. You tell me gyal. You think we, women, are cursed?"
I thought about it. This couldn't be true. I wouldn't exist if it were. My grandparents were in love, weren't they?
As soon as I asked Delphine this, she hissed her teeth and rolled eyes, "If that's what you call love, me no want it."
Louise was in trouble.
She was twenty and pregnant again. She'd fallen for someone who was unavailable, once again. He lived in the neighborhood, and their families knew one another, but he'd failed to tell her that he was promised to someone.
She sat in the neighborhood bar, trying to decide if she wanted a beer. She didn't want to harm the baby but decided that it wouldn't hurt if she weren't going to have the child. There was a rumor that the local roots woman could get rid of unwanted children. It's not that she didn't want a child. She did. She was ready for a family. However, she wasn't ready to bring another child into this world that didn't feel wanted. Her first born, Aaron, was already questioning who his father was. She couldn't go through that again.
The bar attracted all sorts of folks. It was on the corner of a local road and a major highway. If you were visiting Lucea, you probably stopped for a drink or thought about it. She'd just finished a shift at her new hospital job and couldn't help but wonder if she'd started to show in her uniform.
Just as she was thinking of ordering a beer, a gorgeous man walked in. He was the color of the sand, near her childhood home, and his eyes were the color of the sea. He sat right next to her, ordered two beers, and turned to face her.
"You're all alone or wha?"
She frowned, "I'm just relaxing before I go back to my yahd. I've been working all day."
He smiled, "Working lady. I see."
His beers arrived, and he pushed one towards her, "You drinking?"
She looked at the glass and moved her hand, hesitantly, towards it, "I'm not sure if..."
He took a swig of his drink, "If you should be drinking while you're carrying pickney..."
"How do you know that? Am I showing?"
He laughed, "No girl. You look good. You're glowing. I can tell these things. Special gift."
He pulled the drink back, "You shouldn't be drinking. But you can tell me all about how you got here."
He extended his hand to shake hers, "I'm William, from Westmoreland."
"Louise, from Lucea."
He studied her face and tried to ignore the coincidence, while listening to her story. He also sought to ignore the words running rampant through his mind, "We are cursed. Love is not for us. We are cursed."
It seemed to be coming from the bamboo rattling just outside the bar, first a whisper and then a yell. William tried to tune it out, drink by drink, song by song, woman in his palm.