Fiction: My Girl Janey

V. Ramsamooj Gosine

- V. Ramsamooj Gosine

Fortunately, or unfortunately, Miss Lizzie, my sister’s good friend from high school, asked me to pick up her grandson, Rezon, at the airport. Miss Lizzie, more than sixty years old and with failing eyesight, was not used to driving at nights and this was understandable.  I, not too enthusiastic, agreed and asked very little about the visitor.
      ‘He’s not trouble I tell you. Born in Canada. ‘
     ‘Oh. That’s okay.’
     ‘Mother nice. Father nice. Both from here. Living Canada now.’
     ‘I guess Rezon nice, too,’ I said, following her trend.
     ‘Very well behave. Don’t give any trouble. Last see him when he was 10. Now he twenty five. Big man now.’ Within seconds, she withdrew a picture of him from her purse. ‘Good looking I tell you. Take by the family.’
      I glanced at the head shot. ‘Yes. Good looking.’
     Well.  I brought him home on that day and now Rezon and his grandmother could enjoy themselves as they saw fit.
       Two days later, very early one morning, she called me on her cell phone.
       Quickly she proceeded to explain her new predicament and asked if I could take Rezon to Santobello, many miles to the south of the island. I had doubts about finding the place but decided to use my Waze.
          ‘And is no worry. Rezon know what he want to do.’
         ‘Okay. What he want to do?’
         ‘Is a friend from Toronto coming to meet him. Just to say hello and hi and that is all.’
        ‘Just that?’
        ‘Yes. Just that.’
       ‘Oh. That is okay.’ Seconds later it did occur to me. Friend from Toronto? Strange eh? Friend from Toronto?
       On the appointed day, I drove Rezon to the crowded Market Street in Santobello. It was a busy day with Sunday morning market in full swing. The area was jam-packed with pedestrians, taxis and vendors and pedestrians were crossing the main road without using the zebra crossing sign, further slowing down the traffic. Rezon and I stood under the eve of a sprawling hardware waiting for his friend.
      Now Rezon was much taller than I and saw clearly over the heads of the hustling people around us. I felt good about that for I knew he would easily recognize Janey.
      After more than half an hour, Janey did not show up.
      I said, a bit indifferently while reading the many advertisements on the wall behind me, ‘Where’s your friend?’
      He tapped the concrete floor with his boots, took two paces ahead of me and said, ‘Don’t you worry.’
     ‘I’m  not worrying. Do I look worried?’
      He said nothing more for a few seconds but there was that worried, anxious, angry look on his face. Following this, he did something I knew little about. He began smoking, blowing the smoke in a straight line out of his mouth and looking at it disappear in the air.
    ‘She’s my girl, you know.  My girl, Janey.‘
    ‘Your girl! Thought she was your friend.’
    ‘Oh yes. Janey is my girl, you know. My Janey. We have been buddies for a while. Really nice person.’
     Now I was beginning to understand a little more. Miss Lizzie did not know the whole story. Rezon had told me, and she too did, that he came to say hello, hi and bye and I had thought he would not take up too much of my time. On that basis I came. But I was mistaken. Rezon was least concerned about my time. His meeting Janey was most important and I could go to hell. Good grief. What did I get myself into? Actually, I was here because of Miss Lizzie, not for Rezon and that comforted me a little.
     I said, becoming a bit impatient, ‘When is Janey going to appear?’
     ‘You mean my girl, Janey?’
     ‘Yes. Your girl, Janey.’
      ‘Don’t you worry. She’ll be here.’
     Silently I repeated what he said and asked, ‘How much longer are we going to wait.’
      ‘Oh. She’ll be here. Don’t you worry.’
      Now I was hopping mad. I was not getting a straight answer from him. ‘Do you have money, Rezon? I mean cash.’
     ‘Oh, yes. Canadian. Quite a bit.’
        He paused and stretched his neck two centimetres to look over the hundreds of heads going about their business.   Boy, I said to myself, you are so dump.  You do not understand here. These street-smart people would take every cent from you in the wink of an eye and you would not even know.
      To him I said, ‘Do you have a telephone number for her?’
      ‘Oh yes.’ He showed me the number. ‘I’ll call her.’
    Half an hour later, we were driving to Mardenville, a village about six miles east of us. I never promised anyone I would take Rezon any where he wanted. He seemed to be telling me half-truths but I could not fathom a naked lie from a naked truth. Nevertheless, my commitment was not to Rezon but to Miss Lizzie, whom I liked a lot. I told myself this twice within an hour. Anyway, I was stuck in the situation.
     Along the way, driving on pot-holed roads, there were bushes close enough to scratch your car, and roads too narrow for cars to pass comfortably.  It rained a little, enough to wet the road. So I reduced from fifty kilometres an hour to about thirty.
    ‘What is the street name?’
    ‘Which street?’ He was on the phone chatting with Janey.
     ‘Where Janey living’.   
     ‘I think we pass it.’
     ‘You know we pass it?’
     ‘Yes.’ He continued speaking on the phone,
    ‘So where are we going?’
     ‘Oh. What? Sorry.’
     I pulled aside and said to him, my anger rising, ‘Give me the name of the street. And all other information.’ He handed me a slip of paper. I looked at it. ‘Yes. Right. Talk as much as you want now.’
   Three houses into a back street, Rezon said, ‘That’s the house. Stop. Stop.’
    Before I brought the car to a complete stop, Rezon jumped out. ‘That’s my Janey. Hi, Janey.’
   I followed him with my eyes and surely there was Janey, young, slightly  fleshed, walking down the wooden  front steps of the house. In the yard itself there were three ladies in long dresses that reached their toes. They seemed deep in conversation and occasionally glanced towards the car. The sounds of pounding feet and Rezon’s alarming shout startled them, I thought. They looked only to see a young man in what was considered foreign clothes, fly past them.
     ‘Hi, Janey. Hi, Janey,’ Rezon trumpeted as though he were speaking to someone a distance away behind a wall.
     And then it dawned upon me, a most revealing fact. The low white roof I had seen, not recognized, was indeed a temporary tarpaulin tent. And I wondered what was a tent and chairs, another revelation, doing in front of the house? There was a square of white plastic chairs on the right facing another square of white plastic chairs on the left and in the middle there was a narrow empty space, perhaps to accommodate something. Maybe Janey had come to some sort of prayer meeting. Or was it something mournful, for the ladies were all dressed in simple white outfits and orhanis draped over their heads
    With great warmth, Rezon and Janey embraced each other in the middle of the tent in that empty area. But wait. It was no embrace. They were locked in tightly, kissing each other that there was no space between them. And then they allowed themselves a slight withdrawal, for air perhaps, before they absorbed each other again.
     The three surprised ladies jerked their heads upwards, eyes enlarging, and looked on wordlessly, seeing perhaps an apparition. And from the shadows  deep under the house, two men took solid strides forward, perhaps shocked at what was taking place.
       It was not a situation I was prepared for.
     I thought I should report this.   ‘Miss Lizzie. It’s me. I am still here in Mardenville.’ Miss Lizzie pulled me away from the happening.
      ‘In Mardenville? Doing what?’
      ‘Well. Rezon did not see his friend and decided to visit her at her home.’
      ‘Her home! But he has no idea where she live. Never came to Trinidad before.’
    ‘Don’t be surprised. He found the house very easily using his Waze,’ I said.
    ‘Really. But he shouldn’t be there. Janey didn’t want him come. She said there is a funeral.’
    ‘A funeral! What! A funeral!’
    ‘Yes. Janey grandmother is dead and today is the funeral.’
    What the hell! I said aloud. This is trouble. I looked back at the setting and sure enough everything pointed to a funeral scene as I knew it. This is trouble. And he’s kissing the girl as a man kisses his darling and he’s doing it in front of these old traditional ladies. No wonder they looked startled. It was totally against their used-to behavior. This Rezon is mad. Now this is real trouble.
     I had just switched off from speaking to Miss Lizzie when Rezon approached me.
    ‘Hi, uncle. This is my girl, Janey.’ And he kissed her full on her lips again.’ She’s my darling. This Janey.’
    ‘Hi,’ I said, taking in that quick foreign liberated look about her. She was wearing a pair of shorts that could not be shorter and her top did have a very long V in the middle while her face was lavishly decorated, lips sparkling red.
   ‘Hi, uncle. You’ve heard about me?’
   Heard about you, I said to myself. You look as crazy as Rezon. You want to get this boy killed. Inviting him to a funeral and kissing like film stars in front of these old people! What the hell happen to you, little girl?
    Suddenly Rezon put a brakes on my thoughts. ‘No. No. He’s not family. Just driving me around.’
    I looked at him angrily. So I’m your damn chauffeur? Man, I just trying to help out your grandmother. Don’t get me blasted vex right now na before I start to cuss. Who the hell you think you is?
     ‘Listen,’ he said to me directly. ‘I’m staying here with my girl, Janey. You can head back home.’
    ‘Yes. Yes,’ Janey said. ‘He’ll be here with me. And in safe hands.’ And they locked lips again.
      I was dumbfounded for a second but seeing them withdraw from me, hands roped around their waist, I said, ‘But Rezon, you don’t have clothes.’
  It was Janey who provided the most unlikely answer. ‘I have clothes for him. All in my suitcase.’
    ‘Oh,’ I said. ‘Oh.’
     ‘Oh, you know what. You can catch me this evening and I’ll tell you of my intentions.’
      On my way home, I thought of the situation carefully and the more I visited it, the more concerned I became. Neither Rezon nor Janey understood the present conditions of the house, where certain acts were forbidden at this time.  People here were very traditional and would tolerate his behavior only  to a point.
    Of more immediate concern now was what should I tell his grandmother? I didn’t want to alarm her. I must find a way to break the news softly. And it did occur to me, suppose she was in agreement with his actions, for she too did live for many years in another big country.
   My mind seemed to be wanting a rest and what could be more enticing than a bar. One, two, three pints of beer and I was feeling less tensioned. Rezon and Janey were pushed in the background and I was happy, cool and relaxed in a free state.
    An hour later, I must have fallen into a deep asleep in my apartment when the loud ringing of my land line awoke me.
    ‘Yes. Yes. Hello. Hello.’
    ‘Hi. It’s me, Rezon.’
    ‘There is so much rain here that the place is flooded. No one can come through.’
     ‘Oh. But over here is dry.’
      ‘Localized rain Janey tells me. So hear what. Pick me up tomorrow.’
     Immediately I fell asleep. Well not exactly, drifting in and out. And the phone rang again, louder and thunderous.
    ‘What time are you coming back?’ This was from Miss Lizzie.
    ‘Coming back? I am home.’
   ‘Oh. And where is Rezon?’
    I told her all I knew in the simplest of language.
    ‘And what he say about the flood? Tell me again.’
    ‘He and Janey agreed there is so much water that nothing could pass through.’
    ‘So there was no funeral?’
   ‘He said it rained just after the funeral.’
     ‘Give me a minute. Wait there. I’ll call you back.’
   I was not going to be held accountable for his adventures. Not me.
    Miss Lizzie was long in calling and so I forgot all about her calling me. I was making dinner that night when my cell phone rang.
   ‘I am outside your house. You and I are going Mardenville now.’
    As soon as I saw her, she said, ‘The little bitch lied. I call a friend in Mardenville and he say only a drizzle fall. Not enough to wet the road. See what I mean. This little Janey driving Tarzan crazy.’
   This was one showdown I didn’t want to witness. However, I complied with her request for I couldn’t allow a sixty year old to drive to such a remote place in the night. I remained quiet all along, not even humming a song. When she thought we had driven for more than one and one half hours, she said, ‘Far again?’
    ‘About five minutes.’
   And then she exploded. ‘If he think he going to bring his girlfriend here and tell me cock and bull story, I going to let him have it with this.’ She whipped out a brown leather belt from in her large purse. ‘No grandchild of mine going to disrespect me’.   She paused. ‘Stop. Let me call him.’
    ‘Just stop.’
     When Rezon answered his cell phone, she said, ‘You pack already?’
     ‘We pack.’
     ‘I ask about you.’
     ‘You are my grandson so you are coming with me. I want to hear nothing more. This is not Canada. I could cut your arse and no police will tell me anything. You understand?’
    ‘But Janey…’
    ‘Get your little tail by the roadside. I am picking you up now. In a minute.’

    Rezon was not going to be outfoxed. He and Janey slipped into a taxi seconds before Miss Lizzie made her appearance at Janey’s place where her uncle told this story, ‘Rezon and Janey gone out since evening.’
    ‘But I just talk to him on the phone.’
   ‘Yes. That is true.’
     Miss Lizzie, looking at the uncle straight in his eyes, said, ‘Tell that Rezon I want to see him now. This minute.’
   ‘Rezon not here, lady.’
    ‘But I just talk to him on he cell.’
    The uncle shook his head sideways.  ‘That must be true but cell phone don’t say where you is. You could be anywhere.’
    ‘And to think I know this boy since he ten years old. Imagine that.’ She closed her eyes and shook her head from side to side.  ‘Yes. True. Yes. Where you think they gone?’
     ‘Now?  In a hotel somewhere and tomorrow they going for holiday in Tobago.’
     ‘Holiday or Honeymoon?’
       On our way home, I saw Miss Lizzie absorbed in her thoughts, often talking to herself. I said nothing. She shook her head slowly up and down and then sideways and I knew then she felt disappointed. She didn’t address me directly so I said nothing. I knew she would deal with Rezon when she met him while I was in my bed sleeping.
      But then I remembered what she had said to me earlier, ‘He’s Canadian. Well behaved.’

1 comment :

  1. Of course Rezon is well-behaved. I praise the boy. He loves Janey, and with Janey he goes to a hotel, and next day they go to Tobago for honeymoon. It is Miss Lizzie, the old woman who finds her own place in the end. It is a funny story.And the telling is perfectly matched with the tale. Dialogues are so catchy and realistic. A great storyteller, and a great story!


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