Lime Tree Can't Bear Orange: Chapter One
The water here was usually calm. A large black rock jutted out of it, like a little island on its own. On the sand—as fine as dust—I found shells and pieces of driftwood thrown up like old bones and I usually came across a sea pussy or two, shaped like half a moon and soft like jellyfish. If I kicked it a purple dye poured out into the sand. There were many along this beach. I never knew why they were there and if they should be in the water. I guessed that they should be in the water because the sun made them shrivel and shrink. When I felt like it, I took up a stick and tossed them back in. I imagined them saying, Thank you, Celia. There were mangrove trees, and they were dark and alive with blue crabs, and farther up by the sea grape trees, I came around the island and the water there was rough and frothy. There were usually pelicans crashing into it like they were falling out of the sky. I saw all kinds of things in the sea there—paper, pieces of cloth, bottles. (One had rum inside and when I drank it, it made my head light like a cloud.) I also found a falling-apart brown shoe and a broken harmonica on the sand, and a map of a place I did not recognize. I found an empty purse, and a biscuit tin lid with a Christmas scene, and bits of broken pottery. Whatever I found I took back home, and wrapped it in a large piece of cloth from an old curtain and hid it underneath the house in a hole where Aunt Tassi kept the Coca-Cola crates. This was my beloved treasure; Lord help Vera and Violet if they went within a yard of it.
From age six, I went to St. Mary's school. It was a wooden building with windows at the front like two eyes, the door was a mouth and the roof a pointed hat. On the back wall of the classroom, there was a map of the world pinned with tacks to the wall. England was a small pink shape, and it was very far away from Trinidad and Tobago. (Trinidad and Tobago were also pink because they were part of the British Commonwealth.) I often placed my thumb exactly where I was in Black Rock village and spanned my hand over the Atlantic Ocean. It took three spans to reach a place called Plymouth, and Southampton was a little bit farther than that.
Miss McCartney, my teacher, said it was from Southampton that the famous ship Titanic set sail on April 10, 1912. More than a thousand people died when the ship hit an iceberg. "They were on their way to America in the biggest, grandest vessel in the world and then it sank." I liked Miss McCartney. She was not a pretty woman but neither was she ugly. She swept her red hair into a shape like a wave at the back of her head; I used to wonder what it looked like when she took it down. She wore long skirts and cotton blouses with buttons right up to the top as if she was cold and not living in the tropics at all. Her lace-up shoes came from a shop called Lunns in Piccadilly, London, England. She walked quickly and took little steps, leaning her body forward as if in a hurry to get somewhere. She had an unusual way of speaking. Roman said she sounded as if someone had his hands tight around her throat. But I could not imagine anyone wanting to put his hands around Miss McCartney's throat.