The accounting office of Booklall & Company situated at the corner of Camp and Main Streets was a in-transit place, like a bus terminal, congested before departure, and eerily quiet after the buses leave. By 9:00 AM that Wednesday morning all the accounting staff, save Ronnie Ramsarran, had already left for their clients in dilapidated Morris Oxfords driven by retired men who struggled to stay awake in the tropical heat. Ronnie was the only junior fortunate enough to have his own wheels, albeit two wheels, a metallic blue Honda S90 motorcycle that he and his friend, a motorcycle hobbyist, had rebuilt from an insurance write-off.
After strapping his files on the carrier behind him he donned his black leather jacket and terminator-like reflective shades and kicked-started his bike to life. Then he began to rev the throttle unnecessarily as did most young riders who wanted to draw attention to themselves. Well, Ronnie did draw the attention of at least one woman. Her name was Savitri Ramsingh.
Savitri had been with the firm for many years and had risen to the position of senior typist. Her female co-workers who disliked her said she slept her way to the top while others rumored that she won favor by snitching on other staff. As such the female staff in the typing pool became wary of her and the guys were careful to ensure that any remarks about the partners were said in her absence. Nevertheless, she sat stoic like a gargoyle at the back of the typing pool and supervised six young typists, or seven, if one counted the office attendant, Basil Sampson, who was struggling with his sexual identity.
Savitri was the only available female in the pool in the sense that the others were either married, engaged, or had boyfriends. Of course, it did not take the investigative skills of an auditor to determine why she was still single and disengaged. Beyond her arrogance and moodiness she was downright plain, below average looking, who compounded her physical and social challenges with decadent styles and gaudy outfits befitting her grandmothers generation. But truth be told, the main reason the young men never paid her any attention was not her obsolete attire or repulsive spirit, but her age. She was thirty-eight years of age, older than all the unmarried males and seventeen years older than the fly she had her eyes on that morning, the handsome coolie-boy on his S90 motor cycle, about to depart to his client at Friendship Village on the East Bank.
Ronnie was that hapless fly whose every move was under the scope of her radar since the day he joined the company. She staked him out like a narcotic cop, watching his every move and listening intently to the girl talk around the office for any breaking news on him. And that morning when she overheard the receptionist, Basmattie Ramkarran, teasing Ronnie about an East Indian girl at the Fisheries Department who kept calling for him she recoiled like a cobra in preparation for a strike on its prey and her fists clenched involuntarily with an imaginary handful of hair from her competitors scalp.
To that point she had engaged Ronnie in casual conversations and had indirectly conveyed her interest in him by putting his financial reports on top of the pile. Unlike the other accountants who must wait two or three days before their reports were processed Ronnie had special privileges, handing in his work in the morning and having the finished product on his desk by afternoon. He was by no means a stupid or naïve young man but one who was well aware that Savitri had some designs on him and he could sense the infatuation bouncing off him like sonar shots whenever he passed by the typing pool or when he stood next to her to hand in or to retrieve a job. But he was too shy and too inexperienced to handle the strange emotions that stirred within him whenever he thought about her in a romantic way, and chose simply to enjoy his unique privileges without questions or explanations.
But Savitri wanted more than an occasional smile from afar and, when she heard of the encroaching she-devil named Basmattie, she mounted an all-out offensive to get her man. First, she asked him for a ride home after work. She knew he was working late on a deadline assignment and so she deliberately preoccupied herself with unnecessary secretarial work so as to synchronize their departure. Two days later she again asked him for a ride home and he of course was too polite to refuse. But after that night Savitri saw to it that refusal would not become an issue. She invited him in for a cup of tea and, even though he suspected she had much more in mind when she changed off into a flimsy nightshirt, he felt helplessly paralyzed by her bewitching spell and suffocating perfume. A wave of mixed emotions cascaded on him like a waterfall as he watched her saunter off to the kitchen to unplug the whistling kettle. He was afraid but excited, full of apprehension but also of anticipation, an innocent kid on the verge of becoming a man.
She returned minutes later with two cups of her brew, a platter of cookies and two slices of salara and took a seat beside him on the sofa after tuning into Indian Hour on Radio Demerara. They began to talk about work and about the people at the office but as the minutes went by the conversation turned inevitably to matters of a more personal nature. She wanted to know a little about his family, his dreams and aspirations and what he looked for in a girl. As the minutes turned to hours she became bolder and eventually felt permissive enough to hold his hand and examine his fingers and the gold ring his mother made him for his twenty-first birthday. When she caressed his fingers he felt a tingle throughout his whole body, his breathing rate accelerated and he began to sweat like a horse. But when she stretched out her clean shaven and well-oiled legs unto the center table and allowed the hem of the nightshirt to roll back teasingly high he lost concentration and began to stutter incoherently and, she, sensing the moment had arrived, held his hands and led him, like a lamb to the slaughter, into her bedroom where he, dazed by the overpowering scent of several lighted candles and hormones out of control, simply could not resist her charms. Ten minutes later it was all over. He had lost his purity and forfeited his innocent soul to what was for a good Catholic boy the forbidden passion. Spiderwoman had caught her prey in a web of calculated deceit and womanly wiles and, he, like Samson with his hair shorn and powerless, lay gratified on his Delilah's lap, completely unaware that it was past midnight and that his anxious mother was running helter-skelter everywhere, from friends homes to police stations, in search of her hapless son. When he finally arrived home he bumbled his way into the house as if he was drunk, which indeed he was, being intoxicated with love. His anxious and angry family watched him as he sat on the peerha by the door and unlaced his shoes and, for what seemed like an eternity, no one spoke. Finally, his mother broke the silence.
"You know what time it is now, boy? Is past midnight. Where you been all this time?" she asked, arms akimbo.
"I had to work late and then drop off a friend," he nonchalantly replied.
"A friend? Or a woman, eh? Don't lie to me now. Bush got ears and dutty got tongue. You drop home that Savitiri gal, right? You mean you been at her house till this time? And she mother encourage that behavior? Them is what kind of people?"
"Aright, yes! So what? How you know Savitri?" he confessed, careful not to disclose that Savitri lived alone.
"How me know? I been down by your office and that boy-gal Basil tell me he see you and Savitri leave the office on your mota bike."
"Look, ma, na blow up story. I just drop the gal off and she invited me in for some tea. What you expect me to say? Me don't drink tea?"
"Well you must be drink wan whole pot tea because me don't never hear people drink tea from seven o'clock till midnight."
As the budding feud intensified nani Poonwassie kept quiet in a corner of the living room, chewing her tobacco and spitting in a bowl, seemingly disinterested in the quarrel. But she was listening and, when the quarrel ceased for a brief moment, she calmly interjected her advice.
"Listen to me beta, cacaroach nah gat business weh fowl cack deh. That gal nah good for you. You got fuh get your mind pon education first, then gal after.
Feeling comfort in the majority opposition party, Ronnies sister, Indranie, and Barry, his older brother, joined in the attack.
The gal nah good for am? That gal can be he mother. She aint got no shame, the cradle snatcher, Indranie vented.
Bai, what wrong wid you? You choice box bore or wha? brother asked.
Then nani injected her last bit of advice. Me pickney, chicken gat fedda but he cant do fowl wuk. You wan young boy. Na get mixed up with them Penitance gal. Dem gon give you geera for eat.
"Look to me like dem done give him geera," Indranie added as a parting shot before retreating to her bedroom.
Without saying a word Ronnie got up and left his accusers fuming among themselves. As he closed the door to his bedroom a weak smile cracked his facial muscles. He had finally proven his wise old nani to be wrong. He was no longer a chicken.
As the days went by the affair became public and the attacks intensified from two main fronts. His friends berated him for poor judgment and his family continued to persuade him to end the relationship before the girl work obeah on him. But instead of severing the relationship the incessant volleys of bombardment forced him into seclusion and, from that day on, he isolated himself from his friends and clung even tighter to his first love.
But Ronnie's mother would not give up her son to the "cradle snatcher" without a fight. She phoned her elder brother in Ozone Park, New York, and apprised him of the development. Uncle Kangan, as he was known, on hearing of the disheartening news from his deeply distressed sister, decided to catch the first plane leaving JFK International and went home to fetch his bewitched nephew away to America.
At first Ronnie was indifferent to both his uncles presence and the opportunity to go to America. His senses were love impaired and his ability to reason was severely undermined by his passion to prove everyone wrong. But his uncle was an avid talk show viewer who had gleaned valuable insights on human relationships from television pop psychologists and family therapists and, who, as a result, had become mellow, empathic, tactful and non-judgmental. In stark contrast to the hostility Ronnie faced from friends and family, uncle Kangans kind and gentle approach made him think rationally about his life and future. Uncle Kangan never condemned his girlfriend or the relationship but simply focused on Ronnie and the opportunities that were available to him in America. As a sidebar he even suggested privately to Ronnie that he could do with the break and that if he was still in love with Savitri then he could return for her at a later date.
So Ronnie chose to leave for America and, to everyone's relief, he said nothing about his lover. Little did they know the two mismatched lovers had concocted their own plan whereby she would follow soon after he had settled down and secured a job and an apartment.
It was on the 4th July when he disembarked at JFK International airport in New York and the Americans were celebrating their independence, from whom or what he did not know, but he celebrated nevertheless, for he too was free from bondage to a nagging family and unsupportive friends. Contrary to uncle Kangan's expectations, that in the midst of the wonderment of skyscrapers in Manhattan, a trip atop the Empire State building, a ferry ride to the Statue of Liberty and many other sightseeing trips, and despite frequent discussions in which he had subtly broached the subject of enrolling at Queen's University to further his education in accounting and become a CPA, Ronnie's mind and thoughts never left the woman that took his innocence. He had sorely missed her and the longing for reunion fuelled his determination to work hard and get into a position where he could get on with his life as soon as possible.
The week after his arrival he obtained a fake social security card that his uncle had purchased for two hundred dollars from a hustler on Canal Street in Manhattan and began work as a sales associate at a local supermarket. Driven by the desire to be reunited with his lover as soon as possible he worked feverishly, putting in hard and long hours, willingly taking overtime, weekend and extra shifts, just to save enough for his own apartment. In less than six months he was able to move out of his uncle's house and furnish his own rental apartment on Atlantic Avenue. In the meanwhile Savitri had arrived in New York and, for fear of creating problems with Ronnie's family, she stayed secretly with a friend in Staten Island. His uncle only found out she was in the country when he decided to visit Ronnie to see if he needed a hand with the move. On noticing that the door was ajar he did not bother to knock but barged right in and almost had a heart attack when he found the two lovers frolicking in the loveseat. He was so angry that he could not speak and, after mumbling an apology, he left the two lovers alone.
Two weeks later, in spite of objections from his family and several phone calls between his uncle and his mother, he remained adamant in his decision to marry his girl friend, and the Monday after she moved in with him they headed off to the Registry and formalized their vows.
The years passed quickly and Ronnie went back to school and completed a diploma in Marketing and Sales upon which he was promoted to store manager. In the meanwhile he and Savitri had two children, a boy who was a splitting image of his mother, and a girl who resembled Ronnies mother. They bought a cozy single family bungalow in Long Island, not far from his uncle's house and seemed to be living the American dream. But just when Ronnie thought that he had proven the naysayers wrong about his marriage and his choices, another spider entered the web.
Her name was Maranie Seelochan. She was a new cashier at the store, just in from Guyana, good looking and sweet as a ripe spice mango. As the days went by he found himself thinking about her by day and dreaming of her at nights. He hated to admit it but he was falling in love with the girl and, from the comments she made whenever she came into the office, he knew she had more than just respect for him as her boss. In contrast to Savitri who was caught up in a materialistic rat race with the neighbors and who had since lost interest in romance or sex, Maranie complimented him daily on his tie, his shirt, his sense of humor and his knowledge of the business. She made him feel good about himself and that was the aphrodisiac that drew him imperceptibly into her web.
One Friday afternoon, under the influence of a Budweiser he summoned the courage to ask her out for dinner and she consented without hesitation. That initial Friday liaison led to regular meetings and Ronnie, to divert suspicion, explained to his wife that due to increased business he has had to make some changes which required him to stay late on Fridays to assess inventory levels. The excuse seemed plausible and Savitri, too preoccupied with her own ambition, left him alone. But when he began to show disinterest in her and his family and came home late during weekdays she became suspicious. Being a spider herself and acquainted with the maze she suspected that her husband was having an affair. One Friday night she stayed up and confronted him the instant he walked through the front door. He vehemently denied the charges and counter-charged that she was ungrateful for all he had done and endured to make her happy. From that day onwards they fought almost daily and the battles inevitably led to a bitter divorce. Savitri was left with the house and the children.
As for Ronnie, he moved in with his young sweetheart Maranie. That September, she turned twenty-one. And he? Thirty-eight!