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Pleasantview by Celeste Mohammed

Read Online Pleasantview by Celeste Mohammed Fiction Book

Overview: Coconut trees. Carnival. Rum and coke. To many outsiders, these idyllic images represent the so-called easy life in Caribbean nations such as Trinidad and Tobago. However, the reality is far different for those who live there-a society where poverty and patriarchy savagely rule, and where love and revenge often go hand in hand.

Written in a combination of English and Trinidad Creole, Pleasantview reveals the dark side of the Caribbean dream. In this novel-in-stories about a fictional town in Trinidad, we meet a political candidate who sets out to slaughter endangered turtles for fun, while his rival candidate beats his "outside woman" so badly she ends up losing their baby. On the night of a political rally, the abused woman exacts a very public revenge, the trajectory of which echoes through Pleasantview, ending with one boy introducing another boy to a gun and to an ideology...

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Pleasantview by Celeste Mohammed

Read Online Pleasantview by Celeste Mohammed Book Chapter One

Prologue: The Dragon’s Mouth (Bocas del Dragón)1

IT HAVE A BENEFIT TO BEING on this prison island, this tiny dot in the Gulf between Venezuela and Trinidad: freedom. The officers don’t take we on much; they don’t lock up too tight, because where it have to run? We can’t go nowhere. Or so they feel.
Straight from the cell, me and Richards, my cellmate, we stroll out.
Officer Babylon watching TV. We tell him exactly where we going: “Down by the water, Boss. To light up, li’l bit.”
“Allyuh going and smoke? Or allyuh going and bull?” he say, squawking like a seagull.
“Nah, we could do that anytime we want in the cell,” I say, not because me and Richards in any bullerman thing, but because that kinda fleck-up answer is the best way to block Babylon from saying something worse, something that might make me lose my head and buss he throat.
Tonight is not to fight. No, when your head in the dragon mouth, you ease it out real slow.
Me and Richards trot down the incline, to the nibbling edge of the water. The place warm, warm—not a breeze blowing, but that good for us because the water go be flat. It have a full moon, though, grinning like it know what we planning and so it come out for spite, to make sure everybody see we. We didn’t expect this damn moon—I shoulda check beforehand, my mistake—but is do or die tonight. All the dominoes done line up and people waiting on we.
So, me and Richards stand up, watching the silver water and sighing, like if we’s really lovers. Me ain’t know what he thinking, but I studying Consuela, she there on the other side, on the mainland. Not Venezuela (although that’s where she come from), I mean the big island, Trinidad. Consuela working in one of them so-called “guesthouse” in Pleasantview. She know I coming, at least I think so—I did send message with my pardnah, Stench: “Pack and get ready. I comin’ for you Thursday night.”
Consuela waiting; she can’t wait forever—she done wait too long already. Time to move.
“Light the thing, nah, bai,” I tell Richards, “before the man get suspish.”
Richards pull a li’l spliff and a lighter from he pants pocket. He take a pull, I take two, we blow out the smoke and the air start to smell like herb.
I rest down the joint on a rock, and prop it up nice, nice.
“You ready?”
“Yeah, let we go.”
With that, me and Richards walk into the sea and just keep walking till we disappear. We lucky: not everybody could do what we doing. Only a few fellas on this prison island, even counting officers, could swim good. But Richards say he born and grow down Ste. Madeleine near a pond, he say nobody in the village was faster than he. But I tell him fresh water different to salt, and pond have edge; the sea ain’t got none. But he say that don’t matter. Me, I born in this Gulf: Icacos, to be exact. If Trinidad is a boots, Icacos is the toe. On a clear, clear day, we used to see Venezuela plain as we hand. My father is a fisherman, he father was a fisherman, and so it go and so it go … all the way back through history. From small, I was always on the pirogue with Daddy; I learn to swim before I could walk, I learn to dive before I could read and write. That’s why I slapping this water, making it splatter outta my way, like is nothing more than melt-down ghee.
Left, right, left, right.
I did tell Stench to wait by the next small island, a li’l cove it have there. Wait and keep the boat quiet, no engine till I reach. Bring change of clothes, I did say. And have a car waiting in Carenage. We heading straight for Pleasantview, straight for Consuela. By that time, they go sound the alarm on the prison island, and while they huntin’ for we in the north-west, we go dash down South, to Icacos. I have to see Daddy and Mammy before I leave for Venezuela. I have to collect back the money Daddy holding for me. With that, me and Consuela go set up weself nice, nice, nice, back in Tucupita, she hometown.
Left, right, left, right. That cove is half a kilometer from here—so the map say. Left, right, left, right. Half a kilometer is about 1,600 feet. That’s all. Feet. Freedom is just feet away from me. And freedom have a next name: Consuela. Consuela, Consuela. A kind of madness take over: I turn barracuda in the water, one arm over the next, I going faster and faster. I ain’t feeling nothing, I ain’t ’fraid nothing, I not looking back, I not going back.
I hear a siren and I know is for we.
I shout for Richards and he shout back but he sounding far, like he lagging behind.
“Richards!” I bawl again, “they comin! Swim!”
That’s all I could say because I pushing through the water, pushing hard. I not going back!
Then I hear a vessel, the Coast Guard fastboat. Then voices, Richards bawling, other voices. It sound like he fighting with them; he not going easy. I sorry for him but I glad same time, because them so busy with he, I get chance to swim faster, push harder, lungs burnin’ till I feel I go dead.
“Jesus!” I gasp and spit brine.
Jesus used to lime with fisherman, so he go hear me. I only have energy to swing my hand one last time and I touch a log. I latch on … and name it Hallelujah. Hallelujah keep my head above water till I reach the cove. I can’t believe I actually reach, I ’fraid to let go Hallelujah, but them fellas grab and pull me on the pirogue.
We take off for Carenage.
I so tired, I barely breathing, but I have to ask Stench, “You tell she I comin’?”
He say, “Yes, bai. And I just talk to she. She ready and waiting.”


She glances again at the clock, strategically placed on the side wall of her room. From any angle, she is always able check if a customer’s time is up. A self-taught trick—that, and many more. It is just after 10:00 p.m. Sunil sent a message earlier to say, “He coming tonight; pack and get ready.” So yes, she’s packing, but with only half a heart. She is not at all sure if she should believe in him.
Sunil has been in jail for the last year.
In Venezuela, jails are never easy to walk out of, but this is Trinidad—everything is different, easier in many ways. The night-news talks of prisoners and their “rights”. She isn’t sure what exactly that means, though, and if she has those too.
Consuela shrugs like she’s taking off an invisible blouse, but her doubts remain, even as she moves the last two items from her clothes drawer. She dumps them into the faded nylon duffel bag Sunil gave her seventeen and a half months ago—she’s been counting. She’s collected lots more clothes, nicer clothes since then: tights, frothy blouses, jeans and pretty lacy panties, all bought in Pleasantview Junction from roadside people who shout, “Mamacita, take a walk inside! Take a walk inside!” They are accustomed to seeing “Vennies” scurrying around the back streets—to them, every Latina is a Venezuelan whore—so they take her money and ask no questions. She pays a higher price for their silence. She is safe in Pleasantview. As long as her Boss Lady makes sure policemen have free service at the guesthouse, she is safe. She has never even thought of boarding a maxitaxi and going anywhere else in Trinidad. Where can she run without a passport and a man to protect her from other men? Here, at least, she has Mr. Jagroop.
She approaches the closet where her “good clothes” hang—a couple dresses and some shinier, more bling-bling versions of the same things that were in the drawer, most acquired only recently. The $200 Sunil has been sending now and then can’t do much for her, but she struck jackpot a few months ago when Mr. Jagroop approached Boss Lady about “permanent arrangements”. Friday nights with Consuela became his, and he pays dearly for them. But he can afford, Boss Lady says, because he’s a businessman and, rumor has it, he’ll be a candidate for the next local elections. He is a good man to fuck.
Consuela backs away from the closet and sits on the edge of her bed, staring at the gold lycra of a jumpsuit. She is worth something here in Pleasantview. Does she really want to leave? She isn’t even sure she’s the same person who fell in love with Sunil, who promised him, “I will wait,” last year, when he’d called her to say he was turning himself in to police. But she is very sure she’s no longer the tender seventeen-year-old who did as her mother asked and got on a boat with Sunil and his father and the other men, to cross the Gulf. No, this eighteen-year-old Consuela has trained herself to let go of many things, to squelch and drown other things. She’s learned how to focus only on the words spoken during those last moments with her Mama. She has trained herself not to remember her own dread and her own secret trembling at being married off to a boy she barely knew, to a land she’d never seen.
“Promise me, she … only one,” Mama pleaded with Sunil’s father before he left Tucupita. He always visited Mama’s bed whenever he docked in the village; he always paid with cash but tipped with foodstuff. He was one of the honest smugglers; his promise carried weight with her.
“Yes, only she,” Sunil’s father said. “I don’t bring in people on my boat. I only making exception this time because of my son. He over-want she.”
“And he will married, sí?”
“Yes, we’s Hindu. Is no problem to married—she seventeen, he nineteen—they old enough. By next year, my house full up with pretty, pretty, fair skin baby and thing.”
“She will work, teach en la escuela, okay? Ella habla inglés perfectamente.”
Sunil’s father silenced Mama with a hug. “I promise you, she go have a good, easy life. Plenty better than out here,” he said, pointing his chin at their home: a concrete slab surrounded by roofing sheets.
He turned to leave then, but Mama followed, explaining her fears. “Mi otra hija, Marisol, she take boat from Güiria last year. Too full. News say everybody die. I no lo creo, pero we hear nothing … nada más. I still … Yo no creo, no lo creo.” Then Mama grabbed his elbow, as if he hadn’t paid his bill for last night. “You help Consuela find she sister, mi Marisol?” she asked.
“Look,” Sunil’s father said, peeling her off, “Trinidad is a big place. All I could tell you: Consuela safe with we.”
And she was safe, at first. The boat slipped as easily onto the sands of Icacos as she slipped into the household of Sunil and his family. They smiled at her but cooked things she didn’t know how to eat: no cachapas con queso, only roti and choka; no pabellón, only dhal and rice and curry. Everything was strange, and she understood little when they spoke to each other—too fast, and not the English she knew from school—and Sunil’s mother made her clean and wash for most of each day. But Sunil spoke to her slowly when they were alone. He cooed like she was a baby. It was from him she learned that the pundit was coming at the end of the week to marry them. Sunil said he wanted to wait until afterward, to have sex as man and wife. He was Hindu, yes, but he went to the Presbyterian Church sometimes with his mother, so he knew better than to sin.
But, before the wedding could take place, Sunil’s father came running in one day, and ordered her to pack. All the plastic bags she’d brought from Venezuela were scattered about; she didn’t even know what they’d done with her little rolling suitcase.
“Now! Now!” he said to Sunil. “Get she ready. Police coming.”
Sunil threw her stuff into his own duffel bag. Then he and his father bundled her into their van and drove to a Chinese man in a nearby village. Sunil’s father asked for two thousand. “No. Fit-teen handrey,” the man countered. Sunil’s father said, “Sold,” and collected, in a back room behind the Chinese restaurant, his fifteen hundred greasy American dollars.
The memory makes Consuela pitch herself backward onto the bed. She plucks, from between the pillows, her virgin white teddy bear—a Valentine’s gift from Mr. Jagroop. With both hands, she holds it above her and stares into its dead-fish eyes. She wonders, for the millionth time, if any police had been coming at all, that day in Icacos. Or had Sunil’s father made up the whole story? Had he been planning to sell her all along but couldn’t bear to tell Sunil? Or had Sunil known? Back then, she believed Sunil was innocent. And she’d even believed when he tearfully said he was “coming back soon” to redeem her from the Chinese man.
But he hadn’t come back. The chino locked her in a room with a Colombiana, and every few days or so, they were tied and raped side by side (“Yes, fellas,” chino would say, “break them in good.”) And yes, they had broken her insides with their machetes, chopped her up real good inside, severed whichever artery carried feeling and pain and faith and hope and love. And when she and the Colombiana weren’t being raped, they would pray and tell each other, “Hermana, tienes que ser fuerte, piense en tu familia allá.” For five weeks they repeated that. Out loud and in their heads too, under the black and brown bodies of these strange men who dripped cologne-water but smelled of fish, rancid coconut oil and engine grease. Consuela proved the more popular of the two, and one day chino came in wagging his finger and said, “Like how you more white-looking than she, and your hair more yellow, you go be a big, big hit and make good money up north.”
Consuela was transferred to his sister, Boss Lady, in Pleasantview. To this pussy-pink house on Panco Lane. Still small-bodied, still seventeen, but she’d hardened to forty inside—yet Boss Lady told the customers, “Consuela is fifteen.”
Sunil came one day. He spent a long time talking with her, cursing as he told her how chino had refused to let him see her, and then crying as she told him what chino had made her do. Then, he spent a long time talking with Boss Lady. Afterwards, he looked happy. His face beaming and his shoulders high when he said, “She say I could buy you back. Just hold on, babes, I coming for you.”
That was a fifteen months ago, and still, she must say she’s fifteen. Customers still call her “whitey” and “blondie”, but what she sees of herself in the closet mirror as she works is negra como el carbón. Sure, Boss Lady pays her well, lets her send cash back home using the Chinese money-line, lets her have a cellphone so she can lie to Mama every week about how the money is made (“Sí, Mama, soy profesora de inglés”), lets her shop in the Junction, lets her have everything—except her passport and freedom.
But Consuela never complains, because she isn’t sure what she would do differently, anyway, if she had those things. Mama sent her here to earn money and find Marisol—it was never in the plan that she should seek a life and dreams and happiness of her own. She is careful not to reach too high, donde sus manos no pueden alcanzar.
She rolls onto her side, draws teddy into her bosom and curls up on the bed, her place of work. She makes a hurried Sign of the Cross … en el nombre del Padre, del Hijo … but it doesn’t make her feel any more blessed or protected or any less alone. She remains dried out and brittle inside. She is terrified to risk even a tiny spark of belief.


By the time we reach the jetty in Carenage, I catch back my breath and my senses and all the li’l pieces of myself that the sea was threatening to drown. We move through the night like some cat looking for fish and I stand up in the darkest dark, under a hog plum tree, to change my clothes. I put on the dry ones Stench bring.
“Come, let we move,” I say, talking like the boss of the operation again—I ain’t hear myself sound so in a whole year.
Stench bump fist with the two other fellas—I don’t know them, them don’t know me, and it better so—they jump in a next car and drive off. Them head west, we head east to Pleasantview.
Stench secondhand Toyota patchy with flashband and moving slow, but my blood fuel-injected. I hype up, I nervous, I happy, I could lift up this damn car and run with it—you would swear I sniff coke or something. Daddy did bring in some blocks one time, and I did watch the customer dip-in a finger, taste the powder, then bawl, “Shiiit! That’s the damn thing self. Pure, pure. Thing to blow man brain out they head.”
“Thanks, eh,” I tell Stench, clapping him on the back over and over, like he choking and need help. “You’s a damn good friend. You been a brother to me,” I keep saying. Is true: Stench was there with me, on Daddy boat, when we did bring across Consuela. And is he-self used to go with me, by Lee Loy Restaurant every week to look for she. And then, when the Chinee Mafia send she north, to Pleasantview, is Stench used to drive me up the road every week, in this same old Toyota, to check on she. He do me plenty favors, but he know, just like I know: he owing me more than I owing he. Is me did take the rap with the police, I never turn informer, I never call he name. I did make one single request from him before I walk myself in the police station: “Every month, go by Daddy, he go give you a li’l change; take it for Consuela.”
“How she looking?” I ask Stench—I does ask that every time he visit me in prison.
“Good, good,” he say. “She taking care of sheself.”
He does always say that, and it does always make me feel good to hear it. I did promise to handle she, as a man does handle he woman. The five hundred I sending every month, through Stench, it ain’t much but it making a point: no matter who she fuck, she still my woman. Any man could climb on top of she, but I’s the onliest man making jail for she.
Watch, nah: when Boss Lady did say I coulda buy Consuela and she passport back for fifty thousand, I nearly fall down and kiss she old, stinking toe—fuss I was glad—it had a hope for we. I went straight home and tell Daddy that I done with that petty smuggling life on the boat. He did cuss me and call me neemakharam, but I didn’t care. I went and get a good contract-work with the oil company—driving truck and boat, digging hole, fixing engine, anything they tell me do—and I did start to save, save, save. But the funds wasn’t piling up fast enough, and Consuela keep crying every time I went to see she, so I had was to think fast. I team up with Stench and some other fellas to make a li’l lagniappe on the side. But the oil company catch on and tell police “industrial tools worth more than US$10,000 have gone missing.” I did give Daddy my cut to hold, and I plead guilty, thinking My Honor woulda give me a small jail, but the fucker hit me with seven years—big jail, on the prison island, far far far from Consuela.
I did cry like a snatty-nose baby in the courtroom.
“So, bai, let we go through the plan one last time,” I tell Stench. “Everything hadda move like clockwork tonight.”
He say after we get Consuela we heading down Icacos to collect my money and all the groceries my father done stockpile—garlic, baby milk, pampers, toilet paper, tin juice—things that scarce in Venezuela. Then, Stench go take we out in the pirogue to a condemn oil platform in the Gulf. Then, a man Daddy does do business with go pick we up and take we the rest of the way, upriver, to Tucupita. Consuela go be home with she mother and nephew-them again. And we go have enough to set up a nice li’l shop and have a quiet life.
I like the plan. No, I love it. I stick my head out the car window and search till I find the moon. It there behind me, like I leave it hanging up over the prison island. What they doing now with Richards, I wonder. I sorry for the man, but better he than me, oui. I know they looking for me, I know they coming, but all I need to do is keep moving and stay ahead of this blasted, deceitful moon.


The moment Consuela dozes off, Marisol’s face floats up. Not the Marisol she’d always been—red-painted lips, black-lined eyes, blonde hair wild—but the Marisol she’d stripped down to, the last time Consuela saw her, twenty-four months ago, back in Venezuela. She’d worn no makeup and her hair was pulled back and braided into one long, golden rope—if only it could have saved her! She wore a simple T-shirt, jeans, sneakers. She wanted to enter her new life, she said, on the other side of the Gulf, looking respectable. She’d believed and trusted the man from the Christian group when he said they would resettle her in Trinidad.
Consuela sees it all again in her dream, how she pleaded with her older sister, “Hermana, no! No le creas,” but Marisol wouldn’t listen. Manuelito—only five years old—was dead, the hospital in their village had run out of medicine for the infection he’d gotten from a broken beer bottle. “Me quedan dos hijos,” Marisol said to Consuela, “los voy a salvar.” Then she walked off with Manuelito’s old superhero backpack—Los Increíbles—and disappeared. Consuela has asked and asked, but nobody in Trinidad has ever heard of Marisol Romero Silva … de Tucupita.
Consuela startles from her sleep. She looks at the clock; it has only been a ten-minute doze but the night has deepened, it seems. She opens the casement windows wide, craving fresh cool air, but no breeze blows her way; craving the lick of sea spray on her cheek, but she is too far from the Gulf. She walks to the door, wishing there was someone she could talk to about Sunil and his offer of freedom, but she cannot trust the other girls; they are all locals.
In the middle of the room she stands, like one of the many little islas, emerald shards scattered in the Bocas waters between Trinidad and Venezuela. Not one of them, no matter how hard they yearn, can reattach what time and tide has carved off—it would be a useless effort: aquí estoy, aquí me quedo.
She calls Mr. Jagroop, who always speaks kindly to her and is always gentle—almost apologetic and fatherly—after he’s finished with her. He answers right away. She tells him Sunil is coming and she’s not sure what to do. She hopes Jagroop will beg her to stay, offer her something more than a life in Icacos baking roti on a tawa, pretending to be normal, pretending to feel things she can no longer feel.
“You talk to the man?” Jagroop asks.
“So how you know he really coming tonight?” She hears submerged laughter in the ripples of Jagroop’s voice.
“His friend … he call me, he say—”
“Girl, don’t worry your head,” Jagroop cuts her off. “I don’t think he coming, nah. But, if he show up, don’t answer, don’t come out your room. Just call me. I go handle it.”
“Okay, okay, yes. I sleep now,” she says, eager to get off the phone. He has made her feel childish and naive, when she’s been trying oh so hard to be the opposite. She decides that whatever happens, she will not call Mr. Jagroop back. She will handle this on her own.
“Wait,” he says, before she hangs up. “I real like how you comport yuhself tonight. You didn’t have to tell me nuttin’. It show you have more class than that guesthouse. You’s a real nice girl, and I been thinking ’bout something lately, and now you help me make up my mind. Tomorrow, when I come across, I going and have a chat with Boss Lady: is high time I take you outta there. You deserve better than that, babes.”
“Oh, yes, yes, Mr. Jagroop,” Consuela says, her heart thumping. “Gracias, Mr. Jagroop.”
She switches the phone off so Sunil and his friend cannot reach her, so they will get tired of calling and just drive off—if they do show up tonight.
She tries, in vain, to accept her own decision and to rest. Sleep is like something she’s lost under the bed and can’t find no matter how much she twists and turns or how hard she squints. After a while, she lies flat on her back, staring at the pink, cotton-candy knot of mosquito netting. She kicks it, begins counting its swings but ends up counting how much more she’ll be able to send to her mother, if Mr. Jagroop sets her up as his mistress. It would make sense of everything: her journey and the death of who she was before Icacos, Marisol’s journey and death in the Gulf, Manuelito’s gangrene, the worries of Mama raising Marisol’s two other boys.
But Mr. Jagroop might change his mind—it’s his right.
He might change tomorrow and never ask Boss Lady, or he might change after a week … two weeks … a month: take her, then get bored or get mad and bring her back.
Milagros, Señor! Consuela prays. Hadn’t she witnessed a miracle happen last year, for Luz, the Dominicana who used to be in the back bedroom: a businessman from Port of Spain bought her, como un perrito en la ventana, set her up in a cute apartment—she’d come back to visit and shown pictures. Luz had even given Consuela her old, dog-eared New Testament, because she didn’t need it anymore. She’d bought a whole Bible now, she’d said, a big fancy one with gold on the edges.
Consuela flicks on the bedside lamp and stares at the half-empty duffel on the floor. The half-Bible is in there. She kneels and feels around in the bag until she finds the book she hasn’t opened in months. A blue rectangle no bigger than her palm. Nuevo Testamento, its cover declares; below those words a little golden diamond, then Salmos y Proverbios, and below those words a golden jar in a golden circle, then: Este Libro No Sera Vendido. Consuela’s soul flinches at the reminder: some things should not be for sale. She flips the pages with her thumb, wondering what to read. What chapter, what verse? What wisdom did the Lord leave behind para una putita perdida? She sandwiches the book, page edges facing her, and digs both thumbs into its flesh as if peeling a tangerine. The book opens and her eyes fall on 1 Corintios 13:13:
Y ahora permanecen la fe, la esperanza y el amor, estos tres;
pero el mayor de ellos es el amor.
Consuela spreads the book wide on the bed, reads the verse again and again to teddy, then clutches the page against her chest as if staunching a mortal wound. She doesn’t have much faith left in Sunil, she barely has any hope at all, in anything. But it’s possible she does have love—Sunil’s love. If he’s broken out of jail to come get her, if he actually shows up, that will be the sign she needs. It doesn’t matter that she’s still angry at him, or that she doesn’t know if she could love him or anyone anymore. If he loves her, she will go with him. She will follow this half-Bible—it worked for Luz, she reminds herself—she will not flip and flop como una merluza gasping on the floor of a fishing boat.


When we pull up outside, the place dark, dark like everybody sleeping.
“Bai, me eh know ho-house does close on a Thursday night?” Stench say, killing the engine.
“Me neither,” I say. “But this one different to them places we know. This place is for big-shot fellas and thing.”
Stench start to mumble ’bout how he money and he prick as good as any man, but I shush him. “Call she, nah?” I say.
The phone ring off while I sitting down here jiggling my leg like it catch malaria. She not answering. He call again but same thing.
“You want me blow the horn?” he say.
“Don’t be a ass,” I say, as I crack open the car door.
With his black skin and red jersey, he look like a vex coral-snake when he hiss, “Watch yourself. Somebody go see you and call police.”
I walk to the gate, then back to the fence—half wall, half chain link with a hedge poking through. I studying the house. If I remember correct, Consuela room is the front one, right there. But suppose they move she to a next one? A year is a long fuckin’ time.
The dark curtain in the front room get split by a shank of orangish light, like from a low-watt bulb or a lamp. Some fellas mighta take it as a sign, a caution light, but my brain take it as: on your marks, get set … and then I gone. Close my eyes, brace one foot on the wall and fling myself against the chain link fence, as if I flinging a net off a boat. The bougainvillea have fingernail and teeth; it grabbing and pulling and ripping into me. I fighting it, not knowing if I going over or through, and then suddenly I land on the other side, in the grass, skin burning like I get rub down with Congo pepper.
A voice say, “Su-neel,” and when I look up, Consuela in the same front window, watching down on me with she hand over she mouth like she shock.
“Baby,” I say, the word come through my nose like a breath. I start to run before I even stand up good, so I moving across the grass like a zandolee on all fours, catching the ground then raising my body, becoming a man again by the time I reach the window.
“Shhh,” she say.
I lift up my two hand as if I back in church with my mother, praising the Lord, and I say, “Jump. I go catch you. Is only a small drop. Don’t frighten.” But I trembling, my whole body hot and shaking like a outboard engine. Suppose she say no? Suppose she don’t love me again? Suppose she have a new big-shot man? But when she throw she leg over the sill, I get my answer. Then she say, “Wait,” and pull back, making my heart sputter, until she reappear and throw down a bag—the same duffel I did give she so long ago. I catch it, then I catch she, overbalance and we fall in the grass, roll and separate like one big, ripe breadfruit that fall and buss in two.


Consuela climbs Sunil’s body like a ladder, then eases herself down the other side, hops onto the pavement. He follows, lands in a squat then springs up and claims her in a bear hug. He smells as he always did, as the rapists in Icacos did, of the Gulf—saltwater, fuel and fish. Her arms flop and she pulls away in a panic. She cannot go through with this: she cannot live with Sunil’s father who sold her, Sunil’s mother who worked her like a slave. This freedom is not free, and she is a pauper who cannot repay Sunil’s love. Her body twitches with readiness to run to the gate, to shake, shake, shake till they let her back in. Then she looks up at Sunil and, in a streetlamp’s ray, sees his eyes, watery, red and pleading. No other man has ever looked at her in this naked way. Some delicate strand of emotion moves, brushing against her heart then floating away, only to return and entwine itself when he says, “Girl, I so sorry. Come, nah? I taking you back home, we going and stay, back by your mother-them.”
Her breath catches at this news. Dios mío! Sunil is offering to leave his country and his family for hers, to become an exile for her, to exchange places. This is the sign the Bible predicted, this is amor … el mayor de todos.
When Sunil opens the back door, she scrambles into the car. He passes her the faded bag and she hugs it, in place of the teddy bear left behind on the bed.
“You alright there?” he asks, and when she says yes, he gets into the front passenger seat and orders Stench to “bun road.” Consuela hugs the bag tighter, closes her eyes and says a silent thank you: Gracias a Dios por este milagro. Gracias a Dios.
They haven’t moved far, though, when she feels the car roll and heave like a boat.
She opens her eyes to the glaring headlights of a Jeep parked on their side of the narrow lane. She ducks into the shade of Sunil’s headrest just as he and Stench curse, What the mudda—and raise their arms against the light. Then, the Jeep swings across the road, blocking their escape.
The Jeep’s front doors open and a male voice shouts, “Police! Police!”
“Sunil,” Consuela bleats, but he’s busy telling Stench, “Reverse, reverse!”
“You mad or what? They go kill we, bai,” Stench screeches.
“I not going back. Reverse,” Sunil insists, grabbing the gearstick. The two friends fight, but two firecracker sounds make them freeze.
The voice from beyond orders, “Put your two hand outside the glass!”
The boys comply, Sunil crying now, moaning, “Oh God, Oh God…”
The same booming voice says, “Open the door from outside and lie down on the ground! Face down! Now!”
Consuela remains bolt upright in the back seat; sweat glues her to the upholstery. Afraid to move, she whimpers a litany of Spanish words, gibberish even to her, as she watches the boys surrender. This is a movie, she is watching a movie, or this is a bad dream … yes, she has had many bad dreams since coming to Trinidad but she always wakes up warm and safe in her whore-house bed. But this dream gets even more scary when Corporal Sharpe, a regular at the guesthouse, steps out from behind the Jeep’s door. He is wearing a bulletproof vest and walking sideways like a giant crab, his gun aimed at Sunil, who is flat on the pavement. The other policeman approaches Stench in the same way.
But what will they do to her? Consuela wails as she glimpses her future: Boss Lady can’t save her now! They will rape her in the police station, they will rape her in the jail, they will swallow her whole in the detention center where they send all Venezolanas, and then they will shit her back out in Tucupita, back with her Mama, back with nothing.
What was it all for? Fue todo en vano?
As if by some spell of brujeria, her door opens, someone reaches in and drags her out, drags her along the pavement, back in the direction of the guesthouse, until she is next to a big black vehicle. Blinded by tears, she doesn’t recognize el demonio until he speaks, “You bitch! You dutty li’l bitch, you! Playing games with me, eh? I go teach you a lesson here tonight.”
Jagroop. He cuffs her face and she falls, her ears ringing with the sound her radio makes when signals fail across the Bocas. Jagroop kicks her, over and over, while she becomes an eel on the gritty pavement. Somewhere behind the shrill noise, Sunil’s voice sputters, “Leave she alone! Leave she! I go kill yuh!” and her body vibrates with the frantic drumming of feet.
“Stop, boy, stop!” Corporal Sharpe screams.
Consuela opens her eyes and foresees what is about to happen. She opens wide her lungs, her heart, her throat, her mouth to warn Sunil, “No! Don’t come!” but her English deserts her and she hears her own stranded cry, “No vengas!” at the exact moment Jagroop’s boot lands on her ribs and there is a loud pop.
Her eyes meet Sunil’s across the cold concrete. He bleeds, and she bleeds too, but she is the one who wishes to die.

1. Commonly shortened by locals to “the Bocas”, this is the collective geographic name for the several small straits between the northwestern point of Trinidad and the Venezuelan coast. However, on most maps it is not translated as plural, but rather as the singular, “The Dragon’s Mouth”.

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