:: by Maureen St.Clair ::
I began writing Sola and Judith’s story in November 2012 as part of the nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) challenge. I wrote 50,000 words in 30 days and gave birth to an evolving first draft that explores the complicated lives of two soul spirit women. Sola and Judith discover the cost of love through the deep conditioned assumptions, attitudes, beliefs and behaviors they and the world around them hold. It is a story of unraveling universal isms within all of us. I am honoured to share a small piece of their story with you. Please send any comments and/or feedback below!
Sola gets tired of Judith but not too tired and never for long. Like the time Judith came to the house with a stack of pictures in a plastic bag looped around her wrist, photos of the island to show her mom. As if Dolma didn’t know what the island looked like after fifteen years. Judith doesn’t bring the photos out right away but places them on the couch with her. She places them like a purse but her purse is on the ground and the photos cradled to her side. Sola guesses Judith wants them close in case her mother needs proof that Judith too is an island girl even though she doesn’t speak nor look like an island girl, well not the island girls her mother is used to. Dolma takes to her right away as Sola predicted. She is bothered that her mother seems to like her white friends more than her black friends even though Judith isn’t white not like the white girls Sola goes to school with. Judith is the color of honey, the kind of honey made by the fairer set of bees. As soon as Sola brings anyone home darker than milk tea Dolma chases them in circles with questions like, “Who’s your favorite player for West Indies? Dolma assumes these friends darker than light know cricket even if their third and fourth generation ancestors rose from the same Big Island Dolma and Sola temporary occupy. “Ok then name me any favorite player on any world cricket team?” And then last chance “Who’s the no. one cricket team in the world?” By this time Sola’s non-white friends are so fearful of getting it wrong again they freeze. Dolma’s dismay is worn in a long stupes and flip of the eyes before leaving the room.
When Judith and Sola first step onto the elevator, Sola is convinced the smell from the apartment will greet them on the first floor, a mixture of fried fish and raw tobacco. Shy liked to mix tobacco with his weed and always more tobacco than weed. Sola feels she is incased in the smells of their small airless apartment. She wears an array of incense oils to cover up the smells, the same oils Judith complains about incessantly.
“I always get a headache when you wear too much oil. It’s too much Sola. You only need a little. It’s not creme you rubbing your skin with you know.”
Sola wants to wipe the island dialect clean from Judith’s tongue, tell Judith to mind her own fucking business. Instead, Sola ignores her like she ignores the cat next door. Sola would rather smell like an incense stick burning then the stink of Shy’s tobacco, the tobacco he insists on smoking knowing Dolma has trouble breathing even on her good days. She is embarrassed by the smell even before they reach the third floor, even before Dolma’s head pokes out the apartment door and fires the first question, “So where you was? You never say anything about staying out all night!”
“Dolma this is Judith. Judith Dolma. And yes I told Shy I was out for the night!”
Dolma doesn’t hear Sola. She has transformed from a worried mother to a woman who wishes she had time to wrap her hair and brush her teeth. “So this is Judith. You never tell me Judith different from the rest of your friends?” Sola has forgotten the smell of fish and tobacco and now worries about her mother revealing her true white obsessed people loving self.
“Mom. What the ass you talking about!”
With her own blush of embarrassment Dolma turns to Sola, “Watch your mouth girl!”
Sola knows this is for Judith because Sola can talk to Dolma any way she wants as long as she doesn’t dis the West Indies team or her mothers’ island politics.
Sola is conscious of the crampness of the flat. Wouldn’t be so cramped she thinks if Dolma didn’t insist on keeping every knick knack bought or given to them over the years this combined with Christmas decorations still up even though it’s mid-August. The bright red chili light strewn over the thickly draped windows and the holiday cards floating on a string strung from one shelf to the next provokes feelings of last year’s Christmas, a holiday one would rather forget. In the blend are pictures of King Selassie, African lions, fists of black power, and outlines of African maps and Queens. The Ethiopian flag on one side the Island’s flag on the next; red, green, gold cloth pinned to the wall; a variety of indigenous masks and tokens scattered throughout the main room. Woven in between Africa is Jesus. Pictures of a white man holding a lamb in his arms, another picture of a black man on a crucifix with blood falling from nails and thorns; proverbs laced in flowers “the LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear?” Collaged on top of this are small statues of domestic animals like dogs and cats, horses and rabbits and a larger statue of pretty white kids, girls and boys with balloons in their hands. Just when you think the colors of the house would cease neon pink and green flowers poke their heads from various corners of the room begging for attention. And in the middle of it all a glass bowl full of red, green and silver Hershey kisses.
Judith doesn’t notice any of it. She is sitting on the couch with her photos tight by her side and Dolma watching her, noticing her, noticing something different but can’t seem to pin it. One thing for certain Dolma does not like the dreadlocks on this white girl’s head and she can’t help but stare at every wild piece of loose hair gathering like branches after a storm. But she is willing to let go because this is the only white friend Sola has ever brought home.
Dolma can’t think of what to ask Judith so she offers her a drink,
“You want to taste some mauby?”
“Oh yes please I love mauby!” Judith says a little too fast a little too excited.
Dolma loves the politeness falling out of Judith’s mouth and she loves that this is the first white person she knows who likes mauby. Judith asks for a second glass and this may mean Judith will never have to take the photos out. And this may mean Dolma will forgive the unkept dreads on Judith’s head.
Sola never mentioned to Dolma that Judith was also from the island and in fact lived there full time when not at school on Big Island.
“Sola I can’t believe you never tell me about Judith oui! Whose your folks? What part of the island you living?”
But before Judith has a chance to answer, Dolma is talking again,
“What happened to you Sola? Out of all your friends this is the one I want to meet. And yes I can see now that you is mixed. Look at your nose that’s a real African nose. And now I see the hair. I thought you fix your hair to look wild so but seems as though you have the African hair too! And I thought you one of those folks who like to sit in the sun but I see now that aint no tan but your natural color!”
Sola waits for Judith to say something. Judith is sitting on the couch, a darker shade of fair honey and an expression that says, what do I say now. Judith knows too well how fragile acceptance can be when it comes to both Big Island and Small Island friends.
“Come on child, tell me where your people from.” Dolma sings
“Well my mom is from here and dad is from the north part of the island, Top Village.”
“Eh eh! What d hell is this. My daddy’s people from up there too you know. What’s your father’s name?”
“So why you so white? Sorry but yous not black that’s for sure. Is your dad red skin? He coolie? Mixed?”
“Nah he black like you. Same color.”
The look on Dolma’s face, from sunshine to grey,
“I aint black child, I more brown than black. Sola is the black one of the family.” Dolma’s eyes roll and a small stupes falls from under her tongue.
“Anyways never mind that. You real come out fair oui! Eh Eh! Well your Daddy’s genes weak!”
Dolma’s belly is shaking with delight when the last comment pops out,
“Eh Eh! Well Your daddy make a white nigga!
Sola grabs two hershey kisses and heads to the door,
“I am gone. You coming Judith?”
“Why don’t we catch the late movie and hang out with your mom a little longer.”
“Well you can stay if you want but I out of here.”
Dolma reassures Judith that she doesn’t need Sola to stay.
Sola knows by the way Judith moves slowly, lazily that she is annoyed. Judith knows too that if she doesn’t follow her there will be conflict and Judith avoids conflict like she avoids her own mother.
“Ok Ms. Dolma. So nice meeting you. Thanks for the mauby. Hope to see you again soon.”
Ya well don’t be a stranger. And you don’t need Sola to come and visit!”
On the way to the theatre Sola decides she wants to go home.
“How you mean?” Judith says.
“What do you mean how you mean?” Sola says hard like candy.
“Why do you do that Sola?” Judith asks in a loud whisper.
“Make fun of the way I talk.”
“I aint making fun. I am not making fun!”
“Just because you work hard at maintaining the Queen’s English Sola you don’t have to put that shit on me.”
“What shit you talking about?”
“As if our Small Island tongue is inappropriate. Less then. Deserving of jokes and critique.”
“What the fuck are you talking about Judith? You always talking about something in your complicated way and then you want to use words that don’t fit!”
“Fit what Sola?”
A few blocks pass before Judith breaks the silence,
“What happened Sola? Ever since we walked into your home you’ve been pissed off.”
“Ya well you damn irritating. ‘Thank you Ms. Dolma’, ‘I love mauby Ms. Dolma’, ‘Yes my Daddy’s people come from the village Ms. Dolma’, ‘Yes I love fish cakes Ms. Dolma.’ My ass you love fish cakes. You told me the other day fish cakes make you sick!”
“Well sorry I irritate you. I want your mom to like me that’s all. What’s wrong with that?”
“Well she going to like you regardless Judith. You is white and she like white folks.”
Sola watches Judith’s shoulders fold in slightly as they walk down the road to the movie theatre. Let her feel shrunk, Sola thinks, it’s not my problem. She always feel she have everything just right. Well she don’t. They walk closer and closer to the theatre. The night air cool and crisp. The wind shaking up the trees. Leaves falling even though they have another month to go before autumn arrives. Sola feels like walking for the rest of the evening. She wants to be alone without the burden of Judith’s shrunken mood. People watch the two of them walking. Always someone is watching them. One white with her hair wrapped in bright African cloth and the other black with hair pulled back tight and orderly.
Maureen St.Clair is an artist, peace educator, and social activist. She holds a Master’s degree in Adult Education with a focus on women’s self and community empowerment through participatory education. St. Clair began painting shortly after completing her thesis, inspired by the strength, courage, and power witnessed daily by women world-wide and in particular Caribbean women. St. Clair has lived in Grenada for the past 20 years and planted her own Grenadian roots with the birth of her daughter, Maya in 2001 with Grenadian partner, Theo St. Clair. St. Clair has always had a passion for writing and in November 2012 she began writing her first novel. You can check her peace and artwork out at www.maureenstclair.com and her writing at www.maureenstclair.blogspot.com