I lived on the island of Dominica from 1999-2001. I go back every couple of years to visit. In 2008, I dog and house-sat for a friend. Enjoy this blog!
Chapter 1: Schools Out
I am floating in the middle of a school of fish. They are about 6” long and pale blue. They are swimming past me in an organized fashion; I could not keep up even if I wanted to. The sea is warm and salty and welcoming. The waves push me up and down and sideways. Below is a coral garden with brilliant blue and purple and yellow and orange and black fish all darting around. Some are no larger than my thumb, none over 5 inches. Loni points out a seahorse, black and white stripes, 6” long, rare. I would not have seen it. Also a halibut type fish, almost invisible against a rock because its so flat and blends in. She points and points; I finally pick it out. That’s a fish?
I see a scorpion fish sitting on the bottom, don’t step on that one unless you want to hang out at the local medical clinic and absorb some adrenaline. Then, a lobster, long antennae waving up and down, hiding under a ledge. I float in one place watching for as long as I can. Loni spots a small octopus hiding under a rock; it pulls shells and little rocks in to hide itself. Again, I never would have seen it. Loni is a professional diver and sees it all.
I would like to be out here for hours, but I go in to shore with my companions. We eat our packed lunches and read our books, get a tan. I am the first to go under a tree to escape the sun.
Chapter Two: Annika’s House
Mosquitoes and no screens. I spray eucalyptus oil on my skin, then OFF. Then I light a smoky ‘coil’ designed to keep the nasty things away. I put on long cotton pants even though it must be 85 degrees at night. I scratch and curse and smear myself with cortisone cream.
I brought my beads and have made three necklaces, a few pairs of earrings, and an ankle bracelet. I thought about leaving the beads down here, but after sorting them for hours (a lot of them spilled into my 50 pound suitcase), I have become fond of them again and will bring them back with me. I brought these same beads and boxes down in 2001, good grief. I remember Bill taping the boxes shut with duct tape, which I will use again to bring them home.
I am caring for two dogs: “Brown” a small brown dog, and “Tati” which means something in some language but I don’t remember what. In English, she is a sweet spotted dog with red allergic eyes. I take her for walks outside the gate. I make them food of chicken “back and neck”, lentils and rice. I eat some of it myself. I sneak them cookies.
Chapter Three: My Shoes Will Never Be the Same
Loni and I are out dancing at a local bar called the “Parakeet”. Not a lot of choices in bars here, and the Parakeet is an old hangout of mine from when I lived here before. Things have changed; very few people are dancing. The women are missing too. This puts a lot of burden on me to say “no no no” to all the guys who want to dance. Why am I here if I don’t want to dance? A good question. So I get up and tell one man I want to dance with him but no touching, like in Eugene. This is not understood. This is not OK. So I resist and resist until finally I am dancing hand and hand with a nice guy who starts to tell me he loves me after the first minute. Groaning, I shout in his ear that he doesn’t even know me. Apparently I will love him after we are in bed together. Groaning again, I give up and dance, then say thank you and excuse myself.
Now we are leaving, and its 2:30 AM. The street is crowded, but our car is down the next side street. We walk down and get into the car. As I am closing my door, a man leans into the space and stops me. He is giving me the same jive talk as did the guys in the bar but then reaches in with his other hand and starts to force the door open. In a flash of insight I understand that he is going to assault me and I pull on the door as hard as I can. He is stronger, forces the door open and grabs my purse strap, which is over my shoulder. I shut my eyes, cross my arms and hold tight to my purse. He pulls me out of the car by the strap. I stumble and fall hard on my knee, hip and then head. The world explodes into red. I get to my hands and knees and start screaming. I really let it out. I am screaming for everyone in the world who is being assaulted, for every time I have been treated unfairly. I scream and scream and scream. I scream “You mother fucker, I’m going to kill you, I’m going to KILL YOU.” Imagine these words drawn out and screamed at the top of my lungs. He is running, running up the street and I start after him, thinking “I really shouldn’t go after this guy.” I stop running but keep screaming as people finally start to come out of their houses and men from the bar, summoned by Loni, swarm up to me and I have to talk. Talk when I want to keep screaming, talk when I want to change my white skirt, now bloody and pissy. Talk when I want to go home to America NOW. Talk when I begin to feel desperate to take off my urine filled shoes. The strangest feeling of all: pissing my underpants, uncontrollably, as soon as my head hits the street, pissing as I stand up, pissing as I scream. Thoroughly and uncontrollably pissed off. We go to Annika’s where I shower, then to the police station where I stand on tiptoe to talk to a cop behind a very high counter. I stay overnight at Loni’s, thank God she is here. For the next two days I am very, very hoarse and have to whisper and squeak. No, he did not get my purse.
Chapter 4: I want to come home NOW:
OK enough with the mosquito bites and smashing cockroaches (only one so far, but a zillion mosquito bites). I am whiny and sick of watching TV, though I have enjoyed medical mysteries and miracles and how things are made-I’ve discovered the Discovery Channel.
The dogs love me and the night crickets are swell, I love their chirping, buzzing, trilling cacophony. I like this cubbyhole I sleep in, a shelf built into the room with a mosquito net-YAY, a fan, a light, a decent mattress and a lap desk. One I gave Loni years ago, borrowed to use with this new lap top computer. I’m disappointed that I could not get on line here, have to go over to Loni’s house. I feel overly dependent on Loni’s good graces, her car and her computer. Then I am irritated at myself for being ungrateful.
My right leg hurts and is black and blue where I slammed into the street during chapter 3. I have a big scab on the side of my knee and I feel fearful when driving through town. I frown at more people and I feel like giving every man the finger. Churlish is how I feel, like a little dog not sure who is good and who isn’t and who therefore growls at everyone, grrrrrrrr.
I fear that I will get home and wish I were back here, that I will have that horrible familiar feeling of dissatisfaction and mild depression. Blech. So I practice smiling and faking it. Faking a feeling of presence and happiness. OOOOOmmmmmmmmm.
I have it so good, I am so grateful for my life and the cast of characters I am moving through life with.
I’m just tired of being hot and sticky and bug bitten.