Frozen in place, the raging heat was no longer a concern to me. Rivulets of sweat formed streams that tattooed the back of my thin cotton t-shirt. Twenty-seven minutes had passed since the gorgeous man in the dirty bomber jacket and ripped, stained corduroys handed me the box. Such a tiny, insignificant thing with so many heavy ramifications.
I was late for work but time didn't matter. One word- he only said one word that sparked so many questions, "Don't." His dark eyes seemed to burrow through the very fabric of time. He silenced my ability to vocalize any questions with one finger to his lips. That's when I saw it- his watch. The red strap matched the color of the box in my hand. The face was hard for my brain to conceive, but once I stopped concentrating on it, it snapped into place. The clear bubble face held what looked like a golden ball of ribbon that kept folding in on itself. The chime of a thousand clocks in and out of sync. I knew what he'd given.
Random passers-by either shoved by me or gave me wide berth. It was like none of them witnessed the exchange. The chimes grew louder and the tiny box suddenly weighed a ton. It pulsed in time to my heart beat. The chimes turned to the old familiar song. The old folk drums grew louder, my breathing grew heavy. My heart made a slow, difficult ascent to my throat only to be stopped by the ball of emotion. The red box was suddenly littered with the golden swirl patterns from her favorite red caftan. Fat tears blurred my vision as the bow started to unravel. An achingly sweet burning started in the pit of my stomach and I could smell her. The lovely smell of Rêve D'or.
I fell to pavement. The hem of my ripped cut-off jeans rode up leaving the skin of my knees burning from the pain of the harsh impact. I didn't care. I needed to hold onto her. My fingers cramped, my shoulders convulsed. All I had to do was say her name and she was mine again. The moment was mine again. I could feel the drums now. I heaved, hunched over and was ignored.
Convulsing from the sobs, tears blended with sweat and the burden of my heart poured onto the scorching pavement. The breeze from that day hit me square in the chest and for a moment I was suspended. The pain subsided, a hand closed over my eyes and I could hear the ticking again. The drums faded and the heat returned. The box was plucked out of my hands. I felt lighter than I had since she'd gone.
He whispered in my ear but it was her angelic voice, free of fear and replete with peace. "M'ap vole."
The rare cool breeze flowed through the open windows, dancing playfully with the parted ivory gossamer curtains. The loud sounds of fast cars passing on the street below blended perfectly with the pass of the fast paced Haitian folk music that surrounded me. I was enveloped in a cocoon of beating tambou, maracas, tambourines, and various horns. My brown, ashy feet, tapped out the rhythm of the drums against the windowsill.
Beads of sweat cooled against my skin, at the first touch of the passing wind. The sweat soaked neckline of my green tank top, pasted to my chest, suddenly sent a wave of chills through me. The beat of the tropical drums picked up and the traffic that traveled beneath the blazing sun almost struggled to keep up. “Ti pa, ti pa,” the man’s distant voice beckoned.
The combined voices responded, “Voye yo jwe monopoli.” My heart thundered in my chest, the blood singed the walls of my veins. My feet tapped out the vicious, unrelenting rhythm. Gotta keep up. The thought spilled unconsciously through my mind.
My eyes slid closed of their own volition as I stood up; feet planted solidly against the bare dark stained bamboo floors. Bare, slim shoulder shook as my body entered a trancelike state. Euphoria—a wave of flames and ice— burrowed itself into every corner of my soul; joy spread like a welcomed disease through my limbs.
A wildfire raged inside me; my heart a frantic drum. “Gade grosseur kravat yo,” the man’s distant voice called again.
“Voye yo jwe monopoli,” the chorus responded again at a fevered pitch; their answer to his pleading calls never changed.
“AYITI AP CHANJE!” His wife cried out with finality; justification coated the words like fresh, heavy wet cement. With arms spread open, I spun round and round, the long ruffled layers of the white skirt spread wide and circled my legs as my feet still tapped the furious rhythm against the floor boards. The horns blared louder now, I couldn’t tell if it was the traffic jam or from the stereo downstairs. The bracelets of my anklets and bracelets clinked, with every wicked revolution. First the keyboard solo, followed by the emphatic electric guitar, and finally the steel drums.
“Pou la vie sa chanje….revolision sa ye!” The singers voice flowed clearly through the floor; the beat of the music pulsing beneath my feet. Sweat flowed freely down my back soaking into the thick black braid of hair that hung between my shoulders. “Ane sa se tout bon vre…ane say pa pa pa vin blofe” My head fell back on my shoulders as I threw my arms in the air. I had to fly as the song promised. My breathing was labored; I worked my lungs until I was sure they would collapse from sheer exhaustion. The curtains flowed all around me, pushing me to go on; a private audience.
Faster! The drums urged and I obeyed. The calf muscles in my legs tightened in protest. My lungs begged for mercy, and my heart cried out in desperation. Suddenly, there was silence and my knees crumpled beneath me; my legs tingled from with elation of the instant sleep. The air from the cool breeze continued to flow around me plastering wisps of loose black curls to my face. My chest rose and fell violently as the air flowed unrestricted to my abused lungs; released from the music’s captivating spell. Silence now invaded the space of the room; even the traffic seemed at a standstill.
The curtains ceased their provocation; lying still against the lavender walls. Traffic outside my window regained its usual angry flow. The infamous heat of a Miami summer afternoon, invaded the confines of the bedroom; heat spikes pricked beneath my damp flesh, irritating the hell out of me.
Fierce rounds of applause filled my ears as I looked around to saw Manmi and her sisters, smiling in the door of my room; eyes shining with their obvious approval.
I sat still as a stone for a moment until I felt their joy seep through my skin like a warm beam of light.
“Men baton Moise la, ” My grandmother, Dada’s voice cut through the crowd at my bedroom door like a knife through soft butter. A heavyset woman in her late mid-sixties with long black hair infused with gray, parted the crowd with her cane; her long red, silk kaftan flowing around her. She always wore red; she claimed that it was her color. Her cane was really an old, oversized walking stick that her father had carved for her mother when she was a little girl. Dada always had a flair for the dramatics; she didn’t need the cane, she just thought it made her look cool. She’d only recently taken it down from the attic. The new Star Wars movies were her obsession now; and she claimed that the cane made her feel like a Jedi Master.
She held out her arms to me; my aching, protesting feet carried me to her anyways. My lungs still spread their walls, desperately making room for much needed air. Flames of joy and elation still lapped at my exhausted body. Excitement flowed from her like a bright light pulling us all in and blinding us. Laughter surrounded me, full, rich, and accepting. Wise, maple syrup colored hands gripped my shoulders and held me away from her as she looked me in the eyes. Her black eyes twinkled with all the gaiety that she held within like a baited breath, them the matriarch of my mother’s clan declared, “Mwen paka fouti rele ou baton Moise enkor. Ou resi, vreman, oun femme Avignon!”