Living & loving the Caribbean lifestyle, with James Fuller
“Ah see people in de paper gettin’ all sorta long service award. Well, ah been smokin’ 50 year, an’ ah ain’t get nuttin’ from West Indian Tobacco. 50 years is long service!”
The vein on my neighbour Tony’s bald head was pulsing. He may have been in his mid-60s but he hadn’t lost his fire. The most innocuous of news stories could invoke his ire, and this morning it appeared that the paper contained plenty of incendiary material.
“Ah take up smokin’ an start wokkin at 13, became a man one time, the day after meh father dead. But ah ain’t seein’ no long service medal. Is I who payin’ all dem employee. Is I who should be getting blasted long service medal.”
“Morning, Tony,” I said as I descended the stairs. Tony lived in the apartment below mine, and would frequently sit out front, chewing the fat. This morning he was with Roger, an old friend who would drop by two or three times a week.
“Eh, Jamesey, how yuh goin’?”
“Oh, not too bad – but did you hear the neighbour’s music last night? I’ll go and talk to him.”
“I wouldn’t, Jamesey. Dat man does drink a lot.”
“Well, I’ll catch him when he’s sober, then.”
“Well, he kinda mad an’ all so.”
“Well, I’m sure I could still reason with him.”
“He does carry a cutlass wherever he does go.”
“Ah… I guess the music wasn’t that bad, was it?”
If Tony knew I was joking, he didn’t let on. His nostrils had flared at another story. He jabbed at the paper hard with his index finger, as if trying to burst through it.
“Ha! Yuh see dat – yuh see dat, Roger?!” Tony had settled on a piece describing a doctor who was giving talks on diabetes prevention. “Long time dat man was meh doctor, yes. Well, he fatter dan Buddha. Who he tuh give dietary advice? He does waddle so when he walk,” said Tony, rising to his feet and giving a passable impression of a portly penguin.
Returning to his seat, he rejoined the paper at the obituaries. “Ah want tuh have one big heart attack an’ vup – dat is it, yes,” said Tony. “I doh wanna be lyin’ down in no hospital bed for months with people visitin’ askin all kindsa stupidness. ‘How yuh feelin’?’ How ah feelin’? Ah lyin’ in a stinkin’ hospital bed wid all kinda tube stickin’ outta meh. How yuh does tink ah feelin’?! Nah, not me an’ dat, heart attack an vup, boy, heart attack an vup!”
I thought I would try to steer the conversation onto some lighter territory – for fear of Tony having the heart attack he so clearly wanted.
“So, Roger, what are you up to this weekend? Got anything nice planned with your wife?”
“Ah no – we did split up.”
“Yuh split up wid yuh wifey?” asked Tony.
“Oh, ’bout ah year since.”
And that was that. Two men in their mid-60s who had been friends for close on 40 years, and who met three times a week, had just shared what you might think was some pretty major news. When Tony immediately returned to the newspaper, I expressed surprise that he hadn’t known about his friend’s new marital status.
“Dat is de man business,” said Tony, before pointing at another headline. “Oh sweet lord Jesus, would yuh look at dis, Roger. Watch meh now, dis is gonna kill yuh, boy…” said Tony, rolling back in his chair and folding the paper in half.