“Hey, hello. Hello? Miss? Heya, hello.”
I look around and see no one, just the narrow road stretching along the shore, winding through the village. And across it, the little village; a tiny seafood restaurant, several pretty cottages, and a cluster of ramshackle buildings with weathered siding and curving roofs.
But there’s no movement anywhere, and I perch myself back on the rough seawall and turn again to the still, turquoise sea.
“Miss. Hello? Miss?’
Turning again, I look down the road and see the man, half hidden among some sea grape bushes,
“Hello?”He calls again. “Are you the lady from the hill?”
“Hello. Yes, that’s where I live.”
“Could you please come here a moment? Please?’
I walk through the sand toward him, keeping the seawall and the road between us. He comes to meet me, stretching out his hand.
“Hi. I’m Donovan, owner of the Fish House. Hello.”
“Donovan? I’m Judith.”
“Pardon the fish smell. I am making conch salad for tonight. I just sold some to your friend, Miss Lynn.”
I knew that: Lynn had discovered the little restaurant and brought home some wonderful salad, a perfect lunch for a hot, still Bahamian day. I tell Donovan how much we enjoyed his salad and that we had planned to buy lobster for dinner. He is pleased, and his dark brown eyes smile.
“I be happy to cook for you,” he says. “Happy to. Happy to do anything for YOU, fact is.”
It occurs to me that this is more than an offer to grill lobster or chop conch. Been a long time since I’ve had an offer quite that direct. I feel like I’m in junior high, the old feeling of liking it and not wanting this to be happening.
“So how’s business?” I ask.
Donovan tells me he is really a builder, the number one occupation of most young Bahamian men…and many women, too. He was born in Nassau, where his children and grandchildren live. He’s 44, he says, and came to Eleuthera to work on one of the resorts being built last year—one of the many development jobs which are now stalled throughout the Bahamas due to the current economy.
“I met this woman, see, in Rock Sound, and she had a restaurant there. She closed it and we moved here to open this one and try to make a living. Business is ok. Not great, but ok for now.”
He says he’s a pretty good cook, and people like his food. I tell him that if our lunch was any indication, he’s a wonderful cook and should do well. Donovan replies that he thinks everything will be ok but it’s hard work, running a restaurant. He looks at me with soulful brown eyes. “I need to relax,” he says.
And in case I don’t get it: “I could relax with you.”
I get it. I get it. “What about your girlfriend?” I ask.
“Out. She had to go out.” Pause. “And I don’t know if she’s my girlfriend, anyway. There’s nothing, how you say, ‘romantic’ there.”
“Cause she’s always tired. Always. And I am always ready. I am ALWAYS ready.”
“No wonder she’s tired,’ I say.