I know when Kervin is going to visit: the muffler on the old Honda is the first clue. He parks his in the alley by my living room window, a narrow one-lane street with high stone walls on either side. What that means to whomever is in the house is an amplification of the slightest sound: I can hear people breathing heavily as they climb the hill. I overhear every cell phone conversation, every grunt and curse. In the case of Kervin’s muffler, the amplification effect is that of a platoon of military tanks stationed under my window.
The next announcement of his presence comes in the form of the screech of the hinge on the gate—better (and louder) han any doorbell. And finally, the bellowed command, “Miss Judith!” followed by the pounding of a large fist on the front door.
“Hey!” I answer back.
“Whatchu havea car for?” is today’s demand.
“Driving,” I answer.
“Why? You don’t never go noplace. Why you pay for a car?”
I open the door and he enters, dripping rain water on the tile floor.
“Why you waste your money when you never drive?” he asks again, since I haven’t answered the first time he asked.
“Kervin,” I say, “It’s been pouring rain for two days. Where am I going to go?”
“Then why you have it, Miss Judith? You be wasting your money. Could be buying other things wid it!”
“Food. Steaks, maybe. Stuff like that.”
“But if I buy a steak, then I need a car to go get it. “ (I suspect Bert’s for the Best doesn’t have a big inventory of sirloins.)
“No ma’m, Miss Judith. People delivers. You don’t need no car.”
“Kervin, I want a car so I have a choice of whether to drive or not. Choice, Kervin! That’s what it’s all about.”
Although I know he’s been teasing me (at least in part) through this whole exchange, at this point he looks truly puzzled, and it occurs to me that Kervin probably doesn’t understand the word ‘choice’. In this island world, choice isn’t an option: there’s no money, no jobs, limited education opportunities, and The Boat with fresh food only comes once a week. Choice isn’t in the vocabulary of a rocky world surrounded by ocean and ruled by weather.
Which reminds me: I have a load of freshly washed laundry in the machine, ready to hang out to dry.
“How much longer will this rain keep up?” I ask.