Waltham, Mandeville Jamaica (3)
Before Mary returned to Jamaica, she called Aggie and told her she was coming home, Aggie was excited to hear the news and asked Mary to come and visit her in Mandeville.
The morning was lazily dragging on, and Mary had not decided what she was going to do for the rest of the day, suddenly she thought of driving to Mandeville and visit Aggie, she picked up the phone and called her, Aggie was overjoyed to hear this, it had been over thirty years since they saw each other, “come on down and stay as long as you can” said Aggie.
Mary packed her bags with enough clothes for an indefinite visit, took her Bhagavad Gita which she never travelled without, she also took some goodies she brought down from America for Aggie.
She backed the rented car out of the driveway and started the drive to Mandeville, besides the trip from the airport in Montego Bay to St, Mary, it was the first time Mary was going for a long journey since she came back to Jamaica.
Passing by the Retreat Cametary, she quickly abandoned the thought of going to see her parents’ graves.
Content brought back many fond memories to her, the bakery where she used to buy “hot bulla cake” was no more; she was told that Paul Chin was dead.
Mass Butty tire place where her father used to get his tires pumped up was no more, and Mass Butty died a long time ago.
For sentimental reasons she stopped at the now-abandoned Retreat Primary School, got out of the car and walked around the building, what used to be called the “cook kitchen” was no longer there but the base of where the boy’s “pee-pee hole” used to be was still there.
She walked on the old cricket pitch and reminisced on when she used to watch Berty Henry “lik six ova de tap a de school.”
Mary continued down the Content road to pick up the road from Port Maria to Ocho Rios, she was tempted to divert and drive up to Balmoral Heights to see what it was like now, but she continued.
The Tower Isle Hotel was now called Couples; she did not notice that on the way from the airport to St Mary, passing by where the Prospect Ice Factory used to be brought back mixed memories to her, she remembered when she used to drive down there with her father to buy large blocks of ice to be used for his parties on the estate.
The San Souci Hotel was now called “Couples San Souci ” she wondered if the turtle was still there trapped behind the rocks.
She took the road bypassing Pineapple Place and went into Ocho Rios where she stopped to fill up her car with petrol.
She was amazed at how much Dunns River Falls had changed since she was last there as a young girl.
She stopped under the shade of a Poinciana Tree to study the map so that she could find the turnoff at Runaway Bay which would take her through Browns Town and on to Mandeville.
Mary arrived in Mandeville in the late afternoon; Aggie was waiting close to the entrance of the Manchester High School, after much hugging and celebration, they continued up Perth Road then turning onto Waltham Road which took them to Aggie’s house in Waltham.
For the first time since she returned to Jamaica Mary felt happy and carefree, Aggie was still single and was living by herself; they spent almost the whole night reminiscing about old times, Mary gave Aggie more details about her time in the Orient and Europe then she gave to Amarte.
Aggie was fascinated about Tibet and India, she asked numerous questions and wanted details about Buddhism and Hinduism, Mary was pleased to oblige because she had never really spoken much about religion since she returned from the Orient. She introduced some yoga exercises to Aggie, who was excited to try them.
Aggie was now a member of the Baha’i Faith; she had several Baha’i books in her library, Mary smiled when she remembered the Seventh Day Adventists referring to the Baha’i Faith as “the latest attempt by the devil to deceive the world” they stayed up until the wee hours of the morning before they went to bed.
In the night Aggie heard Mary screaming in her room, she got up and rushed to the room when she opened the door she saw that Mary was having a bad dream or what some people call a nightmare.
Mary woke up at 10.30 the following morning, but Aggie was still asleep, after doing some yoga stretches she walked over to Aggie’s library where she noticed a book called “Gleanings From The Writings Of Baha’u’llah” she opened the book started looking through it, some highlighted texts caught her eye, and she read them, “The beginning of all things is the knowledge of God and the end of all things is strict observance to whatsoever hath been sent down from the empyrean of the Divine Will that pervadeth all that is in the heavens and all that is on the earth.”
Mary heard Aggie taking a shower in the bathroom; she turned to another page with highlighted texts.
“Know ye that trials and tribulations have, from time immemorial, been the lot of the chosen ones of God.”
She had never thought of herself as a “chosen one“, but her life certainly has been full of trials and tribulations and the spiritual fulfilment she craved she had never found.
Knowledge and enlightenment she did find, peace and tranquillity she found in Buddhism and Hinduism, sexual fulfilment she found with Amarte, but there was still this emptiness which nothing that she ever experienced was able to touch.
While she was waiting for Aggie, she found another page with highlighted texts “Night hath succeeded day and hath succeeded night and hours and moments of your lives have come and gone and yet none of you hath for one instant consented to detach himself from that which perisheth, bestir yourselves, that the brief moments that are still yours may not be dissipated and lost. Even as the swiftness of lightening your days shall pass and your bodies shall be laid to rest beneath a canopy of dust, what then can ye achieve, how can you atone for your past failure?”
This was very powerful, and it got Mary’s attention, she always wondered what her purpose in life was and exactly what she should dedicate her life to.
Did she want to be Amarte’s wife and bear his children, and even more importantly, did he want to be her husband, he had never told her so, they had never discussed marriage.
Considering the struggles they had during the days of her father, she was sure that there were some indelible scars in Amarte’s memory which he was not able to erase.
When she came back from the Orient, he was different and hardly communicated with her; he was always ready for sex, lots of sex but always reticent and reserved, she found it strange that he did not want to tell her the name of the university where he was going to work in California.
He had not contacted her since she came back to Jamaica, but she had not attempted to contact him either.
Were they drifting apart? was there someone else in his life? For her part, she had no interest in anyone else.
At 48 years old she was not sure she would ever have children if she and Amarte went their separate ways she was convinced that she would remain single, she resented the thought of making love to another man.
“OK jump in the shower and get ready” Aggie called from across the hall, “after breakfast we are going to YS Falls’.
Aggie was unprepared for the breakfast situation because Mary was now a vegan, “no stress” Mary told Aggie, and she started to steam spinach with onions and garlic to which she added cucumber, tomatoes and whole wheat bread, and her breakfast was ready.
Soon they were going down Spur Tree Hill, and Mary was enjoying the views down the valley, to the left into Alligator Pond and straight ahead into Santa Cruz.
This was Mary’s first time driving through Bamboo Avenue. She loved it, they thoroughly enjoyed YS Falls, swimming in the pools and swinging on the ropes like Tarzan.
On the way back to Mandeville Aggie noticed that Mary was somewhat distant and uncommunicative, considering the screaming in her sleep the night before and the sudden mood swings, she realized something was troubling her friend but she did not want to say anything about it.
That night as she had been doing for many years whenever she was troubled in mind, Mary sat in deep meditation, a swoon came over, and she lost consciousness to time and the present, her spirit was taken into a realm beyond the senses.
There she witnessed a dialogue between a teenaged youth and his ageing father.
“Speak to me my son, speak to me of the strange land you have visited,” said the old man to his son, the youth replied “I have sojourned in the land of the grand illusion, where I saw people waiting for the light of a paper moon hanging from a painted sky, I saw women weeping over the death of their children before they were conceived.
I saw miscreants masquerading as holy men enriching themselves by stealing from the credulous in the name of God.
I saw rivers of blood flowing through cities of death, while people chanted a freedom song as they tighten the shackles to their fetters.
In a park I saw lovers embracing the ghosts of their dreams, I saw children swimming in rivers of decadent customs and traditions which led to a sea of darkness, I saw mighty hegemonic forces trampling on the heads of the weak and defenceless.
I saw world leaders of oppression wearing the garments of law and authority carrying out acts of terror in the name of liberation and freedom.
The youth for a moment was silent, and then he continued, “many more strange things I have seen farther, which the tongue cannot utter with clarity, much have I learned from the things I saw, and now life bids me depart for the unknown.”
The youth knelt in prayer for a few moments, then he arose and said: “Father long are the years we have spent together, you have been a good father to me, I thank you for all that you have done for me but now the hour has come when I must travel a different path”.
The older man looked at his son but spoke no words as tears flowed from his eyes. “Weep not for me father,” said the young man “life is an ever-changing drama, all relationships are as evanescent as the dewdrops which fall upon the grass in the night time but disperses with the morning and the coming of the sun”.
“Observe my father how the birds care for and nurture their young in the nest until they can fly away and fend for themselves”.
“Behold the river which flows through our grove, every day we see this river, and it looks the same but is it, my father? To our eyes, it seems the same, but the water is ever-changing, ever it refreshes and re-creates itself, the water in which we bathed yesterday will not be the same water in which we will bathe today or tomorrow.”
“As day replaces night and night replaces day, so the cycle continues, the years of your youth have slipped silently away from you my father, in what seems like but yesterday, were you not like me, a young man in his prime”.
“When you are challenged by your mortal frailty, do you not wish that you could recall those years of youth to rush to your aid? But alas my father, a thousand times alas, those years are irretrievably gone behind you”.
“You weep for me father because you love me, love is a worthy thing, but it should never incarcerate the freedom of our spirits, he who would bind another with the chain of love, is failing to honour the quintessence of life itself, which is “the freedom of the spirit.”
The youth paused for a moment, and the old man turned his eyes towards the heavens and said “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh, blessed be the name of the Lord, he is the creator of our souls, he leads us through light and darkness, have mercy upon us O Lord.
The Lord is the father of knowledge and wisdom, deliver me from the darkness which the age of ignorance has placed before my eyes”.
The youth embraced his father and said, “May the glory of eternity shine upon you and give you peace”.
He then bowed and slowly walked away, the old man after much contemplation disappeared from view.
Mary awoke from her swoon and went to lay upon her bed to await the loving arms of slumber, but slumber was long in coming.
Her thoughts wandered back to the youth and the old man, was she not in many ways like that youth who believed in what he like Amarte called “the freedom of the human spirit”.
Was she running away from herself, the painful memories which haunted her and the man she loves? Was that why she left Amarte in America and went to the Orient and did not communicate with him, was it that she feared the secrets from her past buried so deep in her mind she could not love him the way he deserved to be loved.
Was she going to lose Amarte because of her troubled past which has tormented her from the days of her childhood, how could she share with him all the lurid secrets she has been hiding from everyone?
In her heart, she repeated the words of Kahlil Gibran.
“When you part from your friend, you grieve not, for that which you love most in him, maybe clearer in his absence as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain”