The Night You Left – Short Story
By: Tammi Browne-Bannister
I watched you walking up the road until I squeezed a mere figment of you with my eyes. Tears trickled down my face. I wanted too, more than anything, go with you but mummy said, “Not today.” She left me so highly annoyed, saying that she had things for me to do inside the house. The woman packed me up with all sorts of chores not to keep my mind off the fact that she wouldn’t allow me to gallivant but to make me want to trade her in for your mother.
Your mother wasn’t a slave driver. She made sure there was a maid to do all the housework. All you had to do for her was go to the market.
Your mother wasn’t as tight as mine either. She made sure your pocket was flushed and you didn’t even spend a bad cent. Something you always boasted – Metna taught me well; a pinch here and there for ground provisions, herbs and spices, fresh fruits and vegetables, meat and fish. And if you stretched Metna’s money the right way, we had enough Elizabeth’s and change left to buy one ten-dollar fried rice, two Orange Fantas and snow-cones from the vendor by the fish market. The very thought of what you could be eating made me resent mum even more. Now I’m stooped over a tub like some blinking washer woman.
I couldn’t help but think of our walks up Scott’s Row before reaching the heart of town – so many windows to shop from with our eyes longing for what we couldn’t afford. We’d drool over the shimmering treasures in velvet boxes and tested almost all the scents in psychedelic bottles. And the latest clothing and shoes…murder! Couldn’t help but sigh aloud every time, “Boy, when I start working.” But you, Brandon, you would say, “I’ll buy you so and so for your birthday,” with the kindest of smiles on your face – you know – the one where the eyes sparkled like the sea in the moonlight. That alone told me you meant what you said. And when you could afford to, you always came through for me. Otherwise you knew a plain old birthday card would suffice. That was the kind of friend you were.
We were tighter than a pair of leggings so much so that that same night when you became sick, I came down with a roasting fever. I guess I was delirious because I thought you were with me in the shower, skinning your teeth at my nakedness. Mummy couldn’t hear you giggling at me and even though I complained to her about your presence, she didn’t seem to care that you were there. And she kept saying to me when I point you out in the corner, “Hush, nuh, gyal! Stop your foolishness. Brandon home in Metna’s warm bed.” But I know you more than she! I know to myself that I smelled Metna’s perfume on your skin. For the life of me, I could never mistake your bony structure, butter skin, those yellow eyeballs that were coloured from sickle and those lean, freckled cheeks either.
We skylarked with one another in the shower while mummy sobbed at my delirium. Every time I talked to you she shoved me under the cold pipe-water. But I didn’t know then that her mind was on you, too. And when the strobe lights from the screaming ambulance flashed through the bathroom window, mummy whispered a prayer, holding my hands in hers. You dissolved right then just the way you came and my fever too, subsided.
I didn’t know then why you came to me at that ungodly, jumby hour when I was naked and rambling except for the fact that you once teased that you kept late nights like Dracula.
Morning came, though, and I discovered the reason behind mummy’s long face and wet stained eyes. Daddy didn’t bawl but his nose ran. You were like a son to them – a brother to me. Little wonder, why I buckled under the news of your passing.
Metna cried too. All those times she nearly strangled you off for one thing or another, like any good mother, was so you could do better than she had in life. She told me so after I lambasted her in my grief.
I know now that you came to say goodbye, to play one last prank, to crack up yourself at my expense before you left. Gwarn!