For six winters in a row I spent a week or two in Jamaica. The aforementioned 50 and 60 year old ladies invited me to their “girl vacation” in a house steps up from a gorgeous white sand beach sandwiched in between Montego Bay and Ocho Rios. To my friends these women became affectionately known as the Jamaica Ladies, ironically as they are mostly white New Yorkers. It was perfect. I would spend my days, reading, laying on the beach, going for a run, swimming in the pool, drinking Red Stripe beer and playing cards for quarters. Since I was happily wed the G-rated lady vacation suited me just fine. And for entertainment we had Billy. He drove us anywhere a scared white lady was nervous to traverse and told jokes all along the way. Usually sexual in nature, Billy’s jokes never seemed to get old to him or us. It was all a part of that lush, stunning, struggling island. All of these images came flooding back when I started reading The White Woman on the Green Bicycle by Monique Roffey, set in Trinidad. Roffey’s aging couple, George and Sabine have made this fighting island their home, keeping their British tea habits and wavering between caring and not caring about local politics. In this scene George has stopped off to say hello to his mechanic.
“Yes, man. Kiss your woman every day and keep her sweet and she will always be a treat.”
“You’re a poet, too, Mr. La Pompey.”
“Just La Pomepy, La Pompey,” he corrected. “Yes, man, ah does write a little verse from time to time.”
“And your favourite poet, do tell.”
“Yes, man. Learn him well in school and ting.”
“And what poems did you learn?”
La Pomepy smiled, only three teeth showing before his face went calm and serious. He studied George with careful attention, his eyes a little wet. “Shall I compare de to a summer’s day?”
La Pompey mock-wooed George through the car window. “Dou art more lovely, man, yes, man -an’ more tem-per-ate!”
George wanted to kiss him.
La Pompey slow-winked. “Nice-eh?”
“Poetry say everytin.”
“Summer, man.” La Pompey grinned. “Summer all de time in Trinidad. Heat in de place. Heat an’ sunshine.” He glowed, his face like a big sun.
“I like that poem.”