Author: Guede Mazaka
There’s a story she heard, passed down from way north of here, the words still carrying the whiff of ice with them. About a woman, a girl who fell in love and suffered for it. Lost her fingers, like a slave punished for striking one of them whites. But she got power out of it, because her fingers fell into the sea and the sea, it made them into all the animals that let men live on the ice, that send ships of beardless youths up there only to come back wrinkled and hairy as the pelts they traffic in.
Everyone’s got their way of dressing up the truth, Tia Dalma figures.
In Jamaica they talk about the duppies that walk at night, them slack-jawed hollow skulls that get risen up by the doctors because they don’t know better than to do what they’re told. And what they get told is to go and ruin a woman’s life. Maybe by sticking their rotten old cock up between a girl’s legs and putting something in her belly that’ll kill her in nine months, maybe by eating the baby that’s already growing in the belly-bag and leaving a mass of bloody flesh or a knot of snakes. They don’t think much of a woman who can’t make a baby, so they think the trade’s always bad.
His flesh feels firm enough, and it don’t come off in pieces beneath her hands. He’s on the cold side, only sign of warmth she gets being the pulse she can track through his body till he slaps off her hand. She slaps him back; she needs the hold for balance because she damn well always does it sitting on him, chin up and eyes on his teeth. She ain’t going to lie back, and she ain’t going to lie down where he can get at her.
His teeth are yellow and grimy, all hooked and cracked at the edges like the crooked grin of the whale-jaws that she saw once, hung over a tavern in Nassau. He smiles at her, talks to her in a soft caressing voice, and then he swears and shouts like any man would, when reduced by impatience to an animal. His eyes never warm up, though they run slow and easy over the tops of her breast, the line of her neck, the sway of her hips over his chest.
He lets her fuck him, his hands on top of her skirts instead of trying to grope under them like all the others. Sometimes he yanks at her hip when he thinks she’s wasting time. Sometimes he rears back, ready to hit her when she reminds him whose house they’re in. But he never quite does; he’s waiting, and he’s not going to waste his energy on her.
“I’d say you have a taste for this, but I don’t want to flatter myself too much,” he says once, curling his tongue behind his teeth like a hook. “But I do believe I’m a better-looking one than Davy Jones.”
“Aye.” She’ll give him that much. She sees the way his eyes spark, like they always do when Jones comes up. “You’d rather lie abed with him. Man, ain’t you already lost one life to death before you even stopped walking? What you want with another hell on earth?”
He doesn’t listen ever. Just smiles, and looks at the jar of eels she got. “How’d he get his crew, Tia Dalma? His first one, ‘fore he started catching them with the curse. And his ship, who gets thrown up out of the waters like the ocean’s unwanted babe?”
“From a woman,” she tells him, like he doesn’t already know.
“And can you do me the same?” Now he draws closer, angling his arm as if to drop it quick around her waist. It’s not a kiss he’s looking to steal, though.
She smiles with her teeth and not her lips. “I can give you what I give you. It all a woman can do.”
After every time they lie together, she goes down to the water and she lifts her skirts for it, pushing handfuls high up into her till she feels things running out between her legs. The mud in the water turns them to dark, blurry shapes as they flash away from her, carried out towards the sea, and she don’t try to look any closer. She just scrubs hard, wanting it all out, letting the sea take it in keeping for him. It’s all his, and it’ll come back to him when he thinks he wants it, and then he’ll see what the ocean will birth for him.
Sometimes she do wonder who did it for old Davy, who laid back to carry it in their belly to the ocean. If they knew how to turn it away from them, like she do, or if they were just trembling with their legs open. If it came out of them as they sank down through the water towards the sea-bottom, their white face turning over and over in the currents and squirmed away, its tentacles already growing out.
Fingers, she thinks. That part’s wrong. Ain’t never fingers that a woman has to give up. But she can turn it from her, and soon she’ll have Barbossa out of her house with not much harm done to her. That’s what’s got to be done with duppies, no matter how living they feel—they got to be put to rest.
She going to carry his business for a little while, but she ain’t keeping it, she thinks as she washes herself. She cleaning him out of her and her house, and leaving the rest up to the sea.