From The Troupe, “Forms of Love,” The Second Magician’s Tale
Roland heads for his drums, though his mind stays with Mireille. She is willful and full of surprise, and sometimes her quicksilver nature makes him uneasy, but more often he craves it like an addict. It has been so all the time he has known her. When his mother was ill and his sisters called and said that even his father with his rum bottle was keeping vigil at the house, he had gone home from Paris—planes, trains, and cars, and a solo bike ride the last miles to Goyave. It had not occurred to him that he would stay in Guadeloupe, but his mother wasted slowly and followed him with her eyes. When he went to Pointe-à-Pitre and the Place de la Victoire for the celebration day—la commémoration de l’abolition de l’esclavage—he saw Mireille, her large eyes both virginal and coquettish. In native costume, the skirt tight across her hips, she wore clothes better than any woman in Paris. And her skin. Her skin was the perfect mahogany he had ached for in every moment of his exile.
He had stayed on, sitting at his mother’s side and once at dusk, at her insistence, carrying her outside to the tree where the placenta from his birth was buried. An iguana stared at them from under the branches and Roland teased his mother that she had waited too long to introduce him to his brother. Then he realized she was asleep in his arms.
Mireille was a different sort of challenge. She was young. She was not the daughter of a white Creole—a Béké—but of a black police official, and she was rich anyway. She went to private school. Her parents intended that she go to university in France. Roland, who had spent all his savings on his ticket home and had no work but building lobster traps to place in the sea, was not what her parents wanted. But Mireille was their only child and they had spoiled her. She got what she wanted, and this made Roland a lucky man.
He biked and hitchhiked to see her, the sun blistering paint on the houses, their tin roofs patched blue and orange. First Communion Sunday. Little girls on front porches in white dresses, perfectly ironed. Curtains hung in the open doorways, their shutters turned back. A sudden cloud and breeze blew the heat away, and the curtains moved. Out on the highway, a truck stopped and Roland lifted his bike into the box and sat beside it for the bumpy ride. At Mireille’s house there was a terrasse, not a porch, and Mireille, leaning into him, whispered that her mother thought he was good-looking but not a good catch, and that her father saw she was in love and was therefore suspicious of her judgment. He had called her crazy. Tok-tok.
Guadeloupe © Rosine Mazin