I shook my head and smiled and was about to continue on, but something about the way she made her pitch made me reconsider. Her face lit up. It was late in the afternoon so it could not be that I was her first customer, at least I hoped not.
“What you getting girlie?” she asked. I must admit that her calling me ‘girlie’ made me feel young; I smiled.
That was my first meeting with 50-year-old Sattie (not her real name) who travels many miles six days a week to sell at Bourda Market.
“Sometimes I leave home since 2 o’ clock,” she said easily, almost inviting a conversation. “It nah easy but I gat to make a living. You know is more than 30 years I doing this? Dah is how I mine me children and dem all big and suh now; I still have to live.
“Some people does think because de children dem big I must stay home and dem must mine me but I don’t want be no burden to me children. I still strong so I does come out and sell.
“Me husband dead some years ago, and now is just me alone but I gat to live and sometimes I does even help out with me grandchildren. I come out early and go home late. I does buy from people right here, dem does come and sell wholesale and me does buy and then sell back.”
She switches as she spies a passing prospective customer: “Come and see wah me get hay, a gat everything.”
“How much bora you want? And you ain’t want pumpkin to? What about sweet peppa?” Sattie cajoled the woman who was purchasing bora from her. She fired off the two last questions even as she placed the $200 bora in a plastic bag.
“You does have to tek it as it come you know,” she turned back to me, fixing her head tie as she placed the $200 in her apron pocket.
“But why do you have to come six days a week?” I enquired.
“Man wah a guh stay home and do? People does wuk six days a week ain’t it? I does stay home on Thursday. I does use dah day fuh me self you know? Do me lil house wuk and so and catch me rest, but only if I sick I does stay home any other day,” she said.
As she spoke I made my purchases and she replied even as her eyes kept looking for other customers.
“And you know something? Is hay all me friends dem deh, right hay in de market. Because when I lef home is early in de morning and then I go back late in de night, and that one day I does stay home is too much to do. Is not dat me ain’t get friends around where a living but a does gyaff more with dem people round hay,” she said, giving more reasons why she spends most of her days in the market.
“But when do you spend time with your children and grandchildren?” I enquired
“Well dem does wuk to you know, and sometimes dem does come right hay in de market to see me. But sometimes when is holiday and suh we does get together. And two a dem and dem children still living with me so a does see them,” she answered.
“Look de market now is me life. Is since me young, young I coming to de market and selling. It was me and me husband and when he dead a say a guh stop sell. Then a say how a guh live? Me children dem in rich and a does want me own money. So me still coming and sell.”
“Wah you buying, I gat everything,” she said to another prospective customer and this one spent $500 on items.
“Me children dem grow up in de market,” she continued. “Because I use to had to bring dem hay when dem small and when dem start going to school is people use to help we out and when dem get big enough a start leaving dem alone and de big ones use to look at the little ones.”
“So would you say you had a happy life?” I asked her, switching the direction of the conversation.
“Happy life? Well all me children grow up and healthy and suh. None a dem ain’t dead and all a dem went to school. I wuk hard in me life. It was wuk, home and children dah was me life and me had me husband to. I just use to be happy when we had enough to eat and we could send dem children to school and suh,” Sattie said.
“Is not like me use to go out and have fun and suh. Girlie, when you get a family all dem things you does gat to forget. I marry young, since I come out of school and we start get children right away so me life busy from de time we marry.
“And me husband, he was not in dem love thing. Once he get he food and he clothes and suh wash and de house clean dat was enough. And you know in de night once [she paused] man you know wah me talking about.”
It was obvious that Sattie was referring to the sexual intimacy she shared with her husband but was too shy or embarrassed to say it.
I decided to clear the air. “So in the nights once your husband had sex he was happy?” I asked.
A visibly surprised Sattie only said, “Well you know de thing. Dah was me life really so I think it was a happy life. At least me husband never knock me or suh. Once I do wah he want everything was good.”
She then pointedly began to hawk her wares: “Me gat the bora. Me gat the sweet peppa hay.”
I felt I had overstayed my welcome and I wished Sattie well and moved on. But for many hours, I remained preoccupied with Sattie’s interpretation of a happy life.