“This is me business, I been selling like this for years, you know how long. I don’t mek nuff, nuff money but it does bring in money and it does help me out a lot. And me does give credit but dah does bring bad business but me gaffo try.”
The words of a roadside vendor on a busy thoroughfare. The business to which she referred was a small glass case perched on a table underneath a modest tent. Next to the glass case are a few bottles in which an array of confectionary is on display. I would often purchase mints from her stall and the morning I decided to engage her, she was alone at the stall. There were times when her husband would be present with her and other occasions when it would just be him.
“I have this business long and you would see how much people does come with dem children lunch kit and buy snack for them,” she shared.
“I does feel nice, you know? I does wake up since three o’clock and mek the lil snacks and when dem come buy and me hear dem children asking fuh wah dem want it does please me heart,” she said with a sense of pride.
“Sometimes a does get lil bad business because you know a few people does credit and den like me don’t see dem back. Because dem does come in car and suh, but den them does stop drive hay. But plenty a me customer does come right round hay and me does sell to dem. My husband use to wuk but I use to help send we children to school with this same stand hay you know.” I heard more pride in her voice.
At the mention of her husband, the conversation switched.
“He does help sell tuh, because right now he don’t wuk. He get big now so sometimes when me have work to do he does come out and help. It hard fuh he now because he use to wuk everyday but now no wuk and is like he don’t know wah to do with he self.
“Sometimes me don’t mind, but to tell you de truth sometimes like I just want be by meself. When we children a grow up and them use to go to school and he gone wuk is me alone use to be home. It use to be lonely but then like I get to like it and now dem children get big and dem gone and is just me and he alone,” she said almost sadly.
“Dah is why sometimes I does lef he alone to sell and me inside doing something else because me like not accustom to deh with he all deh time and like I don’t know how to explain it but like I just want space, you know life I want me space,” she said, almost appealing to me to understand.
“And in de night is like the same thing because he does tek over the TV and I does just go in me bed early. Sometimes I does vex because I get shows me want watch but I don’t want argument. In the day most times I does get to watch me Indian soaps and suh, it ain’t really gat nothing else to do and when me does do me lil wuk I does watch TV.
“Me been always deh home. I use to plant me lil kitchen garden and sell and then me get [the stall] but me never wuk nowhere so me custom deh home. But like he does get haunted sometimes, like you does see he but he don’t say nothing and me don’t know wah to say.” Almost on cue her husband appeared.
He said nothing, but I sensed he was enquiring about my prolonged presence at the stall. She knew he was there, even though she never turned around but she went quiet. I decided to pay for the mints then and he left.
“You see,” she said, speaking more quietly now, “when two people marry for long you does like get fed up. Me ain’t mean like I hate he or something, but sometimes like me don’t able like. If he sick or something happen me know me guh cry but sometimes I wish he can go on a holiday or me can go somewhere because like…” she stopped without completing her thought.
There was a long silence. Time was running out on us because I knew I had to leave to get my children to school and it was as if she was racing against her husband’s return. I sensed she wanted to say more but was not sure how to put it into words. The conversation began with her business but I knew she wanted to share more. I saw it in her eyes but was not sure how to get her to open up and as I said time was against us.
“As soon as we marry we get children you know and is like we always had somebody in de house, but now fuh years is just me and he. He does be a good company sometimes but then like he heself does get grumpy, because he don’t wuk and like he lil sickly now,” she continued after a while.
“But you know girl dah is life, me know people who get it worse. At least he don’t drink and smoke and suh and he don’t go out too much but me wish he would go sometimes, you know get friend and suh. Me know people who get husband who does never deh home and dem does tell me I lucky. A lucky, nah girl?” she asked.
I hesitated, then nodded even though I was not sure. I felt she wanted me to say that she was lucky.
At that moment a prospective customer came up and I knew it was time for me to go, it was getting late.
The conversation was not over. But on two other occasions when I stopped to purchase mints, it was not continued. One morning it was just her husband there and the next she seemed not to recognise me and my attempt to engage in small talk proved futile. Maybe she had said enough, maybe not. Maybe she was told not to talk. I may never know.