There was not a summer before Roger could remember that was so hot! Mind you, Roger thought, summer in these tropics was always hot and early. It seemed each year that the one before was not quite as hot as the one that is present. Global warming? Who knows? After the rains stopped in mid-May, this June was a scorcher.
It was around 9.15 am when Roger stepped into his car for his weekly drive to the resort town of Ocho Rios, and as he stepped up from the driveway opening the car door, a blast of hot air from the enclosed vehicle greeted him. Gingerly he reached into the car, primed the accelerator pedal, and started the car with the air-conditioning on: The engine of the Honda Accord roared to life, and the air started blowing out, still as hot as the desert wind. Pressing the open window button on the door’s control panel, he opened all windows, and stepped back for a few minutes, allowing the interior of the car to cool down somewhat. When a suitable time passed he sat on the driver’s seat, and turned the windows up. That was much better, he thought, though he had to hold the steering wheel tenderly, as it had not yet lost all its heat. While cooling down he realized the back of his shirt was already wet with sweat. Gradually the car became more comfortable and he carefully reversed out of his driveway, moving slowly down the street.
Could he remember a summer like this? Not that easily, though there was that summer in St. Maarten, he recalled, when he was still in active sales. He was traveling down island that July, and most of the island was low brush, coral rock, and sea sand. The busy streets were rocky and poorly paved, and save for the shade of an occasional tall building there was no respite from the dusty heat. Of course when stopped in one of the stores to see a client he welcomed the air-conditioning provided. Some of the shops however just had ceiling fans. What made it was worse was that he was already de-hydrated from drinks he had last night with that Haitian voodoo doctor. Remember him? He thought to himself, what a racket that guy had!
He turned the car unto the dual highway that led out of the city and he was well on his way out of town. In front of him the air swirled up into the air, and the mirages appeared in the road like watery streams. The trucks and cars growled and squealed all around him like monsters from hell, spouting fire and dust and smoke.
Dr. D. Johnson, the Haitian, he recalled was a tall man, with a straw hat, well dressed in a dark tie. He was in his late forties, slightly graying, but looked well for his age; a black man, well spoken and polite. They were having gins and tonics, with lime, and as they were introduced Roger thought he would ask the doctor about his practice. Roger never met this D. Johnson before, but he had been pointed out as a “voodoo” or “obeah” man. And here he was at the Holland House, a favorite place for visiting businesspersons, having a drink at the lobby bar. Roger bought him a drink and they got to talk about people and business, and eventually Roger steered the conversation round to the Doctor’s practice. Dr. Johnson laughed and said:
“The power of suggestion is not difficult with ignorant people. You find out their problems from relatives and friends, and share with them their intimate fears and desires.
Then, you advise them what is practical and appropriate. It is the same problems with many persons. Their sweetheart is unfaithful, or they are unable to get married, illnesses, real or imagined. Sound sensible advice from years of experience in the practice does the trick. And if you mix some potion and give them some amulet or charm, what does it matter as long as they believe? I use an office and from that office I give advice for a fee. Isn’t that what psychologists are doing? Well it works the same way with me!”
What a revelation Roger thought, a non-diploma practicing psychologist dubbed a voodoo doctor! But he left the bar early and headed to bed with many gins under his belt. And here he was today in the hot summer air, on a dusty street, with the cooling sea a stone’s throw away, the roar of cars and people passing, parched and dry from last night’s drinks. He stepped into a deli and had two icy cool bottles of apple juice before he felt his hydration level at a tolerable point. The day of that summer was very hot, but did the cooling apple juice mark it in his memory? He could never forget.
His car made a turn over the brow of the hill and in the distance he could see the horizon, a study in green and blue of the hills and the Caribbean Sea, which formed a link between two tapering green mountains. He thought of the coming sea and hoped he might just take a dip before going to work. But, the thought ran through his mind, that nights by the seashore can also be very hot, as the summer seas retain the day’s heat until well past midnight. Then he remembered the night he and Heather made their last date.
Heather was in between Muir and himself, a triangular relationship that went one way at first and then the other way, and eventually everyone lost. She liked David Muir but he was married on the verge of a divorce. He was single and building up a career; he loved her, but she loved David. Then David decided to go back to his wife and Heather decided to go away. He took her to the movies at the Harbor View drive-in theatre by the sea, but it was so hot and crowded, and they left early. He drove her into the park by the sea nearby where lovers often went. They parked, keeping the car doors wide open to catch whatever breeze would come in; but there was none. The music from a neighboring car’s radio sounded through the summer’s night:
“The breeze and I are saying with a sigh, that you no longer care;
The breeze and I are whispering good-bye, to a dream we used to share:
Ours, was a love song constant as the moon, ending in a strange, mournful tune,
And all around me, they know you have departed without me, and we wonder why,
The Breeze and I”.
How he pleaded with her to stay on and make their relationship work, but to no avail.
Her soft eyes, long hair, and sharp features were lustrous in the moonlight; but there was indecision in her face.
And there was no breeze that night, no love, no affection, not even conversation of any importance, only the summer’s heat. Heather left him, uncertain and confused. Roger went on with his life, but remembers that stifling summer’s night as a low point in his life.
The Honda screamed down the slope leading into the town off Ocho Rios. Outside he could see the trees swaying in the wind, and he knew it would be a little cooler outside with the wind from the sea. The blue horizon loomed larger and larger, and he could see the sailboats in the distance, with their full colorful sails, moving across the bay.
Checking into his apartment hotel, Roger grabbed a coke and headed poolside in his swim trunks. What the hell, he thought, he would do his business after lunch, and only after his dip in the shimmering blue waters of the pool, as he felt the fresh healing waters envelope him. He splashed and played around in the pool’s waters until the summer heat gradually left his body; and he felt comfortable again, as a smattering of wind rustling the coconut trees came from across the sea and cooled his wet body.
Written by Ramesh Sujanani