Originally from Guyana, Robin and Rhoda Madray had moved to Trinidad in 1959 with their three children, Sonia, John and Bobby. Pa had befriended Robin’s father in Georgetown on one of his many trips. Robin and his family slowly settled into T&T life, however, in 1960, with things not going so well and Rhoda trying to stimulate a hair dressing business, he approached Pa for a loan.
They agreed on the sum of three hundred dollars. Robin signed the IOU and promised: “Uncle you will get your money back on time.”
Perhaps Robin was confused as to what “on time,” meant in Trinidad.
He was often late with his payments. If Pa called the house, he would be out or “you just miss him, he go come back in about two hours …Yes, yes, of course, he know about de money. He go call yuh back.” Pa had no phone on the estate, so the calls from Robin to his Municipal office came after working hours when he had already left or so he was led to believe.
Pa had decided enough was enough and he would have to have a firm talk with Robin. My parents were home for a one-month holiday in the summer of 1962. Pa decided to take his son, the aspiring lawyer, to assist him in expediting the matter.
When Robin saw Pa and my father at the gate, his face dropped a bit. He knew what was coming.
After a few pleasantries, they got down to business.
“You know I have been patient in waiting for my money. You were very grateful when I gave you the loan. But you are always late. More than half is still owing. And apparently, although you knew how to contact me for a loan, I now have to run after you to get it back.”
“Uncle,” began Robin, staring Pa straight in his eyes, “the truth is I can’t pay back that money unless I win the Lottery.”
They both looked at each other for about ten seconds without saying a word.
Pa nodded his head, got up and walked out. My father followed him.
As they exited the gate, Robin, still rooted to his living room chair, Pa looked over at his son: “That son of a bitch. He owes me money. The least he could do is make an effort to pay me a little at a time. He telling me he can’t pay unless he win the Lotto. You know if I was 10 years younger, I woulda hit him a lash in his ass. But I too old now, I cah make.”
“I know,” responded my father quietly.
For the next two weeks while my mother was away, I took full advantage and would have many night limes with Tomas and the other older boys on the street. Pepe would criticize my behaviour but to no avail.
One night two police officers came to the house. She introduced one as Cliff. They had a chat in the porch. After they had left, she explained that Cliff was an Assistant Commissioner of Police. He was her boyfriend but they had to meet in secret because he was married.
I concluded that although she was an adult, something was wrong with this woman. This was not the kind of conversation you had with children.
When my mother arrived from her business trip, Pepe immediately began reading a journal of everything I had done wrong. Each day was dated. My mother looked at me calmly with a resigned expression. I think at this point she was used to the complaints. I also believed that she had spent half a day travelling and was not in the mood to get upset.
Two days later she would have her own episode with Pepe.
Doing her customary check, in terms of the house cleaning, my mother found the furniture to be dusty. She called Pepe and pointed it out to her.
“But I clean it. It is ok!”
“But Pepe look.” My mother then wiped the underside of the chair’s wooden armrest, she extended her hand and showed her the dusty finger.
“And that TV is covered in dust.”
“No, the TV is fine.”
Leila wiped her index finger across the top of the TV. “Oh ghoood! Look at dust!!”
“What are you doing!!?” she screamed. “Get away from that TV. GET AWAY!!” And then she just broke down, sobbing, her head bent and shoulders shaking.
My mother immediately switched gears. “Ok, ok. Take it easy. Sit down. Leila get her some water.”
Leila immediately sprinted towards the kitchen.
I myself, had been in the kitchen half hearing the conversation as I made a sandwich. When I saw her blubbering figure, I realized this was not the normal disagreement my mother was having with the help.
I looked at Pepe sobbing away and my mother patting her gently on the back. I realized that this woman was going through some kind of stress. As my mother gave the water, talking to her in a soothing manner, I walked out. This wasn’t really my business.
The next day weird became weirder. My mother had told Pepe that things were not working out and she would give her one week’s notice. And that she would have to vacate the Maid’s Quarters (really a utility room adjacent to the kitchen) at that time.
Pepe asked for a ride into town that morning to go to her bank. As we hit the Morne Coco stretch adjacent to the sea wall, she suddenly ducked down in the back seat. I was in the front and Leila and I just stared at her.
“Cliff’s wife will see me. I am hiding.”
We continued staring at her.
“What?” I asked, trying to grasp what she was on about.
She pointed to the hills of Cocorite to our left. Looking at houses that had to be a hundred metres away and more, she explained that is where Cliff lived.
I found myself wondering how the Hell could his wife pick this woman out over a hundred metres away in a traffic jam of well over a hundred cars?
“She knows what you look like,”?
As I watched her laying low in the back seat, I could only shake my head. This woman certainly wasn’t all together there.