The Day I Met Bea

Old photo of West Indian working men doing their own laundry. They were not fortunate enough to have the help of WI women.

As I got back to the work at hand a cool sea breeze reminded me that the surf was a short walk from where I had ended up that morning. Then I looked up and my host had disappeared into the house. Time seemed to fly and my muscles were not yet tired.  The sun at that hour of the day had become merciless, however, as I continued to whack away all my troubles thinking, time and again, that I had better just jump on the first ferry and take may sorry self up the line and plead with my boss to give me back my job.

“Swish, whack, swish whack, ” I heard the machete respond to my efforts as the sight of progress soon appeared on the lonely property of what I perceived to be an olden Westindian widow. “Come here, boy! Come ‘an drink some wata!” Glad for the invitation I stopped working and slowly walked over to where she sat handing me a glass with lemonade that my body craved as I drank half the glass. “What a pretty man like you doing down here?” she asked. I did not respond as I drank some of the liquid my body needed urgently. After a short pause she asked again, “Son, you running? Wha you running from?”

Knowing very well what she meant I smiled, but the thought of really running from the girl I had hoped to make a wife and mother of my children made me say, “No Mom, I am not running.” Then she shot back, “Wha you doing down here? You look like you have some schoolin.” “Want some more to drink?” she offered as I refused and sat down to rest at her feet and handed her the glass I was drinking from. I saw the inquisitive look in her eyes, as I beheld another female who would have mercy on me, a working man. “Well Mama I am down here for a while with my family.” “What they call you?” she asked suddenly. “I am Juni!” I exclaimed and that was enough for her experienced ear that did not want to pry.

So then I asked in return, “What should I call you Miss … ?” leaving her room to fill in the name she would be comfortable being called. “Call me Bea, just plain Bea.” “Well, Miss Bea, ” I said, ” I was working for a while in Baseline and had made it as far as working on many different jobs with at least five different supervisors, and even worked in the engineering office for a while. So there you have it, a good picture of me, a working man, with much trouble …wife trouble,” I murmured. “Well Juni, how many children you all have now?” she asked. “Just the one baby boy, that’s all; just one. But she is never happy, and I don’t know …” I said and my voice trailed off.

Bea did not make me finish the sad story, as the mothering look disappeared from her eyes. “Look boy, you see that railroad there, I was up there when they was building it,” she said changing the subject. I looked at her with a newly found respect, knowing something about the women I had met up there. Then I was listening intently as she was relating some of her experiences. “Now, you come on inside, you can finish your job tomorrow,” she ordered. “Now, come in because the sun is getting to me, come.”

As I stepped inside the very spacious house I spied two bedrooms and a small kitchen. Walking towards the back parlor, bright from the sunlight shining in from the outside, the large image of the Sacred Hearth of Jesus welcomed me from the bedroom wall. As I traveled past her I could hear her say to me, “You sit down right here,” as she sat before me ready and willing to tell her story of how she saw the work they had done on that railway, work I had gown accustomed to for one whole year.

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