To End All Ideas of Being a Banana Plantation Worker


The meal had been Bea’s idea, her way of thanking me for being such good company. It had taken her way back into a part of her that she had thought was lost forever.As I slowly finished my lunch Bea came and sat with me again keeping her hands in her lap, over the apron she wore. It was the first time I had noticed that particular apron and it made me feel special.

As she gathered up the dinner china into a tray the table before me seemed bare all of a sudden.She lingered a moment standing there looking like a woman pleased after serving her husband. “Son, where is your mada and fada?”she asked suddenly.

I joked again and said to her, “You my mada, but my fada, him in the States.” She remained quiet then, after a pause, said, “Your mada, how long now you don’t see har?”Then, for the rest of the afternoon, I had to relate to her how my parents had been divorced caused by my mother abandoning her three children. I related how this event had sent us to live with my mother’s worst enemies, my father’s family; of how I felt that she had abandoned me, most of all, since I was the oldest, and how, after I went looking for her, I’d ended up roaming the streets of the city of Colon with the girl I was now living with in Bocas Town.

After a short while of telling her my story, I felt Bea stir and get up saying to herself, “I knew it! I knew it!” over and over as she moved over to her small kitchen. I was suddenly alone in that sunny parlor, and realized that I was looking outside at the bush which surrounded Bea’s property.I caught myself admiring how industrious that woman must have been in her youth to have been able to prepare herself for those times in her old age. It was then that I began to think it best that I should go back up-the-line to my job.

Then I said to myself, “Maybe, I’ve found a mother in Bea, the mother I never had; someone to come home to, to take care of, give her a happy life in her old age. Tomorrow I will just take off, go back up-the-line to the people I know up there. Then, on weekends after payday I’ll come down here and stay with Bea until Sunday night when I’d take the last ferry and train back up there.”

I mused over that decision while Bea was still absent from my presence. Then I remembered that not long ago I had promised the Governor of all the Province of Bocas del Toro that I’d go back to Panama and submit my school credits to the office of the Ministry of Education. She had reassured me afterwards that she had my name on the list she was submitting for appointments as one of the local teachers. To teach in one of the local schools in Bocas sounded better to me than being a field hand on any Banana plantation, I thought to myself.

The evening progressed and the time came for me to be bidding good night to old Bea. After hitting the road I began feeling like I had no mother and, for that matter, had never had one. As I walked home spreading grass cuttings along the long road that gave me a view of the lonely beach, I finished emptying my bag of grass cuttings. Then I walked over to the surf, undressed and entered the water. After feeling refreshed, I put my clothes back on observing the night falling over Bocas Town.

Suddenly and inexplicably a feeling of triumph came over me as I walked home trying not to really think of anything in particular.

This story continues.

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