Turtle, Under Cover

“What’s the big deal?” I ask Lincoln.

“People here are real church-y.”

I’ve noticed. A crowd might stay at the nightclub well beyond closing as Saturday night moves into Sunday morning, but everyone gets up with the sun and goes off to church. 

“No one here is gay. There are no lesbians. You can’t be bisexual. Look, anyone can teach you to clean fish or turtle or remove a conch from its shell. You don’t need Truly.”

He reminds me that most people on the island come to our bar. It is one of only two nightclubs on the island and has a reputation for being well-run and safe. 

“We don’t want to scare anyone away.” 

This means people of all races and sexual orientations come to our bar, but heterosexuality remains the norm. Straight people can flirt on the island, but gay people can’t. Won’t. They know the rules. And now I know them, too.

Truly has a hearty laugh that rumbles out of her like a surprise thunderstorm. It can pop up any time, but doesn’t appear often. She is laughing now as she says “This a lesson in patience. You can be no West Indian woman until . . .”  Here we go again. We’re leaning against the outer wall of her house watching the conch shells that we’ve lined up on the fence. 

I am waiting for the conch to emerge. We’ve punched tiny holes in the top of each shell, and propped the shells up on a fence, open side down. Eventually, whether they want to or not, the snails will be dangling outside their lovely pink homes, not aware of the beating they are going to get once Truly gets her hands on them.

“You American women too impatient.” I wish she’d smile, but she is scowling. I am checking my watch, timing how long it takes the conch to come out into the sunshine.  When they do, Truly is immediately at the wooden cutting stand in her backyard where she does all her tough seafood preparation.