My grandmother’s childhood was floating away on a boat. The moment she looked back at her brother on the shore, a bony figure waving goodbye in frantic pantomimes of love, she knew her fate was sealed. There would be no going back.
The strange woman by her side had chosen her because she was fair, the fairest child on the island. In the years to come she would grow into a solitary teenager who haunted the wood and cry by the sea until the well within her ran dry. Tall, erect and sparkly, she would break into Baptist churches in the colonized land to steal water before dawn, and tread between trampled bodies of soldiers before the first killings of the day began.
On this day she remained a small girl rocking to the waves in fright, and her tears made a magnifying glass through which she saw cruelty on the woman’s face. The middle-aged woman had travelled through mud and rain, in search of sweetness to bring into her barren household. A looming presence at the dinner table, waiting to receive the love that would forever elude her grip. The wind was in her eyes as she turned to look at the child.
‘My husband doesn’t like children crying,’ she said. ‘Dry your tears before we land.’
My grandmother never did what she was told. After all, she was headed for war times.