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Callaloo 25.2 (2002) 426-436

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Pine Hill

Elizabeth Walcott-Hackshaw

I dreamt of mornings like these when I used to feel like a fraudin a winter coat, freezing in some tunnel underneath Montreal, mornings like these in January, when the island light sharpened edges, unclouded colors, washed away muddy olive greens changing them to a fresh lime, as fresh as this New Year's breeze on my face.

We were walking the route the Sunday before the famous Pine Hill Race. Simon had done the trail many times on his bike, and had even come second in the race last year losing out to young Hakim. But this year he wanted to walk the route, get a feel for it off his bike. Part of the stony track was just wide enough for his jeep to climb half way up the hill but Simon wanted to walk all the way. And I was tired, no exhausted, I hadn't had a straight six hours sleep in months, ever since Phoebe was born, and since she was born Simon and I quarreled even more than before. So I hoped Simon would see the effort I was making and maybe our luck would start to change. Recently I had become obsessed with change: rainy season to dry, Christmas to Carnival, Carnival to Lent, changes in my face, or even Phoebe's smile. But most of all I was looking for a change in Simon.

As we began to walk up the first incline, I stopped to look at the next valley through a space that had opened between the trees. A powerful citrus smell came from the hill just behind me; I looked up to see terraces of orange, grapefruit, lime and pomerac trees. There was another tree I didn't recognize; its leaves were as broad as a breadfruit leaf but curled like fists, the way dry boiscanoe leaves look when they drop to the ground. Heavy, pimply, reddish-brown balls dragged the tree's branches down. Some of its fruit had already splattered revealing a bloody, fleshy pulp like ripe pomegranates. The smell was even stranger than the fruit, a sweet perfume that blended grapefruit with ylang-ylang and jasmine. An experiment for export, I imagined, started by the government and then forgotten. I wanted to pick it up and taste it. But Simon wanted to keep going, irritated that I was already lagging behind. Before long I was almost jogging, trying to keep up with him and at the same time appreciate the early morning sunlight blazing in between the hills of the next valley.

Tall fichus trees lined both sides of the trail, the branches interlacing to form a canopy over our heads. The path narrowed and blocked out most of the light. It was cool and shady now, with just a few rays of sunlight filtering through the spaces in the branches up above, freckling the damp ground. Fallen leaves and dewy grass made the path very slippery. "Come on!" He yelled back at me. Once in a while a thick, log lay across the route. I took a giant step, resting my hand on the mossy trunk, trying my best not to slide and fall. When I finally caught up to him, he was standing next to another log waiting for me and glancing at his watch. [End Page 426]

Simon spent most of the weekend in his study after he lost the race last year. He even refused to go to a business partner's wedding because he knew the Hakim clan would be there and young Hakim would sit and gloat for the entire afternoon. When Simon was in one of his moods, Phoebe couldn't fuss and all phone calls had to be short. But I had so few calls now that it didn't really matter, my girlfriends never liked Simon and the one or two that stayed friendly with me had been insulted so many times by him that they seldom called the house. I only saw them when we met for lunch every couple of months in...


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