Monday, May 2, 2005

In the Loupe, Chapter 22

Well, let's just be frank: these mango trees are KILLING me! I don't know how long the flowering-pollenny part of the year lasts, but I'm ready to tear my itchy face off. The upside, though, as there is always an upside, is that in taking a walk to escape my mango-surrounded home the other evening, I sat down on a set of stairs near the bus stop and, while contemplating The Beauty of a Full Moon, was taken for a prositute.

That's right, my good people, I was mistaken for a whore.

And I really don't get it, since I was sitting across from brightly-lit fancy-pants Cora supermarket, rather than in drugs-and-sex alley, and wearing a childish red sundress with white polka dots that goes past my knees, flip flops and no make-up. And looking dreamily at the moon.

The part which unsettles me most (after the whole "he thought I was a hooker" thing) is that when he said "you're not...?" I just said "no," super casually, like it happened all the time. Do you know what time the bus comes? No, sorry. Do you sell your body for money? Nope. See? Not much difference.

On the animal front, this place is party. Java's recovered beautifully from both poison and urinary infection, so thank you for your concern.

I never told you about Sprocket (subconsciously named after Toad the Wet?), a very pretty little grey and white homeless cat who hung around my door for scraps. What began as fish left-overs and the occasional bowl of milk has progressed into my buying large quantities of cat food and feeling guilty if I'm not home by early evening. She has to stay outside because of my allergy, and the sadness is that she's love-starved but I can't cuddle her. I pet her sometimes if I'm on my way into a shower, but that just sets her up for later disappointment, since she doesn't understand why it's on-again, off-again. (My mom spoiled her rotten with daily loving, so I think our poor Sprocket has been in withdrawal since March.)

She's obviously not allowed in the house, but, again obviously, couldn't care less about my crazy rules. Her daring little runs through the house have progressed into flagrant system abuse, so now I have to block off the living room at night (and loose significant cross-breeze to my bedroom) so I don't wake up to find her curled on a couch or chair, and close all the closets (thus enclosing the humidity and its moldy potential) because she nestles into the corner. Having her generally around is okay, you see, but once fur gets into clothes and furniture, then you have a real problem.

(Those of you who are attentive readers are by now saying, "Stupid Kathryn! It's not the mango trees, it's Sprocket!" and I thank you for looking out for me. It's not the same allergy, though, doesn't feel the same; when I get too close to her for too long, I definitely react, and it's not the same as the pollen one. Different kind of itchiness, more eyes and throat and less constant sneezing. Plus, she was around way before the mango hell started.)

Anyway, I think Sprocket is pregnant. She keeps sneaking in to build nests, having settled on under the cellar stairs, in the couch (between back cushion and frame) and in my closet on my backpack. I'm torn because if she's going to have babies, I want her to have a warm and clean place to do it. But it just can't be in my futon, you know what I'm saying? I have to be very vigilant in my supervision and scold severely when I find her somewhere, even tapping her on the nose and breaking my heart and hers, but it doesn't seem to do much good. Hopefully she'll choose the stairs, far from me but safe nonetheless.

How can you tell when a cat's pregnant? I'm watching for signs of emotional instability or strange food cravings – she's getting a round tummy but that's largely because she was homeless and scrawny and has since become a healthy and plumper little Sprocket. Normal growth or about to drop a litter in my bedroom closet? Hard to say. What will I do if she has kittens? Seriously?

And then there are the goats. They wander around outside my doors and I didn't understand where they were coming from, but I found out from my furious landlady that people living up the hill park their goats in the chicken coops of the abandoned house that backs onto ours. The goats have chewed through the wiring, as goats will do, and taken to roaming around the garden and munching. They come for the mangoes but can't contain themselves among so many potted plants – they eat everything.

I chase them away for show, to gain points with my landlady, but actually I quite like having them around, all floppy-eared and hostile. Though I initially hated it, I've grown unreasonably fond of their crazy yelling. They don't baa-aa, see (Raffi was wrong!), but rather scream. It sounds like a child screaming "MEHH!" - if that child has a crazy goat voice, of course.

I also enjoy how they run away as I chase them with my broom, screaming like their limbs are being torn off but still stopping to munch along the way. MEH! MEH! ME-- hey look, a rosebush. Munch, munch, mun-- MEH! MEHHHHH! They also scratch their rumps against the mango tree, and occasionally heat-butt each other, so they are altogether a satisfying bunch of goats.

The unusual creature situation lately is that there's something going on among the iguanas. For those of you unsure what to picture, they're bigger and cooler lizards: they're various greens and have mohawks and extendable necks, are usually one or two feet long plus long, sneaky tails. My favourite is as they walk: whichever two legs they're not using (opposite front and back) go straight up in the air sideways. You know the Dolorian from Back to the Future? how the door opens straight up? It's like that. In fact, I don't understand how they advance at all, since their legs don't move forward; they must rotate slightly while they're up, which is why they have to really hustle if they want to move quickly. And since they're terrified of people, when you see them they're generally running like hell, which means their up-and-down legs flap around in seeming hysteria and the iguanas always look a bit frantic, a bit out of control, their legs on the verge of just popping right off. Kind of like muppets. It's the best.

But, as I said, you don't see many: scurrying away from you, always nervous and brief. The one that came into my room that time clearly didn't know I was there, since I was lying so still, Sleeping Beauty-like. (That's right, I said Sleeping Beauty-like – you got a problem with that? Tough guy?) He was also distracted by the bajillions of juicy mosquitoes living in my room, juicy from sucking my blood without pity, of course.

What's crazy is that this last week, they're everywhere. Walking home after being a hooker, for example, I saw dozens of them in a construction site. Dozens! I think over a hundred. Just streaming over the dirt hills and going who-knows-where. The full moon? A storm coming? Either way, I took it as an omen. (And nothing's happened, so it was a crappy omen.)

But then at school there were three iguanas wandering around the schoolyard; two of them walked into classrooms and scared the bejeezus out of the kids, which I know because I heard twenty-five students next-door yell "Waaa-ha-haaAAAA!" as they jumped on their desks. There are iguanas crossing the street as much as goats and cows – and that's saying something – and one of my students saw one in Cora. An iguana in an air-conditioned supermarket full of people? Something fishy is in the air.

Franck says it's just because we have entered the Season of Extreme and Insufferable Heat, and while I can't argue with that – ho-HO! Can I ever not argue with that! - I think there's something more. Those sneaky little guys are hanging around people for a reason; call me crazy, but the iguanas are planning a coup.

I went back to see the Carnaval group's rehearsal, having discovered that a lunch lady from one of my schools is the cool counter-bass I'd only seen from behind. She recognized Bronwyn on our way out (said she figured the short one in front was me) and she told me that they may not be allowed in Caribana because a Martinique group wreaked havoc last year and now the organizers are iffy. Which is obviously unfair, as they're different groups from different islands and you can't cut the largest Caribbean island out of Caribana, can you? (The largest of the small ones, that is. Ahem.)

Regardless of this developping drama, I had a great time at their very happening rehearsal. Man, I love those Carnaval drums! They're in a warehouse and I sat just outside and down on the step, where it was cooler, so was at eye-level with the phenomenal calves of the group.

Then, suddenly, through the backs of knees and rear quarters, were the most beautiful legs I've ever seen. The dancers stand facing the group, either there for the singing or just for moral support, since there are only three of them (out of usually thirty or forty) and they don't dance so much as step from side to side.

They're all lovely, as young carnival group dancers are wont to be, but this one in the middle – I've never seen such flawless side-to-siding or such shapely legs. It was riveting; it was mesmerizing. I couldn't tear myself away from her perpetual motion – this was the Girl From Ipanema in the flesh.

As the initial fascination wore off, it turned to bitter, bitter jealousy. Looking down at my own – ahem – not perfect legs, I cursed the Girl From Ipanema and her impossible beauty. It's just her low-rise fake-faded Levis, I grumbled sourly to myself. But I knew it wasn't, and in the end I decided the only solution was to fall in love with her, that I may admire her from afar, pure and chaste, with no resentment to interfere.

And so I have: I've fallen in love with the Girl From Ipanema. I must see her again – I must! But tonight – tonight seems so far away. And Franck will be here, so do I bring him along? Isn't that a bit counter-productive? (I gave him a chance to sway my heart but he just doesn't move like the GFI. Nothing to be done.)

And so, in waiting, I pine.


p.s. Walking home in the heat a few weeks ago, delirous and irritated after my terrible grade fours, the local men hissed their standard psssst and I fancied I looked like the Girl From Ipanema with my sultry, seductively swaying hips. Looking at my shadow in front of me, however, I realized I looked like a big dork, staggering in the heat and favouring one side because of my heavy bag, and I started to sing a more appropriate version of the song. It gave Bronwyn and me a good laugh, so in light of the real GFI of Basse-Terre, tall, tan, young and, yes, lovely, I share my adjusted version of this Brazilian classic:

Short and stout and not too ugly,
The Girl From Mississauga goes walking,
And when she passes,
Each man she passes goes psssst.

When she moves she's like a dredyl,
Tips back and forth like a rocking cradle,
And yet, she passes
And all the men still go psssst.

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