Bussa’s Statue

Lulu said, ‘Imagine if we had to explain this to our 2 month-old self. They’d never believe us.’

We were walking through the Sheraton mall in the southern end of Barbados. In normal times, it’s one of the fanciest malls on the island. It is where Jack came to get his iPhone fixed. While not officially an Apple Store, the store is as close as gets. Even though we couldn’t go inside. Its doors were firmly closed.

Exactly. This time warping feeling is the strangest thing about our world right now. We’ve stood in queues before. Standing in one to get into the mall was a bit strange though. And having your temperature checked, via a radar-looking gun aimed at you forehead by the security guard. Also weird. Then getting into the store and marvelling at what is open. Almost nothing – except a hardware store? Perfect. Family formation: let’s go browse.

We aren’t sick. Be grateful for anything other than being sick. That is the message now – pumped into us so much, the message has dug through our brains. This simple sentence has changed everything. You are not sick: be grateful.

And we are. We were also grateful to have Michael’s car again. He and Astrid graciously gave it to us on Friday late morning – insisting they didn’t need it for the rest of the day.

We went to the supermarket first. It’s the one place where nothing is held back. This large, well-stocked Massy’s supermarket in Holetown is addictive. Sun-dried tomatoes in the deli section? Get ’em. Chocolate eggs left over from Easter – now 75% off? We’ll have 15. Jack’s favourite sugar-free ginger beer? Let’s get 2 crates. And tea. Of course – Waitrose everyday, fair-trade tea bags. We’ve bought a lazarette full.

Back in the car, Jack passed me a bag of hot, roasted chicken. ‘You make the sandwiches while I go into the chandlery.’

I lay the brown paper on my lap like it was a chopping board. After the chandlery and the mall, we took off our facemasks and began the drive home to the north of the island. The island is still quiet. The empty roads seem like a protracted holiday. We fell into silence too.

Then it hit us. The sadness. This place feels sad. Each small, concrete-blocked house revealing rows of similar streets, empty of people. Only a few fruit vendors stand by the side of the road. A man sold breadfruit opposite the statue of the emancipation of slavery. Bajans call the statue Bussa, the name of a slave who helped inspire a revolt against slavery in Barbados in 1816.

And Barbados is dry! Much drier than we’d appreciated being always on Quest. The recent wind has dried the island out. It is parched. Dry leaves and seed pods hang everywhere from drooping trees. Like they’re waiting. Question is – for what? What’s next for the island? Wish Bussa could tell us. Feels like he’d understand.