I sat up and shook my husbands shouldermy Portuguese Scottish husbandand I
told him I was going away for a while.
And so there I was, standing in the forest among the womens gardens,
remembering my grandmothers. Beyond the trees their daughters were waiting for
me. Four aunts. Asana, daughter of Ya Namina, my grandfathers senior wife: a
magnificent hauteur flowed like river water from the mothers veins through the
daughters. Gentle Mary, from whom foolish children ran in fright, but who
braided my hair, cared for me like I was her own and talked of the sea and the
stars. Hawa, whose face wore the same expression I remembered from my
childhoodof disappointment already foretold. Not even a smile to greet me.
Enough of her. And Serah, belly sister of my father, who spoke to me in a way no
other adult ever hadas though I might one day become her equal.
They were the ones whose presence filled the background to my childhood. Not
my only aunts, by any means, rather my husbandless aunts. Asana, widow. Mary,
spinster. Serah, divorcee. The fate of Hawas husband had never been quite
clear, it remained something of a mystery. I had heard some of their stories
before, though I didnt remember who had told me or when. As a child I had spent
my evenings at home doing schoolwork, or trying to get a picture on the black
and white TV, as a teenager Id lain in my room fiddling with my yellow
transistor radio, waiting for my favourite tunes. Without men of their own to
occupy them these four aunts had always been frequent visitors to my fathers
house until he left to take up a series of appointments overseas and I followed
in his slipstream to university.
Coming back, I thought about my aunts and all the things that had never been
spoken. And I saw them for what they were, the mirror image of the things that
go unsaid: all the things that go unasked.
The stories gathered here belong to them, though now they belong to me too,
given to me to do with as I wish. Just as they gave me their fathers coffee
plantation. Stories that started in one place and ended in another. Worn smooth
and polished as pebbles from countless retellings. So that afterwards I thought
maybe they had been planning it, waiting to tell me for a long time.
That day I walked away from the waiting women, into the trees and towards the
water: the same river that further on curled around the houses, so the village
lay within its embrace like a woman in the crook of her lovers arm. Either side
of the path the shadows huddled. Sharp grasses reached out to scratch my bare
ankles. A caterpillar descended on an invisible filament to twirl in front of my
face, as if surveying me from every angle before hoisting itself upwards through
the air. A sucker smeared my face with something sticky and unknown. I paused to
wipe my cheek in front of a tall tree with waxy, elliptical leaves. Along the
branches hung sleeping bats, like hundreds of swaddled babies. As I watched, a
single bat shifted, unfurled a wing and enfolded its body ever more tightly. For
a moment a single eye gleamed at me from within the darkness.
Here and there scarlet berries danced against the green. I reached through
the cobwebs, careful of the stinging tree-ants, and plucked a pair. I pressed a
fingernail into the flesh of a berry and held it to my nose. Coffee. The lost
groves. All this had once been great avenues of trees.
And for a moment I found myself in a place that was neither the past nor the
present, neither real nor unreal. Rothoron, my aunts called it. Probably you
have been there yourself, whoever you are and wherever in the world you are
reading this. Rothoron, the gossamer bridge suspended between sleep and
Oldest romance writer in the world dies aged 105. Books #124 and #125 to be published next year(Dec 10 2013) Ida Pollock, author of more than 120 books, and believed to be the world's oldest romantic novelist, has died at the age of 105.