The Story of Miss Vera
The first time anybody in here seen the woman was the night she came in with Billy B. the singer from the Randy Boys Band. And his being with her wasn’t any big surprise. You see Billy B was always coming into the place with good looking tourist women. Most of them were American and most, nearly all were white. Once in a while you would see a black one but most of the time they were white. And this one was no different. She had nice looking red hair, good bones in her face and a tight looking body with a proud looking chest pointing right at you. Billy introduced her saying that her name was Vera. She didn’t say anything just smiled and nodded to me and the other boys at the bar. And it wasn’t until later when she excused herself to go to the ladies room that we could get a real good look at the body and the ass that was moving around in those tight fitting white slacks that she was wearing. And after that the only thing anybody could say to Billy was: “Boy I don’t know how you do it but you really know how to find them. Look to me like you gon be doing some sweet riding tonight.” But Billy didn’t say much. He just shook his head and said: “Everything ain’t what it look like. This ain’t just about pleasure. This is more about business.” Then he went on to tell us that the woman was married to a record company executive in the US and she was down here scouting to find talent because Latino and West Indian music was getting big in America. ‘So you boys got it all wrong. The woman and I ain’t screwing, we talking business.”And when you come to think of it maybe he was telling the truth because Billy was always talking about leaving the island and becoming a big time singer in New York or Florida or someplace else on the mainland. What he had said was that he was waiting for the right deal to come his way. So who knows, this might be it.
Yeah, and we all believed it until late one night some days later one of the fellows said that they saw his car parked off the road by the Old Dutch Windmill and him and Miss Vera was in it hugging and kissing and going even further than that. So who knows if he was lying or telling the truth or maybe a little bit of both. And you can’t say that you can blame him because the way that woman looked a man would have to be next door to a priest not to want to get on that body and feel it moving sweet under him.
Now after a while you could see her around town going into stores or the Post Office shopping and buying things. Her regular hang out was the Sandy Bottom Beach Club where she would lie out with in her red bathing suit wearing sunglasses with sun lotion oil all over her shoulders and legs. After a while she would rise and go down to the water, put her toe in to test it then walk in far enough to where she could dive in and come up shaking her head. Then she would swim out a distance but never too far. Then she would turn around and come back in. There were always a lot of people on the beach both local and tourist. But somehow Miss Vera stood out. I think it was because of that shape and also because of the red bathing suit.
Miss Vera and Billy B was a thing for about two weeks, which is longer than we were used to seeing him with anybody. Then one night he walked in with into the bar with another woman. When the boys asked what happened to Miss Vera, Billy just smiled that smile of his and said: “Nothing, nothing at all. It was just time to make a change, that’s all. Just time to make a change.”
More than a week went by and didn’t anybody see Miss Vera around. But it was known that she was still on the island because she had moved from The Hilton Tropic Hotel where she was staying to the Sea Breeze Motel that was smaller and a whole lot cheaper. A move like that told everybody that she was planning to stay a while which was interesting. Maybe it was true that she was looking for talent for her husband and decided to stay a little longer.
One night late she came in with The Mighty Zeus, the calypso singer at the Carib Aires Hotel. They sat at the bar and she smiled at me like we were old friends. Now Zeus wasn’t cool and sophisticated like Billy B. He was with a good looking woman and wanted everybody to know that he wasn’t just there to buy drinks and talk. Minutes after I served them their drinks he took her outside by where the juke box is to dance. And when we peek out you could see he was doing all kinds of things to her with his hands, lifting her dress and squeezing her behind while pressing her closer and closer to him. And she wasn’t doing anything to resist him. In fact it looked like she was going along with it all the way. The hour was late and the outside where they were, was dark but we could see enough just from the light coming from the juke box. Then when the music stopped they went out to the back where all the bushes are. We didn’t hear any noise or anything because the wind was blowing and the juke box was playing another record.
But later when Zeus came back into the club he was alone and smiling. He asked for a drink and said that he needed it. ‘That woman is an animal, man. A stone cold animal. No matter how much you give her it ain’t ever enough. But I need a break to build up my strength then I’m going back out there. She ain’t wearing me out. If anybody gon do any wearing out I gon be the one.”
They were together for about a week and everybody thought that he was the one who would be getting the record contract. But then he was out and she started coming in with Kenny Bredslowe, the guitar player from the Harris Street Combo. After that it was Big Burt the bass player from the Scratch-Scratch Island Band. Then just when everybody had it figured that she only went out with musicians the woman turned up with Benjy the barman from The Flamingo Hotel. And it was always the same with her and me. I would put up her drink and she would smile at me like we were old friends. And in a way we were. I mean I had seen her with all these guys and it wasn’t any secret with she was doing with them. And although we never spoke much at all it was like we had this understanding between us. What that understanding was I can’t really explain. But it had something to do with all those guys and the fact that she was going through them one at a time.
Time was passing and it didn’t look like she was planning on leaving the island anytime soon. She had moved from the Hilton to the Sea Breeze and now she had moved once again. This time to the Seaside Cottages which wasn’t a hotel but a series of little houses and a whole lot cheaper…Nights when she wasn’t with a man she would come into the club by herself, sit at the bar and order a drink. The boys would talk to her, buy her drinks and even ask her for a dance. She never said no. She would go dance with the guy for a bit then come back in to finish her drink. Some even offered to take her home but she would just smile, thank them and explain that she had a car. And always there would be an exchange of smiles between us to indicate that she knew what they were after and could slip the punch without hurting any feelings. After a while all that talk about her being a scout for a record stopped too. It was like everyone forgot all about that. Now she was just another good looking American woman living here for whatever reason and laying up with all the guys.
One thing you could never say about Miss Vera at any time was that she was ever dirty or unkempt. Even at those times in the bar when it was clear that she was drunk and her eyes were glassy or her walk unsteady the woman always looked neat and well put together with her hair and makeup just right. How she could hold onto herself like that was interesting. At least I found it so.
The other question that was in everybody’s mind after awhile was where she was getting the money to support herself and pay her bills. During this time there had been a few cases of American women and men who had come to the islands for one reason or another and wound up staying longer than they had planned. If they stayed long enough they would wind up broke and having to get a job or in extreme cases begging for money and wind up living on one of the beaches. But this wasn’t the case with Miss Vera. She paid her bills on time, ate out in restaurants regularly and went out to clubs just about every
“It only stands to reason” one of the boys at the bar said. “The woman must have a rich husband somewhere sending her money regular.”
“He must be some kind of idiot.” another one said. “I mean to support a woman just so that she can run around the island laying up with any man she feel like got to be the dumbest thing I know.”
“Maybe he don’t know. Maybe he think she here just having a quiet island vacation.”
“A woman who look like that?”
“Yes, I got to admit, she does look good. The one thing I wish is that one a these nights she would give me a chance.”
And so the talk would go on. The interesting thing about it is because she was such a nice person the talk and gossip about Miss Vera wasn’t as mean or nasty as it usually was about American women who come down here and go through a lot of island boys. In fact for a long time nobody said much even when you did ask. Some would even go so far as to tell you point blank that it wasn’t any of your damn business. But after five months or so word started to leak out. And things hit a peak when Mongo the cab driver said that he saw her with Avery the policeman and Jacquin the busboy messing around together on Plum Beach one night.
“What was they doing?”
“I told you messing around in all kinds a ways.”
“What you think, you is a grown man figure it out for yourself.”
“The three of them together?”
“That’s right, together. One in front and one behind and they didn’t have any clothes on either.”
“ And you seen this with your own eyes?”
“I told you. You don’t have to believe if you don’t want but I was there.”
“All by yourself?”
“No. I was there with Chrissy.”
“So she see them too?”
“That’s right. But she probably won’t admit it because she ain’t gon want anybody knowing that she was there with me at that hour a the night. You see that might lead them to asking what we was doing and she ain’t gon be wanting to answer that.”
“What was you two doing?”
“None a your damn business, that’s what we was doing.”
“A woman like that is like a bitch dog in heat, man.” One of the other fellows said. “After awhile one man ain’t enough so now she got to have two.”
And so the talk continued. Finally one night Billy B opened up and said:
“I can’t say anything bad about the woman. I mean she was nice to me and everything. But if you asking about that other thing all I can say is she’s good. More than good, she’s special. That’s all I gon say on that subject.”
Mighty Zeus was a little different on the subject.
“A woman like that can’t have one man. One man ain’t gon be enough, I don’t care who he is or how strong either. It got to be at least two or maybe three or even four. With a woman like that you never can tell. We had our thing together and it was nice but I could tell early on that I wasn’t going to be enough. So we end it and that was fine. I got no hard feelings about it. The woman was nice, I’ll say that for her. The woman was real nice to me.”
And so it went on and after a while her reputation was in the gutter just like any other American woman who come down here and let herself stick around too long. Still though you couldn’t tell it by looking at her. She was still beautifully dressed and well made up. She still looked spectacular at the beach and she still commanded a certain kind of respect when she came in the bar by herself. The very same fellows who ten minutes before were saying all kinds of low things about her would almost stand at attention and offer to buy her a drink just to have her look their way. And she would, give them a smile and then look at me and almost wink at their silliness. Now I have to say we never became friends in the real sense of the word. It was like everything that passed between us was done through looks and not words. Still for some reason I felt like I knew the woman better than most and I think she felt the same way about me. I mean if there ever was a relationship that didn’t need any words ours was it. And I’ll take that even further. I think that if she had remained on the island any longer she and I might’ve gotten together. And I don’t mean just in the bedroom either. We might’ve gotten together the way women and men should get together, in our hearts, in our minds and in our souls. But that’s just me talking, or maybe dreaming. Anyway, we’ll never know.
One day I woke up and it was all over town that she had been arrested. They said that the police raided the cottage she was staying in and found her naked with two guys along with liquor and drugs. They had been making so much noise that someone called the police to quiet then down not having any idea what was going on in there. The guys weren’t locals. They were two Latinos from South America who were on the island illegally. How they met up and what they were doing was anybody’s guess but at the moment all three were in jail. When I heard about it I went to see her to see if I could help. But they refused to let me. They said that they were in contact with her husband who was on his way down and that his lawyer’s instruction was not to let her speak to anyone but them.
That afternoon her husband arrived with three other men. They said that two were lawyers and the third was a doctor. Word had it that she was sick and had to be taken off the island right away. And that’s what they did. That night with whatever arrangeme3nt they made with the Police Miss Vera was released and put on a plane with her husband and those other men. And two days later the two guys she was with were deported as illegal aliens. And that was the end of the story. At least most of it. Guys at the bar talked about her for a little bit and then forgot as time went on and other women arrived and captured our attention in their own unique ways.
More than a year went by and somebody at the bar said:
“Remember that American woman Miss Vera?”
“Well she’s dead. Killed herself in a hotel room in New York.” The person talking was Billy B. He had been to New York to visit with his sister and he heard the news.
“She was living in Connecticut in some institution they say. He husband put her there because they say she had mental problems. Anyway I guess she ran away went into the city, took a hotel room and swallow a bunch of sleeping pills.”
“How you know all this?’
“It was in the papers. They even had a picture so I know it was she.”
“That’s a damn shame.” The fellows in the bar said. “That’s a crying damn shame. She was a nice person and a generous woman too.”
They boys ordered a drink and raised a toast to the memory of Miss Vera. I didn’t join them but later I had my own private toast. Not just to her memory but to the memory of what might have been. The sun will go down and it will come up again. And somewhere in that twilight I’ll see the silhouette of her walking along the beach in that red bathing suit lost in her own thoughts going about her own business, whatever that was.