This New Life

samoan-fanAn old fan in the corner, blades caked in dust, is blowing on me.  The fan came with the house, just like everything else.  It has taken me months to adjust to living in a furnished place with only few of my belongings around me.  I turn the house upside down looking for the small cheese grater or a specific bed sheet, before realising that item belonged in that other life.

The life before this.

I have been curled up on the couch, my throat on fire and body racked by fever for three days. The doctor and more medication are on the other side of the island.  My new workplace is pressuring me to come in. But I have no will to move from this space.

All the slatted windows are fully open, their mosquito net covering distorts my view of the lush garden.  The humidity demands extra energy and the soupy air is coated in cloying scent.  Today it is frangipani and smoke from a garden rubbish fire nearby. A gecko scuttles across the wall before becoming motionless in the corner where it will sit for the next half hour.

The noise of the fan rattling makes even my teeth hurt.  I long to switch it off so I can hear the ocean breaking on the reef but the stirring of the air is giving an illusion of a cooler place.

The front screen door slams and Mama appears.  She stands over me wide legged, her ample frame covered in a tent-like dress.  Her dark eyes take in everything; the bottle of water, a half eaten starfruit, the empty blister pack of pain medication.  Mama lives at the bottom of the hill with various members of her family from tiny babies and fat-legged toddlers to sisters, cousins, and aunts.  The only constant people at the house are Mama and her husband, Papa.  I don’t know their real names.  They introduced themselves as Mama and Papa.  The children are always known as boy or girl.

Mama tells me the work motorbike had been taken from the parking space near her house.  The boss must have needed it for one of the other interns.

“He told me you were sick. I said that you might need the bike for the doctor. But he just waved.”  Her large cool hand pressed against my forehead.  “So sick, little one. But Mama brought you this.  I had a feeling.”

She pulls a poultice, wrapped in folded leaves, out of a plastic grocery bag and places it across my forehead. It has a pulling coolness and I can feel the heat begin to drag from my body.

“I’m going to make a brew as well, little one.”

I push myself up to sitting.  Holding the poultice with one hand and trying to focus my vision.I should be treating her as a guest.  It is customary to offer food and gifts the first time someone has come into your home.

“Mama, I can make tea.”

“Not tea, little one.  Brew.  Lie down.  Don’t waste my medicine.”

I can hear her bare feet on the tiles in the kitchen and the opening and closing of cupboards.

“Little one, these cockroaches.” I had been thwarted by the cockroaches early on and had only succeeded in keeping them out of my bed by way of a mosquito net.  They ran rampant everywhere else. Mama, laughing in that local rumbling way, continues  “You can borrow the cat.”

She brings a lukewarm brew that is bitter and biting, and indicates that I must drink.  After a few mouthfuls, I break out in a sweat.  The raw burning that was in my throat has moved to light up every cell in my body.  The poultice seems to be getting colder as it continues to pull at the heat from my head.

The clash of fire and ice knocks me out.

I awake to find Mama seated on the floor, making a handheldsamoan-basket fan out of dried pandanus leaves.  She has a pile of finished ones next to her in a woven coconut palm basket.

The electric fan is silent.

“The sickness has finished, little one.”  She hands me one of her fans.  “Simple is better.”  And she is gone.

9 Replies to “This New Life”

  1. I like the atmosphere. And how you wove the fan into the story several different ways. The end line was my favorite. It did seem like the character was struggling with the new simplicity of her life but was too tired for complicated. Hah! For what its worth when we moved to our new house I was forever looking for things in the old place. Nice detail!

  2. This story was really interesting – it kind of reminds me of a long fever dream. I was a little lost at some moments, but I think that was the point – your narrator seemed bewildered at points, as well. The nuts and bolts of your writing were excellent, too. And you did a great job crafting the characters.

  3. You put so much great detail into the setting and your characters in a limited space. I especially loved how you weaved Mama into the story and the time spent talking about the simpler lifestyle. I have to admit I was worried Mama was going to take a kidney while she was out or something. Hah

  4. I have a talent for character development; I like how the narrator and Mama have an edge to their interaction from the start. You created familiarity there without having to tell us exactly how long they’ve known each other. Nice work.

  5. I love how you’ve added subtle elements to indicate where this might be set, the star fruit, frangipani, pandanus leaves -wonderful little tidbits of information. I also loved the pace of this story. Like Melony, I was also worried that Mama would turn out to be a shady character!

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