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An Extract from Love After Love by Ingrid Persaud

Posted on 25th January 2021 by Anna Orhanen

The winner of the Costa 2020 First Novel Award, Ingrid Persaud's evocative, Trinidad-set debut Love After Love centres around an unconventional family unit and narrated in turn by its three members – Betty, her young son Solo and their lodger, Mr Chetan. We are delighted to share an excerpt from the novel, with a brief foreword from the author. 

Thank you so much for your interest in my little book, Love After Love. It’s partly a love letter to Trinidad where I was born. Not being able to travel makes it seem so remote. I’m missing it real bad. I miss liming on Maracas Beach or eating a good curry chicken roti. I miss the way humour sustains us. I hope Love After Love lets you escape and experience some of the bitter sweetness of my small island.

Mr Chetan

I didn’t say a word to a soul. I got up easy easy, put water and a couple beers in the cooler and slipped away before the rest of the house was awake. In traffic the drive can be all kind of two and a half hours. But on a Sunday before six o’clock? Man, I was dipping my toes in Maracas Bay in under two hours. Whenever I can spare the time that is my spot. Half the pull is the beach and half is the spectacular drive to reach there. If your heart’s weak, or you’re timid, leave the driving to others. The roads are narrow and winding as they hug the sides of the Northern Range. Lose the fear of being pushed off the precipice by some crazy-ass driver and enjoy as each hairpin twist unveils another breathtaking view of lush green mountains rising from the turquoise sea. 

For once I would have preferred an even longer drive to clear my head. Only a handful of people were on the beach. Come this afternoon it will be a different story. A clump of coconut trees to the left had my name on it and I settled down with my cooler and beach chair. Two minutes of my feet wiggling around in the sand and any fretting or worries vanish one time. Add to that the roaring sea and I chill right down. I pulled in a lungful of the salty air. People busy swallowing one set of drugs to cope with life when what they need is a regular dose of the sea. 

As the tide was going out the beach was wider than usual and perfect for a stroll. Maybe it was the vastness of the sand, or the postcard-perfect bay of sea and sky blues – whatever it was, it made me still inside. With that peace filling my lungs I set off to cover the length of the bay. The few people strolling gave each other plenty space with the unspoken understanding that if you’re walking this long beach alone, at this hour, you’re not looking to make friends.

Different days see me here for different things. Sometimes it’s to recharge. Mostly I come to forget. Today I have a purpose. It’s time to make up my mind once and for all. It’s not the first or even the tenth occasion I’ve pounded this sand threatening not to leave until I’ve decided one way or another. Normally I don’t have a religious bone in my body but if the big man up there is listening, please, send me a sign, any sign. These 3 a.m. awakenings, staring at the ceiling, can’t keep happening. It’s barely eight o’clock yet and my mind is exhausted.

The sun was beginning to hint at the sting it would inflict by midday. I planned to finish my walk then jump in the sea to cool off. From my starting point in the middle of the bay I headed left to one end where a small river emptied into the sea. Within minutes I was lost hearing only the pounding rhythm of the breaking waves. Footprints of a man walking ahead of me, a little larger than mine, formed a trail and I began stepping into them, my imprint mixing with his. It was a childish game. I soon noticed the owner of the footprints – the colour of wholewheat toast and sporting an unruly afro. Surely he must know that those tiny pum-pum shorts are plain distraction for man and woman alike. I couldn’t tell his age. He ain’t young but he was in decent shape. Snatches of his profile when he glanced around or looked out to sea showed sideburns and a sculptured beard. Early forties maybe? Sweat glistened off his chiselled cheekbones and collarbones. A thick moustache partly covered his cherry thick lips and once again I was butting up against that eternal dilemma. This is what makes my knees weak and my heart race. Why can’t I want something else? Why can’t I lust after what I have at home instead?

 

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