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Friday, May 11, 2012

Hope, and the Dispersal Thereof


I once found myself in the Caribbean with my brother.

I believe it was St. Lucia.

Have you ever hung out with Kevin? You should. He’s one of the more sincere BS artists you’ll ever meet. Kevin is the devil’s advocate, the turd in the punchbowl, the handsome man you suspect may be pulling your leg.

He is. Pulling your leg, that is.

Except when he isn’t.

Both Kevin and I tend to attract lonely people, and we did on this vacation. Perhaps it was because we were having fun, perhaps because we looked like people that would listen, perhaps because we looked like people who were drunk.

It’s not important. What was important was the moment Kevin asked Jean-Claude to sat down.

Jean-Claude was a very black man with very white teeth, a man whose face spoke of sadness. He tried to sell us a variety of cheaply made trinkets in a rush of words, more than three-quarters of which whistled into one ear, around my brain, and back out my other ear without my understanding them.

Kevin threw himself into the moment.

“What am I gonna do with this stuff?” Kevin asked. “Seriously. Jean-Claude, aren’t you tired, brother? Let’s relax. You want a beer? Here, you run and buy Pearl and I here a beer, and buy yourself one, too. You wanna?” Kevin handed him a twenty.

Jean-Claude’s sad eyes took in the money, looked at Kevin and I, and left.

I took a long pull off one of the beers we already had in front of us. “Think he’ll come back?” I asked.

“Of course he will,” Kevin said, lifting his arm to display a dozen necklaces. “I’ve lifted half his inventory.”

Sure enough, Jean-Claude returned.

And stayed.

We had three beers apiece with Jean-Claude, or “Jay-Say” as he insisted we call him, on Kevin’s dime; and while his island patois was not easy on these Minnesotan ears, his story came out as the hour grew later and the steel drums played. His mother had just died. He had three younger sisters still in school. He worked during the day, sold trinkets at night.

He looked up. What did we think? He got by, but it wasn’t enough. Should he go back to school?

Kevin put a hand on J-C’s arm. “Brother, you need to go to school. Make yourself the go-to guy here. Work on your English, give ‘em that big smile of yours, and use that brain. It’s all going to be okay. I know it. Say it with me: it’s going to be okay.”

J-C smiled sadly. “It’s all going to be okay.”

“That’s right,” Kevin said. We raised our last beers, clinked.

We left about an hour after that. With handshakes and hugs, J-C went his way and we went ours.

And I bought a necklace.

We walked away from the outdoor bar. “That was real nice,” I said, “all those things you said to J-C.”

“Wasn’t nice,” he hiccupped. “Was true. S'all true, and I hope he believes it like I do.”

We stopped walking and stood for a moment, a streetlight overhead, the ocean in front of us. Strange Caribbean stars blinked overhead.

Kevin, a full foot taller than me, smiled down.

“It doesn’t cost anything to give people hope, you know.”

48 comments:

Robbie Grey said...

That was very sweet. And true.

Pearl said...

Robbie, he's a sweet guy (when he's not talking politics!).

Vicus Scurra said...

You have a brother called "St Lucia"?

Chantel said...

Loved this. And that, my friend, is why we're all here, right? At times on either side of that need. xo

Pearl said...

Dammit, VS. :-) You're absolutely right.

Chantel, it is, indeed. IF we could remember to be kind -- but it's so hard sometimes...

esbboston said...

Wow, “It doesn’t cost anything to give people hope, you know.” profound - and he isn't a poli-tick-ician or a political speech writer?

Teresa Evangeline said...

Love this, Pearl. Sounds like you have a pretty cool brother. And we Know he has a very cool sister.

NotesFromAbroad said...

Figures you would have a brother like Kevin.
By the way, have I told you my baby brother's name is Kevin ?

Pearl said...

esb, who, Kevin?! He'd love that, but no. Hardwood floors, although I believe he's moving to ND for a bit to become a semi driver for something or other...

Teresa, aww. :-) Mostly he's cool. :-) Don't tell him I said that.

Pearl said...

Notes from Abroad, I think you did once, yes. :-) Kevins are everywhere, and some of them buy your drinks!

Ms Sparrow said...

When Kevin says, "It's all going to be okay", those are words to live by! Sounds like he's a stand-up guy. I just wonder if J-C followed through and succeeded.

Pearl said...

Ms. Sparrow, I don't think I'll ever know. And yes, Kevin has been there for me, in a pinch, more than once!

Pat said...

Maybe it's time to give Kevin a call:)

Steve Bailey said...

Theres a nice moral here... I think its if you are nice to someone they might sell you a necklace for cheaper... right???

Leenie said...

Heart and hope--as schmaltzy as it seems--do matter.

(Floats off into a memory of Caribbean sand, surf and steel drums-----aaAHHHHhhhhhhhhh)

Raymond Alexander Kukkee said...

This is a wonderful story Pearl...even if you had to buy a necklace. Hope is eternal, we merely have to face the flame of hope to see it. ":) ~R

mybabyjohn/Delores said...

Even intoxicated he had his head on straight...."it doesn't cost anything to give someone hope".
Our mantra here...the sun will always rise tomorrow no matter where you are no matter what has happened and as long as you rise with it, there is always hope.

Pearl said...

Pat, that's not a bad idea.

Steve. :-) Finally. Someone who gets me. :-)

Leenie, it's another world, very warm and very slow...

Raymond, that's very nice!

Delores, the drunker Kevin gets, the more sense he makes. :-) And you're mantra? I love that. I had a very difficult time getting up this morning, and the reason I did had EVERYTHING to do with this blog and you guys...

Belle said...

Hope is so important to all of us. Without hope there is despair. Your brother sounds so kind and good. Politics is something that gets me riled too. It is hard not to get angry about that subject.

Mandy_Fish said...

Sweet geezus. Quit making me all verklempt. I can't handle it.

This was very sweet and inspirational. Your brother makes me want to be a better human.

TexWisGirl said...

wow. that gave me chills.

Lynn said...

Kevin sound like a wise man - and fun. :)

Symdaddy said...

Did you get his number? When he makes it into the big time, maybe you could use a friend.

Matthew MacNish said...

This irie post just made my day. Thanks, Pearl!

Ach du lieber said...

It’s all going to be okay.
Words to live by.

I think a trip to St. Lucia is in order.

jenny_o said...

You said your brother has helped you out in a pinch. You're lucky. My brother just used to pinch, tickle, tease and annoy me. Oh, for a sister! But he's mellowing the last while. Or maybe I am.

Where was I going with this? You've got a good family, remember that. And readers who care, remember that too. Wonderful post.

Nessa Roo said...

I love this! And it's an excellent tutorial for my New Year Resolution to give more without spending any money.

Shelly said...

Hope- giving or receiving, is a beautiful, life giving thing.

bill lisleman said...

sometimes beers ease the ideas in your brain and good stuff comes out. Sometimes not.
Your brother had good ideas.

Susan in the Boonies said...

Your brother is right: hope is a priceless commodity, that doesn't cost a dime.

HumorSmith said...

That was lovely Pearl. Almost enough to make me change my snarky ways. *snort*

Yeah, that's the ticket.

Roshni said...

great post! Great guy!

vanilla said...

Even in his inebriated state, Kevin shared sound wisdom with you, and with J-C.

NotesFromAbroad said...

I'm not your brother but I would buy you a drink too ((L))

Hannah Denski said...

Aaaaw, how sweet! Nice story for St. Lucia for sure! :)

Gigi said...

Hope is a precious commodity that costs nothing to give. Kevin sounds very wise.

The Elephant's Child said...

A brother to love. Thank you.

Daisy said...

We're in love with your brother!
What a lovely man...much like his sister ... "lovely", not "man".

Linda O'Connell said...

Brothers can be wise guys, but your brother sounds wise...hope is all any of us has.

Peace said...

I felt the island breeze and your brothers big heart. Very nice.

River said...

Kevin sounds like a real sweetheart.
I LOOOOOVE the sound of steel drums!

Dawn @Lighten Up! said...

Good grief. Your brother=Me.
I once rode the night shift, with my husband the cop. Talked and made friends with just about every perp he put in the back seat, especially this one, um, lady of the night. Oh, we had some conversations, and I had much advice for her, she was so down on her luck and sad. She wanted to hug me -no payment needed - when my hub got her out to put her in jail.
He wouldn't let her. ;)

Brian Miller said...

i love that last line...very endearing and...great story pearl...

Dr. Cynicism said...

"the turd in the punchbowl" I have never heard this one before -- but now it's added to my vocab for CERTAIN future use. Thanks!

Douglas said...

Kevin sounds like a great guy. I wouldn't trust him but he still sounds like a great guy. You are lucky, my brother would have stolen everything from Jean-Claude, passed him a counterfeit $20, and slipped out the door while J-C was being arrested.

My brother's nickname is "Skip"... which is what he always did best.

Eva Gallant said...

Id'd like to thank your parents for raising such great kids.

sage said...

Great story. I think I'd like your brother.

NellieVaughn said...

That was such a sweet thing to do and say to a man in need of good company. Your brother should be a motivational speaker.