A few minutes before Maracas Bay, I stopped at a little roadside stall which sold savoury sweets and pickled fruits. I said hello to the lady and the two young boys with her, asking for my usual pepper pineapple, and ordered a potato pie from her TODAY chalkboard menu. While she ‘went in the back’ to make the pie for me, the older boy, probably around nine years of age, looked up at me.
“You reaching as far as Maracas Beach? I could get a drop?”
My first reaction was surprise. I was a stranger to him! ”Where’s your family?” I asked.
“Here, but I just going there by my grandfather,”
I felt guilty that my first instinct was not to trust. For the next few minutes, as I waited for the pie to be taken out of the frying pan, and as both boys studied me, a mini debate was going on in my head: about my safety, about his safety, does he ask strangers for lifts all the time, what if this is the way of life in this rural area, what if I was thinking like a ‘city’ person—whatever happened to just being kind?
He and the other little boy exchanged a look as I said “OK, sure.”
“OK, so, I going by grandfather OK.”
He gave his little brother a ‘bounce’ and I felt sad that my first instinct was to doubt the kid. Yet afterwards, as he glanced at me in the rear-view mirror from the backseat of the car, my overactive imagination was hard at work: what if he’s a psycho kid and is going to strangle or stab me while his dad or grandfather follows the car? I felt guilty about thinking that way too.
So I asked him questions during the two minute drive to stop myself from thinking these silly thoughts. He goes to school in the area with his little brother, his only sibling. They both live with their mom and dad close by and his dad fishes on mornings. His mom makes all the sweets and preserved treats for the stall. He put questions to me too, asking if I was going to camp on the beach when I told him I was on my way to Blanchisseuse for the weekend and not ‘playing mas’. He was quick too, assuming I was going to drive back to town for “all my clothes and things”( my backseat was empty).
Hopping out of the car, he said “Bye” and “Thanks”, and I reminded him to be careful about asking strangers to drop him back later. He said, “Yeah I know”. And he probably does. He’s probably way better at sizing people up than I am. Children tend to be that way. Maybe he knew I wouldn’t say no. Maybe he asked me because I was on my own. Maybe it’s a simpler, more straightforward way of ‘seeing’ people that I’ve forgotten how to do.