Our Lady of Montserrat

Contributor: Brandon Mc Ivor

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"People live in Port-of-Spain all their lives—maybe they go Maracas on weekends—and they think they know Trinidad," says my father.
The groundskeeper laughs as he puts the $20 bill my father slipped him into his back pocket.
"They don't know Trinidad," he says, "This is Trinidad."
We are standing on a mountaintop in Tortuga Village. Behind us, Our Lady of Montserrat is cradling her child and looking out into the distance. The sun is sinking into a sea of rolling elephant grass on the Gulf of Paria.
"Trinidad small," says the groundskeeper, "But some people feel it tiny—like it have nothing here at all."
"But it have this, though," I say.
The groundskeeper smiles, bows his head. He turns away from us and brushes a cobweb from his statue’s shawl.
"He leaving for America," says my father, gesturing towards me, "So I say I would show him Trinidad before he leave."
"You live in the States?" the groundskeeper asks.
"No," I say, "I only going there for school."
"So where you live, then?"
The groundskeeper nods. Cars, down on the Solomon Hochoy Highway, pass one another—going to San Fernando, coming from Mount Hope, going to Chaguanas.
"So,” he says, “When you leaving?"
"In a week. I have some time."
The groundskeeper shakes his head.
"You could live Trinidad your whole life and you wouldn't have time. You must feel Trinidad small too, eh?"
"No—" I start.
"So why you leaving, then?"
My father has walked over to the grotto and I can see him thumbing his rosary, saying quiet prayers for me.
"I get a scholarship—"
There is a lump in my throat, which I nearly choke on, but I manage to swallow it.
“—from the government," I say.
The groundskeeper takes his cap off and he runs his hands through his hair. His fingers are shining, and I can smell the sticky-sweetness of coconut oil.
"Well," he says, loudly enough for my father to hear, "That's all it really have to show here—just the church. Allyuh through?"
My father raises his hand, mouthing the last few verses of the prayer he is saying.
"Give us a little more time," he says.
The groundskeeper nods, and he walks off, back to his hut.
"Lock the door when you leave," he says.
But he had never opened it. I call out to him, but my father waves me off.
"It's alright," he says.
We walk around the church and find a spot to sit—just the two of us.
The sun has gone down, and Trinidad is all shadows now. Little lights are burning on the mountainside and the stars have come out. Behind us, Our Lady of Montserrat, the black virgin, is cradling her child and she is looking out over our island and into the Gulf.

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Brandon was born and raised in Trinidad and Tobago. He came to New York City to study English in 2009. He will likely spend the rest of his life coming and going between those two places.
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