Short story

Open the way

By Germaine Jong Loy

October 12, 2023



The chilly, nocturnal sea breeze held Deka’s exposed limbs and bare belly in its grip. She shivered from the salty wind. Her suitcase’s grinding wheels and her own rapid footsteps cutting through the silence of the night, irritated her deeply.

“Get out of the way, so I won’t kick you, bam! Hala fo’i kaminda pa mi no dal bo un skòp, budum!” was the nursery rhyme she repeated. Her destination was the highest point of the Queen Juliana Bridge. On her way she had a panoramic view of the western part of the island. Countless tiny lights that became haloed through her tears. On the right, across the bay, was the oil refinery abandoned by the last tenant for years. The ferries laid motionless in the bay. Curaçao was in deep rest. Emotions and adrenaline drove her forward, and soon she would be on the short lane for vehicles to merge onto the bridge. Pedestrians were not allowed on the bridge, as most of the time they had disastrous plans. The tall, iron structure connected two parts of the city: Otrobanda, with a more local character, and Punda, the more tourist-oriented shopping area. The trunk she was dragging contained corals that had washed up on her life’s beach. Gifts from Yemaya, the goddess of the sea. And she, Deka, had always humbly accepted, but today the only thing she wanted was to get rid of its contents. 

Each coral in the trolley represented parts of her life. 

“This child doesn’t have my fingers,” her father had observed carefully, examining the shape of her fingers within days of her birth. He used this as an excuse to disappear from her and her mother’s life forever. For a long time, Mama was allergic to men and relied only on the Lord, but in the end, she fell in love with François. 

“Mama, when you were at church last night, François touched me here,” Deka told her. 

“Shut your mouth, Deka. Don’t say things that aren’t true,” Mama said, waving, pointing her finger at Deka’s face. The slap that followed made Deka’s short braids tremble and escaping her stepfather’s sexual abuse meant going to the Netherlands on a scholarship. 

There, at the university she met Carlos, her ex-husband. 

“Always let me know where you are,” he whispered in her ear. At first, she was charmed by his concern, but it quickly turned into abuse if she didn’t do what he demanded. Her love vanished like cheap perfume. With her diploma in hand, she fled back to Curaçao with her twins. 

Working as a psychologist, she met John, the owner of a cute boutique in Otrobanda. He became her lover, and later her teacher in drugs. They slept off their stupor for days. Eventually, her employer fired her, the boutique went bankrupt, and Mama took care of her girls. 

What happened this afternoon left her trunk heavier and made her rebellious. 

She was walking along the Waaigat in the late afternoon sun. There was commotion in the large parking lot near the big inner water. Someone lay motionless on the ground. Fear made her approach the situation cautiously. She held her breath and peeked. All the blood drained from her face. She screamed all the energy and love out of her body.

“I saw what happened,” said a plump woman. 

“A young man parked his BMW here and asked that addict to wash his car. When the older man was done, the car was clean. 

“If you want your money, you have to do 25 push-ups first,” the young man said and he smiled at his own wit. 

“Koňo, give me my money, you jerk, I worked for it!” The addict grabbed the youngster by the collar and the fighting began. 

“Dirty junkie, Mi ta mata bo! I’ll kill you.” 

They kept pulling, hitting and beating. I saw the older man clutching his chest and after that he collapsed,” the woman told her. 

“Yemaya, how could you do this on my birthday?” she sobbed. “How am I supposed to live without him? Yemaya, I’ll be on the bridge and I will throw everything back to you,” she vowed. She was startled by her own loud, hysterical laughter. 

“Congratulations, darling, on your 35th birthday,” John said and after that he kissed her. The sun was up when someone knocked on the door. 

“What a surprise,” said Deka as she opened the door. Mama stood there with the twins.

“Good morning, Mama,” her girls sang in unison. 

“Hi Deka, I have something for you,” Mama said, as she handed Deka a box with various non-perishable items. 

“How are you? When will you stop living like this? You don’t belong here in this stinking hole and your children need you.” 

Deka laughed shyly but didn’t respond to Mama’s remarks. 

“I don’t understand how you can live under these conditions,” Mama complained. 

She looked around as if she were doing a housing inspection. 

“You’ve grown so tall,” Deka smiled at Frailine and Aisheline. She hugged them, but she felt their little bodies shrinking when she embraced them. They looked at her dirty skirt and the blouse tied under her breasts. Is this my mother, their eyes wandered and they just stood there quietly. With her flaky nail polish-covered fingers, Deka tried to fix her unkempt afro. She straightened her clothes. 

“Have a good day,” Mama said, and they left. 

“Don’t worry, Deka,” John said when he saw her tears. 

“I’d rather Mama hadn’t come. I don’t need her box. I can’t stand her messing up my life and pretend that you don’t exist.” 

“Don’t worry; I have a broad chest that will protect you too. Come on,” John said, and he kissed her. His lips kissed away the pain from before. His hands caressed her body, making her forget the feelings from earlier. She enjoyed being the birthday girl, who was loved and desired. They remained entwined for a long time and eventually fell asleep again.

 “Come on, let’s get up. Shall we meet here around seven o’clock? I’ll wash some cars; it’s Saturday, and the Waaigat will surely be busy today. I can earn some money,” John said and that was the last time she saw him alive. 

“Here,” said to the vendor in Punda who exchanged her money for two small, hard plastic bags with cream-colored chunks. Deka looked forward to her own crack party. On her way to the pedestrian bridge, she walked through the parking lot, where she recognized John by his clothes. The black pants held up with a rope and the green checkered shirt. His bare feet and plastic flip-flops. Shocked, she looked at his slightly open mouth, as if he wanted to tell her one last time how much he loved her. Lips that she had kissed, caressed just some hours before. 

After the hearse finally arrived, she trudged home alone. What was for the both of them, she had smoked alone to dispel the intense pain. She closed her eyes, and the world of gray smoke took hold of her. 

After that, she began her journey to the bridge. In the chilly night wind, she walked along the spiral road. While arriving at the feet of the bridge her head snapped in astonishment. Oh god, the situation had completely changed. Where cars usually drove on the road, an enormous wall had risen. A structure that had no intention of giving way or disappearing. She couldn’t climb over it; it was too high. She couldn’t go around the sides; there were pieces of barbed and razor wire. The only passage available was a heavy red and black-painted door, but it was closed. The door opened, and an old man came out who locked the door. 

“Hey, don’t close it,” she yelled and waved, running towards him. 

“I need to be there.” 

Slightly out of breath, she pointed with her chin and eyes to the place behind the barrier. 

“So, why should you be there?” 

Shit! She had to reason with this old man. 

“Give me the key, and I’ll open the door myself, father…” The cigar smoke he carried was stronger than the scent of the sea. His red and black-striped satin pants and his cloak flapped in the wind, while his white cotton shirt stood stiff. He had strong calves that made him stand like a large, old mahogany tree with a rough bark in fertile smelling soil. This was a man who didn’t belong here at all. 

“Give it to me, as I need to be there, father,” she said, pointing with her finger beyond the great wall. 

“Mmm, nothing is a must, child. The only things we need to do, are to be born or to die and everything in between is a gift…” 

“A gift?” She scoffed. “Please, open that door. Yemaya will get her mess back today! Do you know how heavy it is to drag all this shit?” 

She showed him the contents of the trunk. He looked at it with a slight smile. 

“Look, look for yourself! This is my life.” 

The old man studied the contents of the roller bag carefully. He set aside her homemade crack pipe and let the corals glide through his hands one by one. Large, small, long, irregular, and some spotted with coral red. He touched them, like a blind person, examined their holes and crevices, felt their waves and sharp protrusions. What surprised her the most was that he knew exactly where each coral belonged in the bag. 

“This bridge is not your final destination,” he said, looking at her lovingly. Then he handed her a gold-colored key on a cord. 

“This key will open the right door for you.” 

“Don’t go, father. Please, please, don’t go, open the way,” she begged. The old man didn’t listen. He walked away whistling, and the distance between them grew. He disappeared into the night. She threw the dangling key into the bag. 

“Old senile man,” she cursed disrespectfully under her breath. 

“Good morning, Mrs. Martina. I heard you’re going home today,” said the nurse bringing Deka’s breakfast. 

“Yes, today is my last day here. I’ve been with you long enough.” 

“Indeed. I’m so happy for you.” 

Deka looked at a healthy version of herself in the mirror. The blue mini-skirt and flowery blouse had been replaced by a white dress. 

“How did I end up here?” she asked the psychiatrist as soon as she was coherent enough. 

“The neighbors, owners of the eateries next to your house, were annoyed that you and your lover kept begging for money from their customers. They called the police, who raided your place. When they discovered you overdosed, an ambulance came. They brought you to the hospital, and when you improved, they brought you here.” 

“Mrs. Martina, the doctor just signed your discharge letter. Here you go,” the young nurse said. 

“Goodbye, ladies. Thanks for taking care of me,” she said in the cool air of the head nurse’s room. Deka was already outside when the secretary called her back. 

“Ma’am, you forgot something.” 

Surprised, Deka walked back to the hall, where the smell of lunch wafted through the air. The secretary came back with a blue object on wheels. 

“Here you go.” She handed Deka her property and disappeared. 

“I thought I’d never see you again,” Deka grumbled. She flung the bag on the table and unzipped the hard flap. Between all the corals lay her crack pipe. It smelled like something of a time gone by. She closed her eyes and saw the smiling faces of her children. She tossed the pipe into the trash bin. Among Yemaya’s corals lay the old man’s gold-colored key. She hung the key around her neck. Habri kamino, open the way, she whispered to herself as she stepped into the future.

"This key will open the right door for you." 

-Germaine Jong Loy

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About the author

Germaine Jong Loy

Germaine Jong Loy was born in Paramaribo, Suriname, and ended up in Curaçao some forty years ago due to circumstances. She never left! Germaine combines two professional practices: that of a special education teacher on the one hand and that of a poet, comedian, and writer on the other. In 2022, she released her debut novel, “Mica in tea-colored water” with Wintertuin Publishing.