On the corner of the beach an old man lives in the hollowed-out base of a Kapok tree. I see him from my kitchen window, where overhanging branches give shade under the hot Caribbean sun. The contents of his home, packed tightly in old carrier bags, are stored in the gnarled folds of the trunk.
As the sun rises he walks with purpose to the water and covers his body with soft white sand. He scrubs hard then wanders deeper to bathe. He shouts out and curses as he strides through the surf.
In the morning, his ablutions continue with the rinsing of his one good shirt and he places it on my wall to dry. A yolk looking sun climbs high and he stretches and bends and talks to the sky.
When the rain comes, he covers his hollow with old sacking and lies low.
Days drift by and he walks the beach, searching the tide. Plastic bottles are packed into discarded bags for recycling cents. He gathers his spoils and returns to his hollow.
His body is thin but nourished. His stance proud. I see him eat coconut, split open with a rock, pawpaw too. I place mangoes some distance away but he sees me leave them and the mangoes rot. He don’ take nuffin’ from a white woman.
When night comes, he settles down under his sacking and as the sky turns black and the sea slate grey, warm winds whip weed around his home before the morning tide returns it to the silky water.
On three consecutive days’ the beach constable visits. On day four, two suited women appear. Two days later, as I stand washing pots, I see Tree Man reach into his tree cupboard and bring out a bag. He shakes out long pants and ties rope though the loops to fold the billowing fabric around his skinny waist. Worn shoes cover his bare feet. Sacking is neatly folded into a seat and he sits and stares out to sea.
I don’t see him leave but by sunset he has gone. The tree has empty crevices and the hollow is clear.
The beach seems emptier as I take my walks and wonder where home is for Tree Man is now.
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