8. Dance the Bele

Imagine a Bongo man come from Grenada, and a Bele dancer come from Dominica. Both land-up in Trinidad. No family, a cousin somewhere, maybe. The Bongo man worked as a carpenter on a estate, and the Bele dancer was working as a maid in a big house. 

Anyway, one night, at a harvest dance in the village, come the new Bele dancer, to dance to the drum. Madras head-tie, the jip, crisp,  colourful skirt sharp over her white cotton petticoats, and bangles on her wrists. Everybody notice her, especially the Bongo-man. He could only see one dancer that night.

 But had a light-skin fella from Lavantil who noticed the Bele dancer too, and he didn’t waste no time to ask her to dance. And while they was dancing he tried to get as close to her as he dared; close enough to smell the perfume on her neck, and for her long ear-rings to brush his cheek. But the Bele dancer didn’t take to his style and after the Congo Bele she walk away.

Then it was time for the Grand Bele and everybody was watching to see who the Bele dancer was going to dance it with. The Bongo man rest his drum and walk over. The light-skin fella hustle up, but was the Bongo man the Bele dancer choose.

Aye, yai-yai dance the bele
Aye, yai-yai dance the bele oh
Aye, yai-yai dance the bele
La reinviere we go dance the bele

And as they dance, they fall in love. The Bongo man and the Bele dancer. La reinviere they dance the bele. Everybody could see it, including the light-skin fella.

Still, for weeks after the fete, the light-skin fella try all ways to seduce the Bele dancer, but he couldn’t get a look in, Bongo man was always there. And months later, when pregnant come, as it do, he decide to wash way the happiness he could see on the Bongo man face. And he went and visit a obeah man.

Well, whatever the obeah man do, day for baby to born come early. The nurse lady from down the road had to run quick to help. She light candle and boil water and bush tea. And for two days, the Bele dancer suffer and labor and cry out in pain. ’Til, finally, on the third day, out come a big, round, baby girl. The nurse lady cut the cord and hand the baby to the new mother. Then she start to massage the belly to help the afterbirth come out. And as she rubbing the belly, the Bele dancer moan, and blood and placenta rush out, and with it, a next baby with the caul wrap round the head. The nurse scream. And the Bongo man heart catch in he mouth when see the next little body, lying in the blood, as still as if it was dead.

Quick, quick the nurse lady peel the sac off the head, and the baby cough. The Bele dancer, reach up a hand and pulled the Bongo man closer. She whispered in his ear and before he could do more than nod his head, she collapsed back on the bed. Dead.

Feel like, should say the candle in the room blow out, or a shadow fly round the room, but death steal in too quiet for that. The light-skin fella was in the rum shop drinking babash when it happen. Hear the news when the nurse send for doctor, and he smile.

Well, you could imagine, Bongo man take it hard. He stop beating drum and meeting people in the barrack yard. He leave the estate and find work on the docks, lifting box and crate. Nobody never see him laugh again. Then, one night, as he was offloading a shipment of timber, tragedy. A rope snapped and the whole stack of timber fall down on the Bongo man. Fall right on his back. And in two weeks he was dead. A lot of people say it was obeah. Some say it was the Bele Queen come for him. But most of people just say, -oh lard, them poor girls, poor girls.


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