The Sexual Enlightenment Of Dockmaster Norman

  • print
  • make this is a favorite!

    1 other person called this a favorite

“How long you married?” the dockmaster Norman asked me.

The air conditioner hummed as Norman balanced his Styrofoam container of ribs with peas and rice on his knees. As he waved a rib in the air at me, his mahogany face glistened with sweat and grease.

Norman and I had been working together for only a few weeks. I had lived on Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos Islands for less than a year when I was hired to oversee the marina at Turtle Cove. I knew nothing about boats. Norman knew nothing about running a business.

“Gerard and I have been married 13 years,” I responded. “And you?”

“Plenty long.” A derisive grunt followed as Norman wiped his mouth. He and I had already had differences of opinion over the necessity of punching the time clock, keeping the daily cash register tapes, and greeting the customers with a pleasant attitude. (I deemed them all necessary; he did not.)

It was a quiet day in mid-September, the marina empty except for a few fishing boats bobbing in the water. Norman and Keith, his assistant, had come in to my office to take advantage of the air conditioning and to become better acquainted with the blonde American chick who was their new boss. I was just as curious about them, two local guys who had grown up here, back when the island barely had roads.

I turned to Keith. “The guy that delivers the diesel, what’s his name, Gus? He told me you have a girlfriend. Yeah? Is that true?" Keith, his arms dark as Guinness stout, was in his early 20s, eager to please and to learn.

Keith grinned and mumbled, “Yes.”

“How long have you two been together?”

“A bit, you know, since school.” He looked away, blushing.

“She too pretty for you, man,” Norman said. “She too smart. She be finding herself some dude with a nice ride, man, good clothes, big house.”

Norman wadded up his napkin and tossed it playfully at Keith. They both laughed. So far, Keith listened to me and did what I asked, but I wondered what else he might be learning from Norman.

“You gots to watch out man," Norman said. "One day you come home, she might be gone, so you gots to show her who’s boss.”

Keith looked at his shoes and I sat up straighter in my chair. I swiveled around to look directly at Norman. He smirked right back at me.

“What does that mean, ‘show her who’s boss?’” I asked.

“Well, you know, like sometimes you gots to be the man, she do something you don’ like, you hit her around some.”

 “What? You hit your wife?”

“There’s times, yeah, man,” Norman said.

“What sorts of times?” I demanded.

 “Ah, she ain't good, she step out on you, you take control, man.”

 “You can't be serious.” This was an attitude as foreign to my sensibility as the island’s Scotch bonnet peppers had been to my intestines.

 “Keith,” I asked, “are you with him on this?”

He shrugged his shoulders, not looking at either of us. “I s'pose could be times.”

 “There are never times when it is OK to hit a woman.” My voice was a little shrill. “I don't care what she does or who she does it with, you never hit a woman.”

They both raised their eyebrows at me. My face was hot, my heartbeat rapid as I shook my head and stared down at my desk.

When it came to relationships, this wasn’t the first cultural chasm I’d encountered. Hot Shot, a fishing boat captain, had already offered me unsolicited advice when he heard that my husband was staying up in the States for a month. He was confused as to why I wasn't worried about Gerard.

“You should be,” he said, shaking his head at my naiveté. “When a man’s hungry, he gots to eat.”

It didn't take me long to figure out that marital monogamy was generally treated with little regard here. This was a world of “outside children,” kids born outside the marital home, and accepted as an ancillary part of the family. I knew that Keith was an “outside child.” I didn’t bother to broach that subject with him, though; I'd seen him shrug his shoulders before in response to personal questions.

I argued with Norman for the rest of the lunch hour, pleading my case for non-violence. But neither of us made any headway with the other. Eventually, we packed up our lunches in quiet contempt.

After a few months of barely tolerating my presence on the docks, Norman quit.

I now oversee the company that manages the marina.

Keith succeeded Norman as dockmaster. He is now happily married with two “inside” children and to the best of my knowledge, has never physically abused his wife. 


Post a Comment

Sarah Fogarty Stories from Sarah Fogarty
See All
Related Story

TOP 5: Green Initiatives Abroad

21 Apr 2009

In the United States, we like to think of ourselves as innovators. But when it comes to tackling environmental problems, ... read more

Related Photos

Or login with Facebook:

Forgot your password? We can help you change it! Click Here

Not registered? Click here to create an account.