Sugar Beach, Soufrière, Saint Lucia
Joss went for a walk around the grounds after dinner, hoping to find his lost sunglasses, finally running them to earth in one of the cabanas. Triumphant at avoiding the hassle of getting a new pair, he strode through the open-air lounge and saw their waiter, Guillaume. He was an the bar, off duty, having a drink. Gui waved him over enthusiastically, urged him to sit.
“Drink with me. You have time, or Miss Kathi wait for you?”
“She’s at the spa.” Joss pulled up a stool and sat down.
“How about an Irish Moss?” Gui said with a grin.
Joss groaned. Their first night in the restaurant, at Gui’s urging, he’d tried a shot of that vile seaweed extract and one was enough. The memory alone made him gag.
Gui laughed, clapping him on the shoulder. He summoned the bartender. “Simon. A Piton for my friend.”
A draft of the famed St. Lucia ale was pulled and set on a coaster before Joss. Gui was having something strange and dark in a lowball, at the bottom of which lurked a single chili pepper. Simon had fixed himself the same.
Apparently Joss had been invited to witness a transaction of some sort, for after the men clinked glasses and drank, Simon dug in his shirt pocket and produced a small plastic bag of brown powder which he slid across the bar. Gui made an exclamation of delight, picked up the bag and showed it to Joss.
“Bois bandé,” he said.
Joss looked at him blankly.
“Gui has a new girlfriend,” Simon smiled. “That shit there, hé? Make you love like a tiger.”
“Ah.” Joss tried to sound knowing. Gui was holding out the bag, clearly wanting him to inspect it. Joss took it, and tried to look appreciatively at its contents, although it could’ve been cocoa powder for all he knew. His brain helpfully piped up with some scrap of useless trivia. He looked over at his companions and ventured a guess. “Rhinocerous horn?”
Simon rolled his eyes and replenished his drink with another chili pepper.
“That’s a Chinese myth,” Gui snorted. He had taken back the bag and was delicately opening it. “This? The real thing. Better than ecstasy. And no headache tomorrow. You try?”
“What is it? I mean, what’s it made of?”
“Richeria tree,” Simon said. “Native to Caribbean. You peel the bark and the inside, you grind it down.”
“Sometimes they steep the whole bark in rum,” Gui added.
Simon grew stern, raised a warning finger. “Not as good. It’s weak, see, the bark, it does not dissolve.”
“It’s fine for tourists,” Gui conceeded.
Simon set his finger at his temple solemnly. “You steep the whole bark in rum, you need seven rum to get the effect. Tiger won’t find a lover on seven rum, hé? But just the inside bark, ground like this, is fine. Strong. You only need a little and the tiger finds you.”
Once more Gui held out the bag and Joss stared, intruiged, but out of his element. Was he supposed to take a pinch and snort it? Eat it? Unzip his fly and sprinkle therein? He considered, debated the wisdom of taking candy from strangers, and then finally said, “I will if you will.”
Apparently this was exactly the right thing to say for a simple, yet serious ritual followed. With the panache of the practiced bartender, Simon laid out a small rattan mat, three fresh lowballs, and began setting up bottles and ingredients.
“First, rum,” he said, doing a high pour into a clean shaker. “This from British Virgin Islands. The best. A name like that, you can’t go wrong, hé?”
He turned the label toward Joss, who laughed when he read Pusser’s Rum.
Simon was in the zone now, a high priest at the altar. A vanilla bean was split and scraped, the seeds delicately tapped into the rum. A lemon was muddled with a small piece of fresh ginger and the juice strained into the shaker. Another jar came up from under the bar. “Some add molasses to this drink,” Gui said, “but Simon use Nevis honey. From the Nisbet Plantation.”
“Liquid gold,” Simon said softly, “the tropical flowers give it a taste. You find it nowhere else but Nevis.” Expertly he let a ribbon dribble into the concotion, turning the jar to cut off the stream without wasting a drop. He capped the shaker, took an end in each of his large hands and gently tilted it this way and that. “Gentle,” he said, smiling. “You treat this drink like a woman.”
“Stir. Don’t shake,” Joss said, fascinated by the ceremony and enjoying himself immensely.
Cap off with a flourish, and into the waiting lowballs Simon poured a beautiful amber shot, his keen eye portioning precisely. He then pushed the glasses together to form a triangle and produced a small spoon. He dipped into the bois bandé and dropped a dose into Gui’s shot. Gui took the spoon and administered Joss’s drink. Joss doctored Simon’s. They gently whirled their glasses in circles on the table until the powder dissolved, raised, clinked, and downed.
“Wow,” Joss said. “That’s fantastic.” And it was – smooth as silk, the citrus, the ginger, and the vanilla masking the bite of the dark rum, and the honey a pleasant aftertaste. Like a woman, he thought. He tilted the glass to get the last drops. “What do you call that again?”
“That’s the name of the powder, or the name of the drink?”
He waited for his head to explode, or something as dramatic, but nothing happened. Perhaps a delayed reaction. He hoped he wasn’t going to completely trip out at the bar. As he chatted amiably with his new comrades, he monitored himself closely. Was he sweating? Breathing hard? Becoming paranoid? Other than feeling warmly buzzed from slamming a shot of 95 proof rum, nothing else seemed to be happening mentally, nor was he suddenly sporting wood or consumed with lust. Maybe, like the rhinocerous horn, it was all a myth. He shrugged it off. What difference would it make anyway, for since arriving at the plantation, scarcely an hour went by when he wasn’t itching to get his hands on Katherine. They were on a veritable roll of magnificent sex: on the beach their first evening, twice yesterday, again this morning. He didn’t need any help, thanks much, but what the hell, too late now…
He went to pay but Simon waved his money aside, shook hands instead. “The tiger find you,” he said gravely. Joss dismissed that as well. He didn’t know from tigers.
“Tell lovely Miss Kathi good night,” Gui added, shaking hands. “See you in the morning.”
Joss left the bar feeling nothing more than a general, suffused contentment. But some time later, in the dark of their room, lovely Miss Kathi lifted her face out of the mattress with a concerted effort, and weakly pushed her tangled hair out of her mouth. Her shoulder blades were heaving and slick with sweat. “Oh my God,” she gasped, “what is with you tonight?”
“Bois bandé,” he intoned darkly.
“The hell is that,” she said in a luxuriant groan, laying her head back down. “Jesus, I can’t see straight…”
“You all right?”
“Oh I’m fine…”
Photo Credit: Recettes-antillaise