“This man brandishing a cutlass and demanding money,” I say. “He’s like the Trinidad version of the National Trust, but less aggressive about memberships.”
There’s a comfortable laugh as the joke goes above some of the 13-year-old heads. I smile before continuing my story. They’re yet to hear of our panic as I hit the gas pedal of our rented Yaris, stalling and bunny hopping as Cutlass Man jogged alongside the car knocking menacingly on the window. They’ll hear about how the sweat pooled in the small of my back; how I momentarily wonder if it’s the Caribbean sun or the heat of our situation. I’ll describe the pitch lake, bubbling like black molten gold, in this critically-acclaimed tourist hotspot that didn’t warn of a madman with a machete on TripAdvisor reviews.
They’ll ask for more tales about my maiden voyage to my father’s homeland and I’ll willingly oblige. We have a mutual understanding, these high school kids and I. They know that if they can get a teacher talking, they’ll escape work. And I’ve made it clear I know their game.