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Breath, Eyes, Memory

Edwidge Danticat

Section Three: Chapters 16–18

Section Three: Chapters 13–15

Section Three: Chapters 16–18, page 2

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Chapter 16

Sophie wakes early to see the sun rise, and then goes to the wooden shack in the yard that serves as a bathing room. Though months have passed since her pregnancy, Sophie still feels extremely fat. She scrubs her flesh with rainwater and medicinal leaves. The ritual completed, she wraps herself in a towel and returns to the house.

Later, as Sophie is giving Brigitte a sponge bath in her room, she hears a splash from the bath shack. Looking out toward the yard, she sees Grandmè Ifé naked, bathing with the door wide open. As she bathes, she raises leaves in homage to the four corners of the sky. Grandmè Ifé has a curved spine and a pineapple-sized hump, which are usually hidden by her clothes. Sophie thinks immediately of the double masectomy that Martine had during Sophie's adolescence.

Chapter 17

In the morning, Sophie accompanies Grandmè Ifé to the market, leaving Brigitte with Atie. Grandmè Ifé shops efficiently, buying cinnamon, ginger and sweet potatoes. Sophie notices Louise at her refreshment stand, laughing with the Macoutes who have come to buy cola. One Macoute makes an obscene gesture at Sophie. Another gives a small boy with a kite a penny to buy candy. When Louise sees Sophie and Grandmè Ifé, she leaves her stand and follows them into the market, asking if they will buy her pig.

There is a sudden commotion as one of the Macoutes is heard to claim that a coal vendor stepped on his foot, and begins beating the man with his machine gun. Grandmè Ifé pulls Sophie hurriedly out of the marketplace, asking, "You want to live your nightmares too?" As they make their way out of the market, Sophie looks back to see the Macoutes gathering in a circle around the coal vendor, who is in a fetal position on the ground.

As they pass Louise's house on the way back, Grandmè Ifé spits in the dirt to show her disapproval for Louise's influence on Atie. Atie's melancholy and increasing alcoholism lead Grandmè Ifé to suspect that Atie has come back to Dame Marie out of duty and not love. She tells Sophie the parable of a woman who had three children: one stillborn, one who left and never returned, and a third who stayed in the valley to look after her mother.

Chapter 18

As soon as Sophie and Grandmè Ifé return, Atie leaves for the marketplace on her own business. She has a lump in her calf and claims the remedy cannot wait, Macoutes or no. She does not come home for supper.

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