Thirty one years ago on this date, six am in the morning,I was woken up by a low hum. I shrugged it off and started to does off, but then I heard loud explosion. I sat up in bed, it quiet for a second, then a sudden barrage of anti aircraft gun fire. I jumped up and ran to my front door, a huge plane was flying over, soldiers floated down, their parachutes fluttering in the tropical wind. Confusion set in, even though we expected it, finding ones self in the middle of life and death will wake anybody up. That was the day the world turned gray for me. The tropical flowers were grey, the blue skies were gray, the ocean that I love so much turned gray. Nothing makes a person feel more helpless than life spiraling into total confusion, not because of your actions, but by the actions of politricksters who think they know how people should live.I still have dreams about that day, I guess they will never go away.
The next morning she woke up and rolled over half expecting to see me lying next to she then she sat up with a start remembering that I was gone. She got up and walked over to the window, Ken and he mother were walking through the yard on their way to Sunday church. The church bells were chiming real loud and the yard was filled with me neighbors on they way to church, Ken looked up at she and waved she could tell that he was in no way happy bout having to go.
She left the window and spun round the middle of the room confused for so, then she grabbed she bag and went to the beach a little bit angry that I had left without telling she where I was going. She got to the beach and walked the length of it hoping that she would find someone who knew where I was, soldiers were running along the sand singing as they went their A.K rifles held in front of them, some of them smiled at she as they went by. The island had become more militant I mean they even got new armored cars like they were preparing for war or something. Some of the other medical students warned Jane bout being friends with the locals I mean, after all the American government was fast becoming an enemy of the people of the small island, damn Yankees would not mind they own business always want to tell we Third World people how to think.
After bout an hour she decided to go to the police station on the other side of the beach. She arrived at a small wooden building painted in green, yellow and red its weather beaten door was swung open so she walked inside. A policeman was sitting at a desk that was directly in front of a big window, he was not wearing a uniform and his shirt was unbuttoned down to his waist, he looked up as she walked in,
“May I help you?” he said standing up, hurrying to button up his shirt. He pointed to a chair that sat at the front of the desk facing him Jane sat down and tried to talk but began crying instead. A young soldier came out of another room and stopped looking at she. The policeman looked at him a confused expression on his face then walked round the desk and sat on it looking down at she, I mean, the last thing he needed was an American girl crying in the station.
“Get a glass of water,” he said to the soldier, the young man did not move at first a little stunned at seeing the pretty American girl crying but he moved real fast when the policeman shot him a stern glance and he turned and hurried into the other room.
“Now calm dung and tell me wha’s de matter?” Jane took a deep breath and stumbled through she story not stopping to take a breath, she insisted that I would not be gone a whole two days without letting she know where I was going, the policeman listened to she he eyes never leaving she face. The soldier came back in with the glass of water and handed it to Jane, she thanked him took a sip then continued talking. When she was finished the young soldier spoke,
“She talking bout Mr. Dickens he used to be me teacher.” The policeman looked over at him.
“You mean 94 Dickens son?” the young soldier nodded he head and the policemen picked up the telephone sitting on the desk behind him and dialed the rotary dial clicking real loud. He spoke for bout five minutes then hung up.
“O.K, nobody seen im but dey going to have a look round, O.K” he mahogany brown complexion glistened as sweat rolled down he face, Jane looked up at him, she hazel eyes tearing up again.
“Do you think they arrested him?” The policeman looked over to the soldier they knew too well that some of the revolutionaries were going through the island arresting some of the children of people who were part of the former government
“No mam, if he was we would know bout it, Ah mean everybody round here know im right,” he said and looked over to the soldier the young man nodded he head.
“Rite now de best ting for you to do is to go home and wait, Ah promise you we go investigate and as soon as Ah find out anyting Ah go call you, Ah promise. Me and he fada was policemen together so Ah go do me best O.K.” Jane got up and walked towards the door, the young soldier followed she,
“Don worry mis, we go find him.” He said touching she arm, she walked down the steps and onto the sand the young soldier stood at the doorway watching she walk away.
She went back to the beach walking aimlessly frustration setting in then she stopped and looked out to the ocean and suddenly remembered where I stored me raft. She walked over to the thick bushes and parted the shrubbery and found that the raft was gone. She stepped back feeling as if someone had punched she in the stomach, she looked at the ocean then turned and walked down the beach. Just before she got to she dorm she saw a group of Rastamen sitting on the sand laughing and talking, then she remembered what Ras Itran had said to she the day of the revolution so she walked up to the men hoping he was there. One of the Rastamen looked up at she he hair was so long it dragged on the sand when he turned.
“Do any of you know where Ras Itran is?” she asked. The man laughed a little he thick lips quivering as he did.
“Ah like how you say he name wid dat yanky accent,” then he turned to the others and asked if they knew where Itran was, a younger Rastamen looked over and spoke smoke bellowing out his mouth. A flurry of gunshots filled the air and the rastaman looked down the beach, a group of young soldiers were laughing as one pointed he gun in the air and shot, the Rasta shook he head but continued talking,
“He dung at de barracks in de city,” he said and the older man turned back to Jane and gave she directions on how to get to the barracks, she went out to the road and found a taxi and asked the driver to take she to the city.
The taxi pulled up in front a building that looked like an old British warehouse or something, it was constructed with stones stacked on each other like blocks, the tin roof was rusting and sometimes it leaked when heavy rains fell, soldiers were walking round some of them stopped and looked at she suspiciously as she got out of the taxi. She walked through the grounds looking round at all the military equipment when a young woman in military uniform walked up to she.
“You looking for sumbody?” she asked eyeing Jane suspiciously and Jane told her she was looking for Itran, the young lady pointed to a small building at the other end of the compound and Jane walked up to the building and went inside the young woman watching she all the way.
There were bout seven soldiers in there and they all stopped talking and looked at she as she walked in. Ras Itran walked out of another room a big smile appearing on his face, he walked over and took she arm guiding she to a chair in the corner. She fought to hold back the tears as she told Ras Itran she story, he agreed with that it was not like me to disappear like that, he chuckled as he said how anal I was bout time and letting people know where I was it was the way me mother raised me. Itran told she he knew bout me missing because the policeman had called earlier and told him bout it, he said they were already investigating and he was sure they would come up with something by the end of the day. Jane told him bout the raft not being in its spot and he told she that he had warned me bout that damn death trap then he got up and went to the phone. Jane sat and looked at the activities going on in the building, young soldiers came in and out; some looked confused as if they did not know what the hell they should be doing. Jane turned and looked out the window a jeep raced by outside and a soldier cursed at the driver as he sped out of the compound. There were not just young men in uniform, but there was an equal number of women walking round holding rifles, I mean it looked so disorganized but she knew that the new government had total control of the island, guns have a way of keeping people under control. The last few months were strange, she parents wanted she to come home but she insisted on staying on the island, I would think that me being here had a part to play in she decision to stay.
Its all coming back now, seeing that house after 28 years. It was that front door to the street I ran out to see the 82nd airborne floating down. It was that roof that shook with every explosion. You see where the light is on in that front window, yeah right there, it was there I laid in the dark night after night clinching a weapon, hoping that friend or foe do not try to enter. And that dark hill to the far left, it was there I saw the orange flares light up the night. Its that bush fence I hide behind when soldiers drove by, it was from that house I left to catch the plain to become The Dirty Immigrant. Sometimes we run from memories, we try to leave them behind, but then as you live, something brings them back, the loud pop of a car backfiring, the scent of smoke, a helicopter flying by, sirens blaring, shouting, crying, just everyday things can take you back to where you left. And then the urge to go back, because you remember before the chaos there was peace and you long for that peace.
Today marks the anniversary of the Grenadian revolution. On that day I woke up to my mother bursting in screaming “The communist are taking over.” It was the first time I saw real fear in my mother’s eyes. I jumped up and followed her to the living room. The transistor radio was on. The Announcer was screaming instructions at the revolutionaries, letting them know where pockets of resistants’ were. It was strangely quiet, I heard no cars, no voices of children going to school but most of all there was a revolution but no sounds of gunshots, no sound of a war raging. The world seem different, like something, not scary, I did not believe the the islanders would harm anyone, we are not by nature violent, but somehow the would seemed to get just a little grey for me.
It was 1981, I was standing outside the Ministry of Finance building waiting for Mommy Charles to get off work. It was November and we were going to the town to do a little window shopping, a tradition we had during the season. I looked across the small parking lot, standing on the other side were three People’s Revolutionary Army Soldiers or PRA as we called them. They seemed to be looking at me and talking. I did not pay them any mind, they were showing off with the A K 47 rifles slung over their shoulders. I looked away and to the public library, a woman and a little boy walked out. The little boy had a book open trying to read and walk at the same time. He stumbled down the steps and almost fell. His mother caught him and they walked past The PRA members. One of them looked at me then slowly began walking towards me, the rifle hung loosely over his should from a strap, I pretended not to look at him. Soon he was standing next to me, his eyes red from standing in the soon, his Russian made green uniform pressed, his boots sparkling in the tropical afternoon sun,
“Dat woman wey work up dey, dats you sista eh?” He asked. At first I did not respond not knowing why he was asking.
“wah woman?” I asked, he smiled and shook his head,
De one call Mis Charles,” he said, adjusting the gun on his shoulder.
“Dats me mudda mon, why you asking?”
“she used to be A Garyite,” Mommy Charles was a prominent supporter of the former Prime Minister, I used to go to parties and political rallies with her all the time,
“Yea mon, we locking all ah dem who used to support the old government, yuh mudda is one ah dem. One day we go come tek she to jail,” I sttod speechless, the thought of Mommy Charles being carded off to that dungeon they called a prison flashed before me. Then I felt my face get hot, and a sharp throbbing around my eyes. The PRA soldier smiled, adjusted the rifle, turned and walked away. It was at hast moment I decided that I needed to arm myself.
Two weeks later, after I made sure no one would be home, I sat in my room looking down and two Avtomat Kalashnikova rifles, a Russian made pistol. Several rounds for the weapons lay next to them. My heart was racing, I have held guns before even shot them, but this was different, sweat trickled down my face, my back, my chest even though there was a cool breeze sweeping through the house. I took the guns, wrapped them in plastic and hid them in the chicken coup in the back yard. Weeks later, just after Christmas, I was once again standing outside the Ministry when I saw the same PRA soldier, I walked over to my, propelled by fear and anger. When I got to him I stopped, looked him in the eyes, then leaned in,
If all you come get she, dere going be a blood bath.” Before he responded, I turned and walked away, my knees felt like they were rubber, my heart was beating so fast it hurt. Luckily, they never came to get Mommy Charles because in my opinion, not much in this life is worth dying for, but Mommy Charles, well that was a whole other story.
The author is the holder of Law degrees from London University and a graduate of Hugh Wooding Law School.
The day is bright, blinding
Nothing moves, not even a butterfly
The sun stops in the middle of the sky
Dead rays of light beat down on the earth
Dust settles on the quiet ocean
Fishes float belly up, eyes not moving
Leaves stick out straight, like right before a Hurricane
There is no wind, just soft howling
A dog’s bark echoes and seems to hang in mid air
The world have stopped in a blur
One moment, as I sit on top of a lifeless body
Kiss my feet for I am god in this moment
All of nature is watching me in this moment
As I hold in my hand man’s iron instrument of destruction
I took it upon myself to release this man’s soul
And for some inexplicable reason
I find my spirituality in this moment
My body numb, my heart still
Hey my friend, I understand why we close our eyes
Our ears and our mouths
We are being fed so much bullshit
We should wear bibs to protect ourselves
But there are so many doctrines
From so many parts of the world
That bib would be like toilet paper
Because the bullshit would seep through
To our hearts and we freefall into the abyss of ethnocentrism
And flutter around like a humming bird
Who mistook plastic flowers for real ones?
On October 25 1983 invasion forces landed on the island. This is where I was went it went down.
The explosions grew louder and more frequent; that was the angriest sound I had ever heard. Villagers ran up and down the street, their lives even more uncertain than when the communists attacked. Members of the People’s Revolutionary Army used anti-aircraft guns to defend the airport. A couple of the paratroopers disintegrated in midair, their bodies exploding like fireworks, but there were no bright colours. I left the window with my heart beating so hard I thought it would explode. I ran back into the house and turned on the radio. The announcers frantically shouted for the islanders to pick up arms and defend their country. I was confused, wondering if I should go to the front lines, or just let the warmongers murder each other. After all, this was my island, my forefathers had fought to free the slaves on this very ground. Why should I let these outsiders occupy my homeland? After five minutes of the announcer’s erratic talking, a Bob Marley song, “Ambush in the Night” was played. To this day that same song plays in my dreams over and over again. The young announcer’s voice shook as he began talking again, sometimes struggling to get the words out. Suddenly, his voice was replaced by the annoying sound of static; then the radio went silent. I sat there for a moment not knowing what to do. Then I heard a loud explosion and our brick and mortar houses shook. I jumped like someone had poked me with a nail, and ran to the front yard. A puff of smoke bellowed into the air beyond the lush green hill, top to the left of my house. It was then that I realized that the explosion had come from the direction of the radio station. Then as if with a predetermined purpose, I got up and walked into the house, went to my bedroom, and retrieved my Red Bear-made pistol. Now you may wonder where I got the weapon. Well the government wanted a militia, and they got one – lots of islanders with guns. I checked the chamber to make sure there was a full clip, then reached into my dresser and got a few extra rounds. I walked down the street, my eyes scanning the rows of houses, anticipating any attackers. Trucks loaded with people’s revolutionary soldiers raced by, creating a gray cloud of dust that covered the village. Young men and women clenched their AK-47 rifles, some screaming at me to join them in the defense of the island. I shook my head; poor bloody souls were off to fight a war they could not win. I ran my finger along the smooth metal edge of the pistol. You can’t imagine the false sense of safety I felt with that bloody thing stuck in my waistband. I did not know what I was going to do, but I was becoming angry. First we had to endure the rule of the Union Jack. Then the Red Bears came with their inadequate ideology, brainwashed the population into believing they had a chance to determine their own destiny. Here I was, locked in this battle, confused, frustrated and scared. It did not help knowing that lives were being lost all because we were just a pawn in the destructive cold war. Now the invaders were here claiming to save us from certain destruction. I remember thinking was this not destruction I was witnessing at their hands.
I snapped out of my thoughts when there was another explosion. Jeeps raced down the street from the airport, carrying the wounded. Their screams caused my skin to tingle and burn, like someone injected hate under it. I forced my mind to shut out their agony, but the sound was unbearable; those screams still linger in my dreams today. The antiaircraft guns were firing constantly now, causing the air to taste like sulfur. Deafening explosions shook the brick houses, and the screams of frightened children echoed through the village. A debilitating exchange of M-16s and AK-47s erupted just down the street as the paratroopers hit the ground. An earsplitting explosion rocked the village as a building disintegrated. Villagers scattered in every direction, screaming. I instinctively pulled out the pistol and ducked into the yard of the house closest to me. I was shaking so hard I was barely able to keep my grip on the weapon. More trucks screamed by, stopping to pick up some volunteers on the highway. I wanted to get up and join them, but I decided that it was not my fight. Instead, I stood up, the pistol hanging loosely in my hand, my heartbeat echoing in my head. I stood there listening to the sounds of war around me. I have to confess, there was a rush of adrenaline running through my veins. Strangely the explosions were dull hums, like a fishing boat engine in the middle of the night when you are half asleep. For the first time in my life I did not feel human. There was a monster growing in me. I wanted to kill someone, make them pay for the fear I felt. A jeep sped by, fleeing the battle. There was a young man in the front seat with a bloody stump where his arm used to be. I almost threw up, but swallowed hard, then turned and walked back to my house.