I was not supposed to be there, Mommy Charles had insisted I stayed home from school, but being young and feeling invincible will drive a person to making snap decisions. I was curious, I was not able to see what was going on from the window in the house on Lucas street. And now, here I was, running, running, running from the hooligans with machetes, running from the large sticks they were swinging over and over. Running from the teargas, eyes watering, lungs burning. People stampeding, hurdling fallen bodies, screams, angry cursing, blooded school kids, screaming mothers. Then it echoed, one shot, and the screaming crowd became a murmur, like I had dove into the ocean. I was not close to the shot, I just think my humanity died for a second. But I was still running, round the corner onto Lucas street, then back to that house overlooking the harbor. Sitting in the living room, struggling to breath, I was not exhausted, I was being stifled by fear. Outside the screams continue, angry yells, “Yuh go dead, yuh go dead,” Silent pleas, crack of a stick on bone, then a mob of anger. I covered my ears with my hands, lay on the concrete floor, waiting for the nightmare to end.
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.
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.
Seems like I always get in some kind of confrontation with people in uniform. On the island during the revolution, sometimes at night all the electric on the island went off. Some say it was because of the inadequate power station. Others say it was because the army wanted to practice for an invasion. Well one night I was visiting the small city and was walking back to my village when suddenly the street plunged into darkness. It was pitch black except for the millions of stars. I got to a place called The Round About in a place called Tanteen, Luckily I was used to walking there so I was not having trouble maneuvering my way around The Round About. Then, in the dark I heard footsteps running towards me. I stopped to look around and felt something hard hit me in the back. I fell forward, landing in one of the flower beds in The Round About. My heart was beating so hard I bet it moved the mud I was laying on.
“What you doing out here?” a female voice said.
“I walking home. What the hell you doing?” I replied.
“You better shut your mouth!” the woman screamed, and I felt the muzzle of an AK rifle pressed against the back of my neck.
I started to sweat. “You just wait till I get up. I go bust you ass.” The second the word “ass” came out my mouth, I knew I had said the wrong word. I felt the muzzle of the gun trace down my back and stop between my butt cheeks.
“You have a smart mouth. Who is you people?” she asked.
“You know Sprinter? He me family,” I said, really shaking now. I felt the gun removed from my butt cheeks.
“Boy get up. Why you did not tell me you is Sprinter’s family? That man good looking for so.”
I stood up, dusting the dirt from my pants. I thought, damn, I just had this woman put a gun in my butt cheeks and now she was talking about Sprinter like he is some Adonis. I tried to see her face, but it was too dark. I cussed under my breath. I was tired of hearing how good looking Sprinter was. See, he was what you called a “Sagabuoy” on the island; that means “player” in this country. I remember when I was younger, there was one summer Sprinter would go to work at eight a.m. By eight-fifteen, he would bring home a girl. “Breakfast”, he called her. Midday he would come back with a different girl: his “lunch”. And when he got off at four p.m., he would bring home another girl: his “dinner”. I wish I could have seen her face. I wanted to know if she was breakfast, lunch, or dinner. As I walked away I heard her shout, “Tell you Sprinter I said hello.” I walked away cursing
I stand on the edge of nowhere
A place where civilization and common sense part ways
I hear a baby cry and I wanted to go to her
But my legs refuse to move
A woman moans in pain next to me
But I don’t turn around for fear she might need me
Grown men on their hands and knees
Waiting for me to help yet still I don’t move
An old lady walks up to me
“Are you ok Sonny” she asks
My name is Andy I swim through the clouds and always come out on the other side
“Are you going to help them?”
My name is Andy I take care of the world
But I can’t help asking, who is going to take care of me.