I have no heart left


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Category: Trinidad Society Date: 24 Mar 96

This is the first in a series of first-person accounts of survival in Trinidad in the 1990s.


Meet Max, 36, father of eight. He is a honest and hard working. he hasn’t missed a day’s work in seven years. With hard-earned money he bought a house in Morvant. He supports the three persons who live with him and has never been on the wrong side of the law.


“I hate my father, I hate my step mother, I hate the man I working for. You want a happy moment? You know when I laugh plenty? When a worker get murdered. I have no happy memory of my mother. She died when I was young. But when I miss my mother I feel I could kill the world.


Even Christmas time. I don’t think I am happy because I always have to be working for my children or my brothers. I can’t remember a single happy day in my life. When I was growing up, it was six of us, two girls and four boys. My father was working in a supermarket for $25 dollars a week. My mother used to work ‘a little project.’ I went to school, but three younger brothers did not. When my mother died I was 13. I had to leave school to support my brothers and sisters.


Life was very hard. Nobody gave us anything. I used to earn $14 dollars a week. My stepmother was very dread. She destroyed everything my mother leave behind. She wanted me to give my old man all my money. We had no mother we had a father but did not have a father. My father against all ah we because of this woman.


I grow up in a hasty manner. Nobody could take advantage of me. I alone had to support myself. I hit the streets, lime party, make a little riot, a man talk too hard, I might put something on he. I always used to carry two blade with me. Them days it was against cutlass now is against gun. In ‘88 ten men try to kill me. I take them on. I nearly lose my two fingers but they get damage too. I plan to kill them. Out here is a place like this, you could kill someone and get away with it with a good lawyer. The men come and sign peace. They say they make a mistake. I was the wrong man. But justice did come. One get he belly cut out and others get jail for marijuana weed and cocaine.


Who protect we? We protect we. In high society area, police does patrol. When you drive into your yard, we walk the streets. We have to look over our shoulder and say, ‘whose that shadow? What you doing there boy?’ I work in a bakery for 11 years and I get a little cool. I remember mammy always used to say ‘save your money,’ and I take that advice. I save up $25,000 to buy a house. I was under 20 years-I went to a bank on St Vincent Street. They tell me bring all the money in one bank so I could get a loan. I did that. First thing the teller say is “How a little man like you get all that money?  Like if I thief it somewhere. I could have knocked he down. I take all my money out and leave.


My whole area is bandit area... In every family of six, two must be bandit. Most of them used to work project but they ain’t getting any more jobs. Six children living in one little room - no room to breather or move - no man to support the home, and the mother alone working, leaving the children home by them self. The boys say ‘Mammy ain’t have nothing and if we have one bread that can’t share. If I could go down the road, hold up a man and get money for food, you think I go wok 72 hours for 150 dollars a week?


Its cocaine and weed for them. Most of the young men, the ones I bathe and grow up as children, in jail. One kill a pardner - cut him up - over a woman. Everybody by me carry guns and cutlass. Some of them is only nine years old. I carry the iron and the pump. The baddest fella in our area is 16. Anytime you see he coming at you, you will have to kill he or he will kill you.


I could name endless men who could blow you away just because they feel you have some money. We living on the edge. Remember the fella who kill the child? I sure he didn’t want to kill the child but some trigger go off in him and the child was in front of him and he do it. I grow up with my brother and he pull a knife on me. If we could get on so with we own brother, who is a stranger?


I used to be religious. Not any more. It was a white man religion. The only religion for we is the Shouter Baptist. Nobody wants us to find we roots, because if we do, we will rise, and they don’t want that.


My advice to my children is ‘You have to take money from the man who have it, either with a gun or wok. In my time it is wok, but in their time it will be the gun. And don’t take no from nobody. Anybody who trouble you, put them on the ground.’ But my madam not violent like me. She makes sure my son studies. He always come first in test. He is only seven but nobody must be better than he.


My little brother don’t keep a job, he is ignorant. He comes from a group that blames society for downfall, but society is to blame. Take my stupid advice - if we don’t watch we self, we are going to have a coup again. It building up again. Instead of giving to charity, treat people with respect. Pay your workers more. If you paying a man $150 a week and we only see you driving new car, what we supposed to think? A man who work for you help you get profits.


People suffering. This is why we have raping and killing, why family kill family, brother kill brother. The bosses must make sure workers get a raise. And time off, so a mother can still talk to she children instead of saying ‘Mammy going to sleep.’ And a father could see about his children. You could give a child schooling but you can’t give him love because you don’t have the time. And when he becomes a big bandit, you go ask “how we went wrong?” I used to eat chicken neck and bones, but I want more for my children. Allow us to work for decent money. If you respect the workers, the workers will respect you. You must give back to society. Otherwise men will believe ‘We ain’t working too hard and anything, what we want, we take.’


I am straightforward, I provide for my family. I don’t believe in a little lie to save yourself. I don’t lie. And I don’t thief, and my brother will always be my brother. But I have no heart left.”


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur