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Category: Reflections Date: 05 Feb 06

 

“All day long I hear people’s stories,” sighed the doctor. “It’s always the same story about Trinidad, a soldier calling to say how ashamed he feels over his colleagues, crime, blah, blah. But you have to rise above it or you get infected by it.” He flashed me a broad smile. He clearly wasn’t “infected.” He suddenly got serious. I’ve been meaning to call you. I’m glad you called.

 

I called because I missed running the Clico marathon, for which I trained half the year last year, because of an injured ankle.

 

He narrowed his eyes knowingly. “You’re good with writing about feelings and you reflected a part of Trinidad that we all loved. Then you stopped. You began reflecting the pain, and when you do that, you let them defeat us.

 

That shook me. It’s like being horned by someone you didn’t think you’d love, and then falling so hard there was no getting up. It made me admit to myself that I loved this place. That I felt bruised and horned but I loved it still, perhaps more because I remembered what I missed, what I’d spent years unearthing, discovering embodied perhaps in the story the doc, an Afro-Trini Christian who, invited to a Muslim wedding, felt so welcomed at the Hindu wedding that he didn’t know he was at the wrong one and the hosts didn’t know he wasn’t invited. At the end when he realised his mistake and rushed in late to speak at the Muslim wedding he was warmly welcomed again. He was “doc‚” to them, who’d fixed countless broken bones and ligaments, and he sat amidst them, listening to their stories.

 

I looked around his office, unmistakably Trinidadian. Where else would you find exquisite paintings of dancing women in starched petticoats on the wall from a Tobagonian painter, two sequinned elephants from India, nudged against one another on his desk given to him by a grateful patient, carefully repositioned after I picked them up to examine them and a multitude of stuff from people of every ethic origin.

 

Then there was his impeccable English, Europe’s gift, but it was just the wrapping for the warm humour, the lilt of the accents we have ground among ourselves, that we unwrap when we meet a fellow Trini, and share like conspirators.

 

I had gone to him for my inflamed ankle, not my mind, but ended up confessing how upset I was that I couldn’t run. It wasn’t about the running per se, it was about how I was resentful how I couldn’t enjoy our golden dusks in solitude because of how fear had polluted our lives.

 

He murmured something about how he understood. It was the endorphins I missed, he said. Not mentioning the fear.

 

I thought of days when I could run, the sweat coating me with a salty, grainy film, the strike of running feet on the steaming pavement, keeping beat with my heart, the two breaths to a stride, the brain coaxing the body to carry on, you can go until that lamp post, just another ten minutes, a mile more, tricking it to pushing limits. I understood not giving into defeat.

 

While we spoke I began having an other- world feeling that we were part of some eclectic confessional tribe, of journalists, doctors, hairdressers, priests. People told him stories. They told me stories. We all tell one another stories. One name uttered in a lift, jokingly like Nikki Crosby or, menacingly, like Abu Bakr‚ is all we need sometimes for shared scenarios to enter our heads.

 

We can tell and hear stories of kidnappings, corruption, illiteracy, crime, murder. They need to be talked about because then we acknowledge a need for a watchdog. Justice. But we can’t allow it to gobble us up. We are so much bigger than that. Look, even Minshall is out this year. And Wendy, have a lovely child, just like Brian did, and we will love her or him, and lend your fame and beauty for the sick, the poor and voiceless, and hundreds of us, keep walking along our leafy paths defiantly, at dawn, at dusk. Thanks doc.

 

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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur