Last week, a
seamstress from Belmont who was twisting me around, pins in her mouth,
adjusting fabric, stopped abruptly, and, with pins still in her mouth,
dropped two tears on me.
She said: “I
lost two sisters to HIV/Aids and a mother to diabetes. My 18-year-old niece
takes care of three small children.
school at 15 to help see about my mother and my younger brothers and
sisters. I gave up a good job to go to New York with my husband where we
lived in a tiny room with relatives.
“I came home
one day after working as a cleaner at the airport to find him in bed with my
“Now he lives
with her and refuses to give me child support. Many days I eat plain white
bread for dinner.”
That night, I
slowed and then stopped my car. I saw an elderly woman stand stunned in the
middle of the road as an impatient young driver, driving as if he was on a
race track, narrowly swerved past her, swearing as he sped off.
I offered her
a ride. A wary look gave way to consent. She told me she worked as a
housekeeper in Goodwood Park, and that her husband, a carpenter, would take
a taxi from Arima and meet her downtown so he could escort her home.
a kindly man with huge glasses and teeth, who must have been over 70, was in
the spot she expected him to be.
unabashedly glad to see one another and thanked me so profusely I felt new
rage for the driver who carelessly almost killed her.
took her hand, walked into the night. The next day, I got talking to a
gentle giant, a middle-aged man from Laventille.
hear his grandmother’s echo in his voice, telling him right from wrong. He
began to sound angry as he spoke of his frustrated application for
when his children were toddlers. Now, they were teenagers, influenced by
It had been
16 years of waiting and he looked like he was waiting for an excuse to knock
Later, I was
stopped by a young female guard at the guard booth, whose voluptuous mouth
is always down-turned.
“This is my
daughter” she said, gesturing at a sweet-faced teenager. I saw a rare smile.
ago, she got a call saying one of her sons drowned. By the time she composed
herself enough to ask “which one?” she was told both.
working shift at the time. Her husband was with another woman (a common
story) and the boys, eight and ten, were unsupervised. Her remaining child
sometimes sits in the guard booth with her.
strange week of conversations, a young man who appeared with his meticulous
exterior, carefully-gelled hair, to have the soul of a clerk, an
unquestioning sort of fellow who would do an eight-to-four job for 50 years
till he died.
man, who believed a conventional life could keep him safe. Yet he was
agitated. His brother-in-law was on cocaine. His family life was a string of
eruptions as he, his wife and child battled with this drug addict who pulled
out vegetables from the garden, broke in and stole jewelry, money, stood in
his yard and swore, took off his tyres, stole his daughter’s bike.
He would “do
him something” one day, this mild man swore.
is always political.
I saw a
society ripped by lawlessness, by fathers who abandon wives and children, by
drug addicts, by reckless drivers. I saw the spread of crime, HIV/Aids,
diabetes fed by illiteracy and poverty.
I found out,
because as David Rudder sang because “good people say so.”