The Required Article
It’s hard to write without passion about a place that is a part of you. How the hell you supposed to stay all level headed and objective and apart when you could feel the wind like it’s your own breath. How you suppose to stay indifferent when you know a place so well that you can tell from the smell inside the house and the drumming on the zinc roof in the dark of night, that the heavy august rain falling like a rake and ripping away your very skin from the surface of the earth… How, when in dry season, you see all the soil crack-up like a big brown heart that split apart and all the happiness that come from loving green leaf and bubbling spring done gone and evaporate into thin air.
How you going to write so cool and comfortable, about a place that is your home since before you born because three generations before you struggle till they buy a house and land together, and get to own the place that their great-grandfather used to rent and which he could not buy in his one lifetime but left a paper in a square biscuit tin high up on a shelf where neither fire nor flood would steal it… and with death just beyond the door he call all his children that was still living, and tell them try an’ stay together and work smarter than he was allowed to do, and go to church, and put ‘side little money every month till it make enough, because Mr Mann who he was renting from all his working life had always say the place was his if he could pay, and now he gone but his children could inherit the promise of owning property.
How you going to write all that in a voice that sound like you are some stranger without crying and laughing and hoping and doubting…? How, when this place is part of you… as much as the hand that hold the fountain pen your godfather gave you when you pass for college, or the ink that flow like a bloodline from it. How you going to do that… even though you know that is what they want. That is what they expect from you… a safe little article like in the LIAT magazine that sweet-sweet and simple, so that anybody in this soca postcard society of ours could read it quick and feel good and get back to the mindless 824 or 925 or whatever the hell they doing to pay the car loan and cell phone and to afford the nightly drinking and easy whining and random but safe sex after the weekend fete.
And passing 50, you know there must be a heavy dose of nostalgia inside you there, this craving for a simpler day long gone, when we were complex enough to understand that history is a part of who we are, and that we owe a debt of loyalty and gratitude to the very landscape that sustains us… A time when you would ask the ancestors if it was alright to fell a tree that was older than you because somebody navel string might be buried under there… a time when we understood that this Caribbean that used to be ours before the hotels and casinos buy us out in a fit of globalization and a flood of drugs money, was all we had… and that it was the centre of our universe… a universe that foreign interests from all over been trying to pry out from under us for five bloody centuries… and now we just giving it up like cheap whores in a dirty bar on Friday night… for a song and sniff of coke.
Lord, how to write about all that and a time of cleaner living that came with unpretentious thrift and respect for the uncertainty of tomorrow and the need to preserve our children so that they would continue to emerge from the kind of servitude that stole our smiles and our pride and our hope and the kind of faith that we used to place in God and now barter to politicians who have no agenda but their own perpetuation. See how they betray the one most cherished hope of this brown-skin-red-skin slanty-eye blue-black dougla-hair high-brown mix up family of ours: longing to be one people.
Somebody have to write down this thing, because like we forgetting days when we were deep-thinking people determined to tell our story… under moonlit mango tree or street lamp, or later when ‘lectricity and luxuries like pen and printing came to us, determined to set that story down on paper so that our children would learn to read and cherish it like painting and poetry and that sweeter music that came bubbling up from deep inside a place we were not afraid to go.
Yes, there is a nostalgia there, like a lump of dry bread in your throat. But naturally, we forget the dry bread story now… most of us… even if it still have poor people thriving on less than that, right there in our yard. But it is a real pain too, lying there besides a type of shame and guilt that makes a body ask his firstborn child if she really want to come back home when she finish studying in America. You know how hard that is, for a father who see what this world does give and decide to live all his life right here in this village of islands, and then to contemplate that his children and grandchildren would not come back and build home and homeland…? You know how hard it is to hear from your own child that when it was our time we never build nothing to leave behind, nothing worth coming back to… Like we forget the biscuit tin on the high shelf that buy our first taste of hope and freedom.
That is what we selling now… our right to live here and be counted… no, not just as chambermaid and busboy and not like them doctor, economist and lawyer neither, who have one house here and another in Miami, just in case. No, I mean like real citizens who know scraping and sacrifice, and gain a kind of generational wisdom and undertake a kind of spiritual investment that stretches way beyond here and now and self. That is what we selling now, to pay the bills, because we done pawn off our grandfather’s house and land and whatnot.
So Dear Mr Mann, these many centuries later, and these four generations gone, I cannot write no nice-nice little article for your glossy magazine… I sorry, but I feel you understand.
V. Adrian Augier.