Column this week
So I promised last week that I would write you saying what Old Year’s night was like. Of course, I’d guessed it wouldn’t have been much. This is one time I’m unhappy to have been proven right. Feeling ill is never a good way to spend the biggest night of the year, mainly because it hinders alcohol consumption. But the great thing about New Year’s Eve is that it’s followed by New Year’s Day. And what else is New Year’s good for if not making you feel like you can become and accomplish anything. It’s being washed anew, turning over a new leaf, starting afresh and all the relevant clichés with the benefit of all that great Christmas food and music still left over.
So maybe I should write about my resolutions. But that would be a bit difficult considering I don’t have any. Maybe I should have followed the example of celebrities like Courtney Love and create a comprehensive list of do good/be good things for this year. But since her list includes things like not having any more plastic surgery until she’s old enough to need it, I think you’ll agree with me that that’s not a very appealing option. Besides, I tend to make up my resolutions as I go along. It’s the only way I can keep up.
My second idea for my column this week was to write about the murder of my friend Bert Allette. I found out by email and have been depressed since then. Bert was a good man and a good friend. He decided to become a councillor as a way of giving back to the community, doing his part and not forgetting his roots, all the clichés that seem dreadfully ironic and frustratingly vexing since the sentiment expressed by such clichés was the reason why he was killed. I can’t quite bring myself to writing an entire column about his death though, not because I can’t find enough things to say about my friend but because I find that having to write two columns about two murdered friends in less than a month depresses and frightens me more than I would have imagined.
I read books a lot. I’ve been known to devour a good book in hours, grateful for the escape a good story that’s well written provides. Many times books are more real for me than real life that’s playing out around me in all its wonderful, sometimes heartbreaking but always glorious mediocrity. But the murders of my two friends have a reality that has an unbearable veracity. How does someone like me, middle class, well educated and coward like hell, end up losing friends to youths with guns? You grow up learning that if you go to the right places, if you do the right things, if you have the right friends, then you’re safe. And then a few ounces of lead and tin alloy destroy that belief, that hope that you hold to yourself and follow because the alternative is unbearable to contemplate.
But read the pages of the papers home and you realise that this belief is not true now, if it ever was. Because there are no right places or right things or right friends. You wonder if you’re safe anyway and the answer, as much as you would like to say yes, is no. And having become accustomed to the relative safety and freedom of London (ironic and sad, that phrase), I wonder if Trinidad is becoming a place I can no longer return to. And if I do, what will I be returning to? Because the belief I had home does apply here. If you avoid the bad areas and bad people you’re more or less fine. So it seems the simple, happy, laid back island life I thought was characteristic of Trinidad has actually been found on another island, geographically and culturally removed from what I’ve left behind.
So as the second week of the new year begins, with its promise of new things, good things, there is also a feeling of loss, a disquiet and a fear. That London is becoming more real and the reality of my islands that I’ve left behind and hope to return to is disappearing. And that too is unbearable to contemplate.