Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Goodbyes and new beginnings

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.

12 comments:

kevian said...

Hottie u sound so sad

Hottie Hottie said...

Sometimes it seems like all I've been doing for the last few years is saying goodbye.

Mani said...

Hots, what ah go tell yuh? Trinidad seems to be changing right under our very eyes. Far more to you who live so far away. Do you think we can ever turn this around or is this our lot in life?

saucydiva said...

I agree with mani, Trinidad is changing but somehow we who live here change along with it and do not see the changes as an outider does. I guess anything that can be said after your article would be trite, but I am sorry for your loss.

Icahwait* said...

Sorry to hear about your friend Hottie. Its sad, to say the least that you have to comtemplate not returning to your home because of how bad things are.
I do wonder how its gotten so carried away. Its like Trinidad has fallen into a spiralling blackhole of crime. How can it end? Would it end?

katrice said...

So sorry for your loss, Hottie. I hope 2007 brings joy and new, cherished relationships to you. And may Trinidad return to more glorious days!

Crankyputz said...

That is sad. But I have to say TO seems to be becoming more and more violent too. Too often I hear of friends being shot because they are standing in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I hope you have a safe and happier 2007.

afrobella said...

Hottie, I've been checking your site daily to see how you were going to tackle this one. Your writing is achingly beautiful as always, but this time it just aches. Bert was just a good man trying to do right by his community. It outrages me that he'd be repaid with bullets for his genuine and necessary efforts. And it makes me so angry that they might not even catch the bastards who did this to him.

He had a vision of Belmont becoming what it was in his (and my parents') era - a place for hardworking, well-meaning, mostly black people to raise families and share a nurturing community. I still have family in Belmont, but I have no intention of ever visiting there again. If that makes me sound like a bad person, sorry. I'm too much of a coward.

I absolutely hate the feeling of unease I get in Trinidad. At the very Old Year's Night party that Bert was supposed to attend... had attended for so many years with his girlfriend Cherry Ann... there was another guest who was a daughter of a family friend. After she left, someone whispered to me, "dais the girl who had get kidnap, you know." I couldn't believe it. She was sweet, a little shy, but friendly enough. Apparently she is one of the countless numbers of people who have gotten kidnapped and never even reported it to the police, they just gave the bandits their hard-earned money so she could come home to her family. So there was Bert, and then that. Then I found out that my sister used to work with Vindra Naipaul-Coolman and she is... was... a very good-hearted woman. So it's gone from people we knew of or heard about, to people we actually know. I can't bear to imagine what's next.

Sorry for the long comment, but I just needed to get that off my chest.

Anonymous said...
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Chennette said...

You may miss this, after the book written above, but I am sorry for your loss and I don't think one can ever accept a death like that.

TriniQueen said...

Hottie Hottie, girl I know exactly how you feel. I too lost a loved one to gun violence, and I have never been the same since. I try to go on believing that I accepted his death, but I am still consumed by sadness and, mostly anger. The story I heard is that he was "in-the-wrong-place-at-the-wrong-time" scenario. I guess the shooter had some score to settle with someone else (NOT my cuz), and when the gun was drawn everyone else ran like hell, but he froze, and backed off slowly - to show he was no threat to this motherfucker. But as soon as he turned his back, that godless son of a bitch shot him. Of course, the police don't give a rats ass about it, since it's black on black crime, so to this day, no-one knows who shot him. All we know is the pain, the loss, and the anger at this injustice - to put it lightly.
Well, I did not intend to write a book here (lol), but I just wanted to let you know that I commiserate with you. God bless you, dear, and keep you. Faith in Him is truly all we have...

Hottie Hottie said...

Thanks everyone for the kind words and taking the trouble to be kind. It means a great deal. And anon, haul yuh ass. Don't come back here with that shite again.