Monday, February 12, 2007

Reflections on a trip

Column last week

A vagrant sleeps outside a bank on a cardboard box marked fragile. The irony of this is mostly missed by the passers-by who continue on their individual hustles downtown. Port-of-Spain and Arima too could, at first glance, easily be mistaken for some town in Jamaica, what with all the Bob Marley t-shirts that festoon the walls and stalls that clutter the pavements.

Blurry eyed and lucky to have died young, Bob’s cultural domination is nowhere more complete than in Trinidad, a country that looks everywhere for its heroes except inwardly. In WASA fete two girls provide less delicate entertainment than what is being offered on stage. Crouched and squatting on scaffolding, they dance on each other, their expressions suggesting a pleasure more intense than what is typically gained from dancing to soca at a fete. But then, this is not typical dancing. Men, rough men, scruffy men, men you can’t take home to mother, but, on second thought, maybe these girls can, stand by and voice their appreciation and their intentions.

A guy standing nearby explains that they’re the stars of a local porn movie that’s making the rounds throughout the country. When they’re finished they climb down and walk through the crowd, strutting the way only a Trini woman can when she knows everyone is watching her. “Trini school,” my cousin tells me. “Just type in ‘Trini school’ on YouTube and all them local porn will come up.” I ask her how she knows that and she laughs and blushes and tells me everybody knows that. Everybody has seen at least one, the five-minute clips of schoolchildren urging each other to perform and enjoy sex acts are sent via Bluetooth from phone to phone. And everybody has at least one phone.

On my way up to Las Cuevas on Sunday the sky is a shade of blue that makes the heart swell in happiness and sorrow at the same time. We stop off at the lookout, my friend Jo and I, and I watch the skyline. There is a haze like blue gauze wrapped between the end of the ocean and the beginning of the sky. It is a day that is perfect; a day that makes you think there couldn’t be any greater need than to be able to lift one’s head and see so much beauty, to feel this beauty burning its brand on one’s skin. There are children playing football on the beach and stray dogs jogging thirstily on the sand. Two mothers compare resembling babies of distant relation and talk about the inability to escape blood. A tourist pulls out a knife and eats an apple, confirming her foreignness with this one, simple act.

My goddaughter comes to visit. She doesn’t remember me: the last time I saw her she had been asleep, the time before that, a baby. She doesn’t object to my holding her though and when I give her her birthday gift she refuses to let it go. We go into my bedroom; how comforting, to know that somewhere in the world there is a room that will always be yours; to escape the noise of too many relatives and neighbours and the family djs in training and she falls asleep in my arms, still holding her gift, and I wonder how long it would take her to warm up to me next time, this little girl that everyone says looks just the way I did when I was young. I feel the maternal twinge, stronger this time but I ignore, as always, because, as always, the timing and circumstances aren’t right.

I stand on the main road waiting for a maxi and a woman passes me and says good morning. By the time I realise what she’s said she’s walked too far off to hear my response. With headphones in ear and my “train face” in place I missed out on that rarest of things: kindness from a stranger. In two more days I’ll be returning to London. I’ll be returning to cold with a promise of spring in the air, drinks with co-workers and a feeling of safety that no one seems to have in Trinidad anymore.

I’ll be starting school and telling myself that no matter what, Trinidad is home and eventually I’ll be back. And I hope that is true. I hope that when the time comes to decide I will still believe that Trinidad is the best place to do my part, that our people are the best and that I want my children to be raised here. And even if it isn’t I hope I’m strong enough, and Trini enough, to want to return and help make it so.

14 comments:

Crankyputz said...

That was a really touching post. I hope you end up anywhere that makes you happy. And home is where the heart is.

caisoqueen said...

Hi Hottie, I missed your posts. Welcome back! Sorry you won't be able to make it home for carnival, but the good the thing is that this Carnival blessing is ours to enjoy forever, so I'm sure Carnival will see you again!

afrobella said...

I missed you Hottie! Glad you were able to enjoy the trip home. Your writing as always, is gorgeous. And congrats on school!

ttfootball said...

wow Hottie... fantastic post... alot of these things i experienced too the month i was home for xmas. It's profound the range of emotions you go through not only when u look at how things have changes but how you have also changed by being abroad.

Hottie Hottie said...

Thank you all. It means alot to me that you guys not only read my posts but comment as well. I'm blushing here.

katrice said...

Wow! This tugs at the heart strings. Excellent post!

Fed-up said...

love the post

Hottie Hottie said...

Thanks all. Thanks, thanks, thanks.

Hottie Hottie said...

ttfootball, that's so true. It's amazing how many things have changed and yet, how much the same everything still is. And then, deciding whether that is a good or bad thing.

Mani said...

Hots, that was some good reading...maybe T&T hasn't completely lost it soul after all.

squeezle said...

Lovely post Hottie, so very bittersweet. Great to have you back!

Karabana said...

You truly have a flair. So very sorry about Carnival & that I didn't get to meet you. But there's always a next time, & good news about the MBA. :)

Natasha C said...

Hottie,
Glad you're back. Enjoyed the post, congrats on school, It's always a hard decision to go back.
Just returned from 2 weeks home and I made sure I constantly greeted strangers on the street (some seemed surprised).
The hubby and I struggled w/ the decision to return home after the kids were born, and only last year decided definitively not to return until they go to college. I was quite surprised since I always swore I would raise my kids at home.
It's a tough decision, I'm sure you'll do what's best for yor fam when the time comes.
There really is no place like home, but so many non-emotional factors go into a decision like that.
Good luck w/ school.

TriniQueen said...

Hottie Hottie.... My my how you pull at my heart strings with your writing... I feel truly inspired...
I and all am contemplating returning to my beautiful twin island... and that maternal twinge you speak of... I FEEL IT TOO!! And just like you, timing/circumstances mandate the opposite is wisest... To make matters more complicated, not only did I fall back in love with my island, I fell in love with the man of my dreams... (doesn't help quell that maternal twinge now, does it?). I have long concluded that everything I love is at home, and when the time is right, all my dreams will come true. Keep the faith, dear, and ALL will fall into place....