Monday, April 1, 2013

Hail Selassie.

Yesterday, at our monthly write-in, the workshop leader asked us to consider this prompt:

Write from the perspective of someone you see almost everyday, but you've never formally met. You can also write TO them. 

I decided to write about a man, who's not really in his right mind, that I see near the subway, on my way to work. He's adorned in flags and Caribbean paraphernalia and I once heard him utter the name "Samantha." I hope you enjoy!



To the small boy and girl, I am mad, because their mother tells them so. To the adult, I am crazy, because society is filled with normalcy and simplicity. To the police, I am vagrant, ostracized from society, so I have no place here.

On this bench.
In this neighborhood.
In this city.
In this world.

I used to belong.

When my dreads only swept my shoulders, children would flutter about my feet and my wife would call us to the table with a quarreling patois melody.

“You nuh hear me say dinner is ready. Come nuh!”

She was humble once, a born matriarch, doting on me since we were young and dry. I asked her out with trepid tongue and wavering shoulders and it seemed that she was the one who took charge.

“You want to date me? Just ask magic bwoy!”

We spent our days chasing the sunlight, rays poking out from behind the succulent mango trees. I slipped inside of her once, there, broken and wanting and she sung for me.

“Momma carry the ackee go Linston Market, not a quarter one sell.”

When her mother left to sell, was the only time we had for making love. She’d call for me, by neighbor, past Brother Marky’s store, Aunt Daisy’s lemon stand, and the sugar cane pickers. They whispered, “Samantha is looking for you, her mother went to town.”

She spent hours cooking for me, moving about the kitchen of the decrepit shack, making it feel like a mansion. Her mother spent two days in town and we’d claim the space, leaving our love in sacred places.

It was no surprise that when the magic woman’s son came to ask, for her hand in marriage, that she wasn’t happy. She’d never seen me with Samantha and she certainly didn’t intend for her high-yellow daughter to marry the ashy boy who lived below the hill.

“You think I had Samantha with a white man for no reason! I want better for her than you charcoal children. Leave from my doorstep magic pickney!”

My mother healed the village; she was my hero. When Marky’s newborn daughter died and he couldn’t stand the sadness anymore, mommy helped him.

She poured the cyanide into a flask of the sweetest coconut milk. Her large, tattered purple robe dragged across the floor, as she walked over to Marky, sitting at out kitchen table.

“Drink this. You nah go feel nothing, no more.”

She was right. He didn’t feel a thing. He stumbled from our steps, down the dirt road, and died right at the end of it. I often wondered if he was on a cloud, with his daughter, watching us.

The night we snuck away, from Jamaica, in a ship set for Florida, she changed. My sprawling flower turned into a tight bud, angry that she had to leave her beloved home in the middle of the night.

“But I thought you loved me Samantha.” I said.
She coughed, feeling nippy from the cold water swishing against the sides, “I do love you Ernie, but I don’t want love this way.”
“So why did you come?” I asked her.
“She began to cry, “Because love makes you stupid, whether you want it to or not.”

We were seventeen when her belly swelled, for the first time. It seemed, almost every other year, for the next ten, she reiterated this cycle. We would fall into bed, like we did in the mango groves, and make love to the memory of our village. The moment that time of the month stopped arriving, she was sullen again; a butterfly slipping backward into her cocoon.

We were thirty, with six kids, when I lost my fishing job at the docks.

“The hell I’m supposed to do with six kids Ernie?”
I turned to my beautiful wife, gray and disparate, “I just lost my job Sammy. Give me a second nuh. Things will turn around.”

That same night, she set the table in silence, put our children to bed quietly, and snuck out, just as we did, all those years ago.

First the house.
Then the car.
Then me.

I don’t know when the voices started. Perhaps the laughter of my children and the notion of Samantha kept them at bay, but they were here now, for good.

The corner of Utica Avenue and Eastern Parkway has the warmest vents. If you stand on them long enough, it almost feels like home.

Sun and sway, door knocks and potions, sweet smelling Jamaica.

There’s a girl who smells like Jamaica. She comes to the bus stop sometimes and stares in pity. She reminds me of Samantha. I sprawl my arms out to her, covered in the flags they leave littered on the parkway, after Labor Day. I just want to embrace her one more time; flags everywhere: yellow, green, black. I want to take her back home. Start over.


Nicole Dow said...

love, love, love this!

Anonymous said...

this is really good. extremely vivid.