It’s late afternoon in Port-of-Spain and I want to get home. But I don’t feel to fight. I’m saving my energy to try and process exactly what Papa Patos means by climate change is a top priority.
I tell myself it’s not that far. From Newtown to St Ann’s is doable, under the right conditions. It’s a spitefully clear day and the sun stands in the sky daring me to test him.
At the top of Maraval Road there are others waiting to go home. School children and office ladies. A construction worker who says he’s from Kashmir wants directions to town and then wants to know if I have a husband.
Cars whiz past as if I’m not there. It takes me ten minutes until some kind soul decides to slow down and let me cross. I don’t even bother to stand there waiting for a taxi.
Pedestrians are the casualties of a developing country still caught up in people have things. Taxi drivers make style on you. Maxi drivers want to mow you down. Every car that passes is carries one or two passengers. They speed past in their brand new aluminum cans, music loud, air condition on full blast.
My bag is heavy on my back but my granny used to say what you can’t carry you will have to drag. My steps are slow and deliberate but I am determined to get home by my own strength today.
I cut through by QRC, past polite boys who say good afternoon to me and I want to faint with relief that they don’t add ‘Miss’. Past coconut vendors and vagrants quarters. Past stylish young women indulging in the only socially acceptable way to be seen without a car in public, doing a walk and wine around the Savannah in that golden hour when everyone sees you and there’s a lot of stopping and how you doing.
To the left the Prime Minister’s office gleams white and untouchable. I wonder if he notices how hot it is these days. How much hotter Port of Spain is now.
When you get to the middle the din of hundreds, thousands of cars speeding past is barely discernible. The sky is that perfect shade of blue and the sun has graciously hidden itself behind the trees.
Football players and rugby players all around but I wonder how come there aren’t people just enjoying the Savannah. I guess it’s a weekday. But what better way to remind yourself that you live in a beautiful country?
Savannah is green for now. Before the rains stop and the hills start to burn. The hills of the Northern range are green. Well these ones here. But now that anyone can put up a quarry under 150 acres without having to apply for a CEC, I wonder how long it will be before all these hills start looking like the one up in Acono in Maracas St Joseph. But I guess these hills will be spared because a lot of rich people live there. They’ll put them further east, where the rich people won’t have their green vistas marred by brown scars being created to build more air conditioned townhouses.
I stop in the middle of the Savannah, facing east to take pictures so I can capture a few shots of my walk home. Point and shoot to the left and the green hills. Then look to the right at the buildings stabbing up at the sky. Exclamation marks of our hysteria to be developed. I swear the Savannah earth beats under my feet. Like a hundred steelbands mixed with the jumping feet of ten thousand masqueraders. The sun re-emerges for a las’ lap and everything turns gold. The Savannah shines like a heart of gold in a rotting city. I turn my back to the exclamation marks and quicken my steps towards the hills.
The grass is soft under the worn soles of my designer washicongs.
I wish I could do cartwheels, because I’m so happy to be in this heart called the Queen’s Park Savannah.
I’m relieved that I decided to walk instead of wait in the dust and fumes of traffic jams trying to get home.
I’m glad that in all the madness I can find one thing to make me sane again. To give a little space to think and work things out. To remember why Trinidad is worth fighting for. To pity people like Papa Patos who probably never have a chance to walk home so they can listen to the city’s heart.