What dey go do
when dey realise
that dey cah push you across the line
Don’t you go over
Don’t you go over
—The Borderline, 3Canal
Carnival Tuesday dawned bright, almost too bright and I spent a long time in bed thinking about whether I wanted to go out into the madness.
Carnival heat is a different kind of heat. It’s the sticky sweaty kind of heat that reminds me of hours spent watching cricket, frowning in the glare, squirming to keep your boomsie from falling asleep on the cycle track concrete.
I like J’Ouvert best because it’s so cool. But more so because no one with an original thought makes mas anymore these days.
And truly, I remain unconvinced that Brian Mac Farlane is a shining beacon of the mas being saved but I guess I applaud his efforts to break up the endless and stunning monotony of bikini and beads and feathers and shiny pretty things.
I venture out into the streets. No costume to differentiate me from myself. No streak of colour that might suggest that I had undergone any transformation.
I bounce up a pretty mas band and I’m struck again this year at the presence of the rope.
I wonder if the rope is bulletproof, bottle proof, an invisible barrier stopping the masqueraders from being soiled by the outside world.
The rope pisses me off about as much as the fences that separate general admission from VIP.
The rope spoils my enjoyment of Carnival because it’s just another reminder of how everybody can pay for the appearance of safety.
The security the rope represents brings up all my own insecurities about being an outsider in my own home. The rope keeps me out of a place I’m still not sure I want to be in.
I stand on the pavements and watch the bands pass. Plenty security. Plenty rope. Plenty niceness for the pretty women and strong men.
On the sidelines, outside of the rope, spectators yawn. Didn’t I see that costume before? A wild Indian appears, staring at me throw the streak of blue across his face. He is not behind the rope. I know the colour of his eyes, the musty smell of his headpiece and it is beautiful.
And then he is gone and then there is more pretty mas.
There is blood on the road. Inside the rope. My mas-playing friends tell me that someone inside the rope has stabbed somebody. I wonder why one of the safe ones is armed with a knife in the first place. Isn’t the rope enough?
I guess even inside the rope there are ignorant, dotish, bad-behaved animals that the rope is supposed to keep out. Luckily for him, he is on the inside of the ropes and so his crime will not make it to the front pages.
No-one confirms or denies the story of the man inside the rope and the stabbing. Even though his victim’s blood is spilt on Ariapita Avenue, seeping into the hot, soft asphalt, chipped on by thousands of feet of masqueraders inside the rope.
Later I am reasoning with my sistren about why the rope is important. She says it makes sense because as soon as it comes down, the outsiders come in and get on rahtid.
But we both wonder if what was on the inside of the ropes weren’t so untouchable, would the outsiders act so hungry and desperate?
Carnival Tuesday comes and goes and I am still thinking about the rope. On Thursday in a taxi I hear a Savannah vendor talk about how much money she lost renting a booth from the NCC. Of all the things that were promised that never materialised.
She leaves the taxi and a voice comes on the radio. A host of officials talking about how successful Carnival was. If you were inside the rope.
People win and celebrate victories. The rope haunts me, as does the blood of some anonymous stabbing victim on Ariapita Avenue.
And then I get an e-mail from a Midnight Robber recounting tales of the way the NCC treats with traditional mas. A 94-year-old, blind, wheelchair-bound Midnight Robber in mid-speech being forced out of the way by an NCC official in an SUV. About the music trucks drowning out their robber talk. Because 13 Midnight Robbers are not as important as several thousand sequined revellers waiting for their chance to prance inside their rope prison.
Still, it was a successful Carnival. We successfully played ourselves. We played gated community and barbed wire and more for me and none for you and let’s see how much I can be less of myself.
The protective services did their jobs and the ropes protected the masqueraders well. We did well not to cross the borderline between the safe and the unsafe.
So why do I feel uncomfortable about the rope? Maybe because I am stuck on the outside and do not think I will have anyone to protect me, should I need it.