All over the world hearts pound with the rhythm
Fear not of men because men must die
Mind over matter and soul before flesh
Angels for the pain keep a record in time
Fear Not of Man, Mos Def
You know you must be doing the right thing when even the police parked up outside the Prime Ministers residence in an unmarked black SUV hail you out by name.
So you smile and you wave back at the cheery good morning. Trying not to be too suspicious. Because isn’t this what you’ve wanted ever since you came back? For people to greet you like they used to long time? For the police to be your friends and not your distant and intimidating strong arms of the state. You smile and you walk on, hoping that they don’t see the bemusement. Hoping that they don’t hear that your heart is beating faster and your mind is racing because you’re trying to remember where you could possibly have met a police man who would be parked up outside the Prime Minister’s residence in an unmarked SUV.
You must be doing the right thing. And maybe he makes you out because you’re on television sometimes. Your ego self, strokes you a bit and says maybe he’s a fan.
I mean it’s not like you live in a country where they victimize people for speaking their minds. I mean you’re number 17 on the Reporters without Borders rankings, a point that your government always boasts about.
And anyway, this is not the kind of country that takes its outspoken ones seriously. Let the jackasses bray, once the Johnny Walker flows and everybody gets a kick back, people like you can say what the hell they want.
So you make jokes about it. You joke about the blimp looking for you and put it on your Facebook status update so that your friends can catch some kicks too. Like you joke about whether Papa Patos reads your column every week.
When the night comes you sass a minister who tells you you have a sharp tongue and you treat it like it’s a compliment and not a reproach.
And in your arrogance and contempt for authority, especially of the masculinist political kind, you know you’re doing the right thing. You go home, haughty and self-righteous. Reach home safe, you say to the people you’ve hitched a ride with, and you mean it.
You find yourself remembering your grandmother’s voice, walk in your house backwards, not for the spirits but for the real jumbies, the half living crack heads, the young killers who were left to languish in classrooms for duncie children, the second generation coke heads who would grab at a cell phone but run at a raised voice.
You try to lock your worries out with the nights other terrors.
You want to forget for a few hours that you’re living in a society that is now so paranoid about itself that we’re willing to give up our civil liberties in order to feel something like safe. We live in fear under electric lights and behind electric gates and burglar proofing as if we fear the douens and jumbies that stalked the imaginations of our grandparents.
You fall asleep to a lullaby of police sirens, wailing somebody dead, oh.
In the insomniac hours when it’s just you and the moon and Mr. Coltrane battling it out for your sanity and your immortal soul, you know you’re doing the right thing.
By now you’re used to the mango trees pelting hard little fruit you will never eat, that hit the galvanize like bullets ringing out into the cool night. The old wooden gingerbread house moans and creaks like an arthritic old woman in the night breeze.
And every now and then the dogs in the distance howl, like somebody dead, oh. And under your window, cats meows sound like people begging to be let in.
You try not to think you’re living in a Martin Carter poem, where men in steel tipped boots crush your tomato plants and aim at your dreams.
Your fingers move faster and more determined across keys as if you’re life depends on you keeping writing.
The dawn is coming, so you roll out your mat and do your salute to the sun, glad that you’ve lived to see it again. You think about the smiling policeman in the unmarked black SUV, the blimp that will start making its daily rounds, but miss the young boys who keep breaking into your neighbour’s house.
You smile that you were ever even worried, because in the light of day nothing is scary anymore.
You think about ministers who reproach your sharp tongue and the cat that pissed in your hammock. Mild annoyances, but not the end of the world.
You resist the urge to turn on the news and find out who died in the night. For a moment you want to celebrate that you, like your tomatoes, are still living.