Now we know the truth
Yes we do
Wearing the boot
Of taking people’s business on your head, yeah
So might as well you be dead
Let the dead bury the dead now
And who is to be fed, be fed
I ain’t got no time to waste on you, no,no
I’m a livin man, I got work to do
Burial, Peter Tosh
Walk through the Croisee past flambeaux that line the streets to mourn a fallen soldier.
The flambeaux extend much further than you would expect. All the way up the Presbyterian School on the corner of Mission Road.
Love and fear are strange bedfellows so you’re not sure if they do it because they know him and care or because they must.
On Don Miguel Road there are flambeaux too and young people in the streets celebrate with spirits for the spirit and a young man dares you to question his authority by planting a flambeau in the middle of the street. Cars turn, not a horn blows. Music blares and the young man saunters away.
Cross the Bus Route and enter the Croisee proper.
Past grimy roads and stinking drains. Past barefoot singing Baptist women and graying crackheads lying splayed out outside the old cinema turned new church.
The Croisee that got new lights before the last election. So that San Juan people could clearly see the stinking streets. So that the decay was fresh in their eyes like the smell of fish and chicken guts in the drains.
Flambeau light the way for a man who the newspapers say was a Robin Hood. A good bad man that did terrible things to some people and saved others and died a warrior’s death.
The newspapers read like some legend about a gruesome end to a thug life.
They say, the San Juan people who knew him, that they loved him.
As if their love could possibly take away the stench of a life that allegedly stank worse than the Croisee on a hot Saturday afternoon.
No one knows for sure. In the same way that the police never know where to find the caches of guns or the druglords. Well known, well connected druglords walk the streets without fear, because they can.
Flambeaux light the way through the Croisee but the darkness is real for so many. In the corners where rats and men freebase and young women rage at their young children. No flambeau can bring light to them.
You wonder if ever you saw him. If perhaps there was some time in the past when you passed the good bad man in the Croisee. If he once leered at you in the streets, psst family.
If you ever saw him without noticing. Walking through the Croisee trying not to see or hear what was going on for fear that you would vomit up your disgust.
New storefronts all selling the same clothes. New storefronts that make you think about what children used to call putting on perfume without first having a shower- stink and sweet.
The Croisee is a perfect mix of stink and sweet and in the morning the scent of the burnt flambeaux lend a new oily industrial smell to the otherwise familiar ones.
In the morning they are still there, the flambeaux. Among the piles of rubbish, the rising crackheads, clutching their rotting manhood, scandalizing the Witness proselytizers. Everything is as it should be. And it doesn’t matter that the good bad man is dead. Because his mark is still there on the Croisee.
Women weep and men wonder who will take his place.
In the absence of war, what should warriors do? In the absence of leaders to whom can boys turn to learn how to be men?
In the glare of day, extinguished flambeaux line the streets like every life snuffed out, every mind lost, every mother that ever wept for a child gone astray.
The oily industrial smell of flambeaux mixes with the stink and sweet of the Croisee and you wonder if this is an end or a beginning.