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.
He isn’t true
He beats me too
What can I do?
Oh, my man I love him so
He’ll never know
All my life is just despair
But I don’t care
When he takes me in his arms
The world is right, alright
What’s the difference if I say
I’ll go away, when I know I’ll come back
On my knees someday
For whatever my man is
My Man, Billie Holiday
Gangsters and wannabe gangsters killing each other is bad enough. In this time of war when warriors know nothing of fighting for a reason, loving the battle, defending anything more than their fragile manhood. We are shocked enough about it to sit around talking. Some of us are relieved that they are killing each other.
War is war and maybe there is nothing that the rest of us can do about it. Maybe.
But what is love when it makes you kill your four year old son? What is devotion when you the only way to resolve family conflict is death?
For some reason we still haven’t found a way to deal with this kind of madness. Maybe because we still are so permissive about violence against women and children. It’s the way, because men are head of the household, blah blah blah. Even though are sometimes most men contribute less emotionally, financially and physically. I don’t want to be one of those jaded bitter women who complain about men and how they’re no good, but Jah, it is difficult.
Not that I could possibly manage to be more unpopular among Trini men, but there is something wrong with too many of them.
We all talk about it, with varying levels of hysteria hidden in our nervous laughter.
Still, I desperately want to believe that this terrible monstrosity known as the Trini man is really a front and the good men are hidden somewhere hidden, in a secret good man lair, waiting to unleash themselves on the female population, when we’re ready.
I want desperately to believe that there are good men out there. I know a few that try very hard, in the face of domineering women, the sperm jackers and the money spenders who only look for a mooks of a man to manipulate.
Yet the headline on Guardian following the tragic murder suicide was ‘I Never Horn Him’. As if a woman horning a man is some kind of justification for any kind of violence.
But I’ve heard so many comments in the past few months about women saying that another woman deserves to get her face re-modeled for even entertaining the thought of another man, that I wonder why we have so many double standards about men and women’s sexuality.
Women still think their bodies and lives and the bodies and lives of their children belong to men, and the police are trained to reinforce these misconceptions, but not, apparently to mediate man and woman problems.
Four years old, I imagine a sweet little boy who touches everything and has an assortment of sassy comments. Words he doesn’t understand, aped from the adults around him or from television.
I wonder if men got pregnant and went through labour, would it be so easy for them to kill?
I wonder too if love can make you hate so much that you can kill your child, why are we all so obsessed with finding it?
And in the same way that our government is obsessed with owning as many new and shiny useless things as possible, our men are also obsessed with possessing women in ways that nobody should ever feel they have rights to lay claim over another human being.
And it doesn’t matter if you live in the country or in a nice suburban townhouse, you still have a right to collect some slaps, eat some licks, swallow some cuff.
And as the men on the streets of our fair city remind us everyday with their not so wide range of uninspired courting, it doesn’t matter if you’re a whore or a bank girl, you’re just a piece of ass. And what is an ass but a not to bright beast on which to ride? I live in hope that one day the beasts get fed up and finally start to kick back.