Bim Bim, sink or swim
All alone in deep river water
Jump high, jump low
You eh got no place to go on the street
Where the hunter becomes the hunted
Not even the lion could sleep in peace
Man dey what you say?
It doh pay to live yuh life on the run
Run quick, is the police man
The other way the preacher man
With he talk about what is right and what is wrong
He never had to starve in this Christian town.
—Bim, Andre Tanker
Last New Year’s Eve found me alone. Well, not quite. I was in the company of the neighbourhood stray, a very own-way white and ginger cat I gave the name Ms Galore. Me and Ms Galore hung out for most of the night. Moving between watching the moon and watching Yul Brynner. I tried to soothe her paranoid jumps every time a firecracker exploded. In return for my kindness she stood sentinel by the space in the roof to warn off wayward lizards. I had decided on a quiet night, because some part of me wanted to believe the New Year’s myth of doing the thing on the eve of the new year that you want to do for the rest of the year. I imagined with the great start I was getting, 2010 would be a relatively quiet year, when I could settle down to live a relatively quiet boring life. Maybe even get, like, a real job or a pet. Or something.
At the time, I imagined 2010 to be a year of solitude, seriousness and reflection. Of letting go of a version of myself that I thought needed to be let go of. At some point you doubt your own capacity to be who you are to the best of your ability. When the consistently dissenting voices question your actions, your choices, make it their business to create a version of you that doesn’t fit. You can’t possibly be a pro-per grown-up and still be your- self. Still watch the sun rise with your other insomniac friends. Still think you can change the world. Still do headstands in the park with your nephews. Still not really take yourself or anything else too seriously. It’s like you’re a soucouyant and have gone about your nightly flying jaunt and come home, only to realise your skin has salt in it.
But this is the unfortunate thing about Trinidad. Everybody knows who the soucouyant is but never confronts her to her face. Waiting instead for dead of night to throw salt. Even in our confrontation of our fears we are dishonest. I questioned myself again in the days leading up to New Year’s Day this year. And then the answer comes, from Star Wars no less. In the scene where Anakin Skywalker hasn’t yet become Darth Vader, Yoda explains to the young Padawan that ultimate Jedi mind trick, which is to learn to let go of everything you fear to lose.
It is Shiva’s abandonment of all his worldly possessions. It is Oshun transforming from peacock to vulture to save the Earth. The gods, you see, still find a way to get their messages heard. Myths, modern and ancient, Star Wars or Mahabharata, the story of Tron or the fables of Ifa are about the quest. For a better version of oneself. They are about the wars humans wage with themselves trying to be what they think is expected and not the person who manifests. Perhaps when you speak your wishes into smoke, all you are left with is a faint residue. But in the midst of a noisy year, I managed to carry the solitude of the first hours of 2010. Like the fleeting sweetness of sandalwood smoke on crisp night air.
Instead of the physical peace I thought I needed, the universe challenged me to find it in the chaos.
To let go of things I fear to lose. Work, friends, family, material possessions. None of these matter if you have to give up yourself. Ms Galore walked off and left me in the middle of the night. She didn’t look back. I didn’t say goodbye. I didn’t see her much after that night. I whispered wishes to have a more stable life. And then I chose a path that led me to live out of a suitcase for half a year. I wished to find my rightful place. And then I chose a place that feels like home but I don’t live there.
This year the new year greets me in the middle of the people I am lucky to call friends, whom I think I love and am presumptuous enough to imagine love me too, sometimes. Their noise teaches me to find my silence. This moment is not a lifetime. It is a fleeting sweetness on crisp night air. To enjoy and remember fondly and learn from for the rest of the year. For that I whisper thanks and wish for more of the same.