At the end of daybreak, this town sprawled-flat, toppled from
its common sense, inert, winded under its geometric weight of
an eternally renewed cross, indocile to its fate, mute, vexed
no matter what, incapable of growing with the juice of this
earth, self-conscious, clipped, reduced, in breach of fauna
Notebook of a Return to the Native Land, Aimé Cesaire
When you run out of words do you scream silently in a corner, like a woman waiting for the next bout of licks from a man she once loved?
When the hope that used to make your skin tingle dries up do you wonder where it went or resolve to go on without it?
When you run out of words do you keep writing anyway, because if you don’t write you die?
Even if there are voices all around you that say that your voice is not valid. Your words unmoving. Your reason non-existent.
Do you still keep talking anyway, in the hope that one day it might make sense somewhere, somehow.
Do you wish you could cut yourself so that people can see that you bleed. Do you ignore their anger or let it seep into your veins and make you wallow in their doubts that are not yours.
When the mask you didn’t know you wore begins to slip, do you keep on anyway, not wanting to stop, in case your heart did too.
Running out of words and running out of time. Running into walls that you yourself have erected to protect you from real and imagined terrors.
When you run out of words do you respect the silence or do you tear at it in a rage, spewing nothing but a pained and garbled noise.
When you can’t think of what to say to make it better. Or make it different. Or just to make it seem like there is something there other than a big hole.
When you run out of words do you lose your patience like a mother who is tired of repeating the same instructions to her children? Do you lash out until they understand? Don’t stop beating until you feel like you anger is sated.
Do you stab and stab and stab away at the flesh of your loved one, when you run out of words.
Watch the word count. Rising and falling and then stagnating at four hundred. Four hundred words that are supposed to represent the whole of who you are. Keep going. Get distracted. Wonder where the words have gone. Wonder if you’ve run out of things to say. Witty things and bitter things and funny things and hopeless things. There is nothing more to say now. You run out of words to fall on deaf ears or ears that turn off their hearings aids when you try to speak.
You have no words to express your disappointment at your failure. You have no words to say how shocked you are that no matter what you say, this is the way things are. This is a done deal. This is our history and we must re-live it forever. This is what women need to keep them in line. This is not the time or place for us to stop and think and find our own way.
You have no words to mutter to yourself, no prayers or mantras that make it better.
You are out of words and it is time to pack up your tongue, put away your brain, succumb to the emptiness and the silence. To accept the noisy empty vessels. To know that the Red House is somewhere that jackasses bray because they must. And the rest just wait for cues. To point and laugh. Or hold their heads and bawl. Never to find their words.
Never to articulate their frustration.
When you run out words you have two choices.
Be like everyone else and become terrified of the sound of your voice.
Or resolve to change your language altogether.
There’s definitely no logic
to human behaviour
but yet so irresistible
they’re terribly moody
then all of a sudden turn happy
but, oh, to get involved in the exchange
of human emotions is ever so satisfying
there’s no map and
wouldn’t help at all
Human Behaviour, Björk
The grey hair, just north of my right temple showed up just like that the other day. It just popped out of the curly fro that grows under my locks. Like it was saying hello. So I said hello back and let it be and it’s disappeared somewhere into the mass of hair, as if my brain was trying to test my reaction.
I managed not freak out, which is a disturbing sign that I might actually be becoming a real certifiable adult.
This past week has also been the first time in as long as I can remember that I haven’t caught the pre-birthday funk, probably because there just aren’t enough hours in the day for me to factor in being miserable about getting older on top of all the other mischief I manage to get up to.
Aside from it being the week before Carnival and my birthday, today also marks the climax of weeks of social and political activism around the world known as the World Social Forum.
It’s the kind of hippy lefty event that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside and today I’ll be down in Couva with the residents of Pranz Gardens who are currently making their own statement about not wanting Essar’s steel plant in their backyards.
And as I’ve prepared for today, I’ve thought about just how the lives of people who try to get involved in social change are reflected in the events and actions they get involved in.
Another thing that I can blame on my mother, is she raised me in a house that was always full of writers, activists and other assorted undesirables who gave me a distorted sense of the normalness of wanting to be involved in everything.
To this day I can’t pinpoint exactly what motivates people to get up from their beds in the morning and decide they can change the world? What gives them the right to think they are that powerful?
I don’t have a clue, but I keep getting up every morning and thinking that I can find a way to make a difference.
And the older I get, the more I feel that I have the right to stake ownership of my wanting the world to be a better place. I’m bored of the self-effacing way that this society makes you think you have to act in order for you to be somehow acceptable.
Because the unfortunate thing about thinking you can make a difference is that most people have a problem with that, unless of course you have corporate sponsorship or reside in some politician’s rectum.
People don’t like you to challenge their own laziness. They resent that you tell them good morning or ask them not to litter. They don’t want you to criticize their SUV aspirations and they certainly don’t want you to tell them anything about any blasted trees.
People would rather send me letters eloquently describing to me how much of a self-serving hypocrite I am than mentoring a child. Which would have caused confusion in the younger me.
But the grey hair I believe I have earned through years of adventures that one day I might actually tell my mother, gives me a new level of I really don’t give a toots.
Because every morning I get up and I know that today I can be more than an insignificant little columnist on a tiny corrupt little island.
The good thing about getting older is that its suddenly become so much easier for me to be wholly uninterested in what people think about me or the descriptions they spend a lot of time coming up with (the best one of these I’ve seen in a while was ‘Hanky-headed Negro’).
The grey hair is under no threat of being pulled out, hidden or dyed. I’m actually looking forward to rocking that whole platinum dread look a la Toni Morrison, even if I don’t win a Nobel Prize or any prize at all.
It’s the race that counts though and I’m running all the way to the finish.