Monday, March 30, 2009

Oh The Possibilities...

"Turn back!" men from the approaching crowd yelled. "Police down deh, turn back!" At first I thought they meant that the police were stopping and perhaps ticketing robot taxis, but as my brave (robot taxi) driver continued, I realised that this was not what they meant. The area was cordoned off with bright yellow tape: we were approaching a crime scene.

The taxi driver (having lost all aforementioned bravery) stopped his car and ordered us out. I looked toward the yellow tape and swallowed. Did he mean we had to walk past this crime scene to get to campus? He turned his car around and drove away, leaving exhaust fumes and dust to provide me with an answer.

It felt surreal: inspectors with white-gloved hands placing measuring tapes on the ground, soldiers patrolling in their army greens with huge magazine guns, policemen directing traffic away from the scene, and crowds of people behind the yellow tape at both ends of the road.

The only time in my life I've ever been close to anything like that was once in Ocho Rios when a police officer shot a taxi driver close to where I was... He did it because his pride was offended and he felt like he had to assert his authority somehow. So out popped the gun, and when the taxi driver seemed unmoved by this scrap of metal waving in his face, the officer stepped things up a notch, and with a whole crowd of women, children and men looking on... he shot the taxi driver for 'mouthing' him.

I remember it in slow motion. There was such a quandary afterward... the shot still ringing in my ears (I was that close), terrified screams, heavy boots hitting asphalt as people ran helter-skelter, my mother grabbing my hand, and looking and calling for my siblings at the same time, the sirens wailing as the police car sped away with the wounded man, the shouting mass of people stampeding their way from and to the scene, the cries of 'him nevah do nutting' already rising. I thought mob justice was about to be delivered. But the police villain got into his car and his colleagues sped him away too.

I think I lost my sensibilities for a good five minutes or so. My sense of direction disappeared, and had my mother not been nearby, I might have run in the wrong direction or stood there petrified, watching everyone else run for cover. But mommy was there, and by the time she and my father rounded us up and got us on a bus to go home, I had recovered and was jabbering excitedly with my siblings about it.

My mother was most traumatised. Her maternal reflexes snapped into full action when the incident was occurring, but by the time we reached home, she was a frail, weak and semi-senseless being. Her nerves were shot. She went promptly to bed, and for the remainder of the week, that was where she stayed, distressed at the thought and memory of what had transpired (she saw it).

I felt it for her, but, as you can imagine, when the immediate danger was past, I was soo excited at having actually been there (and my schoolmates only magnified my feeling of greatness by having me recount again and again what I saw)... I felt thrilled at having witnessed a potential murder: I even wanted to be able to claim that I saw the taxi man go down, but my spotless Christian upbringing got the better of me.

It was something else.

And that was what came to mind when I saw all the yellow tape and heard that a man had been shot. My alertness quadrupled I even had a CSI/NCIS moment (*saw a short fella in a spiffy suit walking briskly from the crime scene, talking on his cell phone with this air of self-importance and just knew he was the head detective: Grissom/Gibbs*).

As I walked past the crime scene, I unconsciously drew closer, wondering who shot this man and why... But the girl who got booted out of the taxi with me was adamant that I should not be stupid and waste time endangering my life for foolishness. Silly me pointed out that the immediate danger was past and it didn't hurt to look and listen. In response this, my fellow strandee replied, "anything is possible."

That woke me up, and I hurried to class. Because, hey, you know what?? Anything is possible.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Beholden-ness

I was in the bathroom washing my hands when the woman stormed in, rushed into a stall, did her business, and came back out (yes, it takes me that long to wash my hands). The whole time, she was talking on the phone in her lilting Trini accent... something about a 'he' who was taking advantage of a situation, asking for some annoying curse-word-curse-word favours. When she came to wash her hands, or rather, to let the water run full force on them for two seconds, I could hear more clearly what she was saying:
"is a damn shame when you don't have your own things to be able to do things for yourself without having to depend on anybody for anything and put up with people foolishness..."
Then she whooshed out, leaving a slowly dying breeze and a flopping curtain above the window (I lie. No flying curtains. If it was a movie, though, that would have been the mood). For all I know, she could have been a divine messenger from above with that statement. Oh how well I can relate!

Beholden-ness. That wicked noose that traps and slowly suffocates; draining the last vestiges of life from an already tired body. Beholden-ness. It sucks! Too many people in this world already think I owe them this magnanimous debt of gratitude and whatever-the-hell-else. Don't get me wrong. I'm not ungrateful. I'm just tired of compulsory gratefulness (mind you, I could be ungrateful now, but that would hurt me a whole lot more than it would hurt my not-always-so-pleasant benefactors). And alas! I know that bills and rent and providing for yourself isn't all it's cracked up to be, but neither is this wretched state of 'beholden-ness'...

So when that woman stepped into the bathroom breathing fire and brimstone for this stupid man, I could feel the defiance and indignation boiling...

Hasten the day when I achieve the honourable degree and acquire or create (whichever comes first) the ideal, prestigious, well-paying job. Then I can go live however and wherever my heart desires (or can afford to desire, lol) and assert autonomy from all undesirable external entities. And what's more? I can even become a benefactor to my benefactors for a change...

Independence calleth... *sigh* ...I hear it so clearly!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Talk With the Self

Self,
I should start on a high note and point out that I love you in word, thought, deed and truth. Can't live without you, and that's no lie. I even have friends getting jealous and malicious because I love you so much... but such is life. I love you. I can't help it. Afer all, you're you! Who wouldn't fall in love with that? =-)

I should also say that you've been making a lot of personal progress lately. Like the way you've been getting up early in the mornings and getting more things done around the house? Fabulous. And the way you're not allowing little things to bother you, and actually having entire worry-free days? Just awesome. I love it. Cause I, for one, can't stand it when you worry.

And your self-control is coming along nicely! Remember when that same gal there open her mouth to speak nonsense in class (again), and you actually kept mum this time, and kept a straight face, even though the whole class was looking expectantly at you (cause them know you love to rebut and rebuff)?? I know it was hard, but I was so proud when you did that.

Or remember that time when that lady came to Auntie J's house and decided to pretend you didn't exist?? You actually held your tongue and managed to keep a smile on! Bra-vo. I know how trying moments like that are, and I'm really glad you're learning how to handle spiteful offense. I always say, if you can't change action, change reaction. Don't kill up yourself over them things there, self. It not worth it. This self-control will come in handy when you meet all God's wonderful variety of people in the working world... you'll see...

But, seeeelf, ah muss tell yuh! There are some things about you that are getting on my nerves. Especially the things you hide so well for so long that I think they not there any more, only to see them resurface later on... self, what is up with that?

Take today, for example. How you manage to not be happily finished with that essay when you had an entire month to do it? What happened self? I thought we were on a roll with this doing all things on time thing... how come that happened?

Self, I'm so ashamed of you for that. I seriously would give you a spanking, except it would hurt me as much as it would hurt you. How dare you jeopardise my future first class honours like that?? And then to dump all this unbelievable guilt and regret for it on me- me?!! Self, how could you betray me like that??

I really thought we were over the procrastination phase. I thought we were making progress. Perhaps we are. Now ah not so sure. Self, I really can't tell you how unnerved and just plain old frustrated I am with you today. That essay was an A essay. You could have easily handed in, not just good work, but great work. Instead, you somehow managed to watch time pass till too late, and then the maddening race against the clock...

I have to admit that you stayed calm under pressure, especially when it touched 4:45 and you knew you were working against a 5 o'clock deadline... I'm glad you didn't panic and get jittery and do something stupid. But still, self, you never had to be in that situation at all!! You could have finished this thing weeks ago and had a nice, slow, peaceful day today.

So self, hear me out: I can't handle the procrastination thing again. This is not high school. You can't get way with them things like one time (okay, maybe you can, but really, is a B/B+ good enough when you could have easily gotten an A+? Mediocrity just don't make it in my books!)

Self, step it up man! Do better. Learn from your mistakes and shape the hell up. You better not let this happen again, you hear??

I done talk.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Sometimes It's the Little Things

One of my friends gave me a story. That's what she called the pretty colourful bracelet, and the cute pair of pearl earrings she brought me back from her trip to England (she went to a workshop in business journalism hosted by Reuters -can you believe that- the Reuters!! She was the only black person there among journalists from all over the world!) She also brought me back a real live authentic Reuters pen! I was beside myself with ecstasy! A real live Reuters pen is just a really big deal to a young li'l Jamaican journalist-in-training. I'll tell you this much: it means something!

So, when she handed me these things, she said, "this is the beginning of a story." When I heard that, I sat up straight because I knew something good was coming. And here it is:

My friend, (we shall dub her Destiny), visited her grandmother in England on her birthday (during the workshop). Her grandmother gave her a gift of a beautiful crockery set, and told her, "this is the beginning of a story." What she meant was that she didn't know if or when she would ever see Destiny again, so she was giving her the gift as what she expected to be the beginning of a legacy in Destiny's life. Basically, she was saying, if I never see you again, let this gift be in memory of me. Tell the story of your trip to England and your visit to your grandmother to your children and your children's children whenever you use these dishes.

So, after Destiny bought me the little keepsakes, she decided to call them the beginning of a story too. Because, according to her, as soon as she finishes her program at UWI, she is getting out of Jamaica as fast as she can and there is no guarantee that she will evah see me again after that.

"So," she said in her saucy, matter-of-fact way, "let this be the beginning of a story." I laughed my ass off. But it warmed my heart too. See, sometimes it's the little things...

Monday, March 9, 2009

Insecure and Afraid??

How do you explain a perpetually optimistic friend who seems to live by the belief that, regardless of how horrible things may seem, everything will be ok?

Who never seems perturbed by anything, and never complains to you about problems (does she have any?) and never seems to undergo the poverbial identity crisis?

How do you explain a friend who broke up with her boyfriend and shows almost no sign of pain or remorse about it?

Who rarely even talks about it and rarely ever goes through distress about anything?

Who seems constantly confident and behaves like she knows what's she wants and where she's headed?

How do you explain a friend like that?? Especially when you're in the middle of a mess and feeling woefully inadequate yourself?

The discussion revolved around relationships, and how hers was going up-the-mountain-down-the-mountain so often that her emotions were swimming in a nasty roller-coaster that seemed to me more like a manipulative web weaved by the (I must admit) very handsome and charming love of her life.

There I was telling this friend about my epiphany:
- how I discovered that latching on to people for dear life was a destructive habit, especially when the 'latcher' is an ambitious, somewhat clingy young woman, and the 'latchee' is a young gentleman with top-of-the-line executive responsibilities hailing from the one and only clannishly repulsive all-male's hall in our most prestigious university;
- that sometimes it's best to just stop trying to be validated by things and people and groups, and step apart from all that and find validation in your mere existence;
- that the type of confusion she was experiencing comes in large part from trying so hard to shape yourself into what everyone else wants you to be instead of just being what your merry heart desires and then allowing other people fall in place around that.

There I was thinking I was being a supportive friend, explaining that while I did not have the answer, and could not, like my grandmother recommend bay rum as a universal panacea for her aching heart, I could offer the encouragement that the storm would not last always and that at the end of this very turbulent season, she would have grown and developed into an even more beautiful and self-assured individual.

This wonderful friend of mine looked at me and explained that she thought I was insecure and afraid, and that that was the real reason why I was not in a relationship right now, and that that was why I broke up with last mister, and that that was why I was trying to explain everything away with this mumbo-jumbo love-yourself, independence speech...

She said that the real reason why I was going around vomitting all this sunshine nad spouting all this optimism and assurance was that I was insecure and afraid.

I sat back in stunned silence. Wow. Look'a that. Insecure and afraid. Hmph...