St. Kitts, I love you!
Dear Sweet Sugar City,
I wasn’t always a headstrong runaway.
Before turbulent airplane flights, tumultuous weather patterns and tenuous relationships, I was always the one standing at the heavy-duty glass partition, peering into the soul of a man as he held the hand of a girl. She could have been me, but she wasn’t, with her tamed shiny mane, that even within the tight clasp of three colorful bubbles still called attention to itself, as they overflowed into fat, lengthy ropes. I wanted with everything in me to be the one to go (not leave—they are not the same), the one to be taken away (I’m working on my preoccupation with being rescued) from the smallness of my world to that place where I just knew he preferred.
It was not that I needed to be rescued. I was not a victim of circumstance. I knew what shelter was, I knew what the guarantee of breakfast, lunch and supper looked like—and it all felt miraculously like love.
So, what was missing? What was fueling these intense longings to be elsewhere? Honestly, I think I had yet to fall in love with home, as it shifted from one norm to the next, or soil, as it often felt like so much quicksand holding me tight around the ankles. Love was New York, where he lived, and Trinidad, where she studied, and love was the naked reality of 65 square miles of Kittitian playground. Love was not limited, but it was confused and stretched thin and incomprehensible. I was always sheltered, never without the necessities. Never starved. But I wanted to go, even before I knew the cost, or what it meant to carry the weight of such guilt and responsibility. Leaving meant permanence, but to my young mind, going felt like a privilege. I could always come back. Couldn’t I?
The summer of ’87 was precipitous for many reasons. It was my first trip abroad. I was dressed to the nines in a khaki pinstripe pantsuit that today I would like to imagine was some seersucker blend. And I felt sophisticated. Yes. At the tender age of nine, I used that word to myself in the mirror. I thought that word in the absence of any reflection. I felt grown, not womanly grown, but smarter-than-average grown. Oh, the nerve and the innocence. And if there were not any number of moments of lost innocence before this, 90 days of perceived freedom in New York’s jaws would have sealed the deal.
All I remember of this trip were my hands around a girl’s throat. Now, I did not know what her end or mine would be, but I knew that I wanted to be there at hers with a passion. It did not matter the whys of being there—even now, it does not matter that her face should be etched in the Oxford dictionary next to BULLY in all caps—the reality was that I might have paid any price to go, and yet going had brought me full frontal with that side of myself that would fight to the death, and then, even after staring at the scabbed remains of a once-beautiful throat, remain unapologetic.
It was the beginning of my reckoning and confrontations with choice, for I could not have both worlds, which was not just a matter of locale, but personal ties. I could not have him and her. I could not have here and there. From that time onward, I would have to choose, and so even while I resented choice, I could also sympathize with those who had chosen their own paths without consultation. For on the one hand, there are those intense feelings of abandonment. On the other, there is the erased threat of starvation because someone else took a chance. And then, still on that other, unforeseen hand, there is the thought that maybe it is better to struggle and survive together, than to lose time and heart apart. This leaving/going business is not so cut-and-dried, but in it there is room for forgiveness.
“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow Roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars, and in the middle, you see the blue center-light pop, and everybody goes ahh…” Jack Kerouac – ON THE ROAD
My American friends love choice. It is not a shame, even as I write it here. They wear it ironed across the front of their T-shirts, in ink sleeves running along their arms and ending somewhere around their ring finger and, and most assuredly, they weave it into conversations. I love this about them. I love that Jack Kerouac mentality that sees an open road and packs a bag for no other reason than it being Tuesday, and why not? Surely, there’s a segment or maybe even a whole younger Caribbean generation that knows and thinks nothing of access to information (technology) and the knowledge that can come with it as their inherent right to life and liberty (I refuse to believe that this is a purely American construct) and choice. My view of a heritage has been much more survivalist—doing what one must and all that—and over the years, I have embraced empathy. A global world and Internet (which is my chosen medium of communication) might make access relevant, but it is foremost not a thing of ease.
So begins the launch of DASHEEN, a magazine rooted in the belief that ‘culture feeds imagination.’ A magazine designed and premeditated toward promoting and evoking every glorious image of a Caribbean people possible, I say hello again. Thank you for being the foundation that held me up. Thank you for inflecting my speech. Thank you for giving me character and confidence in a world that, somehow, on any number of occasions, seemed to expect so much less. Thank you for allowing me to go, for every time I should have stayed until my leaving. Thank you for laying out a welcome mat to a clime where there is always shelter and breakfast and lunch and supper at home. Thank you for being the place where culture fed my imagination.
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