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We are the walking wounded

Sunday, July 29, 2018

You ever had that feeling? You’re driving. Fast. You want to keep going. You arrive at the lights, red. You want to keep going. You are not shocked that this must be how the young and reckless are, the three am drivers, who are driving but think they are flying, invisible, with no fear of the other side, hitting reality with they hit death. You see the cliff. You want to keep going.

You catch yourself, slow down, left right and in the rear mirror drive safely to your destination, put your head in your hands, with a rush of relief. What were you thinking?

What was she thinking, I thought for the hundredth time, setting off a girls lime, of the woman who drove herself in her nice car, off a cliff a few years back, in Trinidad.

Those nanoseconds when she was suspended, mid-air, hurtling towards rock, beach. Did she hear the roar of the ocean, the sounds of her car? Did she see the faces of her children or the people she’d loved?

Did she clutch on to the steering wheel, or did she let go? Did her grief congeal, viscose, like pond water around her brain? Could anger, a filter of self-preservation, have saved her? Did she change her mind, and wish she could rewind, her car somersaulting back to the top. We will never know.

We, three women, talked in gathering bronze dusk, the imprint of a pale full moon on a deep sky, rolling chilled wine about our mouths, feeling the contrast as the heat of the world subsided about us.

What happens when there is no way outlet for grief, or mental illness, like the woman on the cliff, or the woman who stripped naked in the traffic in the sunshine in the middle of a busy street on a workday?

This self-harming ink, this hurtling towards death, the stripping naked, the refusal to abide by the rules of a society that had let a woman down, was more often than not, a protest from heartbreak

Perhaps we felt safe to examine, expose, and gain insight from one another’s interior lives, and our country as a pleasant-faced waiter fussed bout us, producing a napkin at the hint of a water stain, coming by often to see if we were okay.

In this conversation entered our charming attentive waiter (a misnomer in this country) claiming that we were the best thing to happen to him this year. At that, like all women, we paid attention. One of us asked the obvious. Why are we the best?

He told us then, of his daughter’s boyfriend committing suicide. As we digested this he told us, three months later, his daughter killed herself. No, no, he said, don’t get up, as I tried to reach out to him, I don’t want management to know. Then, my wife cheated. At this, we had our heads in our hands. Finally, there was the restraining order. He must have lost his cool at her. At 44, he had nothing.

“We are the walking wounded”, said the friend I call Queen, her insight as sharp as a cutlass.

“For the 300 people murdered this year, there must be 6,000 people grieving. We need armies of social workers. Where are they?

“I don’t know.” I said, miserably, “I suspect nobody does.”

The other friend I call Warrior said, “I would walk in my panty down the road if tightening our belts meant we were becoming a better country. There is no protest because the rich don’t care, the poor don’t have power and the middle class is silent. Politicians, with their police escorts, sirens and the Good Life don’t care either.”

What would she do if she were Prime Minister?

“Nothing different. If you looked at your people and saw that they will not sacrifice for their country, you wouldn’t care either.”

This was grim. What could we change? We could change ourselves, be willing to protest against murder, injustice, traffic, corruption, gangs, guns. We could look inward, find our anger, find our strength within ourselves, decide not to medicate ourselves with Carnival or anything else; decide even as we commemorate another anniversary of the attempted coup, (where we the people refused to give in to anarchy) to find grit to stop ourselves from going over the edge, one citizen at a time.


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