Morning in a café—Rain. The waitress, with the quiet beauty of a Gauguin painting, brings me my usual coffee. As I get up to leave, she passes me a note written in pencil. The first three words are crossed out. The rest take up the entire page like a couplet. "Sorry to say/this to you/But I lost/My son on August 22, 2019/Via/a single gunshot/To his left chest/my only son/23 years old."
We meet later, outdoors, under rain-sodden trees where she removes a folded note out of the pocket of her apron and reads it while I make notes.
"I received a call that devastated my mind, body and soul saying my 23-year-old son was shot. I asked, 'Is my son dead or alive?' The answer was. 'Not sure.'
"I arrived at the POS General Hospital. As I approached Emergency, I kept saying, 'God, give me grace, please God.' I identified myself to the nurse—standing by a door to my right—as his mother. The nurse said to me, 'when he arrived, he was still warm, but...' I told her, 'I know. I felt it in my belly.
"In the hospital, I followed the nurse to my son's bedside. She left me alone with him. I said to my dead son who was shot and killed by a single bullet to his left chest; 'Well boy, this is it. What can I say? It is over.'
"I played with my son's face, his eyebrows, his cheeks, his nose. I closed his eyes and his mouth, and I kissed him on his forehead. Then looking for where he was shot, I found the spot, on his left chest, bandaged. There was no blood. Did you put the part where I kissed his forehead? Good.
"Peace came over me as I covered my son's face with the sheet. I tucked the sides neatly. The nurse handed me his belongings except his clothing which she kept, saying 'this is a homicide'.
"She said he was dropped off and made it to Emergency where he collapsed. I walked out of the hospital shocked, confused, saddened and angry to know my son was all alone when he passed away. You have that?
"I thought of dying, stopped eating. But I knew I must learn to live knowing my son is dead, not blame myself. I did the best I knew, handed down to me from my parents which was not much—caring, providing, saying, 'I love you, son' whenever I saw him. That bullet came at him from everywhere and anywhere in hurting T&T—Each home is wracked by greed and the grief of violence—verbal and physical."
She speaks with evangelical strength.
The subtext: I will not be felled by the evil that contributed to my son's death, his father that ghosted him; the surrogate gang fathers—community leaders whose state contracts fuel the 190 plus gangs with some 2,500 members terrorising this country; the 8,000 murdered since 1994; the justice so delayed it is denied; the low detection; the lousy witness protection programme, the 1.6 million illegal guns throughout CARICOM, the culture of fetes, the school system churning illiterate children, egotistical politicians pushing dependency; the unsustainable jobs, the greedy soulless men who bring in arms and drugs in the dead of night uncaring of cheapening human lives, draining all meaning out of what it is to be human.
We are living in a war zone, without the tanks, shelters, bombs overhead, or dead bodies on the road. Our killing fields are mostly silent: armed men with rifles, rapid gunfire, jammed forensic centres, frozen bodies of dead boys in mortuaries, funeral parlours doing a brisk business.
The grieving waitress is seeking consolation in weeping skies crying. "God, give me grace."
If we didn't believe in God, we would have to believe we were animals, with short expendable lives endlessly exposed to death on a dark highway
That's why religious fervour is high here. Without it, the carnage would drive us collectively mad.
No, she would not let them win. She would not.
"Grace. Please, God."
She returns to wait on tables, another dehumanised citizen with stones for eyes wondering where love went...