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…Strip me…

Strip me…

…of all the vanity that governs my morning routine

The need to pick at my face

judge my nose

scrutinize my lines around my eyes

and the fear of getting old.

Strip me…

…of the need to please

the fear that someone out there

remembers that time when I was less than kind

will weaponize my discourtesy against me.

Strip me…

Peel me…

Unwrap me…

Leave me bare…

Remove every ill you have found there.

I wish to be a ball of light.

Raw energy and power.

Searing eyes, burning skin.

Leaving scars of memories and wonder.

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…the ID card…

“Girl, she kick in my room door, she crazy!” he shrugged when I asked him about his ex. He even flung his wrist just as dismissively. And just like that the relevance of his last relationship which lasted three years was diluted to one sentence. Now I’m the crazy one, I thought, as my chest heaved and my own blood dripped from my right fist.

The drive home was tense. We had maybe three fights while on the road. Two were about her, the other one was about my inability to give directions which could be clearly read on Waze. We passed the market and I managed to get a clear view of the baby blue dumpster and I chuckled.

Earlier that week I discovered her ID card in his wallet. I debated if to launch an investigation into his increasing laundry list of lies. I debated if to confess to him that I knew he was lying yet again. Instead, I left for work. As I passed the market, I came up to the baby blue dumpster. I analyse the card one last time, staring hard at her birth-date ‘1993’. Then, I chucked it. It bumped the rim then fell in.

We pulled into the street and as my duty required, I opened the gate and he drove in. He barked at me for not getting my keys ready immediately because he and our daughter had to wait for me to open the door. As I ushered our daughter in, his cell rings. His face tensed, then he walked towards the back yard. 

After I set up our daughter with a snack I followed the sound of his hushed voiced. I found him hunched like he was hiding a secret. He explained to the caller that he was just wrapping up and would be there soon. Over his shoulder I facetiously questioned, “Customer?” He carefully covered the screen with his chest but by now my eyes were slick to his movements. I saw the ‘K’, the first letter in her afro-centric middle name, a contrast to her very euro-centric first name. But the bitch was all Trini. He attempted to dismiss me with the flick of his wrist, urging me to go inside. Ever the good wifey, I obeyed, right after I shouted, “Tell the bitch to get a new ID card because the old one in Sea Lots by now.” then I strutted inside, but felt inspired to hasten my stride when I heard him end the call. 

” You did what?!” With a sense of morality on my side I squinted at him smugly. He was always shorter than me. According to his ID card, I had a solid 1.5 inches over him. But he was broad, thick shoulders from the couple years he spent playing American football for his high school in Brooklyn. His waistline filled out over the near decade of our life together. He had a dense build, his fat and muscle intertwined due to years inconsistent exercise, mashed potatoes and stewed beef. 

“I found it in your wallet and I don’t want nothing for that bitch in my house so I threw it away!” He flushed from caramel brown to bright red, gritting his teeth and contorting his face like someone stomped on his big toe. He slowed his speech as if talking to a child but his volume raised with every word, “Are you crazy? Why the fuck would you throw it away? That’s illegal!”

I mocked his speech pattern but keeping my voice down, “Why the fuck is it in my house?” Recognising his volume and the fact that our front door was wide open, he feigned calm, “Baby, I had it a long time now. You could have just told me you found it and you don’t want it in the house and I would have gotten rid of it.” I felt my face and neck become inflamed, but while my melanin didn’t betray the rage. My voice did. “Why is it in your wallet in the first place? Why is it here? Why do you have it?” I watched him straight his eyes, I glanced left then right then at his mouth. The corners of his lips would always curl into a slight smirk when he’s about to lie. And curl they did. Before a sound escaped his mouth, I mentally dismissed him, throwing my hands the air. Simultaneously, I aimed for the open front door. 

The sound of his left hand connecting with my right cheek was dwarfed by my immediate howl. It was more the shock of the slap than the actual pain that made me cry. I sobbed harder when my daughter surfaced, she rushed to my side to comfort me. I didn’t want comforting. I wanted immediate vengeance. With tears in my eyes I picked up our daughter and placed her on the foot of the stairs. As I was getting up, he had already darted out the door and headed for the back yard. I instructed her to go upstairs into her room and don’t come down. She questioned my request while simultaneously obeying. 

I stepped outside, my face wet, my cheek stinging from the rage and the slap. Our eyes connected and he made strides towards the driver’s door. My blood, while clinging to my face and head, it made a detour around my brain. He attempted to apologize. He attempted to explain that he’d go cool off by his cousin. I heard none of it. I kicked the passenger door, screaming that he spend the night by his slut. Sitting in the driver’s seat, he shrieked, “You fucking crazy! Yuh go mash up mih door!”

I am whatever you say I am! And if I wasn’t then why would you say I am!

-The Way I am.

Eminem

The car was pulling off, I frantically and repeatedly kicked the car door to the passenger seat that he allowed her to sit in like she belonged. He rolled down the window to scream for me to stop. I pulled at the wing mirror, spinning it attempting to rip it off. My rage and adrenaline wasn’t sufficient. Instead I punched it. 

By then, the car was in the narrow street. He shrieked, ” What did you do? Are you fucking crazy?” I streaked his white wagon in splashes of crimson, fulfilling my role, because indeed I was mad.

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…a birthing story…

She came two days late…a sign, from the start, that she intended to live on her own terms. My little trooper.

The doctor sent me home for the second time with the prescription of rest to deal with the pain. He said it was Braxton Hicks contractions triggered by my coughing, a symptom of a flu I couldn’t treat. Ever obedient, I made a hobbled beeline for the bedroom. I laid on my back with my feet elevated on the pillows which already imprinted the shape of my swollen calves. Another one came. I gritted my teeth. Braxton Hicks my ass!

As it passed I glanced over to the concerned face beside me. His helplessness weighed on his eyebrows and shoulders. He tried to rub my belly as you would do for a stomachache. I barked at him. He pulled away. Left the room. Been barking at him a lot lately. Just three days prior I chose the cold living room floor and chair cushions over the comfort of our bed, as an act of rebellion. I attempted to throw him out of the bed when I discovered, once again, that he was giving money to his ex. He refused to leave the room. So I did. Now I have the flu and Braxton Hicks contractions.

I wish I had the luxury to fill that prescription of rest that night but pain persisted. An educated guess would say, once every half hour. She was on her way.

At sunrise, we made arrangements to make our third trip in the last three days to Port of Spain General Hospital. Despite living in Tunapuna, I kept up appearances in the Port of Spain clinic after our move from Morvant. The lore of high pregnancy related deaths at Mt. Hope General Hospital was at its peak in early 2013. We thought it best not to tempt fate.

Baby bag…check! Mommy bag…check! Panicked father-to-be…check! Driver…? Since we didn’t have a car, we were promised by her father’s best friend that he would take us to the hospital. He took us once before, and our neighbour/my school friend, obliged the second time. As we count down the minutes of our driver’s arrival the minutes between pain and calm drew closer and closer. Her father read in some pregnancy article that walking eases the pain. So I paced. What he neglected to mention was pacing also speeds up the dilation process. The more pain I felt, the faster I paced. Then…splash!

Panic would be an understatement to describe the emotion of two first-time parents in that moment. He went to get my friend, as the driver seemed to be unreachable despite living one town away in Bon Air. I climbed into the back seat with my bag and the bag designated for our newborn. My friend apologized for the mess of the car which betrayed the extent of his bad habits: cigarettes and cleaning up when he felt like it. I was too distracted by what was happening to be bothered by the mess. My initial thought was to get on the bus route and flag down any police officer we see or may stop us in hopes of getting an escort to the hospital. It happens in the movies, right? Why not in Trinidad?

I felt the pressure of what was once contractions shift from my abdomen to my pelvis. It was involuntary. I clenched. She resisted. It was a war between me and the daughter I’d yet to meet. We sped down the bus route, my friend was living his speed racer dreams as he swerved around the maxis. We stopped at a red light. Why? It’s the law, I guess. At the same time, we saw a police car and begged the officers to escort us. Instead they gave us permission to go. Off the bus route now, somewhere on the Lady Young Road, we begged the assistance of another police vehicle we saw. They waved us through, just telling us to go.

During this ride, her father climbed from the front seat to the back with me as my screams grew more terrifying. I barked orders like a demon to her minion demanding he get the towel and blanket from her baby bag. My daughter and I continued our tug of war as I insisted that she wait until we arrived to the hospital. To this day, she has a hard time taking instructions.

Sometime after 11 a.m., as we flew around the Queen’s Park Savannah, Skyler-Marie Coryse Morton was born in the backseat of her Godfather’s AD wagon.

Defying the clench of my kegel exercises, she flew out, down one leg of my boy-short undies, into the hands of her dad. She was slippery. He fumbled the catch and instead landed below the driver’s seat. She was small and easily lost between the mid-term essay drafts and cigarette butts on the floor. I felt under the seat for her, guided by the umbilical cord which was still attached. She was silent. Stunned by her grand entry into world perhaps. I surely was.

I picked her up, pried her lips apart to get the excess fluid out. I read somewhere that may cause choking. As I opened her mouth, she wailed. My little trooper. Welcome. Don’t you like drama?! I covered her in a blanket and picked off the ash and debris she trekked in her dive below the car seat. I held her on my chest as her wails subdued into coos. The ladies were calm. The men were not. As we pulled into the emergency driveway, the car had yet to come to a complete stop before her father leaped out of the vehicle in hopes to get the attention of an attendant. We waited while a nurse from the maternity ward was summoned to the ground floor. Umbilical cord still attached. Calm and cooing.

A stern faced woman with glasses appeared between my legs and took my daughter from me. She cut the umbilical cord and placed her in a plexiglass crib and wheeled her away. Then my friend, her father and an attendant struggled to get me in a wheelchair. My legs were useless. My friend and her father waited downstairs as men are not allowed on the maternity ward. She was taken to be checked for general health and to be cleaned. I was taken to give a second birth but to the sack she called home for the last 9 months and two days. She was cleaned, I was stitched up and we were reunited.

I bared the verbal abuse of a nurse for my carelessness as I reached for my phone. But I had to take a picture of what I just did…

…masters, no trades…

I felt painted into a corner with a colour of oil paint that made my eyes water and my head hurt. Lin was my friend, mine. Ever since we met as budding reporters at the radio station I always valued her straight-forward level-headed opinion on things. I was sure that she would have agreed with me on this. Especially since she was pursuing her Master’s Degree as well. But he will always be a better salesman than me, even when it involved the direction of my life and career.

Getting my second degree was hot button topic of discussion since our daughter shot out of me and bumped his chest nearly three years prior. I would approach it from all angles and the desired response was always delayed. Today it felt closer to a ‘no’ as he got Lin to present the argument that getting my Master’s isn’t necessary if the intent is to leave my government job and become an entrepreneur. She was right, I don’t need it to run a business, it’s surely irrelevant in the business of mixing oils, butters and waxes. He smiled smugly, confident that I’d drop the topic finally and concede to his superior knowledge once and for all, while we stood in Lin’s spacious new townhouse we pretended we didn’t envy.

I couldn’t drop it. It was more than getting my Master’s. It was about getting back myself.

We were always partners in everything we did. All decisions were made after long discussions and a consensus was agreed upon. Communication made us work, that and the fact that I felt like he respected and truly valued my opinion. Then, I got pregnant. The anxiety of becoming a mother made me question and second guess my own shadow. I conceded everything to his seemingly better judgement. A decision which yielded mixed results. When we decided to turn our kitchen hustle into a legitimate business, I finally felt like I found my stride out of the post-par-tum fog. By then however, he wasn’t ready or willing to relinquish the reins or even share them.

Everything was what he said as he said. A sliver of dissent meant I didn’t respect him as the man of the house. The business, an idea born out of my struggle and love of mad science experimentation since the age of 8 years old was taken over by him the minute we grew in social media popularity. I became a mere workhorse employee, though he was excellent at selling a different version of events. I felt lost in my own life. I wanted to retreat to the version of myself that I knew best. The Academic. He wanted no part of it.

As we drove home, I sat in the front seat of of his gold Kia. Another bone of contention with us. A purchase he made with no consultation but the cost of every broken part was known all too well by my dwindling savings. I thought hard about the conversation that broke my heart. Is getting my Master’s Degree really a waste of time if my goal is to become an Entrepreneur. Is becoming solely an entrepreneur truly my goal?

I was silent when we got inside. He barely noticed. Probably preoccupied with the glow of his victory. I sat on the edge of the bed. I waited until I heard the click of the closed door behind him. Then, the tears flowed. I didn’t wail, scream or even sob. Partly because I didn’t want to wake our sleeping toddler in the next room. Also partly because my tears felt more like a mourning of someone passing. Someone you knew was sick, has been sick for some time and their death felt like an act of kindness given by the universe.

Like a drop of adrenaline, the idea dawned on me. Ms. Red. She has her Masters. She has her own business. She is a woman I admired. She’d have an insight that neither I, him or Lin can provide. Would getting that second degree really make a difference to your life trajectory?

Ms. Red and I were friends in the loosest sense of the word but we were more than just associates. I loved what she was about and showed my support. She provided an avenue through fashion for women of a particular size to learn to love themselves and the skin they’re in. She in turn gave me the opportunity to show my love of fashion and strutting in beautiful clothing without spending a cent. We didn’t run in the same circle but there was a mutual respect and admiration there that grew over time. I found her number.

I struggled to express my perspective as the phlegm and tears bubbled in my throat. I all but expressed how I felt lost in my own life. How getting my degree was more than just the piece of paper. It was an opportunity to find out beneath the labels of mother, wife, employee, businesswoman… who am I really?

She calmly listened to my blubbering, a disposition that seemed foreign on me as I was always quiet and smiling around her. Then, she spoke, “The fact that you are asking this question means you know in your heart what you want to do. I cannot tell you that getting your Master’s would be beneficial or not to your dreams to be an entrepreneur. Getting mine helped me in some ways but it wasn’t really essential. But if you feel like you need to take that step to really be effective as a business woman and become comfortable in your career and your life then do it. It’s knowledge. I can never speak against a woman seeking more knowledge. If that’s what you need to do. Find a way to do it. Pray about it. Ask God to make a way for it and do it.”

I applied in an MSc. Management Studies programme the following June.

…liz-marie…


And everyone here, knows everyone here is thinking about
Somebody else
Well, it’s best if we all keep this under our heads
And I couldn’t tell, if anyone here was feeling the way I do
But I’m lonely now, and I don’t know how
To get it back to good


Back 2 Good – Matchbox 20

In a house full of aunties, 15-year-old Liz-Marie was the surrogate mother I didn’t know I wanted. Alone, in a house full of children and mother figures quick to tell me how everything I did and said was the wrong thing. She was the only one showing what was right. Showing…light.

My brother and I were that month’s newest additions to the house of unfortunates and undesirables. My brother even at 4 years old with his broad nose and broad smile was a charmer. Everyone immediately fell in love with him. A change of pace from the half-way house of 3 years ago where he was relentlessly bullied and I was held back from defending him. New environment. Different nuns. More white people. Who knows? He quickly made it home.

I was having a harder time adjusting. My mind kept rolling back to my parents. Why couldn’t Mom keep us? The people she worked for were rich, surely they can make a little space for us. I’m quiet. I’m helpful. I can teach their son in any subject. Why couldn’t I go there. And why didn’t my dad want me?

Liz-Marie showed me to what would become our room. Right now it was hers and she was in the process of clearing the bottom bunk which would become my bed. She asked me what sized underwear I wore. I shrugged my shoulders indicating I had absolutely no clue. My mother bought my underwear. Even though I lived by my dad, when she dropped money for groceries, between their fights, I would get my panties and vests for school.

Liz held up a white and pink one to my waist, then handed it to me. She took it back to check the tag then gave it back. She then handed me four more in a similar pattern in different colours. “Do you know how to wash them?” I did. She gave me a thumbs up in approval. She helped me pick out outfits from the communal closets and I spotted a teal t-shirt with the word “Cool” on it that I prayed would fit me. Then stormed in a boy with Liz-Marie’s face. David, he was the second of her three younger brothers who lived here with her. He was one year younger than me but already he dwarfed me. Just like Liz, he was incredibly thin, but it wasn’t from a lack of food but an abundance of physical activity. They both had jet black, pin-straight hair and matching sideburns. Liz’s hair flowed freely down her back, while his was trimmed in a bowl cut.

“D new boy iz your brudda?” I found my voice to respond in the affirmative. Before he could mouth his follow up question, Liz chased him out the room reminding him that the girls’ quarters were off limits to boys. Especially now that there was another big girl in the quarters besides Liz. Me, at 9 years old, I was considered a big girl. I was always the big girl. I had to cook for my brother and I. Clean up before my dad came home. I walked him to pre-school and would travel to school. On days where I didn’t get transportation money I would would wake up early, do all my chores then walk from Petit Valley to Belmont Girls’ R.C. and be on time to catch the free morning breakfast. At age 9, I took care of things.

Liz’s face beamed when she showed me around the small room. When she came to the radio, she grinned wide flashing her double riders. “What music do you listen to?” I shrugged my shoulders and answered, “I dunno, whatever on the radio.” She turned on the clock radio and fiddled with the dial, without looking at me she asked, “What station do you listen to?” I lost my voice again, shrugging my shoulders and shaking my head indicating my indecision. She flashed those riders again. “That’s ok. I listen to Hott 93.”

She slid the little knob back and forth until the music was clear. Then came his voice. The voice that now brings me calm when my world felt messy.


And she only sleeps when it’s raining
And she screams, and her voice is straining
And she says baby
It’s three a.m. I must be lonely
When she says baby
Well I can’t help but be scared of it all sometimes
And the rain’s gonna wash away I believe it


3 A.M. Matchbox 20

…Cascade Carnival…

I sat with my group trying my best to pay attention to the tenants of brainstorming versus brain-dumping in relation to planning and plotting points for our Organisational Behaviour assignment. I struggled. My heart was a storm and my head was a dump. I bolted. I made up an excuse that my sitter called and she couldn’t keep my daughter. Truth was, I just didn’t want to be there. I didn’t want to be anywhere. No where felt safe. No where felt comfortable. No where brought peace. At least, no where that I would go.

My phone buzzed, a text from Digicel that I missed a call from my mother. I returned the call. She was in Cascade with a patient who’s family left for the Carnival and she had the house mostly to herself. She heard death in my voice. The shell of the child she gave birth to some 29 years ago. She flexed a muscle she rarely used and offered me the opportunity to spend the long weekend with her in Cascade.

Perfect.

The house had a pool, it was near a green-space and mom made her own groceries. All I needed to bring was myself, my reading material for my project and a swimsuit. As for my daughter…it pained me but not her. I couldn’t look at her without seeing him. A face that once filled my heart with joy and pride brought rage and sadness. And it wasn’t even her fault.

I left her. Let him field the questions, deal with her pained face wondering where I am. When am I coming back? Why did I leave without her? All questions I’ve had to craft creative responses for her in an effort to save her father’s image in her eyes. I doubt he’d give me the same courtesy.

I arrived at the house. My legs stung from trudging up the hill. The house took up half a block in the gated community. The guards were lax as they just waved me in assuming I was a house-keeper or a geriatric nurse like my mom. My attire betrayed nothing about me, other than I was just tired. My mom greeted me with a hug. Something she usually asks for rather than take. She took it and I was grateful.

She showed me the room I’d be staying in for the next three days. It was small, it fit a built-in wardrobe and a full-size bed. I sat on the bed and saw the small green space outside. I decided that would be my hiding spot during the day. Just then, my phone rang. It was him. I couldn’t breathe. As far as he knew, I was still in UWI in my group meeting. I’m terrible at lying but excellent at playing dumb. I answered.

“Where are you? I have something important to do and you need to take our child.” I exhaled and chose my words carefully. “I’m out. Won’t be back until Tuesday afternoon” I heard his voice change in octaves before he responded, “Fucking Tuesday! Where are you? I’m coming for you in UWI now!” I somehow felt assured that he’s too far to do anything to me physically. My inner brat came out, “UWI is big, might take you three days to find me if you go searching. Either way, I’m not there. I’d be home on Tuesday. There is food for Sky in the fridge and if all else fails, you know your way around the kitchen.” He matched my attitude to deliver some jabs of his own, “I know all of this, I’m the one who cooked. You’re never in the kitchen unless it’s to make hair butter. If you cooked more…” I hung up. I knew where this was heading. I wanted to get away from that. My phone rang a few times, then came the messages, as quick and angry as the content and its sender. I left the room, and the phone in it.

The next day, I sat on the balcony overlooking the hills of Cascade. My laptop sat in front of me but my attention was captivated by the colours of the hills. I know nothing of birds, but they sang to me, or maybe to each other. My mom brought me a some toast and cheese with Lipton tea. I can count on my fingers the number of times my mother has attended to me so closely. Every single occasion I was sick. I guess this time was no different.

My phone buzzed. A message from Shivani popped up on my screen. Shivani, a new friend from Spanish class, had become both my sounding board and my ice-bath of reality since the whole ordeal started. I clung to her for her directness at a time when everyone around me treated me with velvet gloves. It also didn’t hurt that she was the best in the class at Spanish.

I opened her message, “So I’m in Superpharm with Chris, because I’m in need of deodorant. Guess who’s two lanes over?” I knew where this was going. I refused to accept it. But I had to indulge. I had beaten myself up for what had happened for too long.

“Who?” I asked the stupid question.

“Your husband, person or whatever. With her, the horsefly.” my heart sank at the sight of words which meant to inspire humour. As soon as I’m not around, he ran to her. But my imagination wasn’t enough to pacify me.

“Pics or it didn’t happen.” The pictures came. The two of them caught mid-flight like two criminals fleeing the scene. There she was in her signature attire of a cleavage bearing V-neck top and shorts that were two sizes too small. He wore a shirt I bought him back in his slimmer days. It clung to his stomach which hung over his grey shorts. He almost fell out of his leather slipper. His full attire, bought by me.

“I hope you appreciate me risking my life here, because he looks pissed.” I did. At least I had evidence that I’m not as crazy as he leads me to believe. There was now proof. Proof that would be helpful if ever there was a divorce. “I’ll keep you in my prayers, and sponsor your coffee next class.” Three hug emojis followed, “Make it a coke. So what are you gonna do now? If you’re confronting him, let me cash and leave first.” Made sense. I chuckled at how theatrical my life became. “Let me know when you’re out.”

“Out.”

I called him. Half of me didn’t expect him to answer. Half of me didn’t want him to. He answered. “What?!” Good. Give me attitude. Give me rage. Give me the liberty to peppa yuh muddacunt! “Where is my child?!” I stood up and walked away from the balcony as it was a bit too close my mother’s patient for this conversation. “Like you even care, she’s with the sitter. I had some turns to make so I dropped her there for a few hours.” I heard the car start.

“Turns? Did you somehow manage to turn up at Trincity?” I heard him honk his horn at fellow drivers. His fair to average driving skills fade to absolutely atrocious when he’s mad. Part of me wanted him to crash. Part of me wanted to hang up phone and flush myself down the toilet that I sat on. “So you have spies on me now? I see the coolie bitch and she faggot man taking pictures in Superpharm.” I laughed heartily at him. “Coolie? Ok dougla boy, self-hate is alive and well in you boy. A pity you’re behaving just like the father you hate so much.” I heard a car screech. Not sure if it was his. At the moment, I didn’t care.

“You ever thought that maybe the reason why I ran to her is because you’re such a cunt!” I did. But he’d run to her when I’m not being a cunt so why bother being nice. “Well you’re married to this cunt so how about you just divorce me and go live happily ever after with your slut. I hope she knows that wearing pants that tight causes yeast infections. Hope you like your fish cheesy.” He shouted something. I couldn’t make it out because his phone probably fell, a regularly occurrence, angry or not. “Fuck you! I wish I never met you! You ruined my life you fucking bitch!” Good. Lay the foundation, let me finish this house.

“Life?! What fucking life you had before me? With your two CXC passes and your security wuk?! Where were you possibly going that I hampered your future? I’m the one who was getting the degree. You hated that so much that you stopped me for two years from doing my Masters. Now I’m finally doing it, and you decided to fuck up my progress with this shit. You and all your insecurities.” My mind ran on my abandoned laptop on the balcony and all the reading I had to do. “My mother was right. I chose wrong. You, sir, were the one who fucked up my life and derailed my career for the sake of your legacy. The minute I no longer fell in line, you found my replacement. A diluted one at best, a fuck buddy at worst. You are the worst possible thing to happen to me. I should have taken another street instead of giving you a minute of attention by Nicholas Tower.”

He took a breath before he responded. A low blow would be a euphemistic description for my words. I knew him. I knew how to hurt him. And I also knew how to deliver a kill shot. “I wish you did too.” He hung up.

…St. Valentine, 2009…

Fergie began to sing from my pocket, muffled by my thighs and jeans fabric. All eyes swung to me. I pretended I didn’t notice. I sat in the middle seat of the taxi. Did they really expect me to be able to reach my phone? Fergie had stopped regaling the passengers about her humps as the taxi turned onto lower Charlotte Street.

The taxi came to a stop and I did a little shimmy to get my brick of a Motorola Rokr out of my back pocket to see the missed call.

“2 missed calls from Othello”

I called back and began to walk up Charlotte Street, absent-minded to the fact that South Quay would have been a quicker walk to the Movietowne taxi stop. Othello answered and by the tone of his voice and the silence of his background, I knew where this conversation was heading. He wasn’t on his way to meet me like he promised. His mom said no. He didn’t do all his Saturday chores. So no privileges. Sigh…that’s what you get for dating a 18-year-old. Stood up on Charlotte Street on Valentine’s Day.

I turned onto Independence Square and debated my options. It’s 7 at night on a Saturday. My friends are all out on dates and I really don’t want to go home. I can go drown my sorrows in whatever slasher movie that’s in theatres. Also, I need to dump Othello.

I crossed from KFC to the bank and approached Nicholas Tower. I slowed down and when I saw the commotion ahead. A group of men were talking and laughing loudly over what looked like a box. I approached slowly and debated if to make a U-turn. As I drew closer, I realised they all wore a dark navy uniform. All except one. A familiar face. Ozzy!

Despite being the shortest on the group, he stood out. He had everyone’s attention. He wore light blue shirt with black trousers. A huge contrast to the attire I’m familiar with on him. Gone were the blonde dreadlocks with the green and purple strands. In its place was a sharp skin fade with neat curls on top. No skateboard. No converse. No saggy pants with chains. Ozzy grew up!

As I approached the conversation stopped. Maybe it was my stride or the fact that I was dressed in all black approaching a group of security officers. Either way all eyes were on me.

“Happy belated Birthday Ozzy.” I greeted him with a smile. He smiled back probably impressed that I remembered his birthday was yesterday. Thanks to MSNchat, I did remember. I also sucked my teeth when I saw it because yesterday he was the shaggy rugrat who harassed the girls outside the library. The miscreant in the hoodie who carried a skateboard, but rarely skated. Who would talk big about his non-accomplishments and start fights with other guys at the library over girls. Who tried to get me fired from my vacation job two years ago around the same time I made employee of the month. The guy who I had an inexplicable crush on, knew this and still chose to sleep with my best friend. I hated that guy. That guy was Ozzy. A nickname he got likening his personality to that of rocker Ozzy Osbourne.

“Remind me, what’s your real name again.” I parted the crowd of men as I walked towards him. He told me. “Like the Russian dictator?” I clarified. “Yes, like the Russian dictator, it’s spelt slightly different, but my mom named me after him.”

This clean look suited him. His dimples stood out more and I noticed how white his teeth were. An incredible feat for a pack-a-day smoker. But his darkened lips against his caramel brown skin revealed the truth of his habits. “So what are you doing here?” He was probably surprised to see me not attached to a textbook or complaining about an assignment deadline. “I’m headed to Movietowne to watch a horror movie, wanna come?” He pulled his neck back in shock. “On Valentine’s Day? Why not a romantic comedy or something?” I rolled my eyes at the obvious stereotyping, “Because I enjoy horror movies. The adrenaline rush from the jump scares and trying to figure out who is the killer. Those things excite me. Romantic comedies are chick flicks and boring.” I shifted my weight to my left hip, simultaneously folding my arms. I felt his eyes on me. Honestly I felt all their eyes on me. I was a 21 year old girl in black skin tight jeans and a matching t-shirt out after dark talking about horror movies. And if these men knew Ozzy’s reputation, I’m either trouble or I’m about to be in trouble.

“Aren’t you into heavy metal? Wanna take in a scary movie with me?” I stereotyped him from what I remembered when we were 17. “Nah. I don’t like horrors. They give me nightmares. Maybe a regular comedy. I like to laugh.” The admission softened him. He smiled as he said it and those white teeth caught the streetlight.

A soft whimper came from the nearly forgotten box on the ground next to us. I noticed there were holes punctured sporadically around the box. Then, I saw a nose poke through the top. I stooped to see what creature beckoned for our attention in there. “Her name is Bob.” He introduced her unusual name for a female pet. “Why Bob?” I didn’t look at him. I was enamoured by the black and brown puppy who was so excited by my affections. She was unaffected by the fact that she was about to topple over the box with her wagging tail. “There is a rasta woman working with us and we call her ‘Bob’. She’s a bitch.” I don’t know why I laughed. Maybe I thought the correlation to be clever.

“So do you still live Morvant?” I closed the box and stood up. I took my default stance of putting my weight on my left hip and folding my arms under my breasts. He noticed them perk up. I noticed him noticing. “Why, want to come visit?” His arrogance knew no bounds. “No. I was thinking it would be a short trip for you to drop Bob home then meet me in Movietowne. We can take in a late movie.”

“Boss!” we were interrupted by his colleagues, “you forgot to sign for the relief officer.” He excused himself and left me with whimpering Bob on the sidewalk of Nicholas Tower. Boss? Someone hired him to be in charge of something? Guess he has grown up. He came back. He always had a quickened pace like he’s in a hurry. A habit probably developed due to being a shorter than average guy with a larger than average personality. He overcompensates.

“So how about I come by you? You have a DVD player?” I thought about his proposition. My brother was home. My mom wasn’t. But she was two blocks away doing an overnight shift at Bryden’s. I changed the topic, “Who was mad enough to make Ozzy a boss?” I pointed at collection of officers assembling at their posts behind the glass doors and walls in the building behind him. “A Syrian.” He smiled. “And don’t call me Ozzy please. I’m not that fella anymore. Call me by my name.” I did. I wanted so badly to believe that he changed.

…hazel eyes…

Ooh chile! Dey say red man is d devil!

But the calming spirit of this one seemed aspirational.

Jiminy Cricket personified as a new mutual friend,

Hovered over his shoulder cheering on our conversation.

I listened intently, well not really, as I tried to ascertain my interest in him.

He spoke about his work, his admiration for his boss,

I smiled big, flipped my wig and nodded along “yes, of course”.

Glanced at my drink, his hands fidgeted with his,

He smiled, so did his hazel eyes.

Minutes passed, close to an hour,

We spoke about everything, except each other.

He knew I was a mother and how much I adored my daughter,

I knew he was introverted and how he despised parang-soca.

As the time and conversation progressed,

I hoped he would escort me to my address.

I waited for an offer,

I waited for a number,

I waited for evidence of interest besides the past hour.

Instead, with one hand around my waist, we said our goodbyes,

A kiss to my temple, good bye hazel eyes.