All up in My feelings: The Help

This is the reason I don’t read old books. Probably the reason I don’t like February.

It makes me think about what my fore-parents went through, and it makes me feel like I went through it. Like I was the one who was hurt, who was beaten, who was called dirty and treated like a carrier of all types of disease.

This is why I don’t want to re-watch Roots, ever. I’m older now, so I should be able to watch all the movies in order and understand the whole story better. But I think I understand enough.

And I don’t want to raise my children to hate white people, on the chance that they become friends with them and find me to be a complete liar. I don’t want to make people pay for things they didn’t do themselves. Everyone who participated in this stuff, who made it all happen, is dead and long buried. But here’s the thing though. They say they shouldn’t be made to pay for what their ancestors did. That’s fine. But why do they sit and let us pay for what their ancestors did? We’re still paying. Why is that fair?

And I haven’t studied on this stuff and I don’t want to, but no one can tell me that slavery and segregation has nothing to do with the current state of the black population, of the African continent, of whites.

Whites aren’t paying for, or trying to remedy what their own ancestors did. Why the hell is everyone else being made to do it?

Sudden Downpour

“Oh, hello,” I give a slight smile and nod a little. I don’t want a conversation. I walk around a little after looking outside again. It’s raining harder. Damn. What the hell was wrong with technology, or whoever was in charge of weather information? My phone didn’t say anything about rain, anything at all. Cloudy I can deal with, not rain – especially when I don’t have an umbrella. Shit. Does this always have to happen to me? The one time I decide I’m not going to bring my umbrella is the day it rains, when my phone said it wouldn’t. Of course. I should be used to this by now.

An exasperated sigh leaves my lips and the creep comes up to me again. Why do I always run into those? Old creeps. Can’t a young, decent looking guy with nice teeth come up to me and say something? No. Always these old creeps staring at me. It’s even worse when they smile. Ugh. I sound like a high schooler. I should stop. But damn!

“Looking for anything in particular?”

“What? Oh. No. Not really.” I pull back the corners of my mouth a little and walk away again. Just stay away from me. You know very well I’m only in here because of the rain. I’ll be out of here soon enough. Just go stand behind the counter or something. Why am I so irritable though? My life really isn’t that bad. I should be more grateful. Yeah but I’m not. I don’t know why either. Another sigh.

My phone says it should keep raining for another two hours. Isn’t that nice? Where can I buy an umbrella? I really don’t feel like standing in this store for two hours. I can’t even see well. There’s hardly any light. Wow, that’s cool. I remember those. Didn’t people ever break their fingers trying to make phone calls on those things? Ha ha. They look nice though. I had a toy one when I was little. I don’t even know what this place is. I didn’t get to look at the sign before I ran in here. I think it’s new too. Good for them. Oh god here comes the creep again. Go look at something and pretend you don’t see him. Maybe he’ll just walk past you.

An old draft that I can’t remember.

Who To Love

A man and a woman made two children together. The second one didn’t look like the man. The first one really did. Maybe the second one wasn’t his. It was his, the mother said. The man wasn’t so sure. He didn’t really talk to that child – the second one. They never really got to bond. The child was never able to get comfortable around the man. Somehow he didn’t think that was his fault. For some reason – nobody knows – the second child didn’t grow up to be like all the other children. She had funny eyes. One went up and down all by itself when she ate. Everyone thought that was strange. She talked funny too. Couldn’t pronounce her words properly, even as she got older. She didn’t do well in school. Her father didn’t like her grades. Why wasn’t she smart like the first child? The second child wasn’t quick. She didn’t understand things quickly, and she couldn’t explain things quickly. Her mannerisms were funny too. Is your sister handicapped? The children asked the first child. No. The first child didn’t like that question. Far away they moved, after the first child finished high school. The second one was almost done. Barely made it through the foreign high school, and the father was not happy. Second child had a bit of an attitude too. She didn’t like to listen. Almost never did her chores. Rude little girl. No college for you said the father after she was done with high school. I don’t think you are ready. I will not sign the paper. The second child remained quiet. Well maybe college was not for her. Fine. She didn’t want to go anyway. She won’t go. She won’t go to college. Far away she moved, to board at a post-secondary academy. No cell phone. Limited internet access. Not a lot of communication with the father. Father was not happy. I cannot have a constructive conversation with her he said to the first child. Why? What happened? The first child asked the father. All she says is hi. Do you answer? No. Why not? The first child didn’t understand. I’d rather not deal with her the father said. The first child wanted to cry.

And with that she closed her laptop down and proceeded to exit the library, not even bothering to look at me though she knew I had called for her attention.

Go ahead. You’re making my day, I thought.

I already had a headache and I was getting more irritated by the second because of the loud buzz in what was supposed to be a quiet place to study.

Writing Growing Up

According to my mother, I never left her alone whenever I saw that she was reading. I always poked my head into the book to see what it was, and she eventually started reading to me. My father didn’t get it.

“How can she understand at her age?”

He asked something like that when my mother told him to read to me one day because she was busy cleaning or something.

“What do you mean how can she understand? She knows. Think she doesn’t? Read it to her and see.”

My mom had been buying and getting little books for me and my father hadn’t known. I was my mom’s little smartie.

Before I started going to school, my mother made flashcards for me and taught me words that way. She said my teacher argued with her when she came to pick me up after my first day.

“There is no way this is her first time going to school,” she said, “she is way ahead of the other students and knows all the material already.”

“No this is her first time. She’s never gone to school before.”

“How is it that she knows everything already then?”

“I read to her at home, and we practice with flashcards. That’s all.”

The conversation carried on that way and in the end the teacher acknowledged my mother for doing a good job with me.

When I started primary school, I always read my textbooks as soon as I got them. The English ones I mean, the ones with the stories. Up until the ninth or tenth grade I never tried reading any of my other textbooks. They didn’t have stories. Why would I read them then?

In seventh grade romance novels were the trend. Everyone was reading and circulating them. I was in.

“Hey is that book good?”

“Yes! It’s about this man…”

“Let me borrow it when you’re done.”

“Oh, I can’t. Ashley already asked for it, and after her it’s Chantelle.”

“Oh. Well I’m next after Chantelle then.”


It was like that most of the time. We were all in line for books. More than one too. If I couldn’t borrow one, I asked around for another. As soon as one student was finished with a novel it was passed on to someone else and someone else and someone else. For a while, I never bought a book. I didn’t have two hundred dollars. I would rather save that money than use it to buy a book I’ll only read once (I can never read a book more than one time). But eventually I did. The bookstore was just down the street from school and we had to pass it to get to the taxi stand to go home. I went there a lot, for stationery. I needed pens and pencils, binder refills, folders, items for special projects. I rarely bought books in there, but I always looked at them. The romance section was off to the side where the cashiers’ desk was. I located the little area that kept Mills & Boon, Silhouette, and Harlequin, always noting the prices. I think I only ever bought two, after much deliberation. I still remember the title of the first one: The Millionaire’s Forced Bride. It was a really nice story. They all were.

It pretty much ended after that. The last two years of high school were for us to prepare for our final exams. The CXCs, which every high school student in the Caribbean would take. Some of my schoolmates still read for fun. I didn’t have the time. Or maybe I did. I just wasn’t that interested anymore.

The writing was something else entirely.

I wrote my first song in the third grade. It was supposed to be three of us, but after one of my classmates suggested a title, I ended up writing almost the whole thing. I sang it for my teacher and she was as proud as ever and wanted me to sing it for the principal. There was a bit of an accident in the tuck shop that stopped that from happening though. There was too much smoke.

In the sixth grade we had to do a whole bunch of projects; charts, poems, songs. It was fun. I wrote a song about rivers, and a chorus about filtration. We made raps about other things as well, and poems were always in the mix. I kept all of these in a folder, and I kept writing poems.

One evening after hearing the news, I suddenly felt really sad and started singing. I was singing my feelings. When I realized where it was going, I got up, turned the lights on, and got a pen and a sheet of paper. I wrote a song. It was my first song. Well my second song, if I counted the one from grade three. I’m still not really sure.

I wrote on and off like that and by the time I was in grade eleven I had fifty songs in my folder. That was a lot. They weren’t all good of course, but I had written them all. In that same grade I got baptized and moved to another country. I thought of burning all my songs since they weren’t gospel, except for maybe five of them. I was now a Christian after all, and these songs weren’t Christian songs. I didn’t burn them. I just left them behind. I felt bad about that, felt I should have made a decision. I should have gotten rid of them since I was now a new creature and I was to do away with my old self.

At church I talked to an elder about my singing and songwriting. Well, all I needed to do was consecrate my voice to the Lord and only sing for Him from now on. Okay. I decided to do the same with my songs. I bought a new notebook and wrote all my (now gospel) songs in.

When I came to America, I had already graduated from high school in Jamaica, but I came in December when the school year had already begun and for a bunch of reasons instead of going to straight to college, I went to high school again; grade twelve. Fine. As long as I didn’t have to repeat grade eleven which I had already gone through (grade eleven is the last year of high school back home). Some time during that year, I asked my stepmother to buy me a cute little book I had seen on our way out of a department store. I had been writing poems and they were all on loose paper. I needed them to all be in one place. That book would be the place.

I finished high school, again. And I finished community college. I’m now on my third book of poems and looking to buy a fourth one because the one I’m using now is almost done.

Stories? I’ve never been good at writing those. English was one of my best subjects in school, and I write fairly well. I’m just not good at making complete characters. I don’t know how to describe them, or the setting. And though I might have a nice story made up in my head, I can’t make it all work out once I start writing it down.

I’m reading again. Slowly but surely getting back into it. It’s making me want to write stories, though I know I’m not really good. I would like to publish a book one day, but I’ve never thought of it being fictional. My last pastor said I should really think about publishing my poems because they’re really good. Maybe I’ll publish two books then, one with my poems, and the one I still haven’t figured out yet.