Tuesday, June 23, 2009


They get vicious quickly, the men on the buses. I sit next to the window clinging to my purse, eyeing them sideways like a paranoid school teacher. What started with a light remark about one man sitting irritatingly close to one woman’s sleeping baby turns into spit-flaring declarations about being born and bred in Bain Town, breeding grounds for convicts apparently.

“Why you don’t smile man?” Jeers the instigator up front.
“Man aint nothing to smile about. I look like I like man aye?” Answers back the accused.
“You look like you ready to tief something.”
“I always ready to tief. Man, I aint gat no police record. I gat a album,” he sermonizes his viciousness as if he were standing on a mountain.

But this is just a bus sliding horizontally through the petri dish of the city and back past the road side gallon water sellers, past the Haitian squatting shacks and the immigrant detention center, past the twenty-five churches and their twenty-five accommodating liquor stores, past the Bacardi bat and into the coconut trees and the bougainvillae that lay unbothered next to the uninhabitable swamps. Nothing to see here. Moving right along.

I like living this far away from the loud voices of inner Nassau. I live behind the bush as they say, far from the pulse of men with a bone to pick. When I first got here in January, it took me a while to leave the house. I felt that making friends would bring home too close to me. It would be too real. Too bikeless. Where are my friends? Oh yes, on facebook. Better stay inside.

Look on any google map, and it will show you the urban history of Nassau: it started in the middle, and went east. The more you drive West the closer you are to the trees, the nice beaches with the high tide and soft sand, the tourist resorts, the white people, the airport. Closer to another country until you are standing so close to the edge you could fall off.

Back in February, I worked in Lyford Cay, the most Western and foreign point in Nassau, where obscure millionaires (and not so obscure ones like Sean Connery) build their getaway mansions. They were Russian and used me as their liaison to Bahamians so that they would never have to have direct contact with what my boss called an “uncivilized and loud” society. They had two Peruvian maids, one Cuban gardener, one Japanese teacher, and me, the only one with legal documents working for them. I wondered often why they lived in the Bahamas? Or if in actuality they did. Maybe it was all a dream they didn’t want to wake up to.

I remember biking up two mountains to get to Stanley, Hong Kong’s cleaner, fresher side. This was where the Europeans recruited by international business lived in their mansions with their Indonesian maids. This where you could stick your toes in at the edge of the sea and touch the ocean at the other side. I remember craving noodles from the dirty Cantonese shops in Kowloon, craving the itch of immigrant life.

A neighbor got robbed about a month ago just to remind us behind-the-gate dwellers that you can’t escape poverty. It lives behind the houses, on the back street, the part that they didn’t clear down to build this beauty. Everyday, I ride the bus, I get dirty again. Its hot, and other people’s sweat rubs into mine. The base beats of dancehall reggae break into my subconscious like a robber with a gun. I am shaken into consciousness. On edge. Either they love you or they hate you. There’s no “not” knowing you.

This is what it must feel like for these men so close to anger all the time as if they were clutching their hearts in their hands, so reachable and vulnerable, I could see it bleed, pierced by the roughness of their palms.

Another man whose dark complexion looks purple beneath his tight white curls, talks effusively with another man about the FNM and the PLP, the two political parties that have taken turns ruling the country since Independence, a subject that no one can ever agree on amicably. They speak as if no one else is on the bus, with the full extension of their voices, gaining momentum with their bodies, they hit the bus windows to emphasize their points. A young woman (its always the women who instigate) brazenly yells,
“Y’all aint the only ones on the bus ya know.”

There is silence as they contemplate their embarrassment which cannot simply be left to hang unlatched around their heads.
“ Man miss, this a free country….” It goes on and on from there.

Maybe all they need is a boat to make them feel better. Some fresh ocean breeze to clear their minds. Nassau summers are heating up their brains. They breathe in exhaust and sweat steam. Their mouths a quick release from the the diabolical crowd pushed closer together by the immediate need of elusive money. Now that I don’t have a bicycle or any form of transport beside the lousy bus that stops running at 8pm, I know what it means to feel stuck. Excessive waiting causes post-traumatic stress disorder. Stress pushes you to the edge. I crave mountains.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Sunday, June 7, 2009

These words are a mystery to me. They exist. Somewhere in the back of my mind, somewhere in my memory and the imagery of my subconscious. They exist in the pauses I take before speaking. In the in-between-moments: the moments before I get out of bed and face the day. The moments between my dreams and reality. The moments when everything is so soft and undeveloped and painful. They exist beneath the band aids of composure, the upper layers of strength I’ve gotten so good at displaying at times when I am scared or plain old clueless. I’ve even convinced myself of my own manufactured strength. These words must exist in the hesitation of steps. The this-is-never-gonna-happen-so-why-set-myself-up-for-failure postponement of movement. The heaviness of limbs. The discomfort of skin. The shame of lost opportunities.

These words exist in the wrinkles of my fingers - their roughness that resembles my mother. I used to think that lotion could cure defective genes. Now, I’ve convinced myself of the story of my hands. The determination of my mother who worked seven days a week scrubbing tubs, removing condoms off of hotel rugs, changing the sheets of sloppy American tourists again and again in order to take care of four children by herself. The roughness that comes from cleaning. My sister and I counted work every weekend arguing over whose turn it was to wash the dishes, clean the bathroom, mop the floors. My brother never had to do anything because he was the only boy in a Caribbean household without a man. I carry roughness in my palms, but did I earn it?

An old roommate once said that life is all about stories. I didn’t believe her then mostly because her stories were exaggerated and contrived, framed around the pretense of shocking, turning heads, making people remember you. Her stories were about the here and the now. Her crackhead mom. Her newly pierced clit. Her bisexuality. Now, I understand that nothing is really so wrong about sharing what you truly feel is amazing about you. As long as you are saying something.

Though I still crave the organic nature of accidental revelations. I met a man once, the brother of a friend who was so great at small talk, relating to the everyday nothing stories that he failed to mention his porfolio as a US government worker in Iran. Of course, finding this tidbit out after having talked to him for a while, gave so much more weight to the actual person, and not to his job. His modesty just made everything else glisten.

There is nothing so refreshing, so sexy than a person who’s amazingness is spilled in unamazing bits of conversation, their story passed on by someone else to someone else. It is better to be talked about than not at all, as the saying goes. But if you are not willing to talk about yourself, will other people do a just reflection? And doesn’t your importance show more when people want to hear from your own mouth, your own beliefs, your memoir, your autobiography, what lessons you’ve got to share to assist the rest of the human race in discovering what you’ve found, achieving what you’ve achieved? If you don’t believe in yourself, who will believe in you? Are these cliches too simple to describe the thin lines between self-confidence and arrogance? Modesty and insecurity?

As much as I try to be tangible in my identity, as palpable as indelible ink, as consequential as a summer hurricane sending tin roofs jettisoning from wooden houses on stilts, the worst part of me is sniffed out and exaggerated like a cubist portrait, the plains of reality distorted: eyes jutting out of my forehead, lips next to nose, neck cut and bleeding into a bucket like a decapitated cock. I remember my idea of beauty being distorted as a a hostess in Osaka, Japan. My salary man clients called me Bahamamama. In such a homogeneous country with the same small bodies and delicate features, I was their closest bet to Carmen. They liked to watch me dance, but they didn’t want to dance with me. I wasn’t white or tall or Russian enough. This made me want to eat less. Until one night, when I massaged the muscle spasms on the boney back of a friend of mine who’d lost 40 pounds off her 5’9” frame. She was the blonde American bombshell hostess with a personality that overpowered her emaciating frame. That night was the first time I worried about her. It was also the night I decided I didn’t want to become like her.

I have a lot of stories. It would be impossible for anyone who knew me to tell them all. For I’ve lived them all in different places, in the company of very different people who, in turn, made me a different person accordingly. The problem is: which ones do I want to tell? How can I convince you that they are interesting? Or better still, how do I convince myself? How do I make them pop out into 3D images from their matted down, elegantly latent resting places? How do I revisit them without shame. How do I cut through the baggage of lost to get to what I have gained? While I was in college, I prided myself in asking why to everything. This is an introduction to gaining the critical thought process to answering those questions why, and defining who I am through those answers.


June 1st, 2009

27 has a weight to it like those movies titled for a measurement of something. Seven pounds: the weight of a heart. 21 grams: the weight of a soul. 60 seconds: the amount of time it takes to steal a car. Freed from the haphazard adventures that 21 and 23 woke up from the night afterwards, 27 means something. It should be studied.

27. Twenty-seven. Its not one of those snappy happy words that add punch and poignancy to your diction. I say it and it slows me down. The knowledge of it soaked into my chest reveals itself in heaving eyebrows, wrinkles shaped like elevens between my eyes, the place where frowns form on the face. Eleven is the number that shows up on the back of the neck when you’re old enough to die. This I learned from a movie labeled “drama” and “rated T” when I was about 9. Rated T movies are ok for 9 year olds. Eleven is the age I saw my period for the first time. Living is counting.

At 27 years old, I just watched a movie called “27 dresses” about a woman who has become the perpetual bridesmaid, and never the bride. I am 27 and I don’t have a boyfriend. I’ve been to many weddings, but never a bridesmaid. Am I two lives away from becoming a bride? The man I want to marry doesn’t think me fit to spend the rest of his life with. He wants to date a 21 year old. In 1988, I was starting second grade.

This year, 2009, I was riding a bus full of obnoxious high schoolers when I realized that the lovesick ballads blasting on the speakers, music I grew up with and hummed the chorus on my head - Mariah Carey, Snoop Dogg, Alanis Morrisette - all cutting edge and dubbed devilish by the grown ups of my time, probably came out before these teenagers were born. Then I tallied the years since I started my first period, and realized that, if I wanted to or had been adventurous enough, I could have me a tall dashing sixteen year old son or daughter by now. That’s how old I am. I could be the mother of a teenager. He or she could help me carry my groceries, get a part time job after school to help with the bills, make me be a better person. I could be a grandmother. It suddenly seems that everyone around me is much younger than me.

I feel ancient. Like 45. Like I need to try. What saves me is the men who still look at me as if they would leave their wives for me. But I’m old enough to know they only want to get into my pants. Which would’ve been good enough at 24. But 27 is heavy like deadweight on loose leaves that would fly away diabolically the minute a breeze blows. The men who look at me are squared and subtracted from the whole of my worth.

I keep the windows open for ventilation in my bedroom. The winds make me feel mobile. I feel healthier. You can’t take health for granted at 27. You have to start thinking about things like antioxidants to reduce all the sun and chemical damage you did to yourself when you were a teenager, before you knew you could get old, before you counted.

In Freshman symposium, I announced proudly a new layer of truth: I was looking forward to getting old: to having wrinkles and telling my grandkids stories of my youth. I said this with the lightness and brevity of someone on the brink of self-discovery. Now that I am past self-discovery, and onto self-crisis, everything carries much more consequence. My grandmother died of a very painful cancer in her cervix. She was not a very happy woman for most of her life. She once called me the devil in hell. But someone told me that she asked for me on her dying bed. Perhaps it was the painkillers that set of an ethereal drizzle of memories of random people she knew. I wonder how light she felt at that moment? Or how heavy?

I’m 27 and I count everyday to measure my self worth. Have I done enough to justify the fibroids in my uterus? My doctors said it was not cancerous. But I don’t trust them. You don’t trust people at 27. By this age, I know that everyone, even experienced doctors who speak in Latin and wear cold white gloves that touch your breasts in sharp, precise drills, make mistakes. My mother died of cancer two years after the clinician who checked out her breast told her the lump was nothing to worry about. I was 22 then. To young to loose a mother, but old enough to understand the loss. I’m old enough to know that people make the wrong decisions about who they marry then divorce at 27. Kate Nash, who’s only 22, already knows we are never the people we turn out to be. I’m 27 and I’ve realized that I’ve lived my life counting.

24 was my golden birthday because I turned 24 on the 24th. It was the year I came into my own. It is the age I will always be in my head. I partied to punk music in basement pubs only bright enough to see the whites of the eyes of the person bobbing their head next to me. I drank champagne in bars where I knew the bartenders. I chose my favorite kind of martini and brand of Scotch. I had sex deliberately. I chose wisely. Except, now that I’m 27, everyone seems to want to remind me that I’m 27. According to the 27 year lore written in the book of the 27s, I am too old to apply for scholarships. I am too old to travel. I am too old to be careless with money. I am too old to be have dreams. I crave 24 when everything was still years away and hazy. I crave 24 when everything was possible. I crave 24 when college was only three years before, not six. I crave 24 when everything was lighter and longer-living.

At 27, I am half the age my mother was when she died. Casually skimming the scattered items in the kitchen cupboard, I strummed my fingers across bandaids, batteries, safety pins, and old bills before I uncover the picture of the younger sister of a friend. It is on the title page of a funeral book. 1979-2006. She was twenty-seven. I didn’t even know she died. I was probably in Japan or on my way to Korea stuffing my face with steaming pots of spicy street food. I was 24 going on 25. Actively living. She fell at the airport, and died in her sleep of a brain aneurism the next day. Arundhuti Roy had said that 33 was a viable dieable age. 33 was the age her mother died. Birth Youth has been nipped and tucked into inchaote stages of the 20’s. The baby fat still dripping from our beer-chizzled bodies, we don’t even know how young we are yet. 27 belongs to the hairier nether regions of the 20‘s. The deeper, darker half, closer to death.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sitting on the bus, enervated by the sun, beaten down by the base beats that usurp their songs like bones take over bodies, image takes over meaning. What happens when a skeleton grows bigger than its body? Does it develop its own vain obsessions to look into mirrors? Would it sense something wrong when checking its own eyeless reflection in passing black cars or store windows? Would it want to put on form flattering clothes? A hooded trench coat to go with the whole Goth look? Or something more revealing to show off its delicate arms?

For an awkward moment in fashion, models with smudged eyeliner and cheekbone blush posed angularly – elbows poking out of concave backs and bodies keeling over their haute couture like clothes racks. A friend of mine who captured starving Cambodian orphans on film was startled by their uncanny likeness to American fashion models. Death and beauty have shared an uneasy courtship in the West. Sleeping beauty looks so peacefully and beautifully dead. My mother looked peaceful in her coffin, but when I leaned over to kiss her, she was cold and hard.

The perfectly powdered face of a geisha, her red lips an erotic reminder of life on a stark white face. Young skin, lineness, spotless, untouched by the world, inexperienced, unlived, seems so beautifully peaceful that we become fixated on it. We want to eat babies. We want to squeeze children as if we could swallow them up. We stroke the faces of our lovers looking for ourselves in them, as if they are mere mirrors. Our skeletons have usurped us, and they search tragically for their eyes in the eyes of others.

The bus turned the corner and the sun shifted. It now burned a whole in my right cheek, injecting it with DNA degenerating rays. I began to fear it, this strong, no-nonsense Bahamian sun that has rendered its inhabitants inky black and just as effusive, flinging those Cajun rays right back into the atmosphere. But my skin is not so dark. It doesn’t fight back. It shrivels beneath the weather. It bubbles and percolates and shows makes gaping screams with its pores.

It knows it is alive when it reddens and puckers beneath this Sub-tropical sky. It’s different today from what it was yesterday. It knows it is alive when it tries to heal itself like a broken heart breaks open layers of truth.

27 must be the perfect age. It is the age between youth and life. The impalpable crux when one feels the body age for the first time. I grew fibroids in my womb at this age. It is the age when we have to start thinking about the future, the long awaited future that seemed so far away at 25. My doctor, wary of my family history, urged me to start mammograms at 30. Three more years. Tick tock. It is the age when we start to think about our biological clock. My friend advised that I have children before 34 because after that the chances of birth defects sky rocket. It is the age when we look back at what we missed.

My sister said I ought to stop looking for scholarships and ways to get off of the island. Scholarships are for young people. Am I going to die soon? I’ve been looking more beautiful lately. I’ve lost weight without doing anything special. My cheekbones have sharpened. My acne’s gone away. Is this what it’s like right before?

The bus driver was reckless. He sped down Carmichael Road like he was trying to avoid customers. The young girl at the front took the money from the customers. She was round and smooth, probably only nineteen. I am starting to assume that most young people are younger than I am. Her skin was supple – no crows feet near the eyes, her lips plump and hanging as she looked at the man, flirting with incredulity. The games of youth: so hollow, so skeletal.

Crippled Fingers

I stopped writing last June. The night after you leaned in against the wall and set me down on your groin. Alone in an apartment. Two grown people. One boy. One girl. We kissed. Carefully. You laid your head on my lap, told me you didn’t want to do anything wrong, and I said, lets.

I should’ve known better. But every now and then I let myself be fooled by love songs. They get into my head and start thinking for me: “If loving you is wrong, I don’t wanna be right.” I’m partial to rhythm and blues chiding me along, rubbing my back with a guitar riff, saying, “ Sweet child. Don’t worry ‘bout a thing.” Consequence didn’t scare me the way it does now.

The earthquake of the on-again off-again swagger of our love was what shattered my confidence in the inevitable flow of the universe. It still ripples through me a thousand miles down the road from the damage sight. It shakes my fingers loose from my brain, disables my wrists with carpal tunnel, clogs the arteries around my heart so that every emotional eruption leaves me pallid and comatose. I am still swirling with the reality that you are there and I am here, that we are now two-dimensional – nominal friends. You are there, continuing where you left off before you met me. I am clutching the pieces of myself that splintered after meeting you. Our lives on different planes.

I always thought that I was the stronger one. I would urge you to be your own person. You maddened me with your need to please everyone including me. Couldn’t it be me alone? I always knew what I wanted: you. You only knew what you didn’t want: me. I always knew what you knew – that I am just one of the people you want to see yourself in. We are mirrors, holding you up to yourself.

Play around in my purple pool of dreams where kissing without love is ok. Where people don’t mind being fucked because fucking makes the world go around. Where you can fuck me very much, extend your hand to me, shake it gently. Where the whole damn world is made up of shards of mirrors that fit the blues into the hearts of suburban white teenagers and set Japanese juvenile limbs into frenzied states of popping and locking. Where Korean Baptist churches line snow-covered boulevards in Chicago suburbs. It’s a small world after all. World a after small it’s all. Jo-fucking-der hombre, where is the credibility in virginity?

My mantra is to live intentionally by loving many things. I would do a lot of things for love. I would change countries. Religions even. In the past, I dropped college classes to spend more time with boyfriends. I’ve delayed my life for years because you never know, this could be the one.

But suddenly, I have a run in with purity, and it has marred my perfect world of imperfections. It has marred my acceptance, my encouragement of sin, sin is another dimension of knowing ourselves. Life is a struggle against one’s self – a struggle to unlayer. Making the wrongs write. Let’s.

You believe that purity is something that should be protected because it is fragile, nonrefundable. I am suspicious of purity. I believe that we only begin to live when we are wounded. Do I believe this? Suddenly I am wounded, and I can’t feel my extremities. I’ve forgotten my references. Will I ever be able to write again? What have I done by falling in love with you?

How to love less? I could be Buddhist. I could be like you – Godfearing. Love like Jesus loves, through pain and suffering. I could tune in to the hum of those love songs again, “The only one who could ever teach me was the sun a of a preacher man.” Preacher man, what makes you think that I’m the only one here who got something to learn?

What scares me is that I am still falling. Is God enough for me without the jewelry, the life goals, clothes on my back, a place to live, friends? Am I Job reincarnate? I’d rather be Krishna: married to a thousand wives. But then again, when would I find the time to write?