“Want ie want ie cyaa get ie, get ie get ie nuh want ie”, Mama always used to say.
But I REALLY wanted a bicycle, a big red shiny one. Like I saw in the shop in Mobay. With a bell. If I had that, I would be the happiest boy in the world. And I would ALWAYS want it, no matter what.
I kicked idly at my wooden gun. Well, it wasn’t really a gun, just two pieces of wood nailed together. I saw the dog and threw a stone at him half-heartedly and he ran under the house, knocking against one of the concrete blocks our house stood on.
I fingered my hair, it was getting long again. My hair was ‘growing hair’ as my mother often said proudly, it was the coolie in me. She said my dad was ‘di livin coolie’, he had long curly eyelashes and ‘hairy kin’ just like me. I had never seen my dad. My mother and he had lived together for years and six months before I was born, they had used money they had saved up to buy him a fake visa and he had gone to America, promising to send money every month for my mother. She hadn’t heard from him since. She had heard he got married up there and then there were rumors of kids, but she never got on with his family so we never knew for sure.
It was my mother calling me; no doubt she wanted me to go ketch water. How I hated that! Why couldn’t we have running water and proper light, not just a wire coming off the lightpost that we hoped the JPS engineer wouldn’t notice.
‘Mi coming’, I said.
‘Tap comin and come!’ She shouted.
‘Here, tek di bucket an gwaan.’
I took it reluctantly, knowing there was no escape, it had to be done. My mother stood in the doorway looking at me with a twist of her lips. She was seeing my father in me, I knew. She said when she first saw me, it as if she had given birth to my father. She said old time people always used to say that when a pregnant woman hated the father of her unborn child, the child took on the looks of the dad. She must have really hated him then.
‘Likkle bwaay, yu ago tan up deso fi di whole night?’ I heard my mother say. ‘Gwaan weh mi sen yu before mi tek mi slippas to yu behine!’
I walked away slowly, I knew she wouldn’t though. I swaggered off in the way I knew she hated, she said it looked ‘common’. Like being common made a difference when we lived in a little board house with no light and water. And she eked out a living for us selling cigarettes and suck-suck.
As I neared the standpipe, I had to stand aside as a car passed me, I caught a glimpse of a little girl looking out of the window, she was holding a Barbie doll with golden hair. The car must be going up the hill to Mass Richard, he was a returning resident from England, his family came to see him frequently. Never to stay though, they were scared of the poverty around his house.
The bucket was heavy on my head as I carefully walked slowly, picking my feet up properly. I wouldn’t make the mistake of walking with a swagger now, I might fall over and then have to go all the way back.
As I rounded the corner to my house, I stopped in surprise; the big car that had passed me earlier was parked on the narrow track in front of my house. I walked faster, what could be happening?
As I came into the yard, I saw my mother standing up with a tall man, a woman and the little girl I had seen earlier. I walked in and my mother stopped talking and pointed to me. The man turned around and my heart almost stopped. It was like looking in a mirror. But for his moustache, it could have been me.
He stared at me for a moment and then his face broke out in a huge smile. Carefully, he took the bucket off my head and put it on the ground and then caught me up in a massive hug. Over his shoulder, I saw my mother’s face, wet with tears.
Things went quickly from there. My father wanted me to come and live with him in foreign. He had gone over and was going to send money for my mother, but things came up. ‘Adda ooman come up’ my mother said bitterly, not an emotion I had ever seen her display before.
He had a big house he said. And I had four sisters. There was a room waiting for me, he was going to let me choose how I wanted it decorated. And as soon as we got there, the first thing he was going to do was buy me a bicycle, a red shiny one. I told my mother all those things and she smiled. But at night I heard her sobbing as if her heart would break. I asked her why she cried, even though I was scared that she would say it was because she wanted me to stay, and then maybe she might not let me go. But she just slapped me sharply and told me not to be silly.
As I hugged her at the airport, for the first time I felt sad. She pushed me away from her roughly and told me not to give my father no trouble. I turned back and looked at her and she was standing there with tears dripping off her cheeks. I wanted to go back and comfort her, but my father held my hand tightly. ‘She will be all right,’ he said, firmly pulling me towards the plane.
I enjoyed every second of the flight, my joy only marred by my sister laughing at me because I couldn’t use a knife and fork. ‘Yu nuh si seh di bwaay grow a bush,’ my new stepmother said. I felt my face grow hot. My mother had always tried to teach me how to eat properly, but I was more interested in the food, and anyway, why did it matter when we lived in a little board house?
A month later I woke in the night shivering. I pulled the blanket tighter and longed for the little bed my mother and I shared, and the comforting figure of my mother lying beside me.
I looked around my room, at the TV and video combo, the shiny red bike in the corner. I still hadn’t been able to ride it, the snow was too heavy. I saw my school bag hanging up behind the door, I thought with dread of the next day in school. The kids there laughed at my accent and my sisters ignored me completely. They had even told people I was an orphan their father had found in Jamaica.
I missed my mother. My father was always promising to help me with my homework, but he often came in late at night, after my stepmother had ordered me to bed. She didn’t treat me badly, but she just ignored me, and my sisters laughed and joked amongst themselves as I struggled to understand them.
‘Want ie want ie, cyaa get ie, get ie get ie, nuh want ie,’ I heard my mother say as tears ran down my cheeks.
I woke up that morning with a sense of purpose. I went into the dining room where my father sat reading the paper.
‘Not now, son, you and me can have a good talk when mi come home tonight’ he said, not even lifting the paper.
‘No Daddy, this is important.’ I said, I would not be put off.
‘What is it bwaay?’ he said.
‘Me waa go home.’ I said.
He put the paper down and looked at me in amazement. ‘Yu mean seh mi tek yu up fram a likkle board house bring yu come inna dis life a luxury and yu waa trow it back inna mi face?’
I looked at the ground. ‘Daddy mi waa guh home.’ I said.
‘Trudy!’ he shouted to my stepmother.
‘Yu nuh hear weh dis bwaay a mek mi know, him waa go back weh him come from?’, he shouted.
She looked at me and shrugged her shoulders.
‘Dem bush people deh nuh know nutting better, sen di bwaay back if a suh him waa, fi tell yu di trut, mi nuh really want him here eidah.’ she said.
At that time, I could have kissed her!!
The sun beats down on my shoulders as I sit on the step. ‘Antonyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!’ my mother calls. I look up and smile at her. ‘Wah yu a kin yu teet so fah’ she says. She smiles back and I feel a warm bubble of love rise up in me. I have everything I want.