Its 9: am and I’m heading through the door. “Where are you going so early?” mother ask of me.
“Mi jus ha go check them youth ova so,” I answered. “Y’u kaah tan inna di yard, y’u nable string cut a road?” she fired back in an angry tone.
Pretending not to hear, I dart out the house to avoid a confrontation, scale the fence and pick up foot. It is a five minute jog from McVicker”s Lane to Homestead.
The Old Harbour Road is in a mess. Skipping between traffic I make my way over to the other side; trespass through big-nose Buro’s yard and onto the gully bank which leads to Strebor Avenue. Men are already beneath the shed.
“Mawnin Boss!” they greet me in a commotion. “Ha salaamalikum” I reply. “Wa dat mean now Bossman?” inquired Tuckey. Before I could respond Wings blurt out, “Is a Muslin way of greeting, its Arabic and means peace be to you! Noh so it go sah?”. A single nod of my head cleared all doubts.
“So wait, Garnet, Y’u ha Muslim?” question Ezekiel with a rather puzzled look. “Y’u nuh see the lickle piece ha skull cap pon him head,” Wings jokingly pointed out. Normally that would end the “argument,” but this time the group wanted to know more about me becoming a Muslim and I grab the opportunity to expound on Islam.
My reasoning took me from Africa to Marcus Garvey’s black liberation and finally to Malcolm X. I spoke about slavery, injustice, oppression, conditions of the poor, brotherhood, respect , education and self love. Except for few interruptions for clarifications, they were mostly silent, listening rather intently and were like students at the feet of Imhotep.
The gate at 6 Strebor Avenue fly open, giving off irritable screeching sounds from its rusty old hinges. Angie steps outside then fastens the bolt and walk towards us. Girls like her are highly regarded as ‘ghetto princess.’ She is a high school graduate that now works as a law clerk while furthering her studies; destine to become a lawyer. There are more like her in Homestead striding relentlessly and resiliently towards their dream.
Angie is elegantly dress in a dark blue pantsuit, black spike heel shoes and matching handbag. She is also sporting dark shades that shield her eyes from the glare of the rising sun. Long weaved strands of hair bounce off her shoulders. Silence befalls the group and all eyes are set on me. To make a long story short, Angie is the mother of my first child. “Good Morning,” said she in her usually overly polite voice, “Kharl, may I talk with you in private for a moment?”
I leap across the gully bank to her side. She is walking ahead of me with legs criss-crossing and the cheeks of her bum jigging and rolling in harmonize synchrony to every footstep. I could not resist the temptation to tease her, calling her strides the Beyoncé gully bank catwalk. My comment brings an instant reaction as she spins around, uses her finger to lower her spectacle then give me a brief affectionate stare. Passions of carnal thoughts arrested my mind and I even forget my manners to let the youths under the shed know that I will soon be back.
Twenty-five minutes later, I return. A member of the group jeers me saying something about, old fire stick catching fire again while another jabs at him with quick caution, who say the flame was ever out. I said nothing in defence. Both statements put a pleasing smile to my face. You see, they aren’t fools, they are ghetto intellectuals in their own rights and have read the play and see the vibes.
No sooner Shaky Jim appears. In the corner of his mouth burns a spliff tail. “Gee-whiz, y’u deh bout Comrade! Ha jus wa day mi hask y’u ole lady wen last she hear from you enuh.” We touch fist and I let him know that is yesterday I come bout. “So how life sah?” he press on, wanting to know more.
Jim, prior to me leaving Jamaica is my idol. Revere as ‘the teacher’ his masterful skills in reading and playing dominoes are unmatched. A student of his, I am now ready to challenge the teacher. I can only hope that my accomplishments representing Brown Eagles in the Canada Domino League will amount to the crowning glory of a rising star on home soil. A desire I have long cherished. We play three sets and I end up loosing 6-4, 6-5 and again 6-5. Jim congratulates me for my gallant effort. I feel dignify going down to the very best.
A slowly moving car exiting Mansfield Avenue, turn onto Strebor Avenue and head in our direction. Its chrome rims send off a sparkling, glistering shine. The windows are tilt and the beat of hardcore reggae is pumping from its speakers. No one seems to know who the occupants are. My ‘six sense’ tell me the guys are rather uneasy and its approach is gradually evoking a dreadful feeling of curiosity. Immediately due caution is taken, ‘machines’ brandish and ready for the go if needs be, but alas, normalcy prevail.
It is my brother. He knows the mindset of Homestead youths. Wisely, he stops the car from a distance, come out so all can see him and shout to Wings asking if Garnet down there. I emerge from cover and signal to Warren to come along. He did. “Wait unnu nuh know my car yet?” ask he of the crew, “So how uunu jus so hedgy” he joked. Laughter erupts. Warren and them chic chatting and eventually everyman fall back to his doing. A good while after, we all take a trek to Sangster’s Joint. My brother and I put on a few rounds and then he and I make a ‘boggy.’
My presence yet again in Homestead may have given all of them hope and for few, second chances. It is true I will have to leave them behind, however, they will never ever be forgotten…zeen.