Where do I begin to tell the story of how great a hate and despair can be.
Beginnings of such profound stories are always convoluted if but for the memory.
As I write and remember, I medicate myself on Sizzla's 'Solid as a Rock'.
No one talks about it.
It is funny how a stereotypical notion of the Caribbean can be not so stereotypical.
This story is rooted in my Ex-Factor. He was not an ex-lover. Just a friend who made the very selfish narcissistic decision to violate me by way of camera, revealing a plush private carpet in an era of pre-pubescent, smooth as a baby's bum preference.
Willfully shared and disseminated en masse, I lost my repute and my dignity as he won the promise of the American Dream and his mother's support who had abandoned these Caribbean shores in hope of the same promise, years before.
Hours before boarding the flight to the 'Promised Land', he rode around my West Coast neighbourhood with these images, stuffing them into neighbours' mailboxes.
I still remember the pale nightgown I was wearing as I saw him from my kitchen window riding quite conscientiously.
That February morning 14 years ago changed everything.
Chickens Do Come Home To Roost.
Ten years later and during that time, faith in and that God, Heaven, The Universe and Their Angels had felt this tragedy as Their own, was dormant but resolute.
During that time, at any given moment, day or night, in company or alone, the thought- the dehumanising memory soaked my mind. Standing at a bus stop, standing in queue in a buffet line, or peeling potatoes, I suffered the violation- a constant involuntary tightening of vaginal muscles the effect.
The pain could not only be attributed to his actions, but, more importantly, to people's reactions. Loyalty, tact or an understanding of a woman's dignity devoid.
Disclaimer: This is my story and I don't have to make you understand it. I only have to make you feel... it. Nothing about this tragedy is logical and so linearity is stupid if not futile. Timelines, dates, time markers- don't matter. Just your willingness to feel, to feel awkward as I reveal more and my courage to do so.
The nature of the Barbadian male is acidic . Age and class determine the level of formality but nonetheless, their obsession with communal machinations carefully crafted in Lodge meetings or gangs is the thing of which legends are made, especially me.
Frustrated that I had seemingly not been affected by his devious deed intended to prohibit any chance of success in my life by way of stripping me of every morsel of human dignity, he resurfaced some four, five years ago.
Sticking to his tried and true arsenal, he once again with friends/gang/Lodge disseminated this material en masse.
Those (there were very few- maybe one or two) who were already outraged by his first attack, did everything within their power to achieve tabula rasa. Thank God they had power. Thank God.
Now, a member of the armed forces of the United States of America, he could not avoid the possible and likely consequences if caught or at the very least investigated. As a result, he tried vehemently to 'tell me':
"Not me, I swear, to God, it is not me,"
in a manner that only I could recognise:
Random calls at all hours of the day and night, monkeys found with their throats slashed in my back yard when my stubborn refusal to engage became apparent.
He could not run anymore from his actions now or then- a decade earlier.
He finally finally had to 'suffer' the consequences, thanks to the outraged one or two persons with power.
However and inevitably, there would be a price to pay for upsetting a major player in the Barbadian international drug ecosystem.
tell it like it is
Waiting in line to be served, a young man and a retired technocrat standing in front of me, discuss the politic of Barbadian life in the midst of an economic downturn and recently held elections.
"What a lot of people don't realise is that for the last 15 years or so, drugs has been the main source of revenue for many Barbadian families. All the time, you hear about this person open a business and this person open this, no no no, it was drugs. Drugs paid for everything in Barbados," explained the technocrat.
"Well they not bringing it in any more. So, no more of that," lamented the young man.
He provided one of the reasons for which they all hated me.
Raised by a mother whose nationality was not my own, Barbadians could not understand how, not being affiliated to any Lodge, gang or drug business, she could exist comfortably with absolutely no family, husband or plethora of friends.
A glaring example that success was not hoards of cash or was not dependent on being part of the drug infrastructure, my mother was not understood, which in small societies is the same thing as not being liked.
By the time that my second episode with 'him' had come around, this eco-system, of which he was a part, was a well established thriving reality of everyday 'hush hush' Caribbean life complemented by a sex trade fueled by tourism.
After all, Barbados' paltry 280,000 population demand for 'product' could not support this industry. Only the international dollars of those seeking hedonistic pleasure in 'Little England' could.
He Was Their Mike Brown
And so with punishment swift, sudden and harsh (as I heard through the grapevine from many a bad boy sitting on street corners as I passed by) his street pharmaceutical colleagues took up his demise with the fervour of a moral movement.
The Barbadian male politic could not understand how the violation of one very quiet unassuming (intelligent) woman could prove to be so problematic for their champion and their drug industry.
I would have to pay.
From that moment on, and supported by almost every office in Barbados and the Caribbean, I was followed and watched non-stop: online, at home and on the street. I remember lamenting to a friend that, at the time, I could not even take a piss at 2am in the morning without there being a rustling in the bushes outside.
This circumstance created an anxiety in me akin to that of a sitting duck. I had no control over my life.
There are many incidents of what life was like for me in the time of revenge, but none better than these two.
the epitome of evil
Does it matter that I reveal the names?
Flicking through the leading newspaper in Barbados, I saw and made note of an ad that piqued my interest.
I had been working in 'the time of revenge' on contract as a speechwriter for C-level executives in a Cultural Agency in Barbados knowing then that with everything that was happening to me, the renewal of this contract was not likely.
Always buoyed by international travel and cultures, I saw the inconspicuous ad for 'Q' Airways recruitment as a welcome opportunity to let go of the despair that had become a thick stench choking me.
Like I said, constantly being followed, I knew that I could not conceal from 'them', my interest in this job as I showed up at The Hilton, for the two-day interview.
This was clearly evidenced upon leaving the venue after the first round of interviews and during my taxi ride home. All hands were on deck as you would have thought me the Queen of England as so many lined the streets every 100 yards to confirm my whereabouts, always done so with a rubbing of the nose.
I received the call later that day from Q Airways telling me that I had qualified to go through for the second day and round of interviews. And so the next day, Sunday, I took the ride from the North of the island to the South once again to the Hilton.
Even on the ride down, something was startlingly different. People lined the streets at what is usually considered an obscene hour on a Sunday morning to rub their noses as I passed by.
Seeing this, I knew that recruitment was not likely, as the stage had already being set since the day before for failure as evidenced by these machinations.
Immediately on arriving, again, something was different.
A very noticeable police presence including a van holding two huge sniffer dogs was parked just outside the concourse of the banquet hall.
Two teenagers stood speaking to a police officer who looked like a teenager himself.
Walking by, they glared at me with the same disgust that had become all too familiar during the time of revenge.
Focused on the task at hand, I ignored them making my way to the bathroom to apply powder and lipgloss.
Waiting on the concourse outside the Ballroom, which was to be the site of the final interview stage, the vultures started to converge.
On the staircase, on the balcony to the restaurant, they- who included hotel workers, patrons: local and international, all came to 'see' point and laugh at me.
I remained unaffected.
What I fail to emphatically state, ladies and gentlemen, I still hope is nuanced enough for you to comprehend about this network of people.
One for all; All for one.
To guarantee acceptance into the Q Airways program, you had to complete a written exam.
As I sat at the back of the ball room with about 40 other candidates, the Q Airways recruit officer, twenty minutes into the exam, disappeared through one of the Ballroom's service doors next to me.
There was nothing weird about that. But when she burst through the door seemingly being pulled back by her jacket by someone concealed behind the door, it did pique my interest considerably.
She soon reentered the ballroom with a look that cried foul. A grimaced pout and furrowed brows indicating stress.
She recovered her composure as suddenly as this incident happened forcing me to question my own sanity- Did that really just happen?
Placing the final period on the exam script as the recruiters instructed everyone to stop writing, I felt satisfied and confident that I had performed well.
They issued further instructions to us, indicating that they would now mark the exams thereby determining who would be finally selected. To do so we would all have to leave the Ballroom and wait outside once again outside on the concourse.
It was at this moment. I knew that something was definitely wrong. At the moment of sitting with the other candidates outside the ballroom, a security guard stood no more than 10 feet away from me mimicking every move that I made. If I turned a fraction of an inch to my left, she did so too. If I turned to my right, likewise. Her stares would not leave me. I felt like I was a presumed shoplifter in Bloomingdale's with the intensity of her focus on me- and only me.
My concern for her concern was distracted by a candidate whom I had not seen the previous day and to be honest looked more like a amateur lady of the night. She smiled at me and asked with a nuanced fake as fuck smile-"So, are you enjoying the interview process?"
I indulged and said, "Of course."
"Me too," she replied with a nod and smirk. Looking down in her lap, she broke off a piece of what was probably sweetbread concealed in a plastic bag.
No sooner than that, we were being called back to the ballroom.
Settled, the recruiter avoided eye contact with any specific individual.
However, she explained the procedure for what was to lie ahead- the revelation of who made it and who did not.
She would call the assigned number of each candidate who made it, if I remember correctly.
But what I do remember clearly that sounded so absurd to me then, was that everyone would have to leave the ballroom again after the announcement was made and say farewell to each other.
My number was not called, in fact no one who should have made it through was called. Only those who you would not even hire to work at a graveyard were.
I was slightly disappointed but comforted by the knowledge that I knew the force of evil that was at work.
On leaving the ballroom, 'they' stood on the balcony waiting to see me exit the ballroom looking deflated and defeated, I assume.
On recognising me they exclaimed- "There she is, I see she big head!"
Trust me there is nothing big about me at all, least my head.
They laughed and clapped as I walked away from the Ballroom concourse to the car park.
Finally everything made sense.
The police van, the sniffer dogs, the recruiter, the ballroom, the security guard and the fake as fuck amateur whore
In their plan to ensure failure in what was to be my guaranteed success, 'they' sold the recruiter drugs- more than likely marijuana, the night or evening before as a means to hold her ransom. She would have to do exactly as they wanted if she did not want the authorities and their sniffer dogs to search and find drugs that she had bought, probably still untouched and still in her room waiting to be consumed after her recruiting work was finished.
This was more than likely what was said to her when she had disappeared behind those ballroom service doors.
In the time of revenge
Later that night, I casually shared my 'knowings' with a powerful, yet empathetic person in the drug ecosystem. Please note that in a place as small as Barbados, the 6 degree rule of separation does not apply when it comes to drugs. You are either involved in drugs and/or know someone who is. Everyone I know.
Q airways, who had been coming to Barbados every 3-6 months for the purpose of recruiting, never returned to Barbados after that day.
The more immediate effects were undeniable- at least for me. And to be honest there are too many to mention. I am not sure what were the repercussions for those who belonged to the drug ecosystem in Barbados. What I do know is that there were, and that if their disgust for me before was 'unjustified' as a result of their 'Mike Brown's' punishment, then now they were 'legitimately' blind with anger.
The stakes had gotten even higher for me and for them.
in sinclair's playground
I love natural hair. It is a wonder unto itself.
Finding a good natural hairdresser in Barbados had become easier over the years, but it still required effort and network.
Finding one near work was a blessing too. The close proximity negated the hassle of having to deal with Saturday crowds.
Even though some months after the Hilton incident and in the time of revenge, this day in question was... good.
There were no indications of foul play or that there would be any.
I guess they learned how not to be so conspicuous with their intent.
Taking the ZR van down the hill and around the corner, I disembarked at the Church where I had been christened.
Crossing the road and making my way to the hair dresser, I remember feeling like days of old. I really did not have a care in the world.
The assistant greeted me at the door, indicating how much she loved my dress.
On entering the always dark salon, my eyes needed time to adjust to properly make out the form of two men sitting in the salon chairs.
There was nothing unusual about that or neither the antics of the hairdresser as well.
The assistant washed and conditioned my natural hair as the hairdresser attended to someone I believe or at least engaged in conversation with the guys.
As I sat down in the stylist chair, one guy sat facing me while another walked into the salon with two black plastic bags forming the shape of its contents- small bricks.
He opened the plastic bag and showed the hairdresser the contents.
"That looks like some good product," said the hairdresser.
Oblivious to the nature of selling, I closed my eyes enjoying the feel of fingers massaging my scalp. Furthermore, I closed my eyes in an effort to avoid the stares of the man sitting opposite me.
He conscientiously held his old model Nokia cell phone in his hand as if he were waiting on a serious call and not wanting to dare miss it.
As the assistant finished styling my hair, and I began to fix myself to leave, he punched one button, the phone buzzing indicating that a message had been sent.
I paid the assistant and left hoping to quickly catch a bus home.
The bus stop was about 100 yards from the salon.
Traffic was heavy and there were about 10 people waiting at the bus stop.
As was usual in the time of revenge, one thing or person should I say, stood out.
A young man/boy dressed in head to toe camouflage.
Camouflage is illegal in Barbados. And while some-very few, can be seen wearing it, it is always confined to just one item- a hat, a scarf or a belt. Some item of clothing that could be easily removed if happened upon by police.
This young man was head to toe camouflage. He leaned on the bus stop making himself even more noticeable.
Behind me, sat two men wearing blue t-shirts and jeans. They looked out of place but, hey in Black Rock everyone does. I remember looking at them and thinking that even though they looked slothful, they looked military too.
Waiting for about five minutes, I was happily distracted from the mundanity of watching traffic inch along, by maybe four or five children making their way along the opposite sidewalk. They had to be in the age range of 7-10. Boys and girls, one girl, though, caught my interest. She wore a pink romper suit. Something about her reminded me of myself when I was that age.
It was the steadfastness with which she walked. She looked determined, ambitious but still childlike.
She was cute.
I stood and watched them walk by on the opposite side of the rode until I lost interest.
Seeing four mini-buses in the distance inching their way towards me, I decided that it would be one of them that I would catch.
As I stood squinting to see which of the four was the least full, I felt a sudden impact and pain in the outside corner of my right eye.
Immediately disoriented, I touched the corner of my eye, my fingers smearing what ever substance was now in my eye and on my lashes.
This did not go unnoticed as the men behind me immediately stood up and came towards me to get a better look.
Frantically and blindly scrimmaging through my handbag for tissue, tears were now running down my face. I used a tissue to carefully wipe away what ever the substance was, which at this point I honestly thought had to be bird dung.
On closer inspection and after noticing a strong fluoride smell, I realised that it was toothpaste.
On my shoulder rested a tiny ball of foil paper which contained the remnants of the substance. A sniff of it and a closer look, confirmed the fluoride smell and strips of white, blue and dark blue in the paste.
In the midst of me trying to deal with the assault, I had not noticed that the camouflaged guy had boarded one of the four buses that by now had reached our bus stop.
I fled the scene in the last of the four buses scared and profoundly disturbed by their actions not even 100 yards from the MP's Constituency Office.
My heart still beating at an unhealthy pace, I disembarked when I got to my destination some 30 minutes later.
Now, dark, I waited to cross the road to walk home.
Sensing something behind me, I hesitantly turned around. The camouflaged man emerged from the shadows, holding his smart phone. The light of the phone revealed his face and its blank expression; a buzz on the phone indicating a sent message.
I could have fainted there and then.
That was life for me in the time of revenge.
It was not easy to share this experience with you. If you made it to the end, thanks for enduring what was for me, hell.
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