Basin Jamet The Crystal Tearoom Tuning into Josephine River of Beauty and Youth River of Beauty and Youth
Everything is Green. by Safiya Sawney

Everything is Green. by Safiya Sawney

posted on Thursday February 3, 2011 | in The Basin Jamet | 10 Comments

The tears come often – so rude without saying excuse me or “is it all right?’ They just come. Just so. And I feel like such a fool for always crying for a thing that’s already past. That’s how it is with me. No matter the occasion I cry. Happy or sad. I cry. Its always when things come to an end and I have to begin all over again….. Maybe it’s a good thing to cleanse oneself before starting another journey. The tiny droplets are squeezed out from my oval eyes. Eyelashes all wet and salty…water droplets falling…falling until it kisses my cheeks. “Is what wrong with you?” My mother would say. “Chile stop wasting time and move on”.. is how she would continue. “Is life”…is how she will end. Knowing this makes me smile momentarily and wonder really why it is I cry? It’s certainly that I do not like the end of things. Perhaps even it’s the expectation of what is to come. The unknowingness of it all. “You better come. I mean it Allana. Because if you don’t. I ent talking to you anymore…” my sister says a little too roughly and unusually authoritative… “I know you in your anti-social phase now and you don’t want to talk to anybody but it’s his birthday so you should come. You go come right??” she continues softer this time a hint of fear in her voice not the disappointment she so badly wants to exude. She worries for me I know. She knows I will cry meaninglessly once the door is shut and the apartment is all mine. Before she leaves she lets me know that she does not want to be harsh. She doesn’t say it. She suggests it. Despite her denial of wanting to care for me she wants me to smile. I know this and so I continue to tug at my coolie hair. The curls all stubborn wrapped around my fingers refusing to accept being twisted into a twist-braid. Some parts straight-straight as my mother would say and other parts kinky. Around the scalp, especially to the back are the cousins, the tiny curly ringlets of hair that one brushes aside and does not include in a braid just because it is the thing to do. The cousins are untouched. A display that one is not only just African – that one is mixed up. As I twist furiously, hair falls in tiny curly clumps – breaking, as one really shouldn’t try to conform the curls into becoming any straighter or turn the straight into curls. Yet at the end I am left with tiny twist braids like ring worms – curl up curl up on my head. It feels just like being home. Unlike the feeling of not belonging – of conforming that one experiences when sitting under the dryer, eyes and scalp stinging from chemicals that permanently turns the curly hair straight and makes the straight hair even straighter. I prefer my temporary fix to the permanent one. At least I don’t feel like I have lost a big part of my identity. “When you doing your hair gurl,” my cousin said to my sister gently patting her own untamed mane. My cousin is heavyset – big breasts, big bamsie, big arms, big calves and one big voice that when attempting to sing ‘Many Rivers To Cross’ forgives the un-Caribbean-ness of her accent or her permanently straight hair, which because of its excessive coolie kinkiness sees her visiting a hair salon twice as much as my sister. My sister too is heavyset. She walks and her bamsie goes up and down, up and down, up and down like those women in the market standing behind their stall shouting, “fresh fish, fresh fish…boat just come out the water…fresh jacks, fresh mackerel, fresh tuna…tuna well fresh,” They would walk with their up-and-down bamsie and their swollen arms and calves to get the fresh fish from the back and cut in up before wrapping it haphazardly in old newspaper and handing it to the customer. Fresh fish blood dripping from the newspaper onto the concrete below leaving a trail and that distinct smell of the ocean wherever in falls. Fish heads always shoved to the side as not many people are interested in them and always I want to look into the stark white eyes of the fish. Wondering about its realness or how the eyes worked when the fish was alive. One time I poked at the eye. It was too soft, jelly like and loosely attached. The big eyeball just rolled out of the socket and onto the floor to be crushed when the up-and-down bamsie fish woman unconsciously stepped on it. I ran away scared. I felt as if I’d hurt the fish some more –even after death. The fish women reminded me of hippos and elephants in the African safaris I’d seen in the many National Geographics that filtered through our house.  So massive, yet gracefully beautiful – you wanted to capture them with your memory lens and preserve the image so that it would not go extinct. I see my sister and I see the fisherwomen and perhaps despite how New York she attempts to be. Her up-and-down backside and the akimbo way in which she stands and how she does push out she bottom lip gives away her heritage – what she really is. An expatriate. An immigrant. One from the Caribbean. The place where all dem people does talk real bad. Not another language nuh. Is English self. I could hear the voice of my sister’s best friend going.

But you would never know because fuss dey talking well bad. And is to see them in Prospect Park gurl. They pushing dem white white Jewish babies an dem in big fancy strollers – dress up dress up gurl – as if dey going fete in Fantasia or liming on de promenade. What wrong wid them? Is de dirty park dey going. But is because dey working for dem white people…Oh gosh girl is how they does put on all dey jewellry and ting! Pushing pram in tight, tight jeans and church blouse. To go sit down on the grass or in the playground. Well treating dem white children like dey own. Sometimes better than dey own. Them children can’t cry before dem stupid woman and dem go get up like a headless chicken going , “wha wrong? Doh cry dou dou. You want tea…drink some tea…” One time I hear one of dem white woman go, “you give him tea?” to one ah them with a little 6 months white boy. She hol up the milk bottle pointing , “yes maam, tea” Gurl fuss dey stupid.”

She is from the country area and like all people from the country think that anything un-country is better. So she continues to chastise her country folk who come to New York and behave “well stupid” as she says. Perhaps she is right for denying who they are by adopting the accent of America means that they are not Caribbean and conformed. Though its only pure ignorance. “Come see, Never see” as my mother would say. ‘they don’t know any better, Allana”. You’re educated…most of them are not.” Yet in the end thinking of all this makes me forget my tears and wonder less about why it is I cry on such a warm August day and think more of the place of my birth with its up-and-down bamsie fish women and their silent pride.

This story was written by: Safiya Sawney

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  1. MJ (Reply) on Thursday 3, 2011


  2. thelifestylemaven (Reply) on Thursday 3, 2011

    Loved it!!! Brought me right back to Kingston. Haven’t heard or read “Never see come see!” (one of my moms fave terms) in ages. And as for the picture! I love how mama is content to be outside with her green rollers(setters).So old school Caribbean!

  3. Shari (Reply) on Thursday 3, 2011

    Awesome…you had me captured from the first line.

  4. Dharma London (Reply) on Thursday 3, 2011

    Very moving… thanks for sharing…

  5. Emm (Reply) on Thursday 3, 2011

    :) @ akimbo…..yeah I used that on fb just the other day!
    Well nice to know I was a little inspiration in some of yournwell put together thoughts. I enjoyed this!

  6. inge (Reply) on Thursday 3, 2011

    Loved this! The imagery was wonderful. I felt the ups and downs of emotions and memories as they were unfolding. Keep it up! :)

  7. Sasha (Reply) on Thursday 3, 2011

    Lovely story! You have a special gift.

  8. clyde viechweg (Reply) on Thursday 3, 2011

    A flowing narrative of a colorful and fascinating island experience.The story was captivating and left me begging for more…..It however left me wondering about the little things in life we tend to over look or choose to willfully forget.
    Can’t wait for the book:)

  9. Kira (Reply) on Thursday 3, 2011

    This took me straight back to Grenada. From the coolie kinkiness of our hair, and the big bamsie fish market women to the country people that still talk “well bad” no matter what country they’re in, I see a part of me in every paragraph and every line.

    You have always been the best writer I know, and as someone else put it quite simply, I can’t wait for the book!

    • shala (Reply) on Thursday 3, 2011

      Please note that I did not write this piece. It is written by a young Grenadian: Safiya Sawney.

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