Riddim of My Life

Lafleur Cockburn

Me wake up early o’clock Friday morning fuh catch de first van heading out ah Owia. It shouldn’t tek more dan two hours fuh clear up all me bills and pick up ‘essentials’, before de country shut down. Me intend fuh be in and out Kingstown like ah multiple choice exam, no lingering. Me put on me face mask, arm me self with me 99 cents aloe vera hand sanitizer, and head out de door. ‘Kaution’ swing round de corner and stop ah me foot. De conductor slide open de door and point to de empty row behind him.

Eight passengers in de eighteen-seater van; two people pan each ah de three rows behind me, and one bougie looking woman in front in ah oversize flappy straw hat. Someting strange bout she, but me cud say de same ‘bout everybody wearing mask, so me nah dwell too long on it. 

De conductor turn on de sound system, and ah familiar voice start stuttering,

“So, so…so many, so many, so many tings …” 

Me feel like ah hand reach through time and grabble me. De song definitely new, caz Beenie Man chanting ‘bout “when de whole world lockdown”, but dat oldie goldie voice done hack me whole main frame and is bare memories knocking me down. Me body latch onto de riddim and me start swaying. Me stone forget whey me dey, me just surrender and leave De Doctor fuh wuk he obeah. 

De conductor grinning and singing de hook, “Now everybody put yuh hands up…” 

Ah high pitch shriek from de front mek de driver slam on de breaks. Me nearly buss me mouth pan me own knee.  

“Noo sah. Either yuh stop dat devil music, or leave me right yah at Jesus foot.” 

‘Ms. Bougie’ throwing ah fit like one ah dem spoil pickny who never get ah real cut arse. De conductor kiss he teeth, and turn off de music. De van drive off in silence. De sudden loss ah de music like ah server crash. Me staring out de window, but me mind nah register notten.

De conductor look like he wah cuff ‘Ms. Bougie’ right out de front seat. “Dis ah good music, way you ah gwarne so fah?” 

Ms. Bougie clear she throat and start with one drawn-out sermon; how is bare slack music playing in van dese days; how ah soucouyant name Spice and she consort, Dexta Daps, heading straight to de pits ah hell fuh de “A-Plus” song dem just release; how she never know she wud ah live fuh hear worse crap dan de “Romping Shop” garbage Spice and Vybz Kartel cook-up all dem years ago; and how all we nice-nice boys turning gangster, and we innocent girls breeding like rabbit after dem expose to dancehall. 

Most ah de passengers agree dat dancehall is ah blight. De conductor face turn red. Ah miracle, considering he is ah natural bronze masterpiece like meself.  

“So me have ah question,” he say to de back ah ‘Ms. Bougie’ straw hat, “If de music so devilish, how you know so much bout Dexta Daps? And Spice? And Kartel?”

Ms. Bougie quick with she defense, “You nah worry bout dat!” 

But de conductor worry. He shell down one piece ah cussing under ‘Ms. Bougie’, she drowning in wud. “De only soucouyant me see here is you, ole hag! Ride offah Spice. Is yuh conscience ridin’ yuh, not de dancehall music.”

Ms. Bougie start praying, “Lawd, tek charge ah we youths. Cover dem.”

Me tune out de ‘ruption, and try sort out all de emotions dat Beenie Man done rip up and lay bare like muddy waters tearing through Old Sandy Bay cemetery after ah flash flood. All me mix-up feelings floating like hundred-year-old bones next to de rotten boards dat cudn’t keep dem safe. Me mek meself comfortable pan ‘Kaution’ hard plastic seat, close me eyes, and prepare fuh face wahsoever de King-ah-Dancehall done unleash.

***

Me fall in love with dancehall riddim from bootleg cassette tapes. Mummy always say same how people have different taste in clothes and food, is same way dem have different taste in music. Me teenage years secrete behind ah big iron vault in me mind, and de vault bury under six feet ah concrete fuh extra security. Dat ah why me son, Luciano, duh know bout me rebellious years when me life was like one ah dem Indian quipu. Dancehall riddims tangle up in knots, and every knot is ah bag ah memories. 

When me pass Common Entrance fuh go town school, is like Christmas reach Owia in July. Mummy eye-water run with gladness fuh days. She organize fuh me travel monthly in ‘School Boy’, ah old Mitsubishi van dat belong to de village Gyallis – Chucky. Police confiscate Chucky license after dem lose track ah de number ah vehicle he write off. He hire ah driver fuh ‘School Boy’ but he control de moneybag as de conductor. 

Owia main road hah de biggest potholes in de world. It tekkin’ ah van over two hours fuh reach Kingstown, and dat ah if it duh meet traffic in Arnos Vale. Two hours in ah hot silent van is torture to ah van load ah school pickny. Chucky start fuh entertain he young passengers with music. ‘School Boy’ trunk cud barely close over two massive speaker box dat Chucky design from pinewood. And he braggin’ nonstop.

“This nah no cockroach convention like dem other van. Me ah deal with ah professional system.”

He like fuh give de same speech every morning before he rewind de cassette with ah pencil and pretend fuh be big time selectah. 

“Dancehall is ah building, yuh see me? De riddims ah de main frame, and de artists ah de fixtures, yuh see me? De producers come like architects, and den de selectah ah de salesman, yuh see me?”

All me see is Chucky trying hard fuh sound Jamaican, but everybody else say yes, so me say yes too. He happy fuh hear dat. 

“Every riddim is ah different style ah building, yuh see me?  Some ah shanty, some ah house, and some ah palace, yuh see me? Sometimes, one riddim wuk fuh ah heap ah artists, and other times, one artist get ah ‘one drop’, yuh see me?”

Somebody start cough. Chucky pause. He try talk agien, and somebody else cough. He get de message. Lecture done. He shut up and push de cassette ine de deck. 

“Dis ah de Sleng Teng riddim! 

Ah slow drum beat mix-up with shak-shak and bass start up. Me not sure why everybody excited. De music mek church service sound like de best ting since slice bread. Me figure Chucky jus wah help me sleep caz he know me wake up since before cock crow dis morning. Me rest me head pan de seat in front me and doze off. 

Ah sweet piece ah music wake me up. Some kindah electric guitar pan ah continuous loop. Chucky call it de Poco Man Jam riddim. Church music vanish from me psyche like coal-pit smoke in ah downpour. De music all round me, and me feel like someting living creep out de trunk, tug me heart out me chest, and force it fuh match de “kukunkun” hook pan de riddim. Me turn river crawfish innah salt-water, flapping like me nah know how fuh swim. Lawd, me only realize me wine from country to town when me step out de van wet like pan, and de school guard telling Chucky fuh please invest in ah air conditioner. 

Guilt nearly kill me when me catch meself. Mummy bruising she kneebone every morning fuh beg de lord guidance pan me soul. She appealing to me father fuh look out fuh me from de grave. And me wining down in people van. Chucky play de same riddim go home. Me nah move ah muscle. When he stare me down, me stare um right back. And when me fed up, me drop ah sleep. 

Chucky tek de stare down as ah challenge. Next morning, he let go de Bam-Bam riddim, and laugh when he behold me face. 

“Leggo yuhself smallie, stop gwarne like yuh cyar mash ants.”

This riddim sweeter than Poco Man. All when me step out de van, ‘Murder She Wrote’ echoing in me head. Me tell meself dat de Savior fully understand. Nah he self create music? And, too, besides – de message sound similar to mummy advice fuh behave.  

“Dis man duh trouble no one, but if yuh trouble dis man, it will bring ah bam-bam.” 

Me figure de Lord using dancehall fuh reach out to me, caz me duh trouble nobody. Me even more convince when me hear ‘Rivers of Babylon’ pan de same riddim.  

***

Me ah regular riddim head now. When Chucky put ine ah cassette, me feel like he choosing it ‘specially fuh me. Chucky refuse mummy money when she try pay de monthly fee. 

“Mable, Chincia is ah mannerly girl. Me go carry she ah school anytime without problem.”

Mummy proud-proud, “Yuh see way broughtupsy ah get yuh? Gawd see me cud do with de extra money, and he mek ah way.”

Dickie riddim tek over de scene now. Me singing word fuh word when Nadine Sutherland crooning bout how Buju do tings to she inner emotions, and Chucky licking he lip with every ‘Oooh Ahhh’. Soon as Buju Banton come ine with he deep “have mercy,” me insides ah explode like firework. 

Chucky ah watch me hard, but he never touch me. Once me reach home, he passing me in de road like example. Me nah dig no horrors, caz he done explain dat he waiting patiently till me reach age ah consent. 

Me studying hard becaz dese days, mummy calling down de heavens fuh watch over she one gal pickny. Me nah come notten less dan first in class, and me nah mek joke when it come to track. Inter-school sports day, Chucky pump me up with Cutty Ranks pan de Fever Pitch riddim, “Limb by limb we ah cut dem down, send fuh de hacksaw, tek out dem tongue!” Dem town gal cudn’t hold me. Me leave de tracks with de Junior Champ trophy, and me give it to Chucky so me cud have more space fuh wine pan de riddim go home. 

Every Saturday evening, me heading to Owia park fuh watch Chucky play cricket. Me tekkin’ wahever me want from any ah de vendors caz Chucky paying fuh it. Me on top ah de world. Till de Sunday me see Chucky with Suzette. Suzette is ah brown-skin goodas. Owia people say she is ah carbon copy ah she dead mother. Hair always done up. Bubby stick up high-high pan she chest and bursting through any top she put on. Legs fuh days, like ah tall coconut tree. Batty bouncing like it have spring. Skin shine and smooth like fresh dasheen bush. De only ting we have in common is we river-stone-grey eyes. 

Me step in front dem bold as ever, “Chucky, me wah see yuh _”

Chucky tek one step toward me before Suzzette tug him way.

“Little gyal, yuh fresh and bright with yuh flat chest. Go meet yuh mumma. Leave big people fuh talk.”

Notten never hurt me so. Me know me short, but Suzette nah too older dan me. She father, Harry, put she fuh fry chicken in he rum shop after she fail Common Entrance three times. Every Friday night, when Harry throw Blacko, all man, married or single, congregating like red ants round de chicken basket. 

Me waiting fuh Chucky fix she, but he just laugh and pull Suzette tight-tight like she ah he woman. 

Monday morning, when Chucky drop de Joyride riddim, me singing Tanya Stephens ‘Yuh Nuh Ready Fuh Dis Yet’ like me dey karaoke. 

“Have yuh ever stop to tink wah mek a gal cheat? Yuh need fi check yuhself before yuh start kiss yuh teeth, Cah yuh nuh ready fi this yet, bwoy.”

Me mek it me business fuh ignore Chucky and give de boys who travel in ‘School Boy’ all me attention. Dat ah how me and Tony get ine. He two years older dan me, and he cute fuh so. We holding hands, and sometimes, when ‘School Boy’ swing round ah deep corner, Tony hand brushing me thigh, or sliding down de side ah me bubby. Chucky duh like wah he seeing. He throw Tony out he van and tell mummy she haffuh start pay de monthly van fee. Me tell mummy Chucky vex becaz he cyar pass he place with me. 

Me and Tony end up in de same new Toyota Hiace dat somebody from Georgetown bring fuh work in de area. It have inbuilt speakers, nah no ole wood bullhorn like ‘School Boy’. And de conductor handling CD player, nah none back-in-time cassette tape.  It name ‘El Nino’ and de name fit becaz it hauling all ‘School Boy’ passengers like hurricane.

Me and Tony slide through de Filthy riddim in a cloud ah puppy love. When de vans park up in de van stand in Little Tokyo, me rocking to Mr. Vegas ‘Heads High’ and Lady G ‘Breeze Off’ and mekkin’ sure Chucky see me happy. Suzette have big belly, she riding up and down every day in de front seat like she ‘newcommon’. Yuh swear she never set foot in ah van in she life de way she grinning like ah nincompoop.

*** 

Me CXC results swell Mummy nose. Me swear de ten subjects hah she stunted caz she give me permission fuh go ah Harry Friday night Blacko. Most ah de gal dem in Owia love Soca. Dem ah twist up like some headless yard fowl, so say dem wining. Not me. Me sitting on de sideline with Tony, waiting patiently pan de new Playground riddim fuh drop so me cud skin-out like roast duck. Me wah Chucky see me not only mashing ants, me trampling cat, dog, and anyting else in me way. De DJ fling down Spragga Benz ‘Strong Performer’, and me nah give Tony de chance fuh get up. Me bend over and put down some serious slow wine. Tony bite me ears and whisper, “Dem waan di long performer, strong performer, an not di wrong performer, dem want ah man whey have di slam.” Me open me foot like dancehall queen fuh ‘Butterfly’ pan Tony crotch, he start fuh tremble so bad, me hah fuh keep still till he catch heself. 

Chucky and Suzette out in de road rocking back to Beenie Man ‘Sim Simma’. Chucky trying fuh do ‘Pepper Seed’, but he stiff like board. Suzette nah much better, she on she second pickny and she likkle goat belly getting in de way when she try dance with Chucky. Dem switch to de ‘Bogle’ when Mad Cobra ‘Pet and Pamper’ come on. Me nah know wah go wrong, but de two ah dem end up on dey back in de dirt and everybody laughing. Instead wutless Chucky help he woman, is licks he start fuh pelt. All body blaming rum fuh Chucky dotishness. Dat ah de first time me sorry fuh Suzette. She bubby neck break since de first pickny, she batty lopsided like de spring break, and stretch marks criss-cross she belly like rope. But she ah somebody daughter, and Chucky nah have no right fuh put he hand pan she. 

*** 

Bookshelf riddim roll out when me in college. Beenie Man voice like honey pan de riddim, but Tony hah de raw honeycomb in he throat. We hah we personal call and answer game pan de riddim. Tony go sing Beenie Man, “De way dem gal yah nice and pretty, full ah witty, dem nuh gritty, me ah go put dem pon mi bookshelf, yeah.” Den me go bruk out with Tanto Metro and Devonte, “Gyal say wooee! From yuh sure say yuh man nah stall. Say, wooee! Caz you know say yuh hot and have it all!” Memoriesss yes! 

Tings copasetic until one ah de church members go run he mouth to mummy. 

“Mable, yuh know Chincia ah dancehall queen by Harry Blacko?”

“Me nah send no Macko Man behind me chile.”

“Yuh wah play most Christian, but yuh sins ah repeat demself in yuh pickny. And yuh husband transgression too grey fuh hide.”

Mummy notice me by de window and chase Cephus out she yard. Den she ban me from Blacko. It nah bother me though, caz is de same week Harry drop down in de middle ah de session and dead just so. Harry drink too much rum, but he always nice to me. Dat ah de second time me sorry fuh Suzette.  

Owia nah survive long without ah place fuh fete. Dem clean up de ole primary school, cover it in whitewash and replace de government ‘UNSAFE’ sign with ‘OLE SKOOL’. Never mind de big protest ‘bout safety dat force de government fuh build ah new school years ago, after earthquake tremors leave cracks all over de building. Dat ah water under de bridge now. De building hold up after all dese years, so dey might as well mek use ah it, nah true?

Dancehall in business again, and me on ban. Who say so? Me creeping out me bedroom window regular fuh meet Tony in ‘Ole Skool’. Me smoking weed and drinking steel bottom like ah boss, and de Upclose and Personal riddim driving me crazy. Richie Spice nuh lie when he chant bout ‘Weakness fuh Sweetness’. And Buju have de perfect bass fuh anchor me to de ground when de weed have me floating. Once me hear, “Have ah body most woman wud ah die fah. Pretty gyal, man ah cry eye water,” and Tony moan in me ears, me flying all over de dancehall, watching meself spinning like top pan Tony. He matching me mood and blowing weed smoke down me throat before he suck me tongue out me head. Me duh even care if he swallow it and leave ah hole in me mouth, once me have dancehall riddim, me content.  

By de time Black Widow riddim drop, me and Tony in we own bubble. Beenie Man in de bubble with we, so Tony singing ‘Gwarne So’ every chance he get, “De gyal dem wah agony, that’s why dey affi find ah mawga boy like ah me….” De weed and de rum hah he voice hoarse and it scraping cross me back and running down me spine and settling between me legs like lava. We graduate to we own private sessions with de Bruk-Out riddim, and Under Water cut we off from de rest ah de world completely. Me honestly cyar remember one single artist pan dem riddims. All me remember is de “aye aye! ay aye ay!” riff that giving me get goosebumps to dis day. 

De Grass Cyaat riddim sound like ah ghost stick ine de ceiling, trying fuh mek up it mind if it horny or frighten. When Beenie Man ask ‘has de world gone mad’, me feel like he see de state ah me and he directing de question right ah me door mouth. Either mummy don’t know me jumping window fuh go ‘Ole Skool’, or she chose fuh ignore me. Me graduate from college in ah daze, but me exam results decent enough fuh me get ah hold-on as assistant teacher at Georgetown Secondary School, not too far from Owia.

Tings work out perfect. Tony rent he own place in Georgetown after he get ah work close by at de Black Point gas station. Me giving mummy me whole salary, she nuh bat ah eye when me move ine with Tony. Me settle ine me new life; from home to work, work to home. We visiting Owia every Friday, den every other Friday, den every last Friday.  Mummy say somebody tell she dat Tony have ah nurse woman in Black Point. Me ask she whey he go find de time fuh study woman when he so tired after work. She shake she head, “Dey does say dem tired, but not too tired fuh have a whole pickny pan yuh head. Yuh tink man easy?” 

De Orgasm riddim ruling dancehall by dis time, but me cyar enjoy it. It sound like ah violin with half de string missing. De last week we go ‘Ole Skool’, Beenie Man ‘Circumstances’ sell off, and me grooving to me favorite singer when me hear ray-ray. Two pappyshow fighting in de middle ah de floor in slow motion. Is only when Suzette let out ah screechy wail, me recognize she and Chucky. She drunk, Chucky drunk. Everybody busy laughing at dem as usual. Nobody nah see de rusty knife in Suzette hand till it end up in de middle ah Chucky chest. Suzette dancing with she self like everyting normal, staggering and singing to Beenie man, 

“I’m ah bad man, and I duh give ah damn, bad man and dis is who I am. Bad man, ah hope you overstand dat circumstances make me who I am.” Dat ah de third time me sorry fuh Suzette.

Dem wash way Chucky blood and move he body. De next weekend, me see Suzette starring on de front page ah de Vincentian Newspaper under a short headline; ‘TRAGEDY IN OWIA’. De short article cover de unfortunate accident that take de life of ah great family man after he fall off ah backwall and land pan he own knife. “Ole Skool’ door man give ah brief warning to young people fuh keep way from alcohol, especially if dem cyar manage it.

Dancehall riddim still rollin’ out, but everyting sound militant, as if dancehall is ah war zone. Me and Tony quarrellin’ fuh de simplest tings. We stop go Owia. He say we cud try a new fete dat open in Black Point instead. We going Black Point, but me nah bless me eye pan Tony till we ready fuh leave. De riddims speeding past me like bush from ah van window; Baddis, Ants Nest, Lightning, Bad Weather, Bitter Blood, and Bug. De names sound like pestilence and plagues, and de artists sound like ah gang ah warlords; ‘Bounty Killer’, ‘Mad Cobra’, ‘Merciless’, ‘Kurrup’, ‘Hawkeye’, and ‘General Degree’. De situation get so bad, me yearning fuh Soca jam session so me cud squeeze ine ah wine, becaz de man dem skanking pan de riddims like dem training fuh combat. Tings go from bad to worse when me faint in de middle ah Bounty Killer ‘Look into My Eyes’ anthem. 

*** 

Tony ah leave home almost every night, whether dancehall on or not. It get so overbearing, me pack up and go back ah Owia. Two-twos, me haffuh stop work, bad feelings killin’ me ah morning time. Me duh even know mummy go look fuh Tony till he show up with he tail between he foot like ah marga dog. He swear up and down say he come take responsibility fuh his seed, but me mind done turn from Tony. Mummy say me look like me eating stone, she trying every remedy under de sun, but me vomiting up everyting me swallow. 

Tony say he drop de sketell bomb he pick up in Black Point. He stop smoke and claim say he nah have no heart fuh alcohol. We start going ‘Ole Skool’ now and again, just fuh stretch me foot, but we duh go inside. De riddims start fuh lighten up and me find meself responding to de Liquid riddim. No matter how much me kick up when Lexxus crank up with, “Yuh never dash way belly!” Tony ah cramp me style, dragging me fuh sit down. He turn into ah overprotective pain in de arse. He harmless like ah Vincy mountain snake though, not ah dose ah venom in he body. And ah just so de Liquid riddim stay; de lyrics solid, but de tempo soothing like lullaby.

Dancehall mello out to de point where most tune giving off some seriously conscious vibes; Beres Hammond, Luciano and Jah Cure mashing up de place with mystical vibrations. Mummy lef me in de middle ah one ah she morning prayers. Me feel ah way, but me happy she have me father fuh keep she company in de afterlife. Tony limin’ heavy in Black Point again. Me at peace, but sometimes me get lonely, and me wish me had ah sibling. Me replay ‘Sweep over My Soul’ so much, me end up naming de baby ‘Luciano’, after ‘Jah Messenger’ heself. De temptation fuh join de Nyahbinghi order strong, but me love chicken too bad, and me fraid mummy go grieve from de grave if she one gal pickny turn rasta. So me hold down de spiritual energy with some stylish dreadlocks. 

Me have plenty reasons fuh defend dancehall to de world. Jah know me nah lie when me say most ah me memories sweeter dan ah wet finger pan ah sensitive clit. 

*** 

De way confusion tek over me spirit, me suspect ah duppy trying fuh block me from shaking off de sleep dat incubate me memories like baby manicous in dey mother pouch. Me hearing de voice ah de city – motor horn, foghorn and trolley whistle; afro-beat, soca and reggae. One body preaching, ah hundred cussing and ah million talking. Machines drilling and hammering. When de city start chat, even ah duppy know better dan fuh stick ‘round. Me sleep evaporate.

Me duh have to peep out de van window fuh know dat ‘Kaution’ pulling up to ‘Little Tokyo’ van stand. Quarrellin’ done, but de conductor still heated. He mouth hang open like ah mongoose on de attack, and he breathing loud-loud, worse dan if he race de van on foot from Owia to town. Hundreds ah makeshift stalls tek over every inch ah free space in de capital. De driver kill de engine and head fuh de nearest one.

De conductor collect de fare from everybody before dey melt ine de Friday morning chaos ah de city. Everybody, except ‘Ms. Bougie’.  Me still feeling weakish so me lean up pan de side ah de van. De conductor put ah wireless speaker behind de front seat, turn on de music full blast, and follow de driver to de stall.  

“Yeah star! Pound de brand new Buju! Fresh out de studio!” 

Me wonder if he sober, becaz me hear John Legend droning ‘bout ‘memories’, not Buju. Me soon get whey he coming from when Buju voice dart ‘cross me subconscious like when yuh bite down too hard pan ah tight dumpling and disturb ah raw nerve. “Over many moons…but de memories remain with de love innah me heart…Dis spot whey yuh touch, still tender and soft.” Everyting amplified, as if de van stand sink ine de wharf nearby, and me cruisin’ de seabed in dancehall scuba gear. 

‘Ms. Bougie’ puncture me scuba tank when she step out ‘Kaution’ front seat and slam de people van door so hard, de rubber frame fall off and de door swing off de hinge. She look round, and mek ah beeline fuh me.

“Government fuh ban dis slackness. Is notten but noise pollution _!”

“Aye, ease up. Gimme space please, ah beg yuh. Corona virus!”

‘Ms. Bougie’ cudn’t care less bout me Corona protest. She hah steam fuh let off and me on de spot fuh receive it. She so tall, me squash ine she chest. Me close me eyes fuh avoid two big bubby choking ‘gainst ah black lacey push up bra like dey begging fuh somebody release dem from jail. Me twist sideways and squint up in ah face packed with so much make-up, it resemble ah wattle an daub experiment. Dark shades blocking de eyes, but a sneer tek over de rouge up mouth. 

“Yuh fresh and bright with yuh flat chest!”  She spit out de words as if she cud see how me feel ‘bout she. Me strugglin’ fuh recall whey me hear dem exact words before.  

De people by de stalls sniff comess pan de breeze. Dem congregate round we like sour flies round sugar. Me gut on fire, and me not sure if is becaz me bladder boilin’ over or if is ah question simmerin’ in me belly like blackfish oil pan low heat. De question scorch me throat, burn right cross me tongue and shot out me mouth like somebody dash water in de blackfish oil. 

“Wait! Suzette? Ah you dat?”

‘Ms. Bougie’ pull she hat low over she ears like she protecting she ears from de scalding heat ah de question. She shades fall off, she step pan it and walk ‘way without ah word. 

Buju voice booming, “A cerebral reflection. All global situation. Consequence and actions.” De conductor singing along, but he aiming de words at ‘Ms. Bougie’ retreating back like stones from a slingshot. She stop and hunch over as if actual stones connect with she spine. Me limp over fuh see if she okay, fighting hard fuh hold ine me gut. 

De conductor chanting, “Too-dee-bap, mh-mh, ay oh. Too-dee-bap, bap.”

‘Ms. Bougie’ smile. “Yes. Ah me dis,” she shake she head as if she warding off someting, “Sissy.” 

De conductor prancing like one ah dem Ding Dong Ravers Clavers, and Buju belting out, “I say, de world is changin’. Not today, nor yesterday. Everyone’s eyes are open. Dey can see clear, ooh.”

The emphasis pan Suzette last word knock out de floodgate me trying hard fuh control. Me feel warm piss running down me foot. Suzette push me like ah invalid to de public toilet by de top ah de van stand. And me searching ine me bag like ah mad woman fuh me face mask and me 99 cent hand sanitizer. Dis ah de first time me sorry fuh meself.

Anchor image: @Sanjayisthename

Lafleur Cockburn is a Vincentian writer studying and residing in Barbados. She uses her journal entries as catalyst for her pieces. Her work was shortlisted for the 2020 BCLF Elizabeth Nunez Award for Writers in the Caribbean, and is found in POUI: Cave Hill Journal of Creative Writing, and Intersect – an Antiguan based feminist, ‘queeribbean’ online space. She is the founder of ‘The Nucleus’, a Vincentian women-writers’ group, and ‘Vincy Writers’, a social media platform aimed at connecting local Vincentian writers with those in the diaspora. Lafleur has one son, from whom she is determined to glean enough secrets to write a novel about the Caribbean male teenager. 

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