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Tea Time



I wanted to talk to you about the evolution of mankind, but you, you have this natural obsession with the evolution of me.

“I don’t like who you’ve become.” It’s not meant to be mean, but it stings.

I don’t like who I have been. This is not something you can or want to understand.

At a loss for words, I swing my legs to gain momentum and swivel around top speed on our rickety kitchen stool. Annoyed and slightly – only slightly – amused you bang your fist on the counter. I watch the deep lines that have burrowed into the brown of your knuckles in the years since I left disappear with the balling of your hand. In my dreams we are ageless. My hand small, yours large. Today we shape shift.

“Stop making such a ruckus.”

I halt mid-flight, smile, and take a sip of the insipid imported tea you bought for me the day before I arrived. You say you no longer know what I like. You lower your mug from your lips to speak and release warm, sweet mint. Mint picked earlier from the little half- dead bush beneath our kitchen window.

I am jealous. I love mint. This you have always known.

You know me best of all, I know you better than most.

You are different, you want to tell me, and it’s hard because we were once the same, but you only smile, that is our way. A language of time, of feeling. Beyond words.

“It is not good to be angry. You mustn’t let anger consume you.” You speak.

I want to scream. I smile. “But a person needs to feel.” My words snap. Bite. I am clinically analytical. Always.

A break.

One must keep a reasonable distance.

I learnt this from you along with everything else.

Somewhere between my name and its meaning, tracing letters and folding clothes, holding a fork and seasoning chicken was a lesson in the ways of our world.

Suppressed emotions are unhealthy.

“If people would talk about their problems, we would have less war, less crime. If we weren’t so scared of crying maybe, we would cry a little less. It’s ok to be angry if we make productive use of our anger, we have so much to be angry about. We’ve been oppressed and disenfranchised, and beaten and dragged down and we sit here, quiet, reserved, respectable, more concerned about food than freedom, respectability than peace….”

I am well into my idealistic, intellectual rant, I analyze and, of course, criticize. I throw my hands up in the air and fling my head back, shaking vigorously like you wouldn’t hear me if my whole body didn’t speak.

You stir and sip, stir and sip your sweet mint tea.

I feel like I am losing you, but I do not stop. Speaking up is my new thing. You are annoyed yet intrigued. You smile.


I feel like I am losing you. I watch you shake lose the new hairstyle I do not like, and I say nothing. I am quiet because I dread the lecture, quiet because I do not want to discourage you. I want you to be strong.

“Why is it that we have such a problem with appearing weak? With emotion and passion, that may be our only salvation.”

You think about people. You always have. I admire this about you. I say nothing. sip, listen. You keep going on your breathless spiel, something about weakness and power, black and white, consciousness and fear, sadness and joy, stunted emotions, inhibitions, retardation of revolution, opiate of the masses. You have begun to fidget again, launching off the counter with your arms, making half circles on that unsteady chair. I worry your passion will engulf you. I am scared.

“Jesus wept.” I interrupt.

“What did you say?”

“Emotion. Jesus. He wept.”

“I know.”



I expected this. Simple. Profound. I am frustrated, intrigued, and comfortable. Home. I smile.

There is so much I want to tell you, but knowledge has made me quiet. Why waste breath on words, when life is so scarce?

You, home makes me fearful. I pray you stay away, fighting elaborate battles, I do not want you here crippled by war. I pray for distance. I pray you loud. I pray you strong. I pray you safe. I pray you speaking.

There is so much I want to say, but my mouth is full of all the wrong flavours, all the wrong words. I cannot tell you all I want you to know.

You, home makes me fearful. I dread the loud midnight ringing of the phone. Quiet voices, measured words that disappear into sorries and dialtone. Your prayers are no match for desperation.

I give the chair one last, forceful spin and you grab at my hand.

I hold your hand to stop your fall. It still fits in mine. I stare at you in awe.

You smile then pull back to gulp the last of your tea. Your face begins to contort and you manage to stop it just before it reverts to a four-year old’s yuck. I chuckle. You smile. You thoughtfully/absentmindedly drum your nails on the kitchen counter. I copy. We laugh.

This is an old game. You lay your hand over mine.

“You know what time it is? I can’t sit here dilly-dallying with you all night long. Up, up, up.”

I place a foot firmly on the ground.

“Come on, let’s go. Read your Bible, say your prayers, go to bed. You do, do you, you do still pray?”

I shuffle, I stumble, I smile.

Traci-Ann Wint is an Assistant Professor of Africana Studies at Smith College. She holds a PhD in African and African Diaspora Studies and an MA in Anthropology both from The University of Texas at Austin. Her essays and poetry on race, the Caribbean, tourism, feminist activism, and popular media have appeared in Small Axe, PREE, and the Feminist Wire amongst others. She is from Kingston, Jamaica.
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