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Drowning out the darkness

Sunday, March 11, 2018

On a day so crisp this week the trees in the Savannah looked like they were touched up by master painter, the light falling with elongated slants, the shade of branches dancing with the sun on the street, I remembered the photograph. It was March 2015 in England, but felt like the winter would never end.

My friends and I were huddled in coats, around a table still damp with the rain, waiting for the heating to come on, for the brandy to kick in for warmth. Unexpectedly, a friend pulled out an album. Under a tender heading underlined twice it read “Trinidad, 2000.”

Beneath, photographs of a wide, empty, sun-bright beach; two women on the beach in Maracas.

With cold hands I touched it, the blinding light, the sea ridiculously blue spreading into the sky, the crest of the wave bleached white.

Half submerged in the water two women, kneeling, one nut brown with black hair, the other blonde holding their hands in supplication to showers of the sea, their eyes half shut. You could hear the laughter just looking at their faces.

One of the women was me. The other, a friend I loved from the minute I met her.

In an instant I felt what I hadn’t before, that photo made me understand so much about Trinidadians abroad, why we adore Sam Selvon who writes about West Indians in London, why people carry heavy suitcases back to New York, filled with roti skins, pepper sauce, mixed tapes, curtain material from Charlotte street.

It made me understand why Trinis in London come together to party and how, with the heating up full blast, the kitchen warm with overflowing pelau, and the soca blasting into iron-grey cold skies.

I felt warmth. Light. Safety.

I needed to remember that photograph. Because right after that light-bathed morning, this country felt dark as hell. It’s as if I had allowed myself to be lulled into nostalgia, light that drowned out the dark.

With the memory of the light of the Savannah, of friendship, of a Trinidad I long for in the dark, I began my day.

I don’t feel special on International Women’s Day. It’s a reminder of vulnerability. Half the human race given a sliver of a day. A plea. Please, celebrate us women, cherish us, mothers, sisters, daughters, lovers, friends, dignify us. We should not have to beg for our lives.

That was the first daub of grey on my day of light.

On International Women’s Day while my awesome women friends sent me celebratory texts, I was throwing away old newspapers unable to tear my eyes away from the headlines.

‘I begged my daughter to walk away from abuse’: The woman identified as Arisa Vana David, 25, the mother of two girls—ages seven and two—was in an abusive relationship for the past seven years, relatives said.

Children tell granny after murder: WE CAN’T WAKE MUMMY!

Gardener in court for wounding wife and son: A Barrackpore man who allegedly breached a protection order and stabbed his estranged wife and son was denied bail when he appeared before a Siparia magistrate yesterday.

Between 2016 and 2017, 57,000 applications for a restraining order were made to the courts.

52 women were killed in 2017 alone. More will die this year. Many more.

Each story, remembered and present, and those I haven’t read is a daub of grey on our lives. I wanted to weep at the reductive Hallmark-type platitudinous women’s day greetings. As if we are puppies who get a day.

I think now the quality of the light that day in Maracas with my friend—its beauty is derived from the way we love, how safe we feel, how we battle the dark. I think of how much of what we feel for our country is tied up with food, kitchens, mothers, women’s bodies, as Carnival, as homecoming, as warmth. I feel a catch in my throat when I think of all the women everywhere who, faced with being objectified, marginalized, brutalized, neglected, continue to nurture and dignify the human race, remain in the light.


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