How Bad Do You Want It?4

“For you are all children of light, children of the day”

“Come here little girl come sit on my lap.”

“So when are you getting a job?”

“Joe me the girl eat nuh. “

“You think it right? This girl nuh have no job for five weeks and we have to feed her, she using up the light, and water. Inna fi we old age.” She doubted fifty-one and fifty-four would be considered old. However, knowing better, she kept quiet.

After this mini-tirade, there was absolute silence. She looked over at her step-father and wondered what happened to that jovial, playful companion she use to know. Instead, she saw before her an overall indulgent pest, who had become the boon of her existence. It seemed as if he had still not recovered from his night out last night and a bout of vomiting this morning. He looked a little green around the mouth and his eyes were still bloodshot.

“cho! raatid man. A your fault enuh man!”

She focused on the whole scene once more to realise that he had spilt the entire jug of drinks on the table, and now it was soaking into her favourite nightie. She sat transfixed as her mother scurried here and there in a vain attempt to mitigate the damage being done by the drinks. With swift and awkward movements Joe got up from his now chaotic domain. He no longer wanted to berate her for her lack of a job, his mind had moved beyond home affairs and his unfocused gaze revealed his new target. The rum bar.

“Listen this is a waste of time, I going road.”

No one responded, Tonya was still cleaning up his mess and Sophie was too familiar with this script to participate.

“The man dem waiting for me, so I will see you later.” and with that, he quickly made his escape. They both could hear the old bottle roar into life, whining and whistling down the road. “The boys”, yeah right. She knew why her step-father was so upset about her not having a job and it had nothing to do with bills. She had heard the argument that her parents had tried to suppress two nights ago. She knew that he wanted more money to floss with his friend. How convenient that he forgot that he was not the breadwinner of this family. She guessed it gave him more time to monitor their finances and devise ways how he and his many female friends could spend her mother’s money. As she watched her mother’s face crumple at his departure, she wondered why she stayed. There was nothing she could see that would attract the most desperate of women. Well, that is unless you were one of his “special female friends”. She had asked her mother why she still stayed and her mother had simply responded that it was, “too late”. A truly sad state of affairs.

“Well now him gone, we can talk”. Was her smile a little forced, her eyes a little too bright? Ah boy, she really did not want to talk but she did not want to hurt her mother’s feelings so she complied.

“Well today was okay nothing special yet, but I have some great leads, yes something good is going to happen, I can feel it, just a little longer”. Maybe if she took up all the space with her words, her mother would get distracted, or bored. But she should have known better.

“But I don’t hear anything specific. What leads? How long? These were questions Sophie could not answer, because she had no leads, except that one attached to her five thousand dollars. No concept of time either. She just wanted to go to bed. She just wanted tomorrow to come and know everything would be alright.

“Well, I have an important meeting tomorrow, but I can’t say much, so after tomorrow I will share everything. Just pray a get the job Mommy”. She hoped that kept her until tomorrow.

“Okay Mesha I will wait but don’t let what Joe say stress yuh, don’t let him frighten yuh.” Well right now her greatest motivation for getting a job was to pay back her student loan, but she also wanted to be on her own. She was tired of feeling like a beggar, like she had overstayed her welcome.

“Okay mommy, I won’t stress but I think I want an early start. So good night.” Before her mother could respond Sophie got up and left. Looking back she saw her mother, a pitiful figure bent looking down and her interwoven fingers. She felt at once connected to her mother for her reassuring presence there yet repulsed by her seeming docility when it came to the terrible treatment of her husband.

In bed Sophie could not sleep. How could she? Tomorrow seemed so far away yet so near. There was not light in the room and as she cracked her window, she realised there was also no moon. Sitting in bed, she wondered if this was a good sign. Maybe it was a new moon, with new beginnings in the horizon. Or it could be a bad omen. She knew she had to get some sleep to be prepared for what was to come. She had to be prepared for what was to come.

How Bad Do You Want It? 3

The taxi was suffocating. At any moment Sophie was sure she would pass out. Though curtains of rain terrorised the outside, inside she was burning up. Why did so many taxi drivers have dry-weather cars in a tropical climate? She knew the answer would not be forthcoming but she continued to be perplexed by this anomaly. She had been sitting in this taxi for more than half an hour before it started to rain. Now as she looked outside she saw a piece of rainbow try to attach itself to the fearsome sky. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough sun to give it the light it needed. No one else was in the car. She wondered how much longer would she sit in the boiling heat before she tried to save her life. As she contemplated this, three men approached the car and opened the doors.

” Go over pretty girl.” But this man could be her grandfather who him calling ‘pretty girl but Sophie decided to keep her mouth shut. At this they all piled in, pushing her to the corner and bringing a bit of the outside with them. They were large men. The one at the front blocked out half the view and the two in the back with her made the heat even more oppressive. Immediately they both cracked the windows, letting in some of the rain. She could not bring herself to ask them to close them back much less look at them. She suddenly felt like she was not supposed to be there, in a car with three men.

“Driver yuh nuh ready!” The impatient call of the one to her left mirrored her sentiments. After all, she had been sitting here now for more than an hour!

“One an’ ready, one an’ ready!” the deafening monotone of the driver enlightened all in the vehicle to the fact that he was not ready and if that did not alert them to this fact then certainly his pointed stare-down while he was screaming like a banshee did. It was this call of “one and ready” that had convinced her to take this taxi, along with the impending rain. Now she knew she had been duped by that promise and wondered when the taxi would leave and where that next one would go.

“Small up yuh self.” Sophia realised she was apparently preventing someone from coming into the car, but still the worrying question. Where would this person go? She did not have long to find out. Just as she realised it was yet another man, the driver revealed his intention.

“Listen, yuh might have to sit in someone’s lap”.

“Driver, she look like she ready to jump out, let we just fix up, so him can come in.” This voice of reason must have seen the horror on her face. Imagine sitting in a stranger’s lap and then having to pay full fair. A stranger’s lap! “Jesus take the wheel,” she thought, dumbfounded by this new ordeal. How did this day seem so long? Sophia was certain that if the men in the car did not kill her then the slow pace of the afternoon would. All she wanted to do was go home and have night come and done, so she could wake up and find out if she really was a big dufus. Finally, the taxi left the stand.

As the taxi sped along she became aware of being in danger. Here she was, a lone female in a car with five men. Sophia began to have visions of her broken and battered body being found, after being abused by these men. Her poor mother would be devastated! She could imagine how everyone would suffer, all because she stayed in a car with these five men. She wondered why she had to find herself in these kinds of situations. She thought of getting off before her stop when they passed people along the sidewalk. She knew that she did not want to die here, like this.

“Relax my girl, nobody won’t do you anything. Why you lookng so nervous.” His laugh was a bit too velvety smooth. She could feel the blood rush to her head suddenly and knew she was about to blackout. She tried to breathe in some fresh air but was attacked instead by the stench of garbage bubbling to the top of the open drains on Thomas Road. Everything was pressing in on her. It seemed her vision was failing her. Everything was becoming a blur and the people she now saw standing on the roadside seemed ghostlike.

“One stop driver!” She wondered if the desperation she heard in her voice was her imagination too, or was it real.

“One Stop driver!”

“Wait nuh! You want me to stop in the road or what?” Praise God, she had reached her stop. She did not care if the driver was upset, she just wanted to get out, quick. She was finally out of that car. Never again, she told herself. As Sophia went home she reflected on her near miss.

“Boy, I have to be more careful, you can never be too careful.”

“Miss. You don’t pay yeh enuh.”

Embarrassed, Sophia turned around and quickly dropped the fare in the driver’s outstretched hand whipped back around and sped off quickly toward her safe harbour. Boy, this was truly a day! As she went she wondered if this was a sign that tomorrow fortune would smile on her and bring her sunshine after the rain. tomorrow could not be worse than today.

How Bad Do You Want It? 2

I had never done anything like this before. Yes I had gotten into fights, told lies and other things too painful to give words to right now. But this! I walked away and I could not look back. I felt hot, I felt like a fool. I must have done the right thing? But who just gives a stranger their hard-earned money. Tomorrow I would know the truth and the truth shall set me up with a job or set me back my five thousand dollars.

“Lady you going to juk out mi eye”

When did she open her umbrella? She could have walked out into the road and not even noticed. Just like the sun pelting down from above her thoughts were now attacking, making her delirious with regret. This was Spanish Town, she could not afford to be distracted while walking in the streets. Looking to her left, the guck in the gutter reminded Sophie that she had to be alert to possible dangers. As her surroundings came into sharp focus, she noted all those busily going about their business and wondered if they could see the big duncebat sign flashing all over her.

“Excuse mi.” The impatience emanating from that voice reminded her that she needed to get it together. Like a beaten dog she scurried along trying to get to her taxi stand.

“Hyacinth, Haycith! Purple Hyacinth Avenue young girl?”

Why do taxi drivers always rush at you, as if you have no clue where you are going? This one turned her off immediately, looking like a criminal. The car looked even worse. She had to be careful, she thought, who she took, too many reports of women missing after taking a taxi from Hyacinth Avenue. For the hundredth time, she wondered why she had to be born in this hellhole. No that was wrong, she felt. There were good things about Spanish Town, she just felt cantankerous all of a sudden, she felt like a hedgehog in danger. What to do?

“Coming miss?” She realised she was standing at the car door. But when did she move?

“No, I not ready”. But she was, so why did she lie? Since she had already done so, she had no choice but to walk around until he left. After all, she did not want him to know she was lying! How would that look?

Now she was on Martin Street, the loneliest part of the town, adorned with old decaying buildings forgotten in the push to modernity. They stood as relics that condemned the citizens of the town for their lack of foresight and planning. However, if you look closely, beyond the ugly visage, there were flashes of past grandeur and pride lost to the hell of time. Who could believe that at one time in the country’s history, this town had been the focal point of its political, economic and social life? The square was the only area that had been successfully preserved and one could not help but admire the architectural details reminiscent of its Spanish and British heritage, the most impressive of the West Indies. But this meant nothing with it being situated in a town now at the mercy of natural and manmade disasters and most crushing of all rampant criminality. She wondered if she would be celebrating tomorrow as the ex-enslaved Africans did here in 1838 when they were finally given their emancipation. Since Sir Rodney couldn’t tell her she decided it may be safe to go back to the taxi stand.

How Bad Do You Want It?

I could feel it just behind me. Breathing down my neck. The light was so far away. I could feel the hot air and stale breath snake into my nostril, and mouth as it tried to consume me. It hypnotised me. I stumbled.

“How bad do you want it?” That was a strange question. After all, I was not looking for an opportunity. I was approached.

“Look stop frowning. I have to make sure”

“I thought you needed me more than I needed you? So why that question”

Yes, I had just left school and had this huge debt to pay back, but I was nervous. After all, there were scammers everywhere. People who sensed vulnerability and pounced. I knew I would not allow myself to become a victim.

“Look I can see that the sun a burn you, let’s go under the shade”

It was good that he suggested this because the sun was also blinding. Apart from his jaundiced skin, I could make out nothing clearly. Everything was a blur. We quickly moved to an empty spot, after all, it was lunchtime and no one wanted to be delayed.

“Well the job I have for you is a good paying job, I can help you to position yourself well to get one. You look like an intelligent girl. But this job goes fast so I would need to know today if you are interested”. His voice was a little too smooth, practised and precise. But I felt rooted.

“Listen, I know jobs are hard to get, but don’t worry, I can help you”. I did not say a word. I was trying to read the truth of his words in his diminutive stature, the hollows of his cheeks that cast a shadow and the warmth of his eyes that spoke of sincerity. Well, I started to see the possibility of authenticity.

“Alright, here is my card, I am a recruiter and I am not like them scammer bwoy. You have to tell me if you are interested because we need workers now.” Should I take the plunge? I had no connections to getting a job, my family didn’t have it like that. I would never benefit from cronyism. He seemed genuine. But –

“Listen, I am not staying too long with you but if you are interested, I need $10000 dollars for the uniform and to get you on the list but that is all. All you need to do is prepare your resume and come prepared to do an interview.” Ten thousand dollars! Now this was a scam! Surely he saw me when I left the ATM and was running a scam on me.

“$10,000 for what!?” I never hear say you have to pay for a job nowadays.

“Listen” Bwoy his voice smooth like silk. Surprising because his dirt-stained shirt hastily draped on his body indicated that he was anything but smooth. I really looked at him in the shadows but could detect no crack in his sincerity. I could not see his eyes, they were hidden behind the darkest pair of sunglasses I had ever seen. I needed a job. What should I do?

“Alright, I am interested but why do I have to buy-?”

“You wasting my time. I have been doing this for ten years now. I always recruit people to work in customs at the airport. Do you have a first degree?”


“Then you are an ideal candidate”.

” I don’t have $10,000″

“Hey wait nuh man! If not ten then five. I don’t normally do this but I will because I am not a hard man. So give me what you have now and the rest later. How that sound?” Well five better to lose than ten! It so hard to get a job, especially with those who can employee you telling you if you wait one year before you can get a job it is okay. eh, who would say such a thing, especially when I have student loan to pay back. I still don’t trust this brother.

“Now if you are interested I want you to meet me on French Street, by the Green Grocers this Friday at 10 a.m.” Well, I want to see if people this wicked. I gave him the five thousand dollars and he gave me his number. The way my hand sweating, the money seemed stuck to my palms. I hope this works because is a real fool I going to be, come Friday if him don’t turn up.

“Remember, Friday, French Street, 10 a.m. Don’t be late” With that he walked off with my precious five thousand dollars. A wave of embarrassment and trepidation overcame me as I quickly walked away. Did I make a mistake?

A Story that Needs Telling

I don’t want to do anything in desperation. I had done too many things out of desperation. For every single one of those hastily made decision, I had lived to regret them so deeply.

“Why yuh a sidung by yuself like poor ting?”

I didn’t want to answer. This would mean I am alive. Who wants to live when death is surely better? Or is it? I try to catch a little breeze. Prayed for the gentle tickles, for the mischievous ripples that would play along my bare skin. But there was only the comfort of heat, making me sticky and itchy all over. Not a single spot was overlooked. There was only the rapid tattoo of my heart and the shallow rush, in and out of each breath I took. A painful reminder that I have to get up, in spite of it all, and go on with this business of living. Yes I had to get up, even if I had to go back a bit to do so.

“Bwoy, you never learn, going ina circle always end up a di same place.”

Was that me or one of my granny’s endless lectures making an unwelcome appearance. I decided to lie back and follow that voice, wherever it led.

“Pickney, stop go ’round mi skirt, stay still!”

My world was not right. Something was wrong with this memory. I was seeing everything through lenses, topsy turvy. Obviously the cameraman was a novice.

“eediot, caah even focus on the scene.”

In a moment it shifted. There she is running in her nighty.

“Lawd have mercy pickney, go home!”