THEY WAIT WITHOUT HATE
WHY THE HOSTILITY TOWARDS ME - WE'VE NOT MET BEFORE?
(This dramatic piece, with multi-media video footages projected
on stage screens, is told through Gede The Narrator playing all parts
and speaking as narrator and in character as Topaz.)
Gede The Narrator:
Topaz peers out into the bowel of darkness in the courtroom, carelessly
answering the Prosecutor's questions.
" i never knew guns were so cold" she says to herself.
Fact is, i never touched a gun before i got here. Now, every time i climb-up
the Minister's jeep, the idea of sitting on a gun comes to me. Wouldn't
be too swift to blow my butt off by accident. At least not before i've
had them children i keep thinking of lately."
The Narrator: The verdict, it's unanimous. Ms. Topaz is deemed
insane. Sent to an asylum.
Three years have past since Topaz's dark October night. She sits in her
bright bed. She can't forget or disconnect. Every time her U.S.-born sons
and daughters come to visit from their suburban white schools with stories
of hurts and harms. She goes, "Hah! You think it’s hard. Try
admitting to being Haitian, woman, Black
woman, Pitit Ginen, Desalin's descendant."
The scared and baffled kids can't decipher the thread of thoughts as she
hurls the words at them:
"Large chunks were eaten out of me. it didn't matter where i was.
it followed me. in the hallways at the U.S. Embassy. At the Ministry.
At my hotel or at the National Palace. i felt like i had had a bad accident
which left me stranded on foot in the wrong neighborhood, at a late hour
and Johns in dark vans and foreign limousines were slowing down to look
or wave me in while i was doing my very best to emit a take charge attitude.
Walking faster. Trying to find a phone to call for help.
No one ever touched me. But i still
Old scars dehumanizing Black women as hot tails opened when i moved too
quickly or thought too deeply.
New hurts held me back.
i was living the Outcast's ancient history...
i was as absorbed by the mental landscape as all the dusky Sallies. All
the proprietresses of shadowy, secret, sensual corridors, who've gone
before me. Nanny, domestic, whore, mistress...the first targets, scapegoats,
surrogates...welfare queens, quota queens, malevolent ball-busters, unclean
tramps. Oh, let's not forget your all-time favorite: the overloaded, over
churched, ever-suffering mammy mother.”
Gede The Narrator: All of Topaz's visitors go away.
She sits alone.
Last night, she imagined herself at a lecture hall. She is anxious and
reluctant to tell her story. To reveal herself to strangers who may want
to listen. She is right in the middle of her morning basket weaving class
with society’s other outcasts. But Topaz imagines herself pacing
back and fort. Network cameras gobbling up her tale. Still, she pauses
to tidy up. Looks at her invisible listeners. But they are frozen sculptures
etched into a hospital wall. Still she stops at every seat touching, but
"Come," she says tenderly to a woman who lost her marbles long
ago. "Come, glide up into my heart, slide down my blood, and yes,
open a vein before the appointed autopsy hour. There it is. A luminous
time, six months after Aristide's return. The time i got to Haiti, when
no more dead bodies laid about.
There i am in Haiti. Basking
under guns and pills and booze furrowing old paths, touching and enhancing
even my most intimate moments, stimulating feelings of wariness and
inchoate fears. Feel its shivering, frigid stench. it was as a foul
frosty breath against my skin, pulling at my nipples whenever i passed
closed to or touched an "International" at a meeting, even
if He wore no bulging holster.
You remember don't you, colder-than-winter Mzz White Career Chick? She
was there too. in Haiti. With Mr. Western "Culture.
i stared. Caught in an unmerciless imperial glare. Took a bubble bath
in it. i absorbed the brutality. The adversarialness of it seeped through
the millions of pores in my skin as easily as aromatic chemicals, the
essential oils found in plants, would enter my system, and it changed
me. i shredded my gentle, non-violent sensibilities. i internalized
the terror behind the guns 'n guards. Absorbed by it. i wanted to crush
something. To burn. To kill, kill, kill something. But right before
(Multiple-media effects and video screen reflections.
Topaz stands still. Watches her many parts on screen. We see how slowly
Topaz moves around the edge of the shadows in her mind. She peers out
towards the drooling woman. Then walks backwards towards her seat. In
her mind she is back in the courtroom. A judge sits high up by her in
the witness stand. Topaz alternates from talking to him, an invisible
prosecutor and the drooling woman and her small children who don't visit
"Oh yeah, let's see now. Right before i fell" Topaz says,
while dancing the Nago dance she'd learned to do at her mother's knee.
Out of breath she continues. "Right before i fell, i did the nimble
manbo's Petwo dance. Like at a Vodun ceremony. Practicing, practicing.
Dramatizing my protest low to the ground. So i wouldn't stumble twice
when the next time came to
slit, slice and cut.”
(Then Topaz, as if remembering something, makes a slight movement. Her
look goes further inward. Again, she touches the long working table
of the hospital weavers. Seeing a desk. Her tortured mind illuminates
the desk with piles of weapons: Uzis, rifles, handguns, curved machetes,
bottles of booze and pipes and vials of drugs. Topaz doesn't seem to
understand no one, but her, sees these things.)
Gede the Narrator: Uhmmm, the rare scholar?
in the room, on a George Soros fellow, documenting the plight of Black
women who get mandatory sentences accidentally caught Topaz's monologue
and tape recorded it for posterity. Yeah! That's how i got to hear Topaz's
"Perhaps you too would have disassembled. Gotten mean," she
shouts. "Warmth and balance were hard to come by. Thick minds and
thick heat easier to find. One nightclub i went to had a guy with a
rifle sitting outside in the shadows of the moonlit sky and a guy sitting
inside in visible sight, tapping his feet to the music, eyes spaced
out, long rifle at the ready.
As the months went by in Haiti, i would see more and more private guns,
silently ever present. Like cold
hard Haitian machetes."
Gede the Narrator: At this juncture all who lived to
be interviewed twenty years later said that Topaz picked up a broom
thinking it a machete, swinging it wildly.
"See this rusting machete," she is recorded saying, "it's
my grandfathers. But Haitian weapons were microscopic in comparison
to our Superpower's combined ideological and steel guns going
Ra...tatatatatatata ta ta ta. Ra...tatatatatatata tata ta, Ra tatatatata
ta... eating away at the Island like it was an avocado or mango."
(Topaz puts down the machete. Picks up a rifle. to the onlookers,
it's a duster with a long handle.)
"Aiiiiihhh..." her breathy voice exhales, "the bouquet
of heavy cynicism drifted down on the Island and on Fridays at the El
Rancho, U.S. and U.N. tanks would further accent the mental curriculum
being re-taught by filling the air with their show of force rounds.
Here. Take this Uzi, take this automatic. Hear it. Ra tatata tata
ta. Shots would ring out, mixed with alcohol, drugs, tropical music
and midnight partying. Can you dance with me? Ra tatata tata ta.
Quick as furtive lust. Faster than the darting Haitian green lizards.
Ra tatata tata ta the big UN and US guns would go. Grasping, cocky,
lonely, overdosing on skinny and huge mango-butt Haiti Venuses walking
the traditional trails alongside the major hotel corridors.
Wait. You wanna know what the foreign bureaucrats were doing all this
i'm embarrassed to say...
They would plummet themselves too. into Haitian soil. Ramming
like the heavy green caterpillar tanks
carrying U.S. firepower. But they did it on the sly. Behind their protocols.
Without fanfare and as silently as the yellow polka dot butterflies
flitting ever about.
Me good gentlemen would be all puffed up, stoic and properly detached
at my meetings and then discombobulated at night.
in broad daylight i saw how they kept turf.
it wasn't about love but domination. it was about constructing 'ol walls
and manufactured conflicts."
(Facsimiles of the Statue of Liberty, soldiers and various women
appear on stage and the video screens. Topaz puts a crown of thorns
on her head. Touches herself as if she's the Statue of Liberty, saying:)
"i hold the flitting silence
in my cupped hands. i look at you. Waiting for your answer to what i've
just said. But you haven't heard me."
(Topaz moves towards the freeze-framed witless women in the room,
touching, shaking them as if they were the soldiers and motionless Internationals,
"Have dollar, will buy," was the tipsy U.N. and U.S. soldier's
baroom cry. Many times surreptitiously casting an eye in my corner.
Yeah right. As if!
i, a peasant Black girl, even i thought one of us was in denial. The
other in truth.
i longed to fill my eyes in you. But it was filled already with the
acid Silence erasing my presence. So,
every month when my wall folds down my underwear. Ancestral blood.
Rivers to oceans, flowing libation, waters to source. i don't tell you
how natural it is for me to break down walls. i keep my secret.
Just as i did on those alcohol-soaked weekends, when wearing my sundresses
with the wildflower prints on. Or, geared up in my white muslin dress
billowing gauzily in the gentle balmy tropical breeze, i would sit by
the El Rancho pool, sipping slowly at lemonade. Sometimes ordering a
five-star Barbancourt rum. Straight up. No ice. Swirling it around.
i knew why with all the guns around, no US gun was protecting the unarmed
civilian population. Why the Haitian courts were not functioning. Why
the Bush coup d'etat survivors couldn't exhale productively within the
bounds of civilized behavior.
i new why it was that within six-months of Aristide's return, the killing
and psychic injury was again supernaturally senseless. But that wouldn't
make front-page news. We are tired, tired of them people!
Within a year, the flashes of criminal activities were paralyzing. The
new Haitian cops themselves were ill trained and understaffed.
What with New York policemen going down there to train them.
And U.S. Embassy insisting and battling with the restored government
about integrating Coup d'etat men into the new police force!?
That's why these newly professionalized-by-the-U.S Haitian
law enforcement personnel would, within that year after Aristide's return,
be charged with crimes against the very people they were supposed to
be protecting. Drug kingpins with dollars 'n guns shaking down desperate,
drug-hypnotized, poor civilians under the color of government sanctions.
Sounds familiar huh?
Yep. it’s been Guiliani time in Haiti for awhile now. And even
if survivors knew their assailants, there was no use bringing complaints
to a court house that was shut. Or for that matter, to a Minister of
Justice acutely busy in round-the-clock meetings with the Internationals,
committed? to reform things!
i tell you, i would prefer, right at this moment, the heavy wool of
suburban amnesia. The banality of living the life of a bougie-bunny
obsessed with her nails, hair and lovers rather than the telling of
this acerbic tale. 'Cept a woman who looks like my mama waits for me
outside Palace doors.
to part 2
© 1998 by Ezili Dantò.
All rights reserved. You may not copy, re-post or publish, in any manner,
without the copyright owner's written permission.