Living in Guyana is like living in the end times. I’m in the front seat of the bus and the driver’s driving like he’s mad, as usual, like all the rest. Nevermind that it’s night time. Nevermind the bicyclists. Nevermind the dogs. Nevermind the pedestrians. I don’t even bother with a seatbelt anymore. I am strangely calm. I feel high even before I leave the house. I haven’t smoked or drank anything except for the ‘herbal’ blend of juice that the man at the shop down the street gave to us for free, to sample. It was sage and lime, he said. Sage and lime. Yes, I tasted that. As well as too much sugar. But who knows what else. I welcome the feeling.
I don’t always feel like going to read with the children. Truth be told, most of the time I I don’t even want to leave the house, much less my bed/hammock. Leaving means bathing, dressing semi-respectably, dealing with other people. I know what depression is. It’s a gray cloud hanging over your head for days at a time, a leaden weight pulling down your shoulders and slowing your feet. It’s an emptiness, a hollowness. It’s an inability to connect with people, to maintain happiness, relationships, balance. This is my normal state of being- if normal means how you are most of the time. Some days are better than others, easier to cope. Other times, not so much.
I don’t remember why but I didn’t go to the drop in center last Thursday. I think I had to go somewhere in the morning and dealing with whatever I had to deal with then wore me out and so I just came home and lay down afterwards. But then on Saturday a little girl said that she missed us on Thursday, that she was looking out for us. Why didn’t we come, she asked. Then I felt bad, like I had let her down. She had been looking out for us. She missed us when we didn’t show up. Nobody else said anything, but one was enough. Then, at the gate, when we were leaving, a little boy begged “Bring poetry next time miss.” Poetry! Wth! Did I hear right? He repeated it. He wants poetry! I am blown away. Ok, so I have to come back on Thursday, and I have to bring poetry.
Also at the drop in center today- one of the staff members- one I don’t like because she’s always shouting harshly at the children- asks me when is the next APNU rally. I dunno why she’s asking me. I don’t know, I tell her. I wonder if the politicians tell people to stop hollering and beating children if she’ll stop.
The stray dogs on the street are now my new best friends. I cannot pass without them jumping up and following me home. If I’m going to town, they walk and wait with me until the bus comes. At least now Mama Sita’s filled out; she’s no longer a walking skeleton, and her fur has grown back in, so she looks much better, no longer scabby and sorey. Most days, the only thing in my refrigerator is dog food. They don’t like the dry chow I offer, preferring rice and meat instead. So I, vegetarian for 2 decades, go to the butcher in stabroek market for the first time, holding my breath and trying to avoid the flying bits. I buy liver and cook it in an old frying pan which then becomes the dog food pan. It is segregated and stuck under the sink after I finish, until the next time. Feeding the cat and dogs is often what gets me out of bed/the house most days.
I see (one of) my junkie “friends” as I walk to the bus park. It’s the first time I’ve seen him all year. Every time I see him, he looks worse and worse. He was in the hospital for 3 weeks in February he tells me. Somebody broke several of his ribs and injured his knee. He’s trying to exercise it to make sure it heals properly. But he’s still on the coke. He asks me for a pen and paper and writes a note to his grandmother in Canada. He writes her phone number from memory and asks me to deliver the message please. Then he asks me for money. He never asked me for money before. I usually ask him if he wants something to eat or drink and he usually asks for a small coke or $60 lemonade. But this time he asks me for money. When I was looking for the paper to give him to write the note, I found a $500 bill in the back pocket of my jeans. I hadn’t known it was there. Now, I could use that $500. I could buy phone credit with it, or some lunch a day. That’s several days bus fare, or a Guinness and a GT beer at the corner shop. Tomorrow is the first of the month and I have to pay rent. When I looked at my money yesterday, I was shocked. Where was the rest of it? I thought there was more.. Where did it go? I have no idea. Did I hide it from myself and now I just can’t remember where? Haha. But it’s night time, late and dark and we’re not close to anybody selling food or drink. I give him the $500 and ask him what he’s going to do with it, if he’s going to buy cocaine with it.
Earlier that night, I’d seen a girl who had gotten busted at the airport a few months ago for trying to fetch cocaine to America. She was wearing a gold sequin dress and smiling brightly. I don’t know what happened to her case but she was walking free now, with a bright smile and loud gold sequin dress. I’m scared of people, my junkie friend confides to me. I say goodbye then, and hurry home. The closeness between us scares me.
I’m drinking the tequila straight from the bottle these days. Straight, no chaser. There is a dead cockroach in a corner, courtesy of Pumpkin. The TV is on upstairs, as usual; loud and aggravating. We have a picket tomorrow. It’s April Fools Day. It’s also Sexual Violence Awareness Month. They gave me an award today- Advocate of the year. I’m glad Hicken didn’t show up to the event like he said he might. Politics, G, says, gotta play it. Not me; y’all try deh. I can’t picket outside your office one day and socialize with you the next. A lot of people are wearing green. Somebody jokes about getting a transgendered president one day. I wonder if the politicians tell people to stop hating gay and trans folks, bullying and tormenting them in school and the streets, to give them jobs so that so many won’t have to resort to selling their bodies late night on the road where unhinged people stab and shoot at them, if they will, if families will stop throwing their lesbian, gay, bi, and trans children out of their homes, will stop preaching at them to become ‘normal’, if the teachers and religious leaders will stop teaching and preaching hate.. If, if, if. Visibility is reality someone says. Yes. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people have always been around in the world. Deny or try to hide that fact all you want but it remains a fact. And remain in society we will, no matter how many of us you abuse or kill. The girls are dressed to the nines tonight, exuberant and gorgeous. Don’t any of you commit suicide, said another longtime advocate from the podium. Haha. But there’s a funeral on Thursday- a young 19yr old gay/trans who drank poison after breaking up with his lover. The funeral is Thursday. Depression. Abuse. Suicide. That’s also reality. But tonight we eat, drink, and are merry. Well, eat and drink anyway.