Updated: Jan 11, 2022
That is the word I would use to describe this last week. Monday we got the word that Mikal, a youth guy living just down the road from us, had been found. He had been missing since Tuesday, and his uncle and aunt thought that maybe he had gone to visit family or take care of his chickens and not told them. They couldn't get ahold of anyone in the mountain until Saturday, and that's when they really got scared and went to the police. He had been shot Tuesday by police themselves who refused to believe that he was not a thief. He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. His family is so so poor and he was their only hope. He went to school at Damier, one of the best schools around, had started a little chicken farm and invested in a soap making business with the minister in Fond Michelle and was teaching at the Mennonite school in Cazeau. So an intelligent looking young man, in dress clothes, walking home from work because he didn't have 10 cents to pay for a tap tap... Dead. And we all know it could just as easily be our family.
So we go on... My husband is driving to work, so I look around and think about how I am the richest person I can see, just because I am bumping along in a little air conditioned car with dark tinted windows. People are setting up their piles of vegatables for another day in the hot sun. A Dad pedals a bike with his 14 year old daughter sitting on the bar... All dressed up in her school uniform. People everywhere... Pushing wheelbarrows or carrying heavy loads on their heads. Then there are the professionals... Nurses, teachers... All in dress clothes... Perched on back of a moto, or maybe just walking to work thru the dirt and rocks in their high heels. We keep our eyes out for anyone we know to give them a ride. And there is Zèzè's mom, a beautiful woman in late 50s with a bright coral dress, hanging on to the back of a tap tap. My husband shakes his head... Haiti. Life shouldn't be like this.
And now I'm driving. I swerve around a cow and go thru a huge hole and around a huge pile of gravel that takes up half the road. I pass a truck tangled up in a downed power line. It starts to rain. I pass a lady in her high heels hurrying along, and I wonder how far she has to go. I know my mom in law and her friend are getting wet because I just dropped them off and they have a ways to go.
And twice every day we go past Damier. The road is black now from the tires they've been burning in protest of Mikal's death. One day it is littered with tiny glass shards from car windows broken by thrown rocks.
I walk to the boutik, thinking about how much sugar we use every day to make juice and how expensive it is. And I walk pass the pump with the children and young women there always pumping, pumping. The lady is laying on the concrete in her dark store listening to music. As she gives me the sugar, I hear a lady calling out, selling something. She has a huge wash tub full of soap and cleaning supplies on her head. I hear a whistle. "Blan, give me some money..."
At dusk I walk hand in hand with my husband thru the neighborhood, down an alley, to "Kay lanmò a" the house of death. The house is grouped with some others and we go down another tiny alley lined with potted plants and solemn faced neighbors and friends. A lady sits on a lawn chair quiet for a bit, then bursting into sobs and wails once again. Her nephew's shirt is tied around her waist. She tells us the story of that week, how Tuesday morning she felt so heavy when Mikal left that she cried and he came back and just looked at her. And then said, I'll go now. And she never saw him again. I sit beside her and hold her hand. Some young guys pass around gory pictures of the body. Another lady comes out with a bowl of grayish oatmeal porridge and everyone coaxes her to eat a few bites.
We climb a mountain... Three cars full of men and only a few of us wives... Again we are going to the house of death. In a place where Americans would build a lodge for a mountain getaway there are only scraggly horses, fat goats, skinny dogs, and chickens and ducks everywhere. Concrete buildings in various states of construction and tiny patches of corn complete the landscape. In a concrete church building filled with all of us in our Sunday best, Mikal's name is mentioned. A lady in the back bursts into wails. Three youth girls beside me lean over the bench in front, crying, and the lady behind us murmurs, "Thank you Jesus, this was your will. Help us accept it."
The sack of rice and oil for the family is in our car, so we have to bump over the last bit of road, or trail, tires spinning. We sit in front of another small concrete house. A too thin mother is sitting hunched over, her dead son's shirt wrapped around her shoulders. We sing Pass Me Not Oh Gentle Savior and I Need No Mansion Here Below. Sometimes she sings... Sometimes she cries... Other times she just sits with that look of one who cannot believe her new reality. Smoke drifts out of a tin outdoor kitchen. Oil pops. Ducks, chickens, and a scraggly dog make themselves at home. And finally there is nothing to do but leave them in their grief.
Back by the church, some sisters have prepared our lunch, and we sit under a sprawling tree, relaxing. These guys have sang together and gone on trips like this for years, and they love to hang out. On the way down, we follow a dump truck filled with scraggly horses and cows.
At 6:42 a.m. the phone rings. There are more demonstrations so we hurry and I have breakfast made and a load of laundry done by 7:27. The safer road is too blocked with traffic, so we remember the prayer we said for safety before we left home. The roads are kind of empty, but we see nothing out of the ordinary. So all day, I teach four little boys and two littler girls who get so frustrated with their work, then happily sweep my classroom and tell me about the fun weekend they're gonna have. I play kickball with them barefoot at recess, and watch them dance to the beat of the music next door. I have them beat their chests like gorillas when they solve a mental math problem, and we count by twos while doing jumping jacks and almost collapse by 100. We study flowers and insects... Learn how to put a splint on a broken bone, and are amazed at how our strong heart muscles pump blood at 100 beats per minute. And they are young enough to ask to see the pictures in story time and love singing Wrapped Up Tied Up Tangled Up and the Carasuel Song. At 4:15 we start home. I'm driving again because we're taking the other road and I need to learn it. In the back seat back seat are Mom in law and another coworker, cheering on the white girl learning to drive. My husband teases me mercilessly and I feel myself wanting to SHOW HIM I can do this. I see smoke, but they laugh at me because it's only burning trash. We pass our house, going to drop the others off, and suddenly the road is ominously empty. I want to be inside my four walls really bad. We see huge rocks in the middle of the road... Rocks that were being thrown at cars. "Just slow down," says Zèzè. And sure enough. Nothing. We soon drop the ladies off so they can take moto home, and arrive at our own gate.
I take Zèzè iced coffee and he confesses to eating three of the pumpkin muffins today. So I have two also just for good measure. And I will finish the laundry and dishes, clean the bathrooms, and deal with the huge pot of beans waiting to be made into lunches. And I am thankful for our safe yellow house... For Billy and Katie who have the yard looking quite nice... For guys that come and play basketball and drink huge pitchers of water and use my ice... For friends to wash cars with on Friday... For a joumou (pumpkin) to make soup and all manner of other good things with... For my tiny green bean plants pushing up thru the soil in a wash tub... For Kreyòl songs in the morning and English songs at night... For quiet times in the lawn chairs under the stars... Most of all for a best friend to share this life with God who walks beside us every day.