Letting Go

From 20 feet away, I saw her looking out her front window, as usual, with folded arms resting on the sill and cradling her head.

I exhaled. Ella was asleep, so I moved stealthily. Good morning“, I heard as soon as I was within her line of vision.

“Good morning Miss Ella,” I replied muttering under my breath, “you have inbuilt motion sensors?”

“What?” she asked.

“I was saying, ‘everyone is fine at home, thank you.” I’d planned to add that to my greeting since she normally asked about my family and while I was replying, she would search for another topic to lengthen our conversation.

I quickened my pace hoping to be out of earshot before her 89-year old brain could react but she was fast.

“Not going to church this morning? I will tell the priest you are off to do the devil’s business,” she chuckled.

“No service this morning,” I replied. Time was ticking on my full schedule while her only chore was trapping passers-by into long conversations but I couldn’t ignore a lonely old lady dressed in her Sunday best on Tuesday.

“Senility isn’t wrecking my brain; it’s loneliness,” she said “old age is a bitch. Eat, drink, look out this window; that’s who I’ve become. No one to chat with, unless someone like you pass by and spare a minute with an old bird.”

My head dropped in shame. I left an hour later, my soul at peace but my schedule wrecked and my heart broken from looking deep inside old age.

She’d spoken with pride about being able, as a single mother, to pay her children’s fare so they could migrate to jobs in London during the 1950’s. They send me money now but I need to feel loved, she’d said, her eyes filled with tears.

“Was I right to let them go? ”

P.S. I wrote this partially true story for the trifecta which challenged writers to produce a story of between 33 and 333 words using the word ‘bitch’ defined as “something that is extremely difficult, objectionable, or unpleasant”. 

Should I have cut my story at three paragraphs before the end and add more words conveying feeling earlier? Or would that be over done? Please tell me?

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Can’t toot my blog horn, ‘till it gets a hate button

“Why do you blog?” Avram asked. “Is it because you’re out-of work, you’re a rejected journalist?’

That got me pissed so I let my temper fly. I ranted:  “Blogging is better than journalism, if you subtract the monetary gain. Toot. Toot, it gives a horn to toot even if you don’t want to toot it for me.”

A hunting horn in Eb with a Bb stopping ventil...

A hunting horn in Eb with a Bb stopping ventil/ Cor de chasse en Mi bémol (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

People from Panama, Vietnam, de North Pole,  de South Pole, people that never know I cud write a sentence when I did a journalist, read me.“Numba two, no blog readers doan search for my phone numba and call me cursing me stink, stink; telling me ‘bout my muddah, doan mine they never see she.

“Numba 3, business people and politicans doan call my boss and say I should write ‘xyz’ like they in my mind or is my intellect.  Nobody doan fume to higher-ups: ‘I am pulling my ads because she wrote such and such…’ Nothing so, buddy!

“It add up to I get likes from readers, I is a boss analyst, a boss writer, a boss story teller. I don’t get no hate,” I tooted.

“Likes? What likes you talking bout you does get muff hates,” Avram said. She started she own rant:

“I check out your site and muff people visit but the foolishness you write left dem speechless, you doan see they doan say a word in the ‘leave a comment’ slot. More to besides one day 47 people visit you and only one click ‘like’ dat is 46 or more than 99 per cent that hate the dribble you write.”

That one floored me, I failing as a blogger, so I try to comfort myself by boasting that I getting traffic cause most of the tings the WordPress people say about increasing traffic I have covered.

“Covered what?’ Avram said “you minding dem wordpress people and ‘blog-napping’ people by hooking your blog to their Facebook accounts. Traffic? They ain’t even reading you if not your followers would equal or be more than your Facebook friends.

“And when it get to following de Daily Prompt, half of them outside your league, you can’t respond. Like today, they tell you to “toot your horn” what horn? Horn about likes? Horn about traffic? Your horn hoarse, girl! De only horn you ever had is a Bajan horn. Ha! Ha!”

(In Barbados, a person gets a horn if his or her partner is unfaithful. In Bajan parlance, we say: Mary put a horn in Tom. Translate: Mary was unfaithful to Tom. Vincentians use butt instead of horn.)

Horn Luggers

Horn Luggers (Photo credit: Randy Son Of Robert)

Self-plotted – Number 2

Diana drifted into consciousness to find George frenetically fanning her and mumbling the “Lord’s Prayer.” He was not a church goer and this was the only appeal to God, he knew.

Alternately, he’d passed a vial of smelling salts under her nose. She hated smelling salts but he felt it was exceptional at reviving people who’d fainted.

Realising she was alert, George raised his index finger to his lips  said, ‘I know’  and strolled towards the music room.

Soon the notes from the piano filled the house – harsh and violent. He was escaping, as usual. She’d married to a stranger who communicated through things.

(P.S. Remember I said I wanted to see if I have a creative writing cell within me. To do so, I am answering a challenge to write a 100 -word piece that contains, “the notes from the piano” and adding it to my earlier piece of “self-Plotted”. Tell me how you think I am doing. Criticise me, laugh at or with me but please tell me your reaction. I am listening! Thanks!)

All hail electronic friendships … down with traditional friendship

English: happy friendship day

Are you in the right group? Are you compatible with the others within your circle?

You may think the answer is ‘yes’ but suddenly you have an awakening that straightens you out. You ask yourself: financially, emotionally and intellectually, am I properly matched.

Examining yourself within that framework can be revealing. In fact, I’ve learnt that such an examination should be guided by what others think since this shapes their attitude towards you. You may consider yourself an equal but they may see you as the group’s football not purposely but because you sit on a low rung of the financial, emotional or intellectual ladder.

That is why I believe that traditional friendships that thrive on physical contact are overrated and are losing importance. An ‘electronic friendship’ is focused on the common areas between persons and the matters that are likely to cause division are downgraded in these modern ‘distant’ relationship.

Social media widens your circle of contacts, expanding areas of interests, places and races from which you can draw friends. Differences in time zones instead of reducing opportunities for relationships are now broadening them. Whether your sleep pattern classifies you as an early bird or an owl, you can tap into the computer and find someone anytime for a chat.

On a recent television programme a group of mental health experts promoted the view that social media and other digital technology tools were causing people to be more distant with each other and was therefore breeding loneliness and leading to an increase in cases of depression.

I strongly disagree.

During my recent awakening I’ve realise that my electronic friends are not interesting in things external to our common areas; and having a variety means all areas of my life are fulfilled. They encourage me and seldom put me down. Traditional friends on the other hand disappeared with negative changes in my fortunes; loss of my job, declining finances and so on.

So off, I go nurturing my electronic friends.

Self-plotted path

Daddy brushed his new suit, his heart swelling with pride.

“Get the phone and stop worshipping that ‘idol’,” his wife, Diana, chided him. Immersed in his thoughts, George didn’t hear her.

“Dana, I love you! Whatever it is, tell me.” Diana said into the phone.

“Calling from Africa?

“An epiphany?  Epiphany’s about church, something good … not this!

“Three semesters ago?”

“No degree!”

“You said you’d do WHAT?”

Painful screams pierced through George’s musing. He spun around. Diana was lying in a clumsy heap on the floor andBlack phone handset hanging on cord from the hanging telephone receiver he heard desperate, distant shouts of ‘Mum’.

(P.S.  Remember I said I wanted to see if I have a creative writing cell within me. To do so,  I am answering a challenge to write a 100 -word piece that contains, “You said you’d do WHAT?” Tell me how you think I am doing. Criticise me, laugh at or with me but please tell me your reaction. I am listening! Thanks!)

Paperless office … Ha, ha! Gotcha traitor.

Angela Aspen was willing to sacrifice her life.

“Take me instead of Princely Pine, I am softwood too,” she begged but the man in the big boots – aka Mr. Tablet Logger- consulted his handheld computer  and placed an orange neon sticker on Princely’s trunk.

What could she do? She had grown very fond of Princely. They did not share DNA nor did she have papers formalising their relationship but Princely was as much her offspring as if he had grown out of her roots like one of her many clones. She and he were joined by their hearts which were now being ripped apart by Princely’s imminent dislodgement from his spot a few feet away from the edge of her canopy which was his home all his life.

“Human beings seldom fulfil their promises, except those that lead to destruction of lives by war or by wreaking the ecosystem,” Angela Aspen cried.

Judas Hangs Himself

Judas Hangs Himself (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

She was inconsolable. Her leaves, renowned for fluttering and trembling ever since Judas Iscariot hanged himself from one of her foreparents, were now quaking out of control.

Panicky and in pain!

She had given Princely hope every time Mr. Tablet Logger passed their way. Countless times, she reassuringly told the pine that he was young and by the time he was matured enough to go to the pulp mills, the humans would have long fulfilled their promise, thanks to digital technology.

Her thoughts drifted back to the day of the promise, about three decades ago when as a sapling she felt the growing excitement and hopefulness that was sweeping through the tree farm. She knew very important news was being shared because all the trees from every family in Tucky Timberlands- the Oaks, Birches, Spruces, Pines, Firs, Larches and Hemlocks – no matter their heights or flexibility were bending sequentially to each other like sports fans doing the Mexican wave.

Angela had heard about the wave from the gigantic elders who could see into the stadium, a few miles away. They had seen jubilant soccer and cricket fans celebrating in that fashion and had practised the motion. Afterwards whenever the wind blew strong, the whole of Tucky Timberlands ‘Mexican waved’ in celebration of any event that suited their fancy, for example the change of a season or the achievement of a goal by a tree or animal.

That day in question, they were Mexican waving, unaided by wind but spurred on by a desire to spread gripping news. She wondered what could be so important.

Eventually the news wave reached Angela. She learned that the only friendly and trustworthy human beings they all knew, the nature lovers, had been talking about a new development that would lead to a paperless office. The environmentalists, who were camping in the woods, said the development was causing much talk and their peers were joining leading business and financial experts to debate the implications that night on Radio 640.1.

Bob Braden plots the future of the paperless o...

On the dot of 9:00 p.m. when the campers turned on their battery-powered radio, every tree leaned in to get the facts first-hand and they cheered at the prediction that a paperless office was only a few years away. This, they heard, would be accompanied by recycling programmes worldwide that would see used paper transformed into usable materials.

The woods erupted in thunderous applause; branches and leaves snapped, breaking away from their hosts in glee. Everyone felt suddenly free; all the other plants and all creatures in the woods resorted to their primal sounds of merriment as they joined the tumultuous rejoicing. So loud was the noise that people in the nearby towns and villages called the meteorological office asking whether a typhoon was in progress.  The humans did not address him but Bullish Birch proffered an apt reply: “Fewer trees will be destroyed, the ecosystem MUST rejoice.”

But today, sapling Angela Aspen had grown into  “Disappointed tree” Angela Aspen and yet again she was mourning loss. She bowed her top so low that like Judas she kissed the clones that look up from her roots.  It was an accidental kiss of betrayal that happened because she was so ashamed to have believed mankind’s promises. She had only done so because the environmentalists were so positive about the outcome of man’s technological inventions.

Now she wanted to give up. She had grown weary of gaining and losing companions. Oh, how she had betrayed Princely Pine and all the trees that looked up to her for advice and hope. She cried out loudly, her voice echoing in the distant: “Take me! Take me! I have gained Judas’ character, I have caught his virus.”

But the logger with the big boots and tablet ignored her pleas. He moved on to chat with a worker in green overalls who displayed the company’s logo proudly on his left breast.

Princely saw Angela’s pain and opened his branches to form a specially conduit.  Normally when the wind filtered this special intertwining of branches, a cheerful tune would fill the woods and Angela would chuckle loudly and dance. But Princely’s unhappiness was so great that his branches responded lethargically and the song that escaped was a haunting dirge. More tears slid down Angela’s bark creating a pool of loneliness, desolation and hopelessness  that covered many of her clones.

The willowy aspen was almost friendless. Over the years, saplings were planted or they sprung up; they matured, were felled and carted off to become paper, lumber or fuels. But she remained to produce clones for Tucky Timberlands. Some said she was lucky but she felt she was a Judas and today underlined the fact that she was a helpless traitor like him.

The situation was hopeless for all trees in the farm, Angel thought.  She had reached that conclusion, a few days ago when a strong wind swayed her head so she got a peek into Tucky Timberlands’ office.

It was cluttered. Several stacks of paper documents were piled high on desks. There were also scores of files filled with paper receipts, bills and contracts as well as lots of containers of pencils and pens. The volume of paper bothered her most.  She had seen more paper in that one five-second peek than she had seen in the same office many years ago when she lived next door in the  nursery as a seedling.

In addition, the aspen had overheard a nature lover lamenting that nowadays every house had a computer and printer and householders were always printing something. He had added that every person who could write a sentence was calling him or herself an author and the number of self-published books was growing exponentially. Thanks to the same technology that was the promised route to  ‘paperlessness’.

So Angela knew the inevitable was happening. Her days with Princely Pine were ending. She thought about falling on Mr Tablet-Logger, as his punishment for sending Princely to the pulp mills. The logger was no match for her; she could take him down any time.

Aspens in Autumn, Elk Mountain Ranch, COAs she considered her next move, Angela saw Mr. Tablet Logger looking intently at his computer.  “They will need fewer workers, soon,” he said.

“It says here that ‘Google and a group of other  companies are encouraging users to help the environment  while saving  time and money this year by adopting a New Year’s resolution to go  paperless’.  The Paperless Coalition, which also includes partners HelloFax, Manilla,  HelloSign, Expensify, Xero, and Fujitsu ScanSnap,  is asking users to sign an  electronic pledge to go paperless in 2013,  and invite others to do the same.”

“I know this will mean fewer of us. Demand is going to drop more than in the 2009 recession when newspaper sales fell and things looked shaky for the industry here. Fujitsu is also bringing out the latest version of their ScanSnap line. Say it will bring the paperless office closer to reality.   Fewer workers, layoffs  … ” Mr. Tablet Logger grumbled unhappily.

He looked grim and afraid, so Angela roared with laughter as she imagined him getting his comeuppance. She was so excited that she didn’t hear his companion, Tory retort: “Yes? Heard that before!”

Here it says that ‘before encouraging people to go paperless, and particularly inferring that electronic services are better for the environment, Google and others need to examine their own impacts and perhaps might reflect that, on balance, print and paper can be a sustainable way to communicate’,” Tory countered.

“It is big business against big business, you think they will ever be a paperless office?  No, not unless trees get up and form they own multinational corporations.” He put his iPhone into his back pocket and walked towards Princely armed with a chain saw.

(P.S. Hi readers… here is my attempt at writing fiction. It was motivated by the paperless announcement. Tell me what you think. Criticism will help me grow. I am listening.)

Sex on the first date, anyone? What about if I gave you a gift?

Film poster for Casual Sex? - Copyright 1988, ...

Today’s Jamaica Observer on-line forced me to recall a discussion which years ago kept several of my friends locked in discussion for many months. It seemed then that the conversations in every group – no matter the permutation- would reach the point where someone would ask: “Why women can’t have sex on the first date without someone bashing them?”

The ‘with-it’ women argued against “old-fashioned sexist ideals’ as they agitated for equal rights with men. “We are working for ourselves; we are in careers similar to men, we are independent, why can’t we screw men on the first date if it feels right.”

Those taking the moral high ground would quote the Bible only to be slapped down by others citing the very Bible as support by using the story of David and Bathsheba or other Bible heroes who had concubines.  It was usual for this Bible discussion to be doused by someone who would simply say: “Why intellectualise, if he looks hot, and I feel hot why not out each other fires.”

Of course, comments about sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies would be thrown around and these would lock horns with arguments about condoms. A winner could never be declared but this was never, I think, the point of the debates.

Dr. Sandra KnightThose views roamed through my brain as I read the passionate plea of the chairman of Jamaica’s National Family Planning Board (NFPB), Dr Sandra Knight: “… for sex to become a part of a context where it’s not a man-meet-woman-and-go-to-bed situation …
“where (Jamaicans) are thinking about (their) families, and thinking about a mate with which to have a family.”

I asked myself, how many people having casual sex are thinking about a life partner? Aren’t they either satisfying an urge or having sex for transactional reasons? To find an answer, I tried hard to remember the details of those past fierce and friendly debates that revolved around the right time to have sex. This mental search produced flashes of friends and acquaintances, who bravely confessed with smug smiles to enjoying sex-at-first encounter with someone they didn’t care to see again. It was just satisfying a primal desire.

Today, some of them are married with children and are now preaching from that moral high ground. They even scorn the ‘third date rule’ which media reports suggest that western cultures use to determine the ‘sex date’ or the appropriate time for a new couple to ‘go all the way’.

I agree that anyone who took a path, they later recognised as dangerous, is likely to encourage others to avoid that route but I believe such guidance should be laced with empathy, or it is likely to be rejected.

I can’t help but wonder whether we are too self-righteous in our approaches, to reap the full potential of our programmes.

To me, the Gleaner story is not only a Jamaica story but a Barbados story, a Caribbean story. Therefore I look at the many messages promoted by my mother’s and grandmother’s generations which were aimed at taming the sexual behaviour of the then  ‘wuffless (worthless) young people.’

These elders dished out condemnation and advice although the village held many examples of a man having two or more families at the same time: one at the house where he slept with his wife or recognised partner and one or two more in homes where he did not spend a whole night but was the chief financial and sex provider  as well as the father of several children. The ages of these children bore evidence that as one woman was hugely pregnant, he was doing his best to impregnate  one or two others.

Seeing this, the message from those older folk was hypocritical and I wondered if that affected its potency? All these things, I pondered.

In Jamaica, the 2012 HIV/AIDS Knowledge, Attitudes and Behaviour Survey showed that 53 per cent males and 23 per cent females surveyed had sex for money or gifts since the last survey in 2008.

Poverty has encouraged transactional sex; a woman would give someone ‘a piece’ in exchange for money, food or some favour needed to properly provide for her children.  I do not know the Jamaica situation intimately but in Barbados, there are now some cases of young people -boys and girls selling their bodies to buy the latest gadgets; popular brand shoes and bags. The buyers are not people of their own age but older men and women, some in church and others in dance halls. Our messages are usual towards the sellers but what about the buyers? A market need both supply and demand to flourish.

Is it about poverty? To me it is about the definition of poverty. The United Nation Development Propgramme defines poverty by income per day but under peer pressure, poor is seen as not having those things that are owned by the ‘average’ person. It is somewhere entangled in that mess of  “longing to belong” and thrives in our materialistic world, where overpriced brands and unnecessary show pieces can be used to judge a person’s worth.

We therefore need to relook our message to ensure that they are compatible with today’s realities; that when we speak we do so with sincerity and empathy.

This sincerity must lead us to target men in our programmes with as much vigour as we target women rather than to behave as if women are the only gatekeepers of our countries’ morals. I say so I note Dr. Knight’s concern that more Jamaican young women were lowering their standards to sleep with multiple males in exchange for material possessions. This statement in light of figures that show 23 per cent of women compared with 53 per cent males were having transactional sex.