Conversation between the people in my neighborhood featuring the old Haitian woman and the rowdy neighborhood kids.
It was one of those days, hot and humid. One of those days when everyone’s temper was as hot as the weather. Everyone, including the old Haitian woman in her home that reached temperatures of over a hundred degrees. She decided to get up to get a glass of water. On her way there, she stopped in front of a painting by Haitian artist Levoy Exil, a pointillist depiction of golden suns that reminded her of her home in Haiti. It was so different from her current life. She often complained of the terrible food, the cold winters. The dirty Atlantic Ocean and the crazy Americans who thought guns were cool and governments were trustworthy.
As she stared, she heard a crash in the street and ran to go see what it was. She grabbed her broomstick as she opened the door and a paper airplane landed by her feet. She looked up and saw the neighborhood boys playing around.
“You betta stop make noise and throw garbage in front of my door”, yelled the old Haitian woman in her thick accent, at her front door waving her broomstick. She had brown leathery skin that creased on her face.
“Well, yeah what you gonna do about it?” Yelled back one of the rowdy teenagers. He smirked at his friends who encouraged his insubordinate behavior by laughing.
“I gonna call police on you all and send you back to Haiti”, The old woman yelled back, still waving the heavy broomstick in hand while making a kicking motion to show what she meant.
The Haitian boys curled up in laughter and could barely take her seriously. ”Old woman, you are crazy. The boys had quieted and proceeded to ignore her completely. The boys dodged. Something came flying at them. A shoe. A Chinese slipper.
She continued speaking, “ Si nou te alle leglise no pata konsa. If you went to church you no act like this. You need Jezu to clean your souls. It is dirty, like the streets. Instead of church, you are out here the streets like the scum of the Earth. You are lost boys.”
“We ain’t no lost boys, this ain’t Neverland” yelled back one of the boys. He smiled because he was proud of his joke, the others high-fived and rubbed his shoulders as if he were getting ready for a boxing match and not speaking to an old woman. The old woman ignored their comments and continued, “Yes, lost boys. Paran ou vini nan peyi sa. Your parents came so you coud have betta life, but you let this country ruin you. You let the devil tik you. You let it tik you and make you part of its dirt. ” She spits on the ground.
“I know, you wanna be like thugs on the TV. You know where you are heading, South like this paper airplane of yours.” She wags her fingers at them.
“Ebyen. You end up Penn Station, like them bum, lowlife, criminal.” The boys yell at her to shut up.
“You need to be more like my son, he is a professor at a university in Chicago.” Because of this, the woman thought that the Chicago was the epitome of intelligence. “Man, ain’t nobody wanna go to Chicago. That’s the ghetto.”
“You ghetto.” The woman’s eyes grow large upon hearing the insult on her son’s job. This is not your culture, this is not who you are. Not your culture. It’s not how your mamam raised you. You look stupid. Stupid, stupid that what you are. Stop. Before you ruin life for yourselves. Go home. Alle”, she yelled. The boys stood shuffling around, not knowing what to say.
Finally, one said “Bruh, you understand what she said. Maybe we should deport her to an ESL class.” The boys curled in laughter. “Go home”, she growled again. She started to chase the boys with her broomstick. She may have been old but she was not weak. She threatened to beat them with it.
As soon as they realized how angry she was, their laughter turned to cries of fear.
“I am gonna tell your mother what you said to me and then we will see.” She threw her broomstick at the boys. It cracked at the heels of the boys as they ran away. But one, the youngest, stayed scared out of his mind repeating “And yes I said yes I will Yes, go home” But never did. He stood there all night. Until he was shipped to Haiti like he was promised.
-Laissa (Currently reading Man on Wire by Phillipe Petit)