Longing to be home

Today being Carnival Tuesday the obvious choice of column for this week would be the fact that I’m not playing mas.

No racking of the brain this week, no scouring through the newspapers for a worthy issue, no anger inducing topic to make me rush to put to paper or keyboard, my thoughts and opinions. This is officially the first Carnival Monday and Tuesday that I have ever worked in my entire life. And God is my witness it will be the last Carnival Monday and Tuesday that I will ever work. It’s not as bad as thought it would be. I’m not sneaking off to the bathroom to weep copious tears into single ply toilet tissue. I’m not sitting at my desk, headphones in ears, pining away for the feeling of the hot sun pouring like liquid over my body, turning it to gold and making one’s cheaply manufactured, expensively sold costume fit for royalty.

But I did last Friday. Last Friday was terrible, a day spent in a cultural limbo that saw me snapping at co-workers who, poor things, could not understand why I couldn’t care less about office deadlines and planning submissions. They didn’t know that my body was on Trinidad time and my hands itched for the soft featheriness of plumes and the sharp edges of sequins. My hair knew it was time to be coloured and styled and I ached for a last minute lunchtime trip to Pennywise to buy matching nail polish and make up.

My body counted down the hours and the activities the phone calls throughout the day to organise rides for fetes over the weekend, the arranging of meeting points, the finalising of plans to sleep over. I almost tasted the cold Stag that would have been bought during the small lime after work as one made one’s way home to shower, change and head back out again. MSN was, and still is, of course, a virtual ghost town, with display names like "Carnival baby", "Girl power was de best" and "You don’t know what you’re missing" like tumbleweeds in cyberspace, the only indication that there was life before this last week in February. Tomorrow is, of course, the match between Trinidad and Tobago and Iceland and the lime for that has been organised from since last week. The flag has been procured but our plan to wear red T-shirts that spell "We love TT" has been waylaid as temperatures have dropped to a high of four degrees. And that’s in the day. Since the match is at 8 pm we figure it’s better to show our patriotism by wearing red scarves and hats and gloves. We had hopes of being caught on camera and having relatives call to say they saw us getting on bad in the people and them stadium but that goal seems quite unattainable now, the threat of catching pneumonia having dashed it away. So as I said, today, it’s not that bad. And tomorrow it should be okay also, the promise of being in the company of hundreds of homesick Trinis at the football match is a comfort. But, as I said before, I will not miss Carnival again. There are certain experiences in life that should not be missed and once experienced, need to be indulged in on a regular basis. The smell of ham baking on Christmas Eve night is one.

A day of driving up to the North Coast and the first glimpse of the sea breaking against the rocks in the distance and the smell of salt and sunlight is another. Doubles so hot the barra burns your hand through the grease- proof paper is a culinary delight of slightly sadistic proportions. But above all this is the sight of the stage just ahead of you, and a big truck at the side of you and your Carnival crew around you and the sky is the shade of blue you see only on postcards with nary a cloud to be seen. The man in his forties wearing only the briefs and armband for his costume passes by and wets you with the mist maker on his back and your skin sizzles — it’s that hot. The air is a strange combination of sweat and heat and horse dung and the dust dances in front your eyes as though it too is part of the frolic. And everyone scrambles to adjust cleavages, bottom pieces, suck in stomachs, twist tights back in place and reapply lipstick. And then it’s your turn next to cross the stage and the poor security personnel struggle and strain but are determined to keep the writhing, gyrating, eager bodies off stage. And the writhing, gyrating, eager bodies are just as determined to be on stage and try to duck under, break through, squeeze past and then finally, finally, when you think you can’t bear to be kept off the stage anymore, the men break ranks and hurriedly get out of the way as the bodies hurtle themselves forward in a wave more beautiful than any nature could create and become minor goddesses and gods celebrating beauty and health and life under the watchful eye of God who surely must be thanked for giving us so great an experience. Miss that again? Not for the world.

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"Longing to be home"

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