I remember the tiny boat almost like a banana boat. I remember sitting there with everyone, lanterns were instructed to be turned off, sitting there in hushed silence as we left in the midst of the night to escape the violence. Now everytime I read about the Syria and Iraq citizens escaping the massacre and destruction, trying to cross the savage sea into Europe on a boat, it takes me back to that day when I sat on a boat in hushed silence, in the dead of the night so we can escape atleast to the city for a safer haven. That single memory glows strong from my little age of 5.
There was a reason we left it all behind. I trace my memory back to when I was 13, standing there in the back yard of a house that was no longer my mother’s. All the land my parents owned, the houses that belonged to them, most signed off to family members, relatives or sold.
I see the neighbour’s hen, proudly walking, her chicks neatly in line as they weave around trees away from the stray cat that watches them and under the hole in the fence where they disappear.
Red hibiscus trees lined against the left side of the fence made of dried woven coconut leaves, beautiful red flowers waving in the light breeze that blew. A lime tree short, as you drew closer the many green small fruits can be seen hanging against the green leaves. A papaya tree but no papayas, a jack fruit tree stood tall, large prickly fruits. Ah the sweet sweet taste of a jackfruit, the yellow flesh as you ripped it apart, the stickiness it leaves behind. The wood apples can be seen high up, took me back to an image as a child, sitting there with a half cracked open woodapple it’s brown pulp mixed with sugar, mouthwatering treats. That’s what I enjoyed as a child. The delicious coconut pulp that we used to scrape and enjoy as the juice dribbled through our fingers and the toddy palms that would grow so high in the trees. Small dark in colour, similar to a coconut but smaller, the sweet jelly meat found in the centre with its pockets of bursting juice. ‘Nonku’ it was called. These were what I feasted on as a child, the treats I enjoyed. Not haribos and sherbets and chocolates. Such sweets were never heard of and chocolates were rare, unseen.
Sitting there in the moonlight on chairs out in the front yard, only two lamplights glowing in the house, the sound of the dogs barking up the uneven dark street, the whistling and buzzing of the insects in the trees, I surrendered to the peace. The excitement and adventure of this day closing to an end, thankful for the cold concrete that could be felt through the sheets I lay on, I closed my eyes picturing the stray cat with it’s half bitten ear.
To be continued