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  • Here I was. My brothers were five and six years older than I and so I was often roaming around the housing area, looking for them because I wanted to play with them; but surly they had friends their own age and I was not particularly welcomed around all the boys. They used to try chasing me, "Go home! You can't see only boys here?" I was actually always hungry and they could make chow. Chow is when you dice a half ripened fruit (usually mango) and add salt, scotch bonnet, garlic, chadon beni (Thai Corriander), bitters....anything to make it salty and hot. Of course, they ate all the chow and gave me the juice left over, to drink. Now, if you're not careful with that, you can get a good purge...wherever you are. I'm not just saying this. I KNOW.

    I was very fond of the family directly across from us and the daughters and I got along really well. They would come roaming with me but I was less supervised than they. They had a curfew and I did too, but not as stringent as theirs. We must have been around seven years old.
    We would go down to the main drain that ran along the side of the houses. Half of it was paved and I knew that drain like the back of my hand. It was approximately one metre deep with sloping concrete sides. Although it was steep, if you ran along the sides quickly enough, the force kept you from falling to the centre. We would run down in the drain for hours. The unpaved half of the drain was home to many, tiny fish and we would sometimes bag them and take them home.

    One day there were fish and the next day, they were all dead.

    One of our neighbours started a business in his garage. Red mango, red cherries and red plums. They were preserved with salt, sugar, whatever other savoury additives and lots of red colouring. Man I loved that stuff! The fish did not. The excess of what he was marinating the fruits in was expelled into the main drain. We saw the red dye flushing out from the side of his house. The grass became bleached and all the fishes died. I wondered then, what it must be doing to our insides.

    The top of the drain was lined with almond trees and they provided much needed shade in the hot Caribbean temperatures. On the other side of the road, there was a lot of hibiscus. Hummingbirds really like hibiscus. People go "Ooooh and ahhhhh" when I mention hummingbirds. It's such an exotic creature to Europeans. It was the norm for me. They were everywhere. Now I miss them. Here I see pigeons with clubbed feet.

    My neighbours all knew me. Although I roamed, I did spend most of my time on my street in nearly all of my neighbours' homes. I always made sure to be hanging around when I knew they were about to have lunch or dinner. I never went without food. In Trinidad, you are everyone's child. The old Chinese lady in the corner house used to wait by her gate for me to come running by and call me in for ice-cream. I really wept when she died. I was a carefree child. I hated to comb my hair, did not shower regularly, always smelt of pee and always had lice. I did not like clothes, I owned three dresses which I all despised because I climbed a lot and it just wasn't practical to wear a dress. I wore mainly shorts or just a vest and a panty. I forgot the panty one day though and I can vividly remember Miss Joseph screaming at me, "Go home and put on a panty!"
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