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  • I was seventeen. Seems a good age. It does not sound too innocent…at least not in the perception of the age bearer; nor is it completely juvenile. Twenty years on, I can tell you I was very much a child and four months pregnant. I was sent to the UK to have this baby because in a third world, catholic country, I would most definitely be scorned. I think my mother’s plan was really to open my eyes and see that there was much more to life than what I had now bound myself to. It worked. It was a lesson learned too late, but still a lesson learned. It was July 1992.

    I shared a house with a Brazilian, a Spaniard, two Polish girls, my brother and two Czech guys. Although it was I, from a third world Caribbean island, I could not help but find humour in electricity cutting out and having to climb and shove coins into a box to get it going again; or flushing the toilet with a chain! Everyone complained about Pole Tax and many were on the Dole.

    There was a small communal green to one side of us that was home to a family of hedgehogs and I recall my brother’s then girlfriend, screaming for bloody murder every time one would grace us with its presence. On the other side was a dis-functional family.

    One day, on my way back from the green grocers, one of the kids in that house leaned out of the window and started shouting at me, “Go home Paki!! We don’t want you here, Paki!!” I looked around a few times because, I had never experienced anything of the sort before and was bemused that she was really pointing at me. I’ve never even been to that part of the world! I look a bit Asian sometimes, but only because I’m mixed with so many races, it’s hard to tell where I could possibly be from. If there’s any type of Asian look to me, it’s actually Carib…tribal, indigenous, Amerindian from the Equatorial Region. Anyway, I burst out laughing, which then made ME look like the weirdo….laughing by myself on the pavement. She was black. The irony made it even more hilarious for me. My mother was half black and where I come from, I’ve lived with more black people than the number of times that child looked in the mirror.

    The next day, the police came and took away those kids. They must have had more shit to deal with than I imagined.

    Moving on, there was a great poster in the sitting room. I took it when I left that house. It was shocking to see the true colour of the wall paper when I removed it. Cigarette smoke really stains everything. It looked like Art Nouveau; “Brown, tea stained wall with fresh rectangular patch…WINDOW TO METROPOLIS”…or some shit like that. Today one can place that section of wall in Tate Modern and it’ll be the dog’s bollocks.

    One of the Czech guys was like the sun. One rare sunny day, I was in the kitchen. I had been in the house for a few days and had still not met all my housemates. He came in, walked straight into the kitchen, prepared himself something to eat and then went outside to the back where there were a few chairs and a table. He had the most beautiful, long, flaming red hair and I was intrigued by this creature. He said nothing to me all the while in the kitchen and I took it upon myself to follow him to where he sat and introduced myself. His returns were abrupt and I left him alone.

    The second occasion, he again was in the kitchen, this time washing up his dishes. His presence was dominant and I waited patiently by the counter to wash the apple in my hand. I think this annoyed him a bit and he stopped washing up, turned around and said, “What do you want?” I said that I just wanted to wash my apple. “Well, go ahead.” He moved aside a little, the water still running. I moved in and washed my apple and the silence in those few seconds, was the loudest I can remember. His mate in the corner of the sitting room looked at the scene before him and said something in Czech. I cannot speak Czech but I know exactly what he said. It was something to the effect of, “What the hell just happened between you two?”

    I went back to my room.
  • I am back in my room and I cling to the music I have with me. Not much, but it’s consoling. I am
    listening to Kate Bush, Pearl Jam, REM, U2 and before I left my island, one of my friends copied Edie Brickell on a cassette for me. Her song Nothing is pretty cool. I’ve discovered Enya as they are constantly playing Book of Days on the radio here. I like it very much as music reminds me of my surroundings and right now, the red head is jumping in and out of my head. Let’s call him Red. There is a rap on my bedroom door, “Anne, would you like to join us for something to eat. I’ve just made spaghetti.” It is Red and I oblige. I sit on the stool along the counter and I am incredibly shy. Why does spaghetti have to be such an unfeminine food to eat? Red notices and politely says that if it doesn’t taste good, I don’t have to eat it. I actually love it but have no experience dating. I got knocked up by my first real boyfriend. I’m really not sure what I’m supposed to do.

    Days pass and Red and I are becoming very close. We watch television in the sitting room whenever he is off from work and we do silly things like braid his hair. One evening, he falls asleep on the sofa and I kneel beside him exploring every contour of his face visually. His eyelashes are perfect and his cheeks are flushing with the warmth that sleep brings. I go to the kitchen to fetch something to drink and as I return he says, still half asleep, “Why did you leave me?” I am filled with panic for he is aware that I was kneeling beside him earlier! What can I say. “I did not leave you.” I reply, and he drifts off again….

    Days later, Red invites me for dinner. What the fuck am I going to wear? I have no proper clothes and my abdomen is growing at a pace! The two Polish girls are really fond of my motherhood and they talk to my tummy, they make me cheesecake and we giggle together because they sense that Red has a thing for me. The Spanish girl is not so welcoming. She confesses angrily that she had been hoping for weeks that Red would ask her out…instead he asks the new girl who is pregnant with someone else’s child. She brings it home right there; however, I know I have done nothing wrong. I set off to Pimlico with directions to the restaurant. I will meet him there. I step into Brahm’s and I give the bar girl Red’s name, she shows me into the kitchen, down some steep stairs. I am confused at this point, for I thought we were having dinner the conventional way. He’s a chef in a restaurant and his boss is away and so Red decided to invite me into his kitchen where he and his co-worker lay a table for me, rose and all, and serve me a three course meal. I have never been treated like this before. It is most romantic and I want to cry because I am with child and my thoughts return to my mother. Is this her lesson?
  • Things seem to be spiraling downward. I spend a lot of time in the sitting room, for sharing a room with my brother is not easy…especially when the girlfriend is over. I watch television with Red and we switch it off and freeze every time a shadow passes too slowly by the window. Apparently you need a license to have a television here. What the hell. I am embarrassed because my brother’s girlfriend is quite, hmm, vocal and so is the bird who visits the Brazilian. I am pregnant and they pronounce how I got this way.

    They’re having a house party tonight. I will stay in my room. It’s inconvenient because I prefer the toilet upstairs and I know it will be frequented. The one next to my room is built too high and I can barely climb onto the seat. It’s so stupid haha…my legs dangling…like the child that I am. I am a child. I give up and decide to fight my way through to the loo upstairs and someone does the unthinkable, “Oh my gosh, you’re pregnant!!” And promptly rests her hand on my bump. I fucking go crazy. I am suddenly a lioness defending her cub and I slap her hand away, “Why do you have to touch if it’s obvious, arsehole?” I’m in her face and she looks completely shocked as I march past. I seem to hate everyone today. I call my boyfriend in the Caribbean but he’s never there. His family refuses to take the collect calls now, because he’s never there. I know it will get better. It has to. I was a virgin before he came along and I only gave it up because we promised we would get married. He changed his mind when we discovered I was pregnant and said he did not believe in marriage. I know he’s just scared and when he sees this beautiful baby, he will change his mind again. Little did I know that I would be the one to change.

    It's the middle of the night and I can't sleep. The revelers have left but something keeps dripping onto my t-shirt, so I put on the light and look to the ceiling. It takes me a couple of minutes to realize it's coming from my breasts. My brother is not in tonight, so I can do what I want regardless of the time and I start reading the book the hospital gave to me. What's coming out of my breast is called colostrum and it is brownish in colour. I taste it but it's neither sweet nor bitter. I take time out from reading and go to the bathroom upstairs. I take a pee and whilst washing my hands, I really focus on my reflection in the mirror above the sink. I am so small. So young. Where is this child coming out from? A whole human and I am responsible? I begin to sob uncontrollably. I cry and I cry and I cry. There is a gentle knock on the door. It is Red and he asks no questions. He holds me and I cry in his embrace for an eternity. He is so patient as he strokes my hair and never a question; only comfort.

    Red will leave in a few days. He will first visit his parents in the Czech Republic and then go to Italy to pick apples or something like this. In September he will resume his degree in Coal Mining. It is hard to believe that two people can form such a bond without intimacy and only knowing each other for one month. One month alone I was given with this almost mythical man. He promised me a rose before he left. Just like the day he and his room mate argued about giving me the rose they stole from someone's garden. In the days leading up to his departure, we do as much as we can together. We visit the zoo (although we never actually go inside haha). We have lunch in a pub in Camden. He argues with me on the bus for not putting on my jumper because it is getting chilly. We go to a place called The Bridge. At least I think it was The Bridge. It is in Battersea and we walk through the park, stop at the pagoda for the pregnant girl to rest and then continue over the bridge and down Lupus Street, toward Pimlico station. I remember the walk through the park so vividly because it was cold and he gave me his blazer. I knew then I loved him.

    The dreadful day arrived and some of Red's friends came to help him take all his belongings to the coach station. I am in the kitchen where it all started and nothing goes right. The chicken I am preparing has seen better chefs. Red runs out the door and is gone for nearly ten minutes. Everyone is anxious because he is running late. He reappears with a single, fuchsia pink rose. I place it in a vase with some water and a little sugar. I refuse to go to the station with them and we say our goodbyes in a very matter of fact way. I go to my room and my brother can see beyond my strong stance and he asks if I miss him already. I do and we continue watching television. I can take no more and I go to the bathroom upstairs and cry again, pleading with God to send him back. I am not ready for him to leave. I even say that to the mirror. I return to my room and stare at the television. A few hours pass.

    Something catches my eye. A shadow that goes past the window. Many do as we live on a high street, but I felt this one. I go to the front door with the key. I turn the key and push the door open and there is Red, with all his baggage, just about to knock. "How did you know?" He asks. "I just knew." I reply and we hug. When Red got to the coach station, he felt he needed to stay longer. A woman who had a ticket for the next four days desperately needed to travel that day and she and Red exchanged tickets. Something was looking out for this pregnant teenager after all and Red was sent back. We spent the next four days preparing for the inevitable but we made sure we made most of the little extra time.

    His Italian friend is the only one who comes to help him with his luggage this time. I go with them to the coach station because I feel ready. It is still a difficult journey there because losing someone is never an easy thing but reality is what it is. We get to Victoria and the conversation is general among the three of us. Red's coach arrives and we walk with him right up to the stairs that lead to the driver. Red stops halfway up the stairs, turns around and says, "Come with me!" I look really confused and he repeats it, "Just come with me. Now. Just come. I will pay for the ticket." I am shattered because I do not have my passport. The way I felt in that moment, if I had my passport with me, I would have boarded that coach and left everything behind. The driver is anxious because the coach needs to leave. He tells Red, he needs to get on or off. Red gets on and the coach pulls away immediately. Red runs down to the back and like a child, presses his two hands against the back window, and for the first time, he mouths, "I love you. I love you so much." I literally collapse onto his friend. He does not know where to start consoling and all he can say is that he will miss him too.

    It would be ten years before I ever see Red again....


    I contacted Red as I began writing these stories and he is happy for me to name him. His name is Roman Chamrad and he saved me in so many ways. Thank you, Roman. The baby I was carrying is now entering his second year at university and I could not do it without the memory of you.
  • I sit near the window peering out. 22 years have passed and I wonder why do women and men alike, just "settle". I hear my friends' voices, "You know men..." "I have to get home because I have so much to do." "He can't cook." "I don't see him as much, he's always busy....he's with his mates....he's busy.....he doesn't have time for me......she needs to be comfortable first....she never has time for me.....he comes first.....he doesn't like that band so he won't come with me. He...he....she...she...."

    Oh I know men alright. Sure I've had my share of arseholes; but the good ones that graced my life, set a bar so high, the sky cannot reach.

    After that fateful day that Roman ran to the back of the bus and pressed his hands on the glass and mouthed "I love you", I received a handwritten letter from him, every month for more than six years. Some months I received two, three letters. This is how deep a man's love runs. Take heed. If a man loves you, he will wake day and night to ensure you know it. He will not rest until he knows you are safe. His hands will be chapped to ensure you are sheltered. He will carry the heaviest load but caress you with the gentlest touch. His eyes will cloak you in his warmth. Roman continued to share his life with me, every photo, every country, every argument, every joy, every new corner, every failure, every woman. Life continued but I was his soul and he mine. I even had another child but I knew one day, we would meet again.

    When Roman left the UK, my life there could not be the same and so I too returned to the life I once knew in Trinidad. I worked day and night for six years for I thought if I could find my way back to London, I would be closer to finding him again. It was never my intention to wait that long, but when life continues, it also takes what you're saving.

    In the summer of 1998, I bought my ticket to London. The reality was overwhelming although for the first time, I had not heard from Roman in a few months.

    Then it came.

    The letter arrived. The letter covered with the residue of mud, footprints, rain, tears....apprehension.

    "Helen and I are expecting our first child...." "...I am so happy." Those words tunnelled slowly though my veins and crept like a lethal virus straight to the core of my existence. I leave for London in two weeks' time and I weep bitterly over the letter in my hand. My suitcase is packed with two jumpers, a pair of jeans and bags of every letter he sent to me.

    ********************************************************************************************************

    I am standing at Piccadilly Circus searching for him. We agreed to meet here and I can't seem to find him. A soft zephyr catches my waist length hair and a few strands blow across my face. I gently clear it from my lips and look across to Eros.

    I remember so vividly what he was wearing that day: A light blue, Polo shirt, beige trousers and moccasins; and his body supported his blue, Peugeot racer. When the recognition set in, I realised that he had seen me first, but stood silently regarding me. He neither smiled nor said hello immediately. I approached Mr Sandfort.

    ********************************************************************************************************

    We had been dating for over a month and I arrived at his flat after my late shift. I quietly entered with the spare key he had given to me and he was asleep whilst sitting at the edge of the bed with a book in his lap. This makes me smile. He is so loyal to wait for me that he can fall asleep sitting, with no support.

    "You can lie down, you know." I gently whisper. His eyes open and he kisses me. We both lay for a moment like a spoon and the light is still on because I still need to get ready for bed.

    "What is the R for?"

    "What R?"

    "Your suitcase has the initials M R Sandfort." (I can see his suitcase from where I lay.)

    "Ro......"

    "Sorry?"

    "Rrro..."

    "How do you spell it??"

    "R.O.M.A.N....Roman."

    No shit.
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