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  • By the time I was 8 , I was responsible for many things. There were days when I had to make my own way to school which was ten miles away. My dad would give me money for travel and for lunch and I knew how to work out how much I could spend and how much I needed to save for the maxi taxi.

    My mother always warned me about being followed and urged me on those days, to change my route. Well, this is how I learnt Port-of-Spain like the back of my hand....at least everything east of Abercromby Street.

    I knew all the Squares, from Columbus to Lord Harris and I knew who the notorious vagrants were. I encountered characters like Baby Doll, Rambo and Paris and listened to the arguments in the University Square of Woodford. Those are stories on their own! I was not afraid. As long as it was rush hour, I was safe in the mêlée of pedestrians and street vendors.

    I was too young to be completely responsible and so there were times when I knowingly spent too much money on snacks and then the panic of how the hell I was getting home. Sometimes I would walk to Belmont after school, where my brothers had evening classes and they would shoo me away. I still followed in tow and hoped someone would get me on the bus! The bus was 50 cents and terminated two towns before our home....so it was more walking for this child.

    One afternoon, I had really overdone it. I bought salted prunes, chilli bibi, choo choos, guava sweetie, you name it and had no money to travel home. Damn! It was not a day that my brothers had lessons after school. I left the school yard and started to walk toward the centre of town. If I had to walk ten miles, I could but darkness would creep up and my parents would worry. I'd cross that bridge when I got there.

    As I approached the Red House, I saw a blind man with a cane, slowly navigating his way. "May I help you cross the road?" I asked him. He turned his head and lowered to find the source of this little voice. "Well, I'd be delighted if you do!" I promptly grabbed his arm and he stopped. He said to me, "Never take a blind person's hand. Let them take you. I trust you. It's all about trust. You cannot lead me if I don't trust you." So I let go and he took my arm. I asked him where he was heading to and he said, "To Independence Square." So was I and we walked, arms linked. I asked him all sorts of questions. Was he born blind? Does he remember anything? Did he have any pets? How did he feed them? He kept laughing and I kept staring at his sealed eyes that kept twitching and blinking wildly, although shut.

    We arrived at Independence Square and the stench emanating from the public toilets by the maxi stand, I don't think will ever be forgotten. He said he lived in Santa Rosa and would be getting the Arima maxi taxi.

    It was the same one I needed.

    I was too embarrassed to say I had no money but brave enough to board anyway.

    We sat next to each other and we chatted away. Sadly, he gradually became blind and could see until he was 23. (He looked like he could be forty something at this time). To lose something so precious and not being able to do anything about it really frightened me. I noticed he wore a watch and of course I needed to know how he could tell the time. I was so intrigued when he opened the face of the watch and felt the hands. He told me the time!! I asked how he found the kitchen, the bathroom. He laughed and asked that if I were to close my eyes, if I thought I could find my way around the house. Well, of course I can!

    He was the same as I. He just could no longer see.

    When the conductor came around to collect our fares before the journey..... the blind man offered to pay for me.
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