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Callaloo 24.4 (2001) 1167-1174
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He couldn't stand the house. He couldn't stand the bickering between their parents. He couldn't stand the malice, how they didn't speak for weeks, sometimes months, except through the children. He was his father's favorite, but he couldn't stand how his father treated Winston and he couldn't stand that there was nothing at all he could do, for fear of losing his father's affection, having his father turn against him, the way he would often turn against Winston. Perhaps he was a coward. Perhaps that was so, back then when he was a boy and his brother, Winston, was also a boy. But on the road and away from the house he did not have to be a coward. On the road he was fearless. He loved the black and silver road. The road had a heat. There were girls and there was sex and there was weed and there was Bruce Lee and John Wayne on Saturdays at Odeon Theatre. There were the shops with their loud speakers at the window roaring out music and the women inside their tight dresses winding up their waists. There was liquor, there was laughter and there were the circles of light under the street lamps, where men talked quietly, their backs against the iron pole, a funnel of smoke around their faces. Above all, he had discovered sex and pussy flowed easily and his cock never tired of the pure sweetness of it.
At fourteen he was already as tall as his father. He had his father's wide shoulders, his big long arms, he had his father's eggplant blackness, he had his short thick neck, he had his round open face, he had his father's smile that came quick to his face, especially when he was angry, especially when he was mistrustful. His brother, Winston, was not hooked to the road as he was. His brother, Winston, had one best friend, a slim, red-skinned double-jointed boy they nicknamed Bone, and for the most part, his brother and Bone were inseparable. They read the same novels, they listened to the same LPs and every Friday, underneath the tamarind tree at the foot of the garden, his brother and Bone exchanged gifts wrapped in tissue paper and green ribbon.
Then suddenly his brother, Winston, was studying like hell, studying furiously. Suddenly he was sitting for exams, suddenly he was being suited for new clothes, a little get-together was being held, he was saying goodbye. Their mother and father were crying and it was rare to see his father cry. His brother had looked very young that day at the airport on his way to America. He was wearing a navy suit that Tailor Knight had cut and a sparkling white shirt, a thin navy tie and black pumps. He was seventeen, but he looked eleven and at the same time he looked forty. He looked scared and his jaw was square and very determined. Perhaps it was a whole entire six months before it really hit him that his brother, Winston, had gone, that it was just him, left there, alone with their parents in that big empty house full of pure silence. [End Page 1167]
It was a strange absence, a strange loss. It was as if he reached out to pick up something with his left hand and realized there was no arm there, that the socket was empty and the flap he saw was just the sleeve of his shirt folded and tucked under and held there with a large safety pin. It was a terrible feeling. He carried it at the bottom of his stomach. It was a yearning, it was a howling; it was a deep hurting. He lived his life with that missing arm. He lived his life feeling slightly incomplete, never fully balanced, always tilted. Some days it felt familiar and he could bear it, and some days he wanted to fight somebody, anybody, he wanted to throw himself against...