Trees (an excerpt)

‘I feel calmer today than last week’s visit. Even though I took the wrong bus to downtown, I did not panic…. It is a Jamaican thing to know exactly where you are going. I have actually heard people blasting strangers for not knowing their destinations. It was not pleasant. Instead I came off the first chance I got and walked back to the correct street. Royal Street.

‘During the course of my walk, unlike last week, I was not fazed by the images before me. The first thing you will notice is that there are few trees. Instead you are encaged by high, broad, dilapidated buildings; buildings not painted, or of 20 years’ faded paint; buildings with crumbs of blocks or broken sidewalks decorating their shells; buildings dark and hollow, either shut up with rusting locks and neglected, or just simply, neglected. The few trees you see cannot compete with the overwhelming concrete structures that just go on and on with hardly any space in between, except for the streets themselves….

‘Now I passed beds. I didn’t realize the absurdity of beds being sold on the sidewalk till today. In my mind, beds are sacred places that should not be exposed to the hustle and stink of these streets. Beds symbolize peace. But how ironic it is to see beds being sold by people who may not themselves know of the comfort a bed brings…

‘I also found it ironic how, I… was walking towards a building in which security was ensured and insured… I was going towards this building, set amidst people selling beds on the street- both offering comfort. And then I considered that everyone wants to make it to the top, to achieve some peace of mind, knowing that cash flow isn’t tight. That we all are part of a tree, and some of us just had to remain at the bottom. As roots. And here they were, the people on the streets… on the ground- literally- fighting for some nutrients that would make them more grounded in security. Yet in that struggle they also yearned to be the leaves- easily taking what little they made as profits from the nourishment of the earth.’

© Shanese Whyte

Read part II of Trees here: TREES (AN EXCERPT, II)


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