A Spectacle

I had already decide to write this week about my work here-in fact, I had already done the writing-when I had an adventure that I thought I’d add. It’s not really a story about life in Haiti so much as one about Steven’s life, but it seems worth sharing. Things did, eventually, turn out fine-well enough, anyway-even though it didn’t seem as though they would. For example: the torrential downpour that caught me as I went up the mountain washed most of the blood out of my hair. Things do, generally, work out.

My parents, grandmother, and aunt will see this sketch, so I should add right away that, though the blood was, indeed, mine, I am fine and was fine at every point in this story. It only seemed otherwise.

My trip home usually starts at the corner of Rue Delmas and Delmas 75. There I wait for public transportation to take me to the top of Rue Delmas in Petyonvil. From there I either take another public ride to Bwa Moket, or I walk the rest of the way. “Public transportation” is a misnomer here. The vehicles are privately owned, and they are of all sorts. One typical kind is a pick-up truck. Twelve to fifteen people climb onto two opposing benches in the back. Another one or two people might stand on the rear bumper and hang on tight. At best, it’s pretty uncomfortable.

Wednesday, I saw one approaching that was almost empty. I had to hurry to catch it, but it seemed worth the rush for a more spacious ride. It was already clear that rain would come, so I was in a hurry to get home, too. The driver must not have seen me rushing across the street toward him, because he started to pull away. I jumped onto the back without trouble, though. Except that I bumped my head.

Now, few whites ride regular public transportation here, so I am used to being stared at and talked about. I try not to notice. I start little conversations or I join the ones they start. As if nothing strange were happening at all. The two sitting with me Wednesday were indeed staring. And I could understand it. I hit my head pretty hard, noticeably so. I start out here as a public spectacle, just by being white, but my little hop into the back of their ride certainly didn’t help.

But soon they were pointing, and when I wiped what I thought was sweat out of my face, I knew why. Blood was pouring into my eyes.

Remember, Mom, I really was in no danger at any time during this story.

I am reading Deutoronomy these days, so I immediately remembered that Moses emphasizes that we are not to eat the blood, “because the blood is the life.” I got back off the truck, headed back towards my office, and watched descending sheets of my life turn my eyeglasses opaque.

As I walked back to the office, not a head failed to turn. People pointed. They told those who were with them to turn and look.. They asked me what had happened, whether I was ok, where I was going. When Sayil, the housemaster at our office, saw me walk up he yelled and asked whether some indeterminate “they” had shot me. “No,” I said, “I bumped my head.”

Within a few minutes, the bleeding had stopped. I was able to wash up, change clothes, and try again to head home. Now I really was in a hurry both because the rain was clear about to start and because the family I stay with does not yet approve of the notion of my arriving at night. They are worried that the unlit walk up the mountain would be dangerous for me. And indeed it might be.

My rushing, though, was futile. The rain poured down on me most of the last 45 minutes of my walk. But, as I said, it washed a lot of the blood away.

People here are telling me to be more careful. I really do try.