Fear & Strangers 

It was almost midnight, one Saturday in May 2002. While everyone else was asleep I was wide awake and studying earnestly for my end of secondary school exams. Physics. These exams I thought would determine my future, or at least contribute to my exit fare out of a place I was determined to escape at the first opportunity. 

The only sound that interrupted the otherwise silent night was my wooden pencil scratching against pale blue lined sheets and the chirping of crickets that as a child I always thought was the sound of twinkling stars. I read my textbook one paragraph at a time, reading and re reading to make sure I understood and planned to continue this repetitive task until my eyes glazed over and were blinded with sleep. I figured I had at least two more hours, or more. I was determined.

Suddenly the silence because strangely quieter and something told me to get up and look out the living room window. This was a view that sloped down the driveway to the rusted double gates flanked on each side by overhanging trees.  The only illumination came from a streetlight down at the corner with a very dim bulb. So dim that you could barely make out the shadows from the overhanging branches swaying in the light island breeze. 

I don’t know what I expected to see, but still holding my green pencil in my hand I walked to the window and looked down to see a man, medium build in a loose shirt and baggy pants walking decidedly up the driveway. Two seconds passed and he was now in the garage, an open structure the sides made out of concrete that cracked near the patterned top where it met the roof. If I stood there and let him continue, in a few seconds he would be at the door that led to the washing room. If he entered this door and took three steps he would come to three concrete steps and if he walked up those steps he would find himself in the kitchen. Once in the kitchen, all he had to do was take eight steps and turn right and then he would have found himself facing the desk where my physics text book, and two TRINPAD exercise books filled with notes and equations was resting.

I halted my mental cautions and before I had a chance to feel fear, started shouting MOTHER!

Of course my father was not there. Like every other night, he was gone to wherever it was all Caribbean men seem to go when, as if often the case they are sick and tired of their families. This was before the days when everyone had a cell phone so even if something had happened or was about to happen we wouldn’t have had the chance to call him to save us. So, my mother, who usually ignored me, hearing the mixture of panic and terror in my voice leapt out of her bed and into the living room ‘What’s the matter?”

Within the few seconds it took her to come down the hallway the would be bandit had already made good his escape. Probably well astonished to learn that despite almost all the lights turned out there was indeed somebody on the lookout.

Well, why was I even on the lookout to begin with? Could it be true that there is such a thing as intuition? Did I tap into some sixth sense that was telling me something was afoot?

Before this incident I was the biggest scaredy cat. The only reason I was even up late alone is because I had exams coming up and I HAD to study.  Any other night I would have been too busy in bed, eyes wide shut, hoping and praying that I would not be the last to fall asleep and once asleep I would neither die and realize it only when I found myself engulfed in flames being poked with a pitchfork by a red man with horns, nor awaken to find either a jumbie* or an intruder standing over me. I went to bed every night fully clothed, so that if somebody broke in I wouldn’t have to run outside in my nightie and would a stranger see any part of me. These were my thoughts every single night. 

But after this incident things changed. My thoughts changed. Although I had heard of men being the protectors, I never saw this play out in real life. As far as I was concerned women had to figure out a way to protect themselves, or survive whatever harm might come their way. 

The next night I took a break and went to sleep early, and peacefully. I wasn’t shaken up, and this confused me. I think what happened was that I decided to not be afraid anymore, and just like that I wasn’t. But still, it felt strange. On the third day after I went back to my studies, again late into the night. I had a feeling that if anything bad was to happen, maybe as before I would have an inkling and be able to escape it. And if I didn’t then, okay. I couldn’t afford to be afraid.

to be continued….