Wednesday, January 11, 2017
Awashed the stars were by coming of first twilight, and then becoming of the sun. all over Port-au-Prince, the evening soul watchers finally went to bed, and a much different group of people came to rise in their place. It was early morning and the change was almost total, the night guard was asleep and the day was populated with a different sort of person.
But remember something, we have been in a very small segment of society – that very small middle-class which has some understanding of what goes on around them. But the vast majority of the people were not that way – and amidst them Were to people who had a problem. Realize that there were always problems when somebody from above wants something to happen – but needs at least a vast mass of people to do it. And there are a lot of things that could be done, but will not be done, because there is no motivation for the lower class to do them. You can get a few people to bribe, and perhaps more which will think that it is the right thing to do – but other than that, you have to have a purpose. This is why the one way to get something done is to hire a few men, and ask no questions how they get things done. A long time ago, these men were the ton-ton-macouts – a rough collection whose followers would go around and abuse more people. They had ways, each one of them more unpleasant than the last.
In the northern section of town, with cement blocks held together by just enough mortar, someone had not done what he was supposed to do – at least in the eyes of one of the gangs. So he was necklace. By this I mean that a person in a beaten up truck stopped by him and through over a tire with gasoline inside, and lit it. Within a few seconds – there was a sheet of fire, engulfing the thin man in flame. The man of course tried to get out, but that too was expected – because with clubs they bashed him into submission. After that, there was nothing to do but watch. And learn that this area was under, for the moment, a particular game. It had not been the case, which is why the leader took this opportunity to show everyone who was in charge. Normally, the man would have been talked to, but not necklaced for what he had not done. But even in the corrupt way of doing things, their were rules.
The sun beat down, with not a tree, branch, bush, or structure made by man, on what was once a human being. And after a view minutes, everyone went back to what they were doing – noting the change in the est. order. Some of them knew that they had to do things differently – and proceeded to do so.
But this had more meaning than just the necklace thing of one person – it was hard of a larger picture that even the gang member did not completely recognize. Nor did anyone except the two men who had shaken hands on a deal, and set in motion various changes in order.
There were reprisals, because not all of the interested parties were happy with this. And one person who saw the necklace and, called upwards and reported this – because even on Haiti almost everyone had a phone. The chain woke up and reported this activity, and eventually it reached the ears of a man by the name of Odney – who realized that there was some profit to be made. He immediately closed the phone and reopened it, because he had a slightly worn flip phone, as opposed to the more contemporary style which was popular at the time. He was loyal to the things he had grown used to, and one of them was a StarTrac mobile from Motorola. He did not care for such inventions as the iPhone or any of the other replacements. But it was getting hard to replace it. - And he knew that his time with a flip phone was growing short. Such is the travails of contemporary life.
In build, the first thing one noticed about Odney, was is height – even though he slumped down a bit to disguise what a prodigious amount he had. He was more than thin, even by the standards of PAP, and this was because he had a tapeworm, which ate much of what he consumed. He knew he was actually dying, but he did not want to go to a doctor or nurse – even though his circle of friends included many who could have helped his condition. Why was a secret known only to him, and it was a secret which involved the delicate kind of sex which only a man and a little boy knew about. He was not man in this case. But as as noted, no one knew of this secret – because the man was dead of inflicted wounds by a steel pipe.
The other thing that was noticeable, was an incongruity in his attire. At first glance he looked as if he was dressed in a light shirt, and liked pants, and seemed all together just one of the crowd, just one of thousands of people who had very little to do with their time except eat and watch the world – and perhaps wanting some specific woman to lie with. The incongruity was that he wore a watch, which was finally decorated, and made of gold. That a man would have an old phone,, thin body, and nondescript clothes – but yet had a new watch signaled that while he was slumming it, he was in fact a clear on the stage which was Haiti. Though he knew that that stage was very small, it was enough for him.
A boy came up To him, perhaps seven or eight years of age, and their was a slight sniffling noise coming out of him. He had been kicking around a football – what Americans would call a soccer ball – when all at once free larger boys collapsed on him – taking away the ball and keeping it to themselves. Now if he was just a boy, there would have been nothing to do. The ball would be in the hands of the older boys. But he immediately half walked, half ran to Odney who was about 30 meters away, and with his best crying ability, made it clear that he wanted the ball back.
In the way of a smile, Odney took his hand and tousel Be boys short hair, and looked down at his face – realizing what he had to do. He ambulated to the three boys and with his left foot stopped the ball. “ that was not for a nice, why did you not ask the boy to play with him, rather than take the ball away from him?”
Realize that the three boys knew that they were speaking to a man had power – though the source of it remained a mystery, because the three boys did not know how power worked in their society. The oldest and tallest boy then began: “ we did not know that he was with you.”
“Do not you know that that is not an excuse? You should be respectful of everyone, because you do not know who is under protection, and in some cases you will find out in a bad way. Some people will actually kill you for the spite of it, and not think anything of it. You do not want that this should happen to you?”
The three boys all shook their heads vigorously at this.
“So what do you do if you are scolded for something that have done?”
their was commotion at this, but then the middle boy, piped and said: “You ask for forgiveness?” the question hanging out for the man's confirmation.
“Yes, you ask for forgiveness - and then what?” Egging them on with his tone of voice
The youngest boy of the group said “You give him his ball back!”
The man squatted down and looked at the youngest boy, and with a smile breaking through his dark overtones: “That is right, you give him his ball back and then you ask if you can play with him and the ball. But remember, you cannot just take it away – even in spirit. He has to play with you, not just watch has the three of you play. Do you understand?” What they understood was that the boy who had the ball was under the protection of Odney, and while he was around – even in spirit – they would have to play by the man's rules, if they did not want something bad to happen to them. They did not exactly know what would happen, and they did not want to find out.
At that point, Odney went back to his phone – trying to think of the right person to call in this situation, because he needed to show force. He needed it to impress upon the other people that the necklacing was not permitted – that there was already an assigned territory in the area, and that it was not to be brokered with. This would involve a certain amount of blood – it could not be helped, because no one could swipe territory without a good reason. Then he knew what he had to do, and there were several parts. And as with many things that did, as people from the United States would say: “ the left-hand would not know what the right hand was doing.” Fortunately, in Haiti, this did not mean that the right-hand was guilty, unlike the United States law.
He moved away from anyone who could possibly be spying – just to make sure – and opened his phone, and called one of his professional police officers.
It rang three times, but was then answered by a Haitian man – who knew exactly who he was talking to. Odney started: “ bonjour Michelle, I have a small problem that I would like you to involve yourself in. Just listen, and then get on to the problem. Up on Route 1 around Lilavois, I have interests there – only another man has moved in. but I have spent money to establish a clinic there, and would hate to have my control over the area forcibly removed.” He waited – not for a reply, but to digest the information. “ I want to to make sure that this area, all of its buildings, all of its trees, every Palm and school bus is mine again. If you can only kill one, person. But if you have to kill more, you can do that as well. But I wanted understood that this territory is mine.” he thought what he remembered of the streets, but all he could remember was a little stream going underneath route one and of a nightclub. “Have you got that? Call me when it is done.”
In reality of phone service in Haiti, was that every little piece of the puzzle. Normally, this was broken up by area code, or in technical parlance “NPA”- but in Haiti the next three digits – called “NXX”, though it is often referred to as prefix or exchange - were owned by a separate body, and you had to work with them to get any information at all. Odney's NXX was all his, and one could not intercept such signals. So he knew that no one else could easily find out what the call was made for. Of course there were ways of getting around this, but it was difficult, and usually, it would be found out eventually.
Such was the way of things in this particular land at this particular time, and January 2010.
Then Odney dialed another number on the black keypads, you would have to be more cautious in his use of words – because this was not a follower, but someone who he did business with. And in Haiti there were certain forms for every gradation – from a person who was enslaved, all the way up to a person who was not from the island. Of course it did not need to be said that Odney was the master of all of the intricacies – both in the flesh, and on the phone – of these rituals.
It is a truism that any form of written prose dispenses with the normal back and forth, which is part of the Daly conversation. Instead most conversations either state that it happens, or give an abrupt form so that the reader is satisfied that the formalities have been accomplished. Of course in the real world, these take on a great deal more of the conversation – because what each person is doing, is assuring their willingness to be bored by the daily goings-on. In reality, of course, they are simply waiting there turn to introduce a topic in the conversation which actually is important. So some minutes were involved in talking about relatives, and assorted questions of this kind. On the phone, it was abbreviated – because in person it could stretch on to have an hour for getting to the real topic of conversation. This is one of the deattractions of using a person who is just a friend, as opposed to a follower: with the follower you can immediately get down to business, and tell the what you want done. But with someone who thinks him or her self and equal, you have to know if they would be involved in what you are asking. So the forms have their purpose, in establishing just the boundaries. So each conversation begins with Koman ou ye?
Then in the space, the man inserted what his real object was: “My friend, I have a little problem which I think you might be able to help me with.”
At which point the woman who he had called, one could not tell what age it was though of course it was not too young or too old – because that would have been heard from the voice. “I knew you would have something you wanted done. Go one tell me what needs to be done, and if it is not to dangerous, I will do it for you. You know that.”
Well, thought Odney, now I do. He had not realized that he was thought of as a friend – though he had hoped he was. But he can never be sure until you have really asked the question. But once he had, it would be less formal the next time he needed something from her. Of course he knew that he would have to provide a service to her, since he was asking.
“It is sort of delicate, this situation I am in.” for some reason, his lips were dry. If he had thought about it he would know that this was his “tell”. That he was about to do something disingenuous.
“Of course it is, otherwise you would have sent a minion to ...” the woman's voice trailed off, because she knew what would be his alternative – he would have some follower do something to the problem, up to and including an elimination.
“You know I do not like to do that.” His voice was pitched so it was smooth. After all, he was a supplicant – asking for something that she could do for him. The alternatives were less good, but he would use them if this does not go his way.
“I know you do not, but she will be if you have to, were talking about you.” The woman's voice was not smooth, in fact she was talking directly to a person who is able knew would do whatever it took to alleviate the situation – though neither one would allocated such words. Because in actuality, the hard part was already done – their was some attachment between them which she felt. He wondered for a moment whether it was sexual, but then in the next moment dismissed this idea. Women were different than men – a man would think long and hard before turning down sex, where as a woman would think long and hard before accepting sex.
“All right, for the sake of argument, let us say that I am willing to find a better way than that. Which is why I am calling you.” Again, there were forms which had to be met – even the form of not having to meet forms.
What he said was actually not important, but what it really did was about Lucy and Emmanuel, and what she could do for him. It was not unpleasant, but it was deceptive – there were things that he did not want anyone to know beyond a few people who had occasion to know. There were secrets beyond secrets within secrets.
Then he put the phone away, and looked out over the clean blue sky, etched with a few distant clouds. He thought it was hot, but then most days were.