I saw a black man kill a black man, and I watched, like it was t.v.
I need to be honest with you from the start. I like the plain beauty of the naked truth, but I much prefer the delicious sweetness of a big fat lie. Fat lies, like fat people, have often gotten the raw end of the deal, but not from me, I really like fat lies. The chubbier the better!
Anyway, I am telling you this so you know that I have not always been honest.
Today I will be. Honest.
Today I will tell you something that is 99% true.
This is 99% true: in October 1980 a black man wearing an orange shirt killed a black man wearing a green shirt in a yellow bus in front of me, and I watched while standing beside my brother. Seeing that event did not f–k me up any at all.
Let me break this up a bit for you so that you can understand which parts are true, and the 1% that isn’t.
October 1980 – General Elections were being held in Jamaica. True.
The only people wearing orange shirts were Socialists (PNP); the only people wearing green shirts were f—king assholes (JLP), according to my old man. True.
We were Socialists. True then, and still is.
I had a dog named Ruffy at the time. True then, no longer.
I could only watch the killing because I was a child of 11 years old and wasn’t old enough to do anything about it. True.
If I could have done something about it I would have helped the first man kill the second man. True then, but no longer.
My father, my brother, my mother, my unborn sister, my dog, my toilet, my mango tree, my cousins, my uncles, my aunts, my right and left toes, my gungo peas plants, my everything, were all Socialists. True then, not as much now.
If my cousins could have helped the first man kill the second they would have. True, and they did.
If my brother could have helped the first man kill the second one he would have. Here I must be honest, I genuinely do not know, as I have never asked my brother his real thoughts. Moreover, I know from watching Law and Order that the mere fact that my brother was shouting “Kill him! Kill him raasclaat! Kill de dutty raasclaat Labourite!” is only circumstantial. He could, in a court of law, contend that he only behaved in that manner to fit in with his environment and that he did, secretly, support and vote for the Jamaica Labour Party. Who knows?
The second man was on a bus that was full of Socialists coming from a political rally. True, but I still wonder how the hell a Labourite found himself on a bus full of Socialists during Jamaica’s most violent general elections.
Me and my brother were standing on the roadside watching the motorcade driving through our ghetto. True.
When the bus in question was driving by where we were standing, I saw the second man struggling with all his might, and with panic in his eyes, to escape through a window of the slow-moving bus. True.
While the loudspeakers on top of the lead car in the motorcade were blaring “We a go lick dem with JAMAL! We a go lick dem wid de Free Education!” everyone at the back of the bus was shouting “Hold him! No mek de bomboclaat Labourite get way! Hold him!!” True, I found myself shouting this too.
My cousin, Cookie, who was close to me, looked like she wanted to pee based on the way she was jumping from foot to foot with excitement. True.
While the second man was trying desperately to squeeze himself out of the window, the first one was on his back stabbing him over and over again with an ice pick. False! Liar, liar, pants on fire! I had to throw that lie in there, just for fun. The person stabbing the second man with the ice pick was actually a third man, he was also wearing an orange shirt.
The first man, who we have just established was not the one with the ice pick, was somehow beneath the second man, with a rachet knife, slicing his belly open. True.
It was the cutting open of the belly, and not the stabbing with the ice pick, or the punching, or the kicking, or the stones, or the hits with the pieces of wood, that killed the second man. Uncertain!! Right here is where I have told myself a big fat lie for over thirty years! I have always told myself that it was the cutting open of the belly, and the falling out of the intestines through the window, in front of me, that was the cause of death. But, from watching CSI and NCIS, I realise that sometimes what you think is the obvious cause of death, isn’t. The man might simply have been scared to death, like one of those CSI victims I saw once. Or it could have been the kicking and punching. I really do not know what, or who was the cause of death.
Seeing this event did not cause me any psychological problems later in life. True. I think the things that screw you up are the ones that shocked you when they happened. This didn’t. At 11 years old I already knew how the world worked. And killings weren’t unusual or shocking in my world. Its like going into a strip club – you know the girls there will spend more time at the table with the Japanese men, and less time at the table with the African men. This is just life. Prejudice, killings, stealing, adultery, etc. were all part of everyday life. They caused me no nightmares.
So, there you have it, the real version of what happened. I am deeply thankful to Law and Order, NCIS and CSI Miami for helping me to analyse those events.
Note: if you are interested in the things that really screwed me up, please check out my novel, Disposable People, which is inspired by true events.