On the street

The lure of the street was overwhelming. Consequently, the daily grind of house chores or school was something to be impatiently endured till completion or dismissal. Sometimes, parents were amazed at how quickly appointed tasks were done—not understanding that circumstance and camaraderie had wired us for the street.

To bastard and legitimate boys alike, the street offered a means of escape—a place where alternative realities could be pursued. On the street, in the company of our peers, we were free from the crushing, oppressive, poverty-stricken, alcohol-imbibing, and wearying atmosphere of monotony. On the street, our imagination had no limits and no boundaries and it soared on wide-eyed wings of childish abandon. On the street, we were free to dream.

We played “Cowboys and Crooks”, imitating Hollywood productions of pre-twentieth century American frontier life. For guns, we used pieces of wood, some of which were elaborately carved to resemble the real thing, and we patterned our characters after real-life movie heroes like John Wayne and Clint Eastwood. Two groups or sides played the game—a Cowboys group and a Crooks group. The side that “shot” or eliminated all the members of the other side won the game. On one such occasion, Christopher hid himself between the gnarled, enormous roots of a huge mango tree, and, in his exuberance, fell over backwards into the river below. Luckily for him, Kasilda, a stoutly-built older girl who had seen what happened quickly pulled him wet and very scared from the deep water.

We went to the river, which separated New Village from La Pansée, when the heat of the day became unbearable. In its shallow areas, we felt at peace and completely isolated from the rest of the world. We dammed very small sections to create individual pools and caught short, fat fish—which we called “zodom”—and crayfish with our bare hands and placed them in these pools. Plans for the future were made at the river; plans that did not include the blight of poverty and disapproving frowns from some adults who were intolerant of us.

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