The Calabash Literary Festival went on as planned but I didn’t get to go. There were omens and mishaps and haunting dreams. I spent Saturday juggling the mundanity of weekends, shopping at the market, hands weighed down with fruit, meat, greens and bread. I cleaned the house, ironed church clothes while waiting, wondering if I’d made the right choice. Should I have overlooked the cobwebbed doubts that shadowed my mind? Should I have ignored the ill omens and taken a trip down to Treasure Beach, four-plus taxis away? Should I have made the ultimate sacrifice?
Sometimes it’s not easy making decisions, especially when you’ve had things all planned out for months and the unexpected happens. This time I’d set my goals down. You know how when you right something on paper you think seeing the ink mar the white emptiness of a blank sheet solidifies everything? I felt I had it all under control, like my plans would inevitably come to fruition.
But sometimes even goals set down on paper crumble. It’s like the mold of wet dust in the air sets in, eating away at the crisp edges of your dreams. Sometimes the inevitable gets compromised by the unexpected. Things happen and you have no choice but to concede.
You could try ignoring the obvious. In a sense, I could have pretended I hadn’t had a dream that forewarned a journey of doom on Saturday morning. I could have pretended my heart wasn’t in knots after finding out that a girl I knew had days ago stabbed a fourteen year old to death. I could have pretended that my mind was somewhere else instead of Wonderland wondering how all of this had happened. I could have tried. But what was the sense of that? I might as well follow my instincts, that inner sensibility that spoke the obvious: this trip to the Calabash Literary Festival should not happen, could not happen, will not happen now.
On Saturday night my former lecturer at UWI called. We’d been planning to meet at Calabash and he asked me where I was. “I couldn’t make it,” I said. His response left me feeling uncertain about my former convictions.
“You should have made the ultimate sacrifice to come,” he said.
I thought to myself if I’d done what I should have and if it mattered. I’d missed superb novelists like Zadie Smith and Ngugi Wa Thiongo. I’d missed hearing the lilt of poets in motion like Mervin Morris, Ann Margaret Lim, and Millicent Graham. I’d missed voicing poetry at the open mike, meeting Kwame Dawes and rubbing shoulders with those who’d achieved something of what I hope to accomplish in life. I’d missed the hope of making a mark — even the most minuscule of marks – in the Caribbean literary scene. I’d missed stepping out of the shadows.
The thoughts clogged up my mind until much later when I’d written down my thoughts in a journal and gone on my knees in the quiet of night to talk to someone who understood. Perhaps I was thinking too much, as I so often do. Perhaps I’d not missed anything at all. Sometimes we just got to suck our stomachs in and follow how we feel inside. It just wasn’t time — not yet my time. Sometimes we just got to wait.