I had always considered this woman, my mother, as the enemy. She was sure to misunderstand anything I did, and the time came when I thought she not only misunderstood me, but quite definitely disapproved of me. I was an only child, but for her I was one too many.
She hated my father, and even after he died she continued to hate him.
She would say, “Go ahead and do what you doing. You is your father child, you hear, not mine.”
The real split between my mother and me happened not in Miguel Street, but in the country.
My mother had decided to leave. my father, and she wanted to take me to her mother.
I refused to go.
My father was ill, and in bed. Besides, he had promised that if I stayed with him I was to have a whole box of crayons.
I chose the crayons and my father.
We were living at the time in Cunupia, where my father was a driver on the sugar estates. He wasn’t a slave-driver, but a driver of free people, but my father used to behave as though the people were slaves. He rode about the estates on a big clumsy brown horse, cracking his whip at the labourers and people said—I really don't believe this—that he used to kick the labourers.
I don’t believe it because my father had lived all his life in Cunupia and he knew that you really couldn't push the Cunupia people around. They are not tough people, but they think nothing of killing, and they are prepared to wait years for the chance to kill someone they don’t like.
Everybody agreed on one thing. My mother and I had to leave the country. Port-of-Spain was the safest place. There was too a lot of laughter against my father, and it appeared that for the rest of my life I would have to bear the cross of a father who died from fright. But in a month or so I had forgotten my father, and I had begun to look upon myself as the boy who had no father. It seemed natural.
In fact, when we moved to Port-of-Spain and I saw what the normal relationship between father and son was—it was nothing more than the relationship between the beater and the beaten—when I saw this I was grateful.
My mother made a great thing at first about keeping me in my place and knocking out all the nonsense my father had taught me. I don’t know why she didn’t try harder, but the fact is that she soon lost interest in me, and she let me run about the street, only rushing down to beat me from time to time.
But you mustn’t get the impression that I was a saint all the time. I wasn’t. I used to have odd fits where I just couldn’t take an order from anybody, particularly my mother. I used to feel that I would dishonour myself for life if I took anybody’s orders. And life is a funny thing, really. I sometimes got these fits just when my mother was anxious to be nice to me.
Slowly the friendliness died away. It had become a struggle between two wills. I was prepared to drown rather than dishonour myself by obeying.
At times like these I used to cry, without meaning it, “If my father was alive you wouldn’t be behaving like this.”
So she remained the enemy. She was someone from whom I was going to escape as soon as I grew big enough. That was, in fact, the main lure of adulthood.
My mother came and I could see her eyes glassy and wet with tears.
Somebody, I cannot remember who, said, “Boy, you had your mother really worried.”
I looked at her tears, and I felt I was going to cry too. I had discovered that she could be worried and anxious for me.
I wished I were a Hindu god at that moment, with two hundred arms, so that all two hundred could be broken, just to enjoy that moment, and to see again my mother’s tears.