Academic journal article Journal of Caribbean Literatures

Rock-a-Bye

Academic journal article Journal of Caribbean Literatures

Rock-a-Bye

Article excerpt

As you hold his bloody, trembling hand, the boy tells you that his father used to be a policeman, just like you. You ask him to tell you about his father; just to keep him talking until the ambulance arrives. He tries to reply but coughs and spits blood, and you tell him that it's going to be alright, and that he has to hold on, but you are scared because the blood stain on his shirt is growing larger by the second.

It has been eight minutes since you called the emergency hotline to report the hit and run. As usual, you hadn't been able to sleep and were hoping that a drive around the island would calm your chaotic thoughts. You decided to take a right at the roundabout, instead of your usual left, and had seen the car slam into the boy crossing the road. You check your watch. The ambulance should have been here by now.

The boy mutters that his favorite show is 24, not because of the guns and killing, but because he likes how Jack Bauer always does the right thing and follows his gut, although it may hurt people. You resist the urge to tell him that isn't how real life works, and most people aren't interested in doing the right thing, and you need a sign-off sheet to follow your gut. You don't tell him that just a few hours earlier, a woman who called in at the station to report her abusive boyfriend was just murdered by him, in front of her three children.

She was a young, frail-looking thing. The kind of person you'd expect to see as a nursery school teacher, hugging the snotty-nosed children and singing lullabies or rolling in wild grass with her husband, kissing and whispering sweet nothings to each other. She just didn't belong there in her lover's house; a place where anger was widespread and a fist was the first thing that welcomed her when the sun rose.

You don't tell him that your partner took hours to report the complaint; he knew that the woman called every month about her lover, but always dropped the charges when they arrested him. That you had pleaded with her last month to let the law do its job, but she was too scared and confused to listen, and that today when she called again screaming that he was going to kill her, you had a gut feeling it would be the last time you heard her voice. You can't tell him that, so instead, you tell him that 24 is your favorite show too.

He asks you if you have ever killed anyone, and reluctantly, you tell him that you were forced to shoot a man in self-defense. That you told the man to drop his weapon several times, but he shouted that he would die before he went back to prison, and tried to pull a gun from his pocket. You don't tell him that it happened three weeks ago, and you haven't been able to sleep since then.

You could have predicted the next question. After your friends and family thought that you had enough time to recuperate, they pulled you aside in the corridor at work, or while you were relaxing on the couch, and asked you how it felt to kill someone. Some looked at you, eyes filled with pity and concern, maybe wondering if now you've lost a bit of your humanity, while others reflected lust and eagerness, seemingly hoping that their turn to take a life would soon come.

"Have you ever had a dream so real that waking up seemed fake?" you ask him, but he doesn't understand. You tell him that it was scary for you, scary for you because you didn't feel anything at all, that you were numb. You feel a weight being lifted from your shoulders because this is the first time you've ever answered truthfully. You tell him that you never thought that a human could scream so loud, and that the scream stays with you, coming out sometimes in the wee hours of the morning while you're in bed. And when that scream pulls you out of your sleep, you need to take a few moments to figure out which state is dream or reality.

You sit there for a moment, caught in a swell of depression and remorse, but then you hear the boy softly reciting something. …

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