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Krik? Krak!, Page 2

Edwidge Danticat

  last night they came to madan roger's house, papa hurried inside as soon as madan roger's screaming started, the soldiers were looking for her son. madan roger was screaming, you killed him already, we buried his head, you can't kill him twice, they were shouting at her, do you belong to the youth federation with those vagabonds who were on the radio? she was yelling, do i look like a youth to you? can you identify your son's other associates? they asked her. papa had us tiptoe from the house into the latrine out back, we could hear it all from there, i thought i was going to choke on the smell of rotting poupou. they kept shouting at madan roger, did your son belong to the youth federation? wasn't he on the radio talking about the police? did he say, down with tonton macoutes? did he say, down with the army? he said that the military had to go; didn't he write slogans? he had meetings, didn't he? he demonstrated on the streets, you should have advised him better, she cursed on their mothers' graves, she just came out and shouted it, i hope your mothers will never rest in their cursed graves! she was just shouting it out, you killed him once already! you want to kill me too? go ahead, i don't care anymore, i'm dead already, you have already done the worst to me that you can do. you have killed my soul, they kept at it, asking her questions at the top of their voices: was your son a traitor? tell me all the names of his friends who were traitors just like him. madan roger finally shouts, yes, he was one! he belonged to that group, he was on the radio, he was on the streets at these demonstrations, he hated you like i hate you criminals, you killed him. they start to pound at her. you can hear it. you can hear the guns coming down on her head, it sounds like they are cracking all the bones in her body, manman whispers to papa, you can't just let them kill her. go and give them some money like you gave them for your daughter, papa says, the only money i have left is to get us out of here tomorrow, manman whispers, we cannot just stay here and let them kill her. manman starts moving like she is going out the door, papa grabs her neck and pins her to the latrine wall, tomorrow we are going to ville rose, he says, you will not spoil that for the family, you will not put us in that situation, you will not get us killed, going out there will be like trying to raise the dead, she is not dead yet, manman says, maybe we can help her. i will make you stay if i have to, he says to her. my mother buries her face in the latrine wall, she starts to cry. you can hear madan roger screaming, they are beating her, pounding on her until you don't hear anything else, manman tells papa, you cannot let them kill somebody just because you are afraid, papa says, oh yes, you can let them kill somebody because you are afraid, they are the law. it is their right, we are just being good citizens, following the law of the land, it has happened before all over this country and tonight it will happen again and there is nothing we can do.

  Célianne spent the night groaning. She looks like she has been ready for a while, but maybe the child is being stubborn. She just screamed that she is bleeding. There is an older woman here who looks like she has had a lot of children herself. She says Célianne is not bleeding at all. Her water sack has broken.

  The only babies I have ever seen right after birth are baby mice. Their skin looks veil thin. You can see all the blood vessels and all their organs. I have always wanted to poke them to see if my finger would go all the way through the skin.

  I have moved to the other side of the boat so I will not have to look inside Célianne. People are just watching. The captain asks the midwife to keep Célianne steady so she will not rock any more holes into the boat. Now we have three cracks covered with tar. I am scared to think of what would happen if we had to choose among ourselves who would stay on the boat and who should die. Given the choice to make a decision like that, we would all act like vultures, including me.

  The sun will set soon. Someone says that this child will be just another pair of hungry lips. At least it will have its mother's breasts, says an old man. Everyone will eat their last scraps of food today.

  there is a rumor that the old president is coming back, there is a whole bunch of people going to the airport to meet him. papa says we are not going to stay in port-au-prince to find out if this is true or if it is a lie. they are selling gasoline at the market again, the carnival groups have taken to the streets, we are heading the other way, to ville rose, maybe there i will be able to sleep at night, it is not going to turn out well with the old president coming back, manman now says, people are just too hopeful, and sometimes hope is the biggest weapon of all to use against us. people will believe anything, they will claim to see the christ return and march on the cross backwards if there is enough hope, manman told papa that you took the boat, papa told me before we left this morning that he thought himself a bad father for everything that happened, he says a father should be able to speak to his children like a civilized man. all the craziness here has made him feel like he cannot do that anymore, all he wants to do is live, he and manman have not said a word to one another since we left the latrine, i know that papa does not hate us, not in the way that i hate those soldiers, those macoutes, and all those people here who shoot guns, on our way to ville rose, we saw dogs licking two dead faces, one of them was a little boy who was lying on the side of the road with the sun in his dead open eyes, we saw a soldier shoving a woman out of a hut, calling her a witch, he was shaving the woman's head, but of course we never stopped, papa didn't want to go in madan roger's house and check on her before we left, he thought the soldiers might still be there, papa was driving the van real fast, i thought he was going to kill us. we stopped at an open market on the way. manman got some black cloth for herself and for me. she cut the cloth in two pieces and we wrapped them around our heads to mourn madan roger. when i am used to ville rose, maybe i will sketch you some butterflies, depending on the news that they bring me.

  Célianne had a girl baby. The woman acting as a mid-wife is holding the baby to the moon and whispering prayers.. . . God, this child You bring into the world, please guide her as You please through all her days on this earth. The baby has not cried.

  We had to throw our extra things in the sea because the water is beginning to creep in slowly. The boat needs to be lighter. My two gourdes in change had to be thrown overboard as an offering to Agwé, the spirit of the water. I heard the captain whisper to someone yesterday that they might have to do something with some of the people who never recovered from seasickness. I am afraid that soon they may ask me to throw out this notebook. We might all have to strip down to the way we were born, to keep ourselves from drowning.

  Célianne's child is a beautiful child. They are calling her Swiss, because the word Swiss was written on the small knife they used to cut her umbilical cord. If she was my daughter, I would call her soleil, sun, moon, or star, after the elements. She still hasn't cried. There is gossip circulating about how Célianne became pregnant. Some people are saying that she had an affair with a married man and her parents threw her out. Gossip spreads here like everywhere else.

  Do you remember our silly dreams? Passing the university exams and then studying hard to go until the end, the farthest of all that we can go in school. I know your father might never approve of me. I was going to try to win him over. He would have to cut out my heart to keep me from loving you. I hope you are writing like you promised. Jesus, Marie, Joseph! Everyone smells so bad. They get into arguments and they say to one another, "It is only my misfortune that would lump me together with an indigent like you." Think of it. They are fighting about being superior when we all might drown like straw.

  There is an old toothless man leaning over to see what I am writing. He is sucking on the end of an old wooden pipe that has not seen any fire for a very long time now. He looks like a painting. Seeing things simply, you could fill a museum with the sights you have here. I still feel like such a coward for running away. Have you heard anything about my parents? Last time I saw them on the beach, my mother had a kriz. She just fainted on the sand. I saw her coming to as we started sailing away. But of course I don't know if she is doing all right.

nbsp; The water is really piling into the boat. We take turns pouring bowls of it out. I don't know what is keeping the boat from splitting in two. Swiss isn't crying. They keep slapping her behind, but she is not crying.

  of course the old president didn't come, they arrested a lot of people at the airport, shot a whole bunch of them down, i heard it on the radio, while we were eating tonight, i told papa that i love you. i don't know if it will make a difference, i just want him to know that i have loved somebody in my life, in case something happens to one of us, i think he should know this about me, that i have loved someone besides only my mother and father in my life, i know you would understand, you are the one for large noble gestures, i just wanted him to know that i was capable of loving somebody, he looked me straight in the eye and said nothing to me. i love you until my hair shivers at the thought of anything happening to you. papa just turned his face away like he was rejecting my very birth, i am writing you from under the banyan tree in the yard in our new house, there are only two rooms and a tin roof that makes music when it rains, especially when there is hail, which falls like angry tears from heaven, there is a stream down the hill from the house, a stream that is too shallow for me to drown myself, manman and i spend a lot of time talking under the banyan tree, she told me today that sometimes you have to choose between your father and the man you love, her whole family did not want her to marry papa because he was a gardener from ville rose and her family was from the city and some of them had even gone to university, she whispered everything under the banyan tree in the yard so as not to hurt his feelings, i saw him looking at us hard from the house, i heard him clearing his throat like he heard us anyway, like we hurt him very deeply somehow just by being together.

  Célianne is lying with her head against the side of the boat. The baby still will not cry. They both look very peaceful in all this chaos. Célianne is holding her baby tight against her chest. She just cannot seem to let herself throw it in the ocean. I asked her about the baby's father. She keeps repeating the story now with her eyes closed, her lips barely moving.

  She was home one night with her mother and brother Lionel when some ten or twelve soldiers burst into the house. The soldiers held a gun to Lionel's head and ordered him to lie down and become intimate with his mother. Lionel refused. Their mother told him to go ahead and obey the soldiers because she was afraid that they would kill Lionel on the spot if he put up more of a fight. Lionel did as his mother told him, crying as the soldiers laughed at him, pressing the gun barrels farther and farther into his neck.

  Afterwards, the soldiers tied up Lionel and their mother, then they each took turns raping Célianne. When they were done, they arrested Lionel, accusing him of moral crimes. After that night, Célianne never heard from Lionel again.

  The same night, Célianne cut her face with a razor so that no one would know who she was. Then as facial scars were healing, she started throwing up and getting rashes. Next thing she knew, she was getting big. She found out about the boat and got on. She is fifteen.

  manman told me the whole story today under the banyan tree, the bastards were coming to get me. they were going to arrest me. they were going to peg me as a member of the youth federation and then take me away, papa heard about it. he went to the post and paid them money, all the money he had. our house in port-au-prince and all the land his father had left him, he gave it all away to save my life, this is why he was so mad. tonight manman told me this under the banyan tree, i have no words to thank him for this, i don't know how. you must love him for this, manman says, you must, it is something you can never forget, the sacrifice he has made, i cannot bring myself to say thank you. now he is more than my father, he is a man who gave everything he had to save my life, on the radio tonight, they read the list of names of people who passed the university exams, you passed.

  We got some relief from the seawater coming in. The captain used the last of his tar, and most of the water is staying out for a while. Many people have volunteered to throw Célianne's baby overboard for her. She will not let them. They are waiting for her to go to sleep so they can do it, but she will not sleep. I never knew before that dead children looked purple. The lips are the most purple because the baby is so dark. Purple like the sea after the sun has set.

  Célianne is slowly drifting off to sleep. She is very tired from the labor. I do not want to touch the child. If anybody is going to throw it in the ocean, I think it should be her. I keep thinking, they have thrown every piece of flesh that followed the child out of her body into the water. They are going to throw the dead baby in the water. Won't these things attract sharks?

  Célianne's fingernails are buried deep in the child's naked back. The old man with the pipe just asked, "Kompè, what are you writing?" I told him, "My will."

  i am getting used to ville rose, there are butterflies here, tons of butterflies, so far none has landed on my hand, which means they have no news for me. i cannot always bathe in the stream near the house because the water is freezing cold, the only time it feels just right is at noon, and then there are a dozen eyes who might see me bathing, i solved that by getting a bucket of water in the morning and leaving it in the sun and then bathing myself once it is night under the banyan tree, the banyan now is my most trusted friend, they say banyans can last hundreds of years, even the branches that lean down from them become like trees themselves, a banyan could become a forest, manman says, if it were given a chance, from the spot where i stand under the banyan, i see the mountains, and behind those are more mountains still, so many mountains that are bare like rocks, i feel like all those mountains are pushing me farther and farther away from you.

  She threw it overboard. I watched her face knot up like a thread, and then she let go. It fell in a splash, floated for a while, and then sank. And quickly after that she jumped in too. And just as the baby's head sank, so did hers. They went together like two bottles beneath a waterfall. The shock lasts only so long. There was no time to even try and save her. There was no question of it. The sea in that spot is like the sharks that live there. It has no mercy.

  They say I have to throw my notebook out. The old man has to throw out his hat and his pipe. The water is rising again and they are scooping it out. I asked for a few seconds to write this last page and then promised that I would let it go. I know you will probably never see this, but it was nice imagining that I had you here to talk to.

  I hope my parents are alive. I asked the old man to tell them what happened to me, if he makes it anywhere. He asked me to write his name in "my book." I asked him for his full name. It is Justin Moi'se Andre Nozius Joseph Frank Osnac Maximilien. He says it all with such an air that you would think him a king. The old man says, "I know a Coast Guard ship is coming. It came to me in my dream." He points to a spot far into the distance. I look where he is pointing. I see nothing. From here, ships must be like a mirage in the desert.

  I must throw my book out now. It goes down to them, Célianne and her daughter and all those children of the sea who might soon be claiming me.

  I go to them now as though it was always meant to be, as though the very day that my mother birthed me, she had chosen me to live life eternal, among the children of the deep blue sea, those who have escaped the chains of slavery to form a world beneath the heavens and the blood-drenched earth where you live.

  Perhaps I was chosen from the beginning of time to live there with Agwé at the bottom of the sea. Maybe this is why I dreamed of the starfish and the mermaids having the Catholic Mass under the sea. Maybe this was my invitation to go. In any case, I know that my memory of you will live even there as I too become a child of the sea.

  today i said thank you. i said thank you, papa, because you saved my life, he groaned and just touched my shoulder, moving his hand quickly away like a butterfly, and then there it was, the black butterfly floating around us. i began to run and run so it wouldn't land on me, but it had already carried its news, i know what must have happened, tonight i listened to man
man's transistor under the banyan tree, all i hear from the radio is more killing in port-au-prince. the pigs are refusing to let up. i don't know what's going to happen, but i cannot see staying here forever, i am writing to you from the bottom of the banyan tree, manman says that banyan trees are holy and sometimes if we call the gods from beneath them, they will hear our voices clearer, now there are always butterflies around me, black ones that i refuse to let find my hand, i throw big rocks at them, but they are always too fast, last night on the radio, i heard that another boat sank off the coast of the bahamas. i can't think about you being in there in the waves, my hair shivers, from here, i cannot even see the sea. behind these mountains are more mountains and more black butterflies still and a sea that is endless like my love for you.



  My Madonna cried. A miniature teardrop traveled down her white porcelain face, like dew on the tip of early morning grass. When I saw the tear I thought, surely, that my mother had died.

  I sat motionless observing the Madonna the whole day. It did not shed another tear. I remained in the rocking chair until it was nightfall, my bones aching from the thought of another trip to the prison in Port-au-Prince. But, of course, I had to go.