Another good ‘fortnight’ to all my good people. The dreaded night arrived; the night my mettle as a monarch with the royal dance steps would be tested, the night that would validate this talented artiste as a competent carnival scion or ridicule this ‘bloody’ actor who thinks just because he’s some celebrity he can jump out of nowhere to come and wrestle the crown from those in the know and in the system and have actually worked hard to get where they are. I could see it in their eyes as we made our way to our stand past some other stands. The blaze of colour across the length of the different stands was amazing. The vividness of colour went even beyond the spectrum – red, scarlet, fuscia, rusty brown, turquoise, lime green, lime yellow, colour that would shame the brightest plumed parrot or peacock. It was a pleasing rarity seeing people take absolute pride in their work even if it was going to be showcased for just a fleeting night.
I hid under the shade of the mermaid costume that my queen was to strap unto her back away from any possible person that might recognize me, biting my lips and almost my nails as I went through my routine on that damned vast stage and her theme music I would regally dance to while pushing the winged cart all over the place over and over again in my mind. Then it was our turn. I was already strapped in complete with my bow tie, robe, sceptre and orb. I wheeled myself out close to the ramp I was to push myself up only to face a huge barrage of flashing light bulbs. There was a solid wall in front of me, of dark figures from which the blazing eyes kept winking. I fought back. I just stood there staring at them with a stolid baleful look in my eyes, my face set as flint. I know how I looked because I refused to give them anything until I’d finished the dreadful business of the night. I wasn’t going to waste the precious reserve of energy I’d built up that evening only to burn myself out when the rubber hit the road. My band leader came up to me, a worried look in her eyes, and asked me if I was okay and I told her I was fine and wheeled myself up the ramp unto the stage to the booming voice of our narrator and my theme music feeling the weight of every one of my band members on my shoulders.
I got unto the stage and immediately began executing the ‘M’ formation I’d so diligently rehearsed without my props or costume in my head. I tried to dance in rhythm to the music and at the same time tried to manoeuvre my winged wheeled throne and quickly abandoned the dancing bit feeling very silly. Seeing the vast waves of faces looking up at me and the bright lights looking down at me from around the stadium, I made for the front end of the stage and quickly found myself looking over its edge at the dark abyss miles below me. Almost panicking at the thought of toppling over and having the ‘obong’ and all his regalia landing unceremoniously in a heap among his ‘subjects’, I made to turn back towards the centre of the rear stage to execute the second stroke of my
‘M’ formation only to find I couldn’t turn. I tried again and still couldn’t move! Subtly panicky and smile still frozen in place, I cast surreptitious glances at both ends of my wings to see if they’d been caught by the overhead cables but they were free. I then saw the wings fluttering and realised what had happened. The huge wings had caught the attention of a hearty breeze and the resultant drag prevented me from turning. After straining for a lengthy while of about half a second, or two, I obeyed my wings and turned back to my audience, my tight smile now straining against my ears and wondered how I was going to get out of the mess.
It was at that moment I remembered who I was; the obong! These were my subjects in front of me – the judges, the governors, everyone! This was my stage, I wasn’t answerable to anybody, I wasn’t bound by any stupid rules; I made them and tonight I was going to bend them to my will! Turning and facing the right side of the stadium, I lifted my hand and waved as sedately as I could, my smile softening into a benevolent one. A huge roar rose from that side of the wall. I tried to turn again and found myself rewarded with a gentle push from behind towards the place I’d previously aimed and found I only had to struggle mildly to turn around again to make for the left side of the stage. I waved again, this time with a million watts on my smile and got an even greater roar in response. I moved to the centre front stage and showed myself off in full splendour. It was rapturous. I turned, left the stage, went down the ramp into another waiting wall of flashing bulbs exploding in front of me and answered them in kind with my thirty two, sorry, thirty one pearly whites. My band leader came and hugged me tightly telling me how unbelievably regal I looked on stage and how she couldn’t believe it was the same person who had been fooling around on stage earlier in the afternoon.
Suffice it to say we won the coveted king award, among the numerous awards we carted away in the course of the competition – and it was fierce; a product of dedicated teamwork from everyone in our band of whom I was merely the icing. All that is nothing compared to what is happening on the other side of the world, Haiti. Let us spare a thought and many prayers, if that’s all we can offer, for our brothers and sisters across the lake. I haven’t been brave enough to even conceive what it would be like having almost everyone I love or know being wiped out in a matter of minutes. May God never let compassion and empathy die in our hearts. This post is dedicated to all Haitians, living and asleep, God be with you. Have a great week everyone.
PS: I am most likely to end my carnival experience here but if, and only if, you my dear ones want a post on the carnival proper then please do let me know. Otherwise you can let me know through your questions what you’d like me to write about so we can feel more connected with one another. One love!