If on this route by chance or by choice
Beware of the man in the white suit
If u stare too long, you’ll hear his voice
And before long, you’ll taste his forbidden fruit
My cheek lay on the cold wall as my assailants push my face onto it. I scream and they pull me by my kinky hair and push my face on the wall again, harder this time. I taste blood in my mouth and my ears are ringing. I beg them to stop, to take my bag, and the money I had but to leave me alone. “Yeah we’ll gladly take your money bitch but we’re here to take some other things as well” says a bulky man, with dirty clothes and a dirty look. The other two laugh, amused, excited, titillated, scared. A skinny one, with pointy hair adds with a trembling voice: “You have so many gifts!” Athough in pain, I can’t help but cringe at the mention of that word, gifts. Here we go again with the gifts, those “gifts” that were given to me and that were ultimately my doom….
I never asked for much in life. I did not ask to be given all that I am given, not asked to go through all that I have gone through. But as much as I did not ask for much in life, it has made it its mission to shower me with things (I believe they are called “gifts” by everyone else), things that, ironically, I had absolutely no use for…. “Bondye konn bay; li pa konn separe”
I was born on a February 29th from a mother who worked as a cleaning lady in one of the many NGOs that have taken over the country like a bad case of gangrene and from one of her colleague/employer, an African engineer/wannabee Casanova. She figured their story would last forever and that he would take her back to his country, the motherland; he figured she was after his money and gullible enough to think that he would take her back to his country. Their love lasted the 6 months of his contract and by the time he left, with a thousand stories to tell his friends back home, she was 2 months pregnant, with no employment, as news of her affair had been found out in the office and her services, no longer needed after my father’s departure (fired). She could’ve had an abortion, but refused, intent on having this baby, convinced that her African prince charming would come back and take her and their child with him to his country, away from the slum and the filth of Port-au-Prince.
I didn’t ask to be born but I was born, on an unlikely date from an unlikely father, so I thought. After my second birthday, my mother who was living with her younger sister asked her to watch me while she went outside to buy a can of milk. She never returned; oh she didn’t die. She just left, abandoned us (me). I heard she’s a big time prostitute in Petion-Ville. I sometimes wonder if she ever thinks of me. I am angry at her; not because she abandoned me but because she could’ve saved herself the trouble if she had only aborted because I didn’t ask for life and yet she gave it to me and it has been rendered useless as far as I’m concerned.
I am now 18 years old and for many I am beautiful. I have dark brown skin with no blemishes, courtesy of my African father, according to my aunt. People say that my eyes are as wide as a gazelle’s; my nose straight, thinner than most Haitians or Africans. I think that my mouth is too big and large; others say that it is round, intriguing, inviting, dangerous, cursed etc. With my medium height and my slender frame, my beauty has been a never ending subject up for debate; not whether I am really beautiful or not but rather whether my beauty is safe or dangerous, heaven sent or hell bound, normal or magic etc. I have been continually questioned about my origins, as I have continually questioned the point of all those “gifts” that were bestowed upon me. Indeed what good is this beauty if I live in “ Siro Kann” one of the poorest slums in Port-au-Prince, right before La Saline (or after depending on where you’re coming from). See my point with the whole ironic part of it all?
My aunt, out of love for me, took me in and took care of me as much as she could. She was probably the only person I did not ask life for but that I was glad to have anyway. She has been the one who did her best to shield me from the morbid curiosity that the outside world seemed to have for me. When she would take me out to school or to church, she’d hold my hand the whole way, walking fast, instructing me not to look at anybody or to answer anybody’s remarks or questions. I would be amazed at the amount of profanities that would come of her mouth when many inquired of who I was and why I was so beautiful in such a horrible place. When it came to me, she was a lioness defending her cub and in my mind, I was her cub. But as she grew older, she grew weaker and could not protect me from the world, as much as she wanted to. And so when it came time for me to go out to the streets by myself each outing was a torment. People would sometimes follow me, unsure whether I was real or just a figment of their imagination. Other would try to stop me and ask me questions. I was not as strong (rude) as my aunt so I just did not answer, pretending I was deaf and could not hear. For some I was the incarnation of a voodoo goddess; I doubted it as I was not as courageous or strong as these goddesses were said to be.
After a particular incident where I was cornered by some fervent, church ladies, determined to forcefully (against my will) make me accept Jesus Christ as my personal savior, I began to take a longer route, safer (away from the Jesus squad) to get home. And that’s where I saw him for the first time, immobile, beautiful, mysterious, dangerous, magic. A man, dressed in a stylish white suit, with a crisp white shirt under a white smoking vest and a white suit. So beautiful, so magnificent; I was only thirteen when I first saw him, across a busy street and I was drawn to him….hypnotized, I crossed the streets, careless of the passing cars, of the horns and the profanities with which my imprudence was met. He looked so real, and it was only when I got to the other side of the street (safely) that I realized that he was immobile because he was on a mural but he was so lifelike that I stood there, unable to walk away, unable to even breathe, just in admiration in front of him. Right then and there, I decided that “he” was my best friend and surely he was, as I tried to share everything with him. I was sure that he could hear the battles, fears, questions raging inside of me and I imagined that I could hear his voice. I shared everything with him and he was always there with me…..
Peculiar how this is true as my cheek lay on that wall (mural) and my panties are ripped out by hungry hands; as I faced this troubling experience, aware of every detail, he was there and my cheek lay on his chest….my face was pressed on the very same mural, of the man in the white suit, the man who I considered my best friend. And he stood there watching, immobile, beautiful and silent….I try to move my eyes up to his face to look again at his slightly smiling, slightly serene, slightly mischievous face and as our eyes meet, an excruciating pain snaps me back to reality and causes me to scream my lungs out. My hair is grabbed again and my face pushed to the wall again, with more violence than before. “Shut up!” says the bulky man. I feel a pain unlike everything I ever felt before; like an epidemic, it has spread to my soul as the last remnants of my innocence are taken away from me by a panting, moaning scum. I look up at the man in the white suit as tears fall from my eyes. The magnitude of the pain is making hallucinate as his perpetual smile and serenity is replaced by a look of pure sadness and sorrow. Could he be experiencing the pain and humiliation that I was feeling as this man raped me? My heart, already beating faster than usual, suddenly peaks. I want to cry out for help but who would hear me? I was not supposed to be out that late but my aunt’s arthritis pain was unbearable and I had to go by her pain killing medicine. The unfairness of the situation adds to the pain that I already feel inside but it was late (9:45 PM) and I should’ve known better. There was no soul in sight, no one could help me. “I can help you” says a voice inside of me, but too faint for me to hold on to it for strength. As the big guy stops his assault, his penis throbbing inside of me, I look up again as I feel a droplet of water fall on my face. Rain?
“What the fuck is going on? What the hell are you guys doing?” I hear someone say. They mumble curses about how they were just getting started and ran off. I fall on my knees on the ground as a man approaches and asks with concern: “Are you ok miss? What were they doing to you? Were they…?. I couldn’t utter a word, barely could make out his face as one of my eyes was beaten shut. It was a middle aged with his face disfigured with worry and disgust. I close my eyes, unable to speak: “Let me die!” I think “I didn’t ask for this!”. “No; you can’t die!” answers a man’s voice, in my head. I open my eyes as I am carried away and look at the man with the white suit on the mural; a drop of water was running down his cheek…..
The events after that are mostly a blur. At some point, I was in my aunt’s house where I was carried. I hear her voice, wailing, crying, cussing, calling my name “Celia, Celia” and demanding explanations from other people that only I could provide. I am taken to a health center near by where a concerned foreign doctor from “Doctors without borders” did her best to assist me and help out with the external wounds (what about the wound to my soul) that I had. She looked at me like all other people used to look at me, with admiration and fear; I doubted that I looked “beautiful” with my face swollen. She sighed and grabbed a bag from a small desk and pulls out pills called PEP. “Take this ok? This will protect from the HIV virus!” she says with a heavy accent, tears in her eyes. I try to say something but it hurts to talk. She quickly says: “Don’t thank me! No worry!”. I think “I don’t want to thank you. I didn’t ask for this; I didn’t ask for any of this.” I am ultimately taken to my house, a small two room place, exceptionally unharmed after the earthquake of January 12 2010. I stay home, unable to go out much more not to preoccupy my aunt then out of fear. Around the neighborhood, bickering neighbors have come together to protect their daughters; word around the neighborhood is that if I, such a beautiful girl, could get raped and brutalized like I was, then their daughters (plain, ordinary) would surely be killed. The three men are identified, as Gera, Yvens and Weston from another neighborhood about 15 blocks away. They have said to be in hiding as all the surrounding neighborhood know about their act and intent on making them pay (actually more intent on preventing them from doing harm in their own families). And I am left with the scars….
My physical scars healed quickly, adding more the already ongoing freak show that my life has turned into. Claims that I have made pacts with the devil, that my “lwa” helped me recover started going around. My aunt, ashamed of her being the reason why I went out that fateful night, avoids talking to me. I am even more alone than I ever been. I am now damaged goods. I have nightmare that weirdly are more about how the man in the mural looked the night I got raped rather than the rape itself. I could remember things that I couldn’t quite make sense of; how I felt heartbeat as my cheek was on the wall, how the man in the mural seemed to have a tear rolling down his cheek.
I started to hallucinate, concerning my self with things that were insane (in the normal world). I became angry, at the man in the white suit, this man on this mural who was supposed to be my friend, my best friend. The time when I could escape my aunt and get out of the house and out of Siro Kann, I went to this street where the mural stood. I stayed on the street across; he was there, still as he was before, same smile and serenity on his face. I stood there watching him and murmured: “You abandoned me! You betrayed me!”. “I didn’t!” answers a male voice in my head. I look at the mural again, and see the face expression change into sadness, remorse. I took one last look and ran back home, afraid of how I was navigating between the lines of reality and fantasy (sanity and insanity).
I have become frailer as days go by, eating only to keep myself from fainting. Life never had much meaning for me but after this, its purpose was all gone. Nights were the worst as I had complete conversions with myself, to my aunt’s dismay.
_ “I didn’t ask for any of this!” I said one night, while lying in my bed.
_ “You should be patient! Good things come to those who wait; you will know the purpose of your life soon!” Answers the male voice in my head.
_ “Fuck you! You’re one to talk! Standing by while letting this horrible thing happen to me.” I answer unnerved
_ “I did not stand and watch. I couldn’t do anything Celia!”
_ “Yeah you couldn’t do anything! I answered, choking back tears. You’re a mural!”
_ “No Celia. That’s not the reason for my inaction!” Answered the voice, with sadness.
_ “No shit! I yelled. So what’s the reason then? Please enlighten me! What’s the reason for your “inaction” as you call it? I call it cowardice!”
_I could not do anything because you didn’t ask me to help, Celia.
_Fuck you! I’m going to sleep, hum…
It dawned on me that I did not even know his name. I continued:
“ I Don’t even know your name! You’re not real; what I feel this is real. You abandoned me! It’s too late to help now! It’s too late to do something. It’s just too late!”
As I lay down, slowly falling asleep, with a soft wind blowing, I felt a soft and hard, cold touch caress my cheek and drying a tear on it. As I slowly open my eyes, I saw a man leaning over my bed, his hand on my cheek, his face beautiful, flawless chocolate, with long black dreads. He smiled a serene, friendly, trusting but determined smile. He was wearing a white suit: a stylish white suit, with a crisp white shirt under a white smoking vest and a white suit. He looked at me and said in a voice now familiar to me:
_My name is Jean Michel! And my dear Celia, it is not too late to do something; it is not too late to help! All you have to do is ask me; ask me to help you, ask what you need and I shall give it to you! Your life will finally have a purpose lovely Celia.