We started out in the cholera business at Warf Jeremie, working the night shift in a clinic with a dead lady oozing on the break room floor, Glad bags and duct tape not up to the task.
The clinic was run by an Italian woman, Marcella, said she was a nurse and a nun, I later learned she was neither. She’d run the little hospital there for 20 years, and the influx of cholera patients was overwhelming.
I was aware of smoky air, and we had a bodyguard, but I didn’t make much of all that, we were busy. So I was looking forward to going back.
Rick, whose latest harebrained idea is growing tanks of Tilapia, using our excess hospital O2 production to oxygenate the water, and selling the fish live at warf Jeremie, also has a macaroni distribution system. The Italians (who else?) shipped over a bakery in a container, you can make bread or pasta, and a micro enterprise takes hold. I neglected to mention the pasta in the past, because there’s just too much to talk about, but it’s a going concern. He offers ten 10 pound bags of macaroni for 32 dollars, and the women can sell them in the market for 4 dollars each, something for everybody. The macaroni loses a little money, but at least it’s not a giveaway nutrition program.
Anyway, the money comes in dribs and drabs, enough now to build 5 more houses at Cite Soliel, and he’s cleared and filled a space for 5 at Warf Jeremie, too.
We took a truckload of macaroni down there after dark, and looked over the site where the five houses will go.
We took Ash, who has serious history and street credibility, but in Cite Soleil, not Warf Jeremie.
So we also took Cesar, who used to run a couple of corners in warf Jeremie, and his brother Ronel, and Ton, who they call a brother, but is not. Everybody knows them, and Ash stays up in the truck, why ruffle feathers?
Ash, Cesar, Ton, and macaroni
We cruised the trash strewn streets down to the warf. The dusk air was finally cooler, but fouled with street fires and diesels carried to Cuban lengths. Clouds of burnt oil suspend the rubble’s grit, you pick it out of your teeth.
The warf is like all the warves, abandoned, Blade Runner. Fractured cobble separates decaying one story block facades, and the tents, cheek by jowl, weathered to tatters two and a half years on. No light, no water, no electricity.
We had trouble with distribution yesterday, at Sanfil, and that was in daylight:
By the time we get down to Jeremie, it’s dark, and like Sanfil yesterday, the crowd is suddenly large and unruly. The tents empty and people swarm, press us up against the truck. The kids like the feel of the hair on my arms, my head, everybody touches me, everyone’s filthy. Need squeezes us, rattles us. The men shout- basso profundo, and close enough to raise some hackles. Kreyol is the language of the drum.
It’s a faceless, numberless crowd, a mob, pushing forward with some urgency- hmm…the nightclub doesn’t seem to be on fire, but do you smell smoke?
A woman pushes her small son forward, snotty and crying at the sight of a big white man. He drools a little, at first I think he’s retarded. They are speaking, I can’t catch all of it in the ruckus, some malady of the face?
Even where there are no pants, cell phones abound, and they light his face. Oh, now I can see it, feel it, my God, it’s a rock under his jaw, the kid has a Burkitt’s lymphoma. Name? Michel, age? 5, mother? Mariline. He stops crying. I hold him awhile, above the crowd so he can see, seems to like that, but what can I do with him?
Then the food distribution begins behind me, it’s basically a riot. We get separated, Cesar swinging and shouting and pushing them back, Ash stays up in the truck, keeps his baritone silent, thank god. I wind up among the tents, it’s a maize, Ton grabs my arm and bustles me back to the truck, let’s GO.
So we went. After a bit, we breathe easy.
But what about the kid?
I talk to Cesar about my dilemna, he makes two calls, and pings him.
He’ll bring him in with his Mom for a biopsy tomorrow.
I looked at this crowd, and saw a wild animal, a herd, arms outstretched, grasping- a blur of hunger, and anxiety, and hostility, and dirt.
But they’re individually identifiable, reachable, knowable.
Learn something new every day.