Ayiti Day 1: Leaving New York


We’re taxiing. My mind keeps traveling back to the moment when Nazalima called and told me that Haiti had just experienced an earthquake. My own voice screaming, “no, no, no!” when I turned on the television and saw that it was true plays in my ears.

I’m so nervous, anxious, excited to return to my beloved Ayiti. I’m afraid of what I’ll find still there as well as gone. I keep thinking about Cathy Caruth’s work on referents. Everything that is references something that is not. Everyone who is alive references everyone who is not. Everyone who is in Ayiti references everyone who is not—whether they are abroad in Miami, New York or Canada. It could be my taxi driver this morning, a Haitian man who has not been to Ayiti in the nine years since he left in search of a better life for his family. He told me about his family whom he has been trying to bring over. They are all fine. His house still stands.

I think about the young taxi driver who drove me to JFK during my first trip to Ayiti over 20 years ago. He warned me then not to talk to anyone, anyone could be a spy he said, even a shoeshine boy. Residual terror from the Duvalier years.

I barely spoke to my taxi driver this morning, so wrapped I was in my own thoughts.

My dearest sister-friend, Nazalima, called and left a message while I was still in the taxi. She is so wise, knowing even before I knew that I just needed to laugh before embarking on this journey. She kept me company while I waited in the terminal. And while I was on the phone with her my other dearest sister-friend texted me, “luv u”. My son then texted simply, “I am at school”. I called my sister, Mona, to let her know that I was heading out. She was her usual nutty self, but I know she would give me the world if she could.

So much never gets said to and by the people who mean so much to us. I will save those messages and refer to them again and again, sometimes by accident; other times very deliberately.

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