The Birds Sang Tyranny (Excerpt)
When a man finally stands free in the daylight, after leaving prison, is it he who’s changed, or is it the world? Is it both? And how much can a world change in such a small period of time? The tyranny, for my father, didn’t end behind the walls of Casernes Dessalines. The tyranny was the aftermath: finding himself jobless after his superiors sacked him from his position without considering the fact that he was proven innocent. Finding he’d lost valuable friendships when people he once fraternized with quickly changed sidewalks when they saw him coming, pestiferous, carrying with him the plague of imprisonment. No one wanted to be associated with someone who’d been jailed under this regime. No one wanted to be infected or compromised.
It took a long time for my father to learn to keep his head up above water, to keep from drowning. My father, a man so meticulous these days about the company he keeps, about his reputation, a man who still scratches his scalp with a pencil to keep his perfect Afro in place, for fear of being judged. I try to imagine how this dark episode has dismantled his sense of security.
But I also wonder how much this story has shaped him into who he is today, and who I am today as a person, begging him to share his ghosts. Some stories are difficult to tell, and that chunk of my father’s life is still under lock. He isn’t quite ready to set it free. It’s the aftermath of prison life, I suppose, when your mind still bounces between the walls of a cell that isn’t there.
(Read the whole story in The Hong Kong Review, Vol. I, No. 3)