Darcus Howe on how a shotgun ended a boy's dreams
My son is off to college, but his friend "Rattie" won't go, now or ever
Home is quiet again, after a hectic summer of my daughter's friends drifting in and out, with hip-hop blaring from her room at the top. Zoe managed a clutch of O-levels but had long decided that she was not the A-level, university type.
She is, by instinct, proletarian. Mrs Howe and I adopted her some ten years ago. Most of her life before that was in foster care, with a tough, old-style, Jamaican working-class woman. She has taken an apprenticeship in the field of medical engineering, based here in south London, in one of England's largest hospitals. She will go down the Unison route, I expect - a trade unionist and socialist moving up from the base. At one time, she was heading for the army, but I am sure she was put off by the casual way in which Blair and Bush propose to take hundreds of thousands of young Iraqi, British and American lives.
She has reached this far without much trauma, brought up in a fairly settled democracy, where choices are wide and varied for a young black woman. Not so my son. He's here with me now, and I wish to thank readers who offered sympathy after I wrote of his horrible experience at his home in Trinidad. I reported that he came close to death when his mother's husband was shot in the family house as part of an Islamic feud.
We have not talked about his experience. I listen and look. He alternates between silence and rapid-fire babble. On mornings, he strokes my head and kisses the pate. He is happy to be out of that murderous mess that is part of the modern Caribbean.
Unlike Zoe, he is desperate to move rapidly to his A-levels, and then to university. It is the only way out that he knows, out of the snake-pit that is working-class life in the Caribbean.
As I write, he has gone off to college, and I am thankful there are no bullet holes in his body. I shed a tear for him - and another for his friend and contemporary Kelvin "Rattie" Phillip, whose family I have known for years. Kelvin won't be going to college, now or ever. He had his head blown off with a pump-action shotgun, only a stone's throw from where I was brought up in Trinidad's capital city, Port of Spain. I am pleased that my son has escaped, even though by a tiny thread. As he would say: all praises are due to Allah.