Author Archives: Sergio Narine

An observation

It stared at me again today with its dull expression. Its friends all grouped in different corners of this large room. But this “thing” was alone in a corner reserved for its grand importance. It looked philosophical because it only expressed colors of white and black as if it were holding unto the secrets and meaning of life and death. The body polished so well that the room expanded like a portal to another world. The top frame opened only a foot wide to allow the sound to resonant throughout the room and possibly move ones heart. Its shape constructed to be used at social gatherings amongst friend, family, and lovers of music. The sides of this object are not parallel, one side straight, but the opposite side resembles the seductress shape of a supple woman. It stood there on its three legs like an old man who is stricken with a terrible curse, old age. But yet its texture remains perfect from a distance.
I returned to this large room again to satisfy my curiosity. I approached this instrument to examine it, but secretly it was its seductress look that drew me in. As I got closer, its size increased and its shape appeared more captivating as I gazed upon it. Before I knew it I was standing near this object. My curiosity compelled me to touch it and soon my hand was in a trance gliding against the body of this instrument. The soundboard was open and this object no longer appeared as a single entity, but it had smaller parts connected to one another like an old grandfather clock. Inside this soundboard there were steel 230 steel strings stretched across the soundboard connected to smaller parts. And within this soundboard there were bolts and tuning pins tighten carefully with soft cloth-like hammers used to strike the steel strings to produce a sound that is interpreted as music. As I walked to the front of this instrument its properties and colors became more appealing. The colors of black and white covered the ivory keys of this instrument. The pattern of two black keys surround by three white keys followed by three black keys followed by four white keys captivated my attention. This pattern continued though the 88 keys that ascended from the lowest rumbling-like note to the highest whistle-like note. There was also a name for this instrument engraved in a prestigious gold color “Yamaha,” which seemed like a foreign name for such a traditional musical instrument. There were three pedals below the keys of this instrument used to shorten or lengthen the duration of a specific key. These parts of the instrument were assembled with great care by a person who not only appreciated this object for its aesthetic beauty, but also for its mechanical ability.
A month passed and I returned to this room where this “thing” was position alone in its corner amid all the other groups of musical instruments covered with a piece of fabric. Then, a man entered this large room decorated with painting of noise and sound. The room was quiet and pieces by Mozart, Chopin, and Schubert were heard. And this instrument poured out emotions of fear, love, hate, anger, fantasy, and despair; all which are human experiences. But yet this object is not regarded as the creator of these emotions because many believe it cannot feel or experience human emotions or pain. What a shameful thought because some have regarded this instrument as supernatural that can influence ones thought that would change ones belief that could then alter ones actions. But then again, its existence was motivated by a mechanical use to produce noise, sound, or as some like to call it, music.
This instrument stood there in its glorious stance and my hand pressed against one of the white keys and immediately a pitch was produced and an overtone series occurred, which is the theory that from one pitch many other pitches are heard at a higher frequency, but it still maintains its original sound. This pitch rang throughout the room and then it ended. I stood there and pressed the first black key that was positioned between the four white keys. Afterwards, I heard a voice ask me “Its intriguing isn’t it?” I was startled. I stepped aside and watched this man place a trunk next to this instrument and sat down on a leather covered stool near this instrument. His long aged fingers began moving up and down this instrument in a scalarly motion. Then, he played a song that evoked emotions of sadness, love, and hope. Over and over this song rang throughout this room and this man would cringe and his head would tilt every moment or so. He asked me, “Do you hear that?” I said, “Yes, it’s beautiful.” He said, “No, it’s…”

The Unspoken Principle

“Mom I can’t act like its okay. I’m only thirteen years old,” I said

“He is you brother. You have to forgive him,” she said.

That’s what you always say I thought.

The rays of the morning sun had not fully penetrated the gloomy overcast like the weather man had predicted. Above my head were a group of birds whistling sweet melodies where I was seated on a green bench waiting for the building to open. The building was intriguing because it did not resemble a typical public library. It was constructed like an ancient Greek building where scholars would translate and transcribed important text about their history. Standing near the entrance of the building was a young girl and her mother who were laughing every so often like there was an inside joke that only people who already had job experience knew. In the corner of my eye, I saw a guy walking up the stairs to the library who had also attended the SYEP (Summer Youth Employment Program) training workshops. He was dressed in a shirt and tie like a postman with his manila envelope in his hand. Everyone seemed to know exactly what they were there for.

The doors finally opened and we entered the building. Walking alone into this building was strange without my mother because everyone else was accompanied by their parents. When we entered the main lobby of the library we were told that our parents could not be part of the orientation meeting. I felt satisfied seeing the parents escorted to another corner of the library. After the parents mouthed the words “good luck” to their children, we all walked to a small table with pieces of papers that had our names in titles that began like Mr. or Ms….. The library supervisor walked in and gave a brief description of what it means to work in a professional public organization. Then, our site supervisor told us that we would have pay close attention to the library supervisor regarding our duties at the library because she would receive an evaluation of our behavior each week.

After this formal introduction, we were taken into the break room and given our uniform. Then, the site supervisor told us quietly that, “if we had any problem with any employee or with our supervisor, we should contact her immediately.” She was very polite to us, and every time she smiled her face would create two dents in the side of her cheeks.
After our site supervisor left, the library supervisor informed us that that we would be trained by a more experienced employee for three days, then we would need to work on our own. Throughout the day, I had struggled with the responsibilities because I had to reshelf books that were brought in by patrons, organize specific book sections, and maintain a clean play area for the younger children. The day was longer than I expected and my feet were hurting me. Then, I heard a strange voice say, “Great job Sergio,” when I signed my time sheet, so I smiled, and said my formal, “Thank you.” I left work satisfied and ran home to tell my mom about my first day of working at the library, even though Cain would receive all the attention for coming home late as usual because he broke his curfew. However, I had stories that would transform the experience at the library into an odyssey that would grab the interest one anyone.

The next day I returned to work at 8:30 a.m., and again I sat outside on the green wooden bench under a tree. Under the shade of the tree, I was going through the advice my mom had told me about being professional at work the night before: “Always greet your co-workers even if they don’t say hello first, always dress appropriately, and always speak properly.” Then, I remembered my brother asking me how I got the job; he had always received the better gifts because he was older, but more importantly he was the first son. So this feeling of possessing something he desired was satisfying. My thoughts were disturbed when one of my co-workers who had been carrying a manila envelope the first day of the job walked up the stairs and sat next to me. He had facial hair, an earring, and looked a lot older than I thought.

“Wow, you’re pretty young. What is your name? He asked.

“Sergio. What’s your name?” I said.

“Paul,” he replied.

“So Joseph, can I ask you a question?” he asked.

“Sure,” I replied

“So what are you planning to do with the money you earn for the summer?” Paul asked.

The first thought that came into my head was to say, “I’m going to save it for a rainy day,” but instead I said, “I will probably buy new cloths for the first day of high school and some video games.”

He smiled and said, “That’s smart.”

The library supervisor walked up to the stairs to the front of the building. Immediately I said, “Good Morning” like a programmed robot. Paul and I followed the supervisor into the building. As I walked into the lobby, I greeted the security officer and headed to the break room to get changed. I took off my casual shirt and put on a bright green shirt that had the letters SYEP printed on the back that the site supervisor had given me. I disliked this shirt because I felt out of place amongst patrons, but it reminded me of my old back yard in Suriname where it was the only color you saw when you stood on the veranda and saw luscious green leaves of banana, coconut, and mango trees. After changing, I went to sign in and looked at the daily duties that I was responsible for the week. I felt overwhelmed because I did not expect to have so many responsibilities, but then I remembered that my mother said, “You reap what you sow.” So I accepted this challenge with great zeal because I knew the payout would be worth it.

It was lunch time and one of the girls at the library who was also employed by SYEP began talking to me. She was much older than me and I was nervous, but curious about speaking to her. She had a rose tattoo with the name Marcus surrounded in thorns on her arm that could be seen by everyone, but I guess the formal sweater hanging on the back of the chair was her way of hiding her tattoo when she was working. Her main duty was to work at the circulation desk where patrons would check-out and check-in books because she possessed a charismatic personality and had great customer service experience. Her eyes were intriguing that reflected the color of my shirt when I spoke to her. She started telling me how she was only doing this job along with another job because she wanted to save up to pay for her high school prom and a vacation before she began college. When she started talking about her prom, I imagined what I would do with the money that I would be earning from this job.

Two weeks later, I was walking to work and the sun was finally glistening in the sky like the weather man had predicted. The playground next to the library was an orchestra with shouts of independence, innocence, and pain all combined to produce a grotesque harmony. I walked confidently to my workplace greeting everyone at the library because I knew that my first paycheck would be waiting there for me. I walked into my supervisor’s office and collected my check. Immediately, I ripped opened the sealed check and was surprised at the amount that was located on the right corner of this piece of paper $332.15. Then, I looked more intently at the piece of paper and saw the words social security, Medicare, and state tax that had consumed about eight percent of my check, but it did not bother me because I was a thirteen year old kid with $352.15 to my name. So I started my day a little more confidently because I would receive this amount every two weeks, which would be a great beginning to my savings.

After I had completed my duties at work, my supervisor smiled at me and said, “Thanks a lot for spending a few extra minutes organizing the book shelf.” I smiled and said, “No problem.” I left the library, but I wanted to stay a little longer instead of going home and seeing my brother and mother argue because he did not do any of his chores all day. However, the eager expectation of showing my mother my first check came fluttering in, so I walked home thinking about the new bike that I could now buy that my brother would not be able to use because I bought it on my own.

I arrived home and ran to my mother. She was sleeping, but I woke her up and said, “Mom, guess what I have?”

She smiled and looked at me with content, “What is going on?”

“I received my first paycheck mom,” I said.

“Wonderful Joseph, remember that you have to give you tithe.”

The rest of the evening I thought about all the things I could buy now: a new video game for my play station game console, a bicycle, and gifts for my family during the Christmas season.
Right after this, my brother walked into the house smelling like cigarettes and asked my mother for a little raise meaning that he wanted some spending money. My mom was angry at him because he smelled like cigarettes. He told her that it was his friends who were smoking around him, but she was really angry at him because she had already given him a raise this week. The two of them went back and forth until she gave in and reached into her bag and handed him a ten dollar bill. She told him to not spend it all in one day. My brother was never really concerned about money because he knew that my mother would always give him money because he knew how to get what he wanted, and if that did not work he would tell me mom that he was going to get it on his own. And in her opinion she thought it would be better to give him money than to have him look for money somewhere else that might lead him astray.

The next day, my mother and I went to the bank to deposit the check. The bank teller asked my mom what types of bills she wanted. She said very quietly, “Twenties please.” Upon leaving the bank, I asked my mom if I could hold unto the money, but she said that she would give it to me when we got home.

When we arrived home, I helped my mom unpack the bags of groceries and she gave me the money that I had earned. Right after, I ran to my room and locked the door and began counting my hard earned money. Now I need to find a place to put it since I could not open a bank account I thought. I looked in my drawer and saw my GameBoy Advance case. So I counted the money one last time and put it in an envelope with my name and tucked it into the secret pocket in the GameBoy Advance case.

Two days later I began my routine again, but I was more zealous about my job because I finally reaped the fruits of my labor. I signed in and began my assigned tasks for that specific day. The atmosphere at the library was serene because I was a quick learner, and so my supervisor asked another employee to train me to work at the circulation desk. I felt thrilled about being trained on the front desk because my hard work was being recognized. After I had helped a few patrons, I took my lunch break and went to eat my lunch in the playground next to the library. I saw my brother walking towards the playground. What did he want? I thought. He did not even notice me. He was meeting up with his friends. So I walked up to him.

“Hey what’s up,” I said

“Oh little dude what’s up,” he replied.

“Hey mom is going to be late today so go by Aunty Meg’s house,” he said

“Why? Aren’t you going to be home?” I asked him.

“No, I’m going to chill my friends,” he replied.

After my lunch break was over, I went back to finish my work. What a loser I thought.
After work was over I walked over to my aunt’s house. When I entered the house, my grandmother said, “Joseph I hear you have a job. It’s a good thing to work at a young age because you will be prepared for the future.” I replied, “Yes, grandma I know.” A few hours passed and my mother came to pick me up from my aunt’s house and we walked home.
While the two of us were walking home, I asked my mother, “Why don’t you punish Cain when he acts out or comes home late.”

She said, “I punish him, but he does not learn. What else can I do he is only fifteen years old?”

I wanted to tell her about the pack of cigarettes and lighter I found in his jacket pocket, but I knew it would not help the situation.

She said, “Sergio not all the fingers on your hand are even. So not everyone thinks the same way about life.”

Two weeks later, I received another check with $372.12. I was getting used to this feeling of maturity. With the extra money I decided to treat my family, so I went to the local Caribbean restaurant and bought them some fried rice, oxtail stew, and fried plantains. My brother came home late, but my mom had fallen asleep so he did not receive any punishments. He came home smelling like rum that my mom would use whenever she baked rum cake during the Christmas season. He walked in stumbling and fell on my shoulder smelling like cigarettes. I hated the smell of cigarettes. I should wake up mom right now and show her what her precious Cain looks like I thought, but instead I helped him get to bed trying not to wake-up my mother.

The next day I went into my underwear draw to get ten dollars from my GameBoy Advance case where I had stored my savings in the secret pocket on the inside. When I opened the case all the money was gone. I was furious and immediately blamed my brother. I wanted to hurt him. I searched my entire room, and then I took a moment and relaxed. I waited until he came home to confront him. My mother came home from work and I ran to the door. Right away I told her what had happened.

She said, “I probably misplaced it.

I yelled, “No, it was him.” I waited until he came home and I confronted him. He denied taking the money, but I knew he took it. My mom came between the two of us and I blurted it out, “Steve smokes; I found a pack of cigarettes in his jacket pocket.” He ran towards me and began beating me. He hit me in the face and I tasted my own blood. And now I wanted him to do the same. I tried hitting him in the face, but instead I hit him in the chest, but it did not slow him down. He ran towards me and I remembered the day he taught me how to ride a bike.

It was summertime and the sun was at its highest peak at the time of the day.
“Joseph, get on the bike and hold onto the handle bars. Try balancing your weight on the bike,” he said.

“Okay, but can we do it tomorrow. I’m really tired and I want to a snow cone,” I said.

He commanded me to get on the bike and hold onto the bars. Then, he told me to pedal while he held onto the back of the bike seat. Then, he let go. I was finally doing it on my own. The air was on my face and I was flying past the houses. Suddenly, I lost my balance and fell; he ran towards the toppled bike and began examining me like I was a precious stone.
“You shouldn’t have done that” he said.

I didn’t know if he still recognized me because I was a punching bag for his anger. My pleading and crying did not stop him. Then, my mom came between the two of us and he stopped. He walked away like a poacher who acquired his precious ivory from his prey. He stormed out of the house and slammed the door as he left. My mother sat there in the corner looking worried, telling me that everything will work out. The two of us sat there and I asked her what she was going to do and she said, “You guys are brothers; you have to forgive him.” I sat in the corner crying and thinking that’s what you always say….