Neeka shifted her beloved bundle from shoulder to shoulder, thinking back to when her child was small and light enough to carry around in her shoulder sling. Three years later, she could barely carry Ayana without feeling as if she was participating in a strenuous workout at a gym, though the smile on her child’s face and the excitement in her voice was certainly worth any muscle pain she would have to endure. Neeka however made a mental note to visit the pharmacy afterwards to get a tube of Icy Hot, and some Motrin.
It was difficult standing amongst the sometimes rowdy spectators and she felt her slight body shifting around against her will. She stood there like a champ and endured every shove, elbow, poke, getting her feet stepped on, synthetic extensions being swung into her face, and umbrella and kiddie toy stabs into her side.
“Look mommy, look!” screamed Ayana excitedly, as the once distant blob of colours became vividly distinct and touchable. It was the first time she was seeing anything like that in person and she was not disappointed. There were metallic glittery versions of every single colour in the rainbow.
Neeka forged her way more towards the front of the crowd of spectators, to give Ayana a better view of the parade. After she managed to carve a decent spot, she let Ayana stand up, giving herself a much-needed break. As the music pulsated, Neeka noticed that her own hips began to sway instinctively.
Carnival was great and all, and it always seemed like everyone was having the time of their lives whether they were sober or not, but she never was able to experience that same joy. She however tried to relax and be in the moment. It was so beautiful and loud that it was almost overwhelming. She couldn’t help but grin from ear to ear, when she looked down and saw Ayana dancing and shaking her little hips from side to side. It’s a funny thing to watch your seed grow up and into a personality all of their own.
“Oh my gosh Ayana, look, it’s Auntie Skye,” Neeka said to her daughter, upon seeing a good friend of hers jumping up in the parade. She looked so happy and care free, and Neeka longed for that kind of release. Motherhood was her only source of comfort and ironically, it was the main source of her pain.
As Neeka tried to point Skye out to her daughter, Skye noticed them at the front of the crowd, and danced over to them excitedly. They exchanged pleasantries at the top of their lungs, then Skye kissed Ayana on her cheek, and gave her the glittery wand that she had in her hand. The smile on Ayana’s face seemed permanently pasted on. Neeka and Skye said their goodbyes, and she watched her dance back to be with her fellow colourful comrades. They were soon around the corner and out of sight, taking their music with them.
Though Neeka dreaded lifting Ayana again, the crowd was beginning to swell, and get a little bit out of control, so she had no choice. She looked around, and sadly noticed that almost all of the children there were comfortably nestled in the crook of large men’s shoulders.Who ever these men were, they only reinforced the fact that her sweet daughter was forced to be born into a situation, where she had no proper father figure. Neeka tried to suck it up and concentrate on the parade and for a few minutes, the music and the colours hypnotized her into thinking that she was perfectly fine.
A break in the parade caused another crowd shift, and it was going to be a few minutes until another group of revelers appeared.
“You havin’ fun baby?” Neeka asked.
Ayana shook her head in a vigorous yes.
“Mommy, can I have one of those?” Ayana asked, as a little boy who looked to be about her age, passed in front of them, with a cotton candy that was bigger than his head.
“No baby, that’s too sweet, I’ll get you something else ok,” Neeka said.
Though she was not happy with her mother’s response, Ayana was having too good a time to be too upset, and she was still fascinated by the wand her Auntie Skye gave her, so she did not fuss.
Neeka looked at the massive crowd, something which she always hated and avoided, and shook her head smiling in disbelief that she was actually there. Ayana had expressed her desire to attend the parade after seeing it on TV the day before, and as she wanted to make her child happy, she decided against staying home in bed.
The new music in the distance was becoming louder, alerting her that another section of troupe was approaching. Neeka began walking down high street with Ayana in her arms, towards the corner by the Deluxe Cinemas, to wait there and watch the parade . She slowly made her way through the crowd towards her destination, and as she got closer, she noticed a strong familiar physique, that made the tiny baby hairs on the back of her neck stand up. Her mind tried to tell her feet to stop and turn back, but the connection between action and thought was not being made. Then he turned around. There stood Ayana’s father. It was the closest she had been to him since their child was only a few months old, and she felt instantly sick to her stomach. Their eyes locked, and his brown skin seemed to turn grey. She wondered if he was ashamed. He stared at Ayana who stared back at him oblivious to the dynamics of what was happening. He got a good look at the beautiful daughter they’d created, in what Neeka believed was love. Neeka was only able to avert her glance when she noticed a woman standing about 2 steps behind him holding his hand, looking fat and happy in the face, and heavy in the belly with what was obviously a baby on the way.
Neeka did not even realize that the parade was upon them, but was thankful for the fresh batch of mass glittering revelers, to distract the bystanders from her brimming tears. She could feel him staring at her back as she walked away trying her best not to seem unnerved by him. When she got to the corner by Deluxe, she turned left away from the crowd, took a few seconds to get her bearings and remember where the hell she parked her car.
“Are you ok Mommy?” asked the intuitive 3-year-old, sensing something was wrong.
“I’m good baby, mommy’s good,” Neeka said reassuringly.
“I love you,” Neeka said to her daughter, feeling burdened with emotions.
“I love you too mommy,” She said.
That always made it ok for Neeka,… always. They watched until that section of revellers became another distant blob. Neeka held her daughter’s hand as they headed away from the crowds. She had had enough. She remembered where she’d parked her car and she led Ayana towards that direction.
As they got across the street to the field where Shanty Town was, Neeka noticed another person selling cotton candy. She watched the pink fuzz fly around in the air as the pretty sugary concoction was being made, and then walked towards the cart and said,
They walked in silence back to the car both eating their sweets. Ayana’s day was made after that treat. Her mommy was the “bestest” in the whole world she thought. When they reached Neeka’s car, they sat on the trunk to finish the candy. Neeka smiled looking at her daughters’ pretty, sticky, pink face, smiling back and she knew she would be ok.
“Did you have a good time baby?” She asked Ayana.
“Yes mommy I did,” Ayana replied.
“Me too baby.”
…Through a sad smile.