Chamber Pot Road
Author: F Morisseau-Leroy
Why does everyone laugh when I say Chamber
Pot Road? What they’re thinking never even crossed my mind. Since I was
born, I’ve constantly been going to Chamber Pot Road.
Chamber Pot is a rural area near Grangozye.
So when you leave Chamber Pot, you reach Grangozye by way of Chamber Pot
However, I wasn’t born on Chamber Pot Road.
I was born in the heart of Grangozye town. But Chamber Pot Road is my
grandmother’s street. When my mother says: Put on your good clothes and
I’ll send you over to Chamber Pot, what she means is: you’ll be going
to your grandmother’s place, to our house.
That’s where her belly-button is buried, at
her house, where my aunts, uncles, and the whole family gather to invoice
the Loua spirits, to communicate with them,
so that our Ancestors from Grinean Africa can speak to us.
When my mother says put on your clothes and
I’ll send you over to Chamber Pot, that could mean she wants me to fetch
something, to borrow a calabash from grandmother, to borrow fifty kob,
twenty kob. I must hurry and come back. It’s dark in that house. But my
mother always sends me to spend the day on Chamber Pot Road. She leaves
me with my grandmother, with my aunts, for a whole month, sometimes two.
It came to the point that I actually preferred being in Chamber Pot Road
to being at my mother’s house.
There were many reasons for this. The whole
length of Chamber Pot Road is covered with hard flat pavement. When horses
gallop over it the road rings like a bell. The pavement reaches all the
way into my grandmother’s yard. When I lie down on it and lay my ear on
the surface, I can hear noises coming from far away through the earth.
The road runs between three mountains. One
to the right, one to the left, and the third seems to close it off from
behind. In front, the road leads to the nearby sea, which seems closer
or further away depending on the position of the sun. When the sun or
the moon is rising, the mountains lean their heads together like old village
women trading evil gossip.
My mother wouldn’t let me play with the street
kids near our house. But when I went to Chamber Pot, I would play with
everyone. My cousins and friends taught me how to set traps for turtles
and bright-feathered ortolans, and taught me to chop wood. The trees in
the woods behind my grandmother’s house are the most beautiful I have
ever seen. I can’t tell you how much I loved those trees. I would wrap
my arms round their trunks, and rest my cheek on them and stay there like
a boy kissing a girl. My friends taught me how to make spinning-tops out
of gayak wood. We would have spinning-top contests in my grandmother’s
My best friend was my cousin Lolo. We were
the same age, but she went to school and I didn’t. She would tell me everything
that went on in class, and I would give her a run-down of what happened
on the streets while she was wasting time at school. How I used to laugh
when she mimicked the headmistress. I wondered whether she had the lanpa
sickness and couldn’t open her mouth to talk like a normal person. Lolo
told me that they paid the headmistress to talk that way.
Just after Lolo passed her exams she became
blind. They took her to Port-au-Prince. They took her to all kinds of
doctors, to no avail. They took her to all the Houngan
priests. There was no point. Lolo’s bright eyes would open wide, but she
couldn’t see a thing. I was thunderstruck. I promised Lolo I would see
for her. When we were together no one could guess she was blind. She went
on making turning-tops. I would bring her gayak wood. I would bring her
nails to put into the tops, and bits of glass to polish them. When they
were ready I would try them out. Lolo’s turning-tops were better than
everyone else’s. She had also learnt to weave all kinds of rope. The best
thing one could bring her from the countryside were clumps of sisal hemp
or palm sheaves. Passers-by would stop to look at the beautiful blind
girl polishing the turning-tops, and weaving rope that she would sell.
But when Lolo started visiting the ounfo
voodoo-temples of Lanskochon near my grandmother’s property and the ounfo
of Mapou and Ket
Copyright © F Morisseau-Leroy