Many people have, in sarcasm, remarked that the Mental Hospital was justifiably erected in Canje, because so many "queer people" lived there. I do not know how true this is for the rest of Canje, but after living in my home village for so long, l feel this might be true. Apart from the usual wife-beating, unemployed, vituperating drunkard, there are some more unpredictable "queers" who loiter around shops all day, prepared to starve rather than work.
Harold with his topless hat, bottomless boots, and rickety 'walking stick' is about the most notorious tramp in the district. He begs all day for a handout and what little he has, he shares with his faithful mongrel, a bitch he calls 'Pepsi'. His matted, greying beard has won him many new names. He has been dubbed 'Castro', 'Che', 'Django', and evan 'Father Christmas'. However, these name have never stuck, because Harold himself insists he is none of these men, but claims he was sent here by God. In one of his rare moods, you might get him to tell you about his 'Experience.' His famous tale tells that one night, he was sleeping on the church steps (as was his noctural habit), when he was awakened by the ringing of a bell, which seemed to originate from below the church. Harold peeped under the church (the space being about six inches high and saw God.
Another 'queer' is 'Cockroach' (in Creolese, 'Cock-A-Roach'). Although slightly better off than Harold, he still prefers to haunt the local rum-shops, looking for a hand-out, but never asking directly for it. His way of asking is joining in a conversation, and agreeing wholeheartedly with the person who is sharing the drinks around. During the last General Elettions, Cockroach was heard arguing in favour of all three major parties on the same day. But the most prominent feature of Cockroach's personality is his vanity. Every person he encounters hears the same words from him:
"Me hair looking good, eh?" Why yo' don' comb yo' hair like me one fa, eh? See if any dust on me back."
He is hardly ever seen out of his usual billowing, grey serge pants, faded, but immaculately clean, pulled up to inches above his waist. He also wears an old sports shirt and yellow rubber slippers. Once only, did someone see him out of these, and that time was almost completely nude, except for his yellow rubber slippers. He was sitting on a bridge enjoying the night air.
"Old Higues" are the Caribbean's answer to the decadent European witch, and many people in Guyana express a firm belief in these seniele female vamplres. Thus, many old women who live alone, friendless or unfriendly, are suspected to be potential 'old higues.'
One such old woman is 'Racial', but teenage boys upon seeing her, utter a string of opprobrious eloquence at her, to which she vehemently replies: "Yuh racial dawg!" irrespective of the boys' racial background.
These are just a few of Berbice's 'queers', whom you might recognize for what they are on first sight. Yet, there might be many more of us 'queers' living on with the semblance of normal people while harbouring strange and malign thoughts.
Ricky Lowe – V A