I remembered a time when I would jump on my ten speed bike and ride through Belmont. My grandmother bought me one here in the US and I took it back home to Trinidad. I vaguely remember my father having to wait for what seemed like an eternity to have it cleared from customs. I believe he knew someone there that helped clear the item. I remember that being a thing back then, knowing someone in customs to help get your items from abroad through.
Belmont is the little town in Trinidad that I was born and bred in. I cut my teeth there and experienced life richly, as this little place was indeed the center of my world. I am not sure where this writing will take me as it is not meant to be auto-biographical, it is more like a nostalgic journey because it feels right. Life there was full of episodes, mini movies that held in them all aspects of drama and youthful folly.
My ten speed bike took me places through our narrow lanes and streets with names like Farrell Lane and Reid Lane, Belmont Valley Road and Belmont Circular Road which to me only meant one thing; home. No place felt safer, no place felt more familiar. As an immigrant far removed from the place of his birth, the idea of belonging for me has been this evasive, indefinable and a somewhat worrying thing.
Burnt into my memory are the smells, the feelings, the character of the streets and the people. In my mind’s eye I can still remember myself riding through Belmont, in particular down Belmont Circular Road, feeling free as ever practicing to balance on the bike handsfree. I remember the routes I would take, all usually leading to the savannah where cricket was played or where coincidentally placed across the street, right on the corner of the Circular Road and Queens Park East, was what we called then the Games World. Essentially a video game arcade that I spent way too much money in, to my father’s chagrin. My mother never seemed to mind though.
This was new to Trinidad then and to a young fellow, seeking all manner of adventure this was just another one to explore. My favorite was Defender. To those that may have played you could relate to the stance you would take to play, one knee up against the front of the game, the other leg extended backward, two hands extended onto the controls, one for the joystick and the other for the fire buttons and you were transported, into this 1980’s realm of science fiction and computerized wonder. A money pit. And I loved it.
I remember one episode where I came home one day much later than usual and my father asked where I was. I told him confidently that I was in the savannah playing cricket, to which he calmly responded, “ahh so that’s why your bike was parked up outside the games world?” Clearly he drove by and saw my bike. Possibly the only brand new ten speed bike in Belmont. Clearly I was caught out there like a typical 12, 13 year old boy thinking his lie was solid. I was subsequently banned from riding my bike for maybe a week I don’t really remember the duration, but I know I was banned. I got banned quite a bit back then. My parents weren’t very big on corporal punishment, it was meted out usually only in extreme cases. A banning was their main rod of correction.
One time I got banned for doing badly in my end of term exams. I remember placing low in class. In Trinidad we had a very demoralizing way of reiterating how badly you did in your class. If your class had 35 students and you came in first, clearly you were king of the roost. But if you did like I did that time and came in 33rd or something like that, you were clearly a dodo bird. To my defense I do remember being sick and hospitalized at least two weeks prior to the exams. I had a viral infection and was laid up in the Port of Spain General Hospital on drips, but enjoying visits from school friends and my fellow Belmont partners. But to Mr. Jackman, all he saw was 33rd in test and me at that time really enjoying playing football in those new pair of Adidas cleats he had just purchased for me. So they disappeared, into the cavernous depths of the trunk of his car for what seemed like forever.
I still had my bike though…