DisGUSS – by Ewalt “Waltie” Ainsworth

Ewalt Ainsworth

This article/story is one of many on this site that has been written by Guyana-born Ewalt (Waltie) Ainsworth.  He left Guyana in the early 1980’s and now lives in New Jersey. He is now almost totally blind but this impediment has not stopped his academic studies or his ability to craft his interesting and sometimes amusing stories about Guyana, the USA, and life.  E-mail: jenewalt@aol.com

DisGUSS        

By EWALT “WALTIE” AINSWORTH 

The world is a very small place and some of the childhood experiences, people,  places and things have a habit of coming back to haunt you in your declining years.  disGUSS is one such personality. 

I bumped in to him after 30-plus years of trauma and loud drama.  The only thing glorious about this North American meeting unlike all the others is that he has grown old but not cold; many are cold but few are frozen.  The coming together was mutual, penitent, glorious and not fropuscatious.  (Fropuscatious is a rum shop word to underline elegance, tolerance and style). 

The time prior to now when we met, he threatened to make me a “floating corpse” in the murky Essequibo river…a threat up to this day that still haunts me especially when I hear about people going on cruises.  That day that disGUSS made that threat at a point somewhere outside of Hogg Island and Nowhere,  the black water was churning, it was red like green tea  Most accidents on cruises, go uninvestigated because the police and detectives, more often than not, are unable to pinpoint location.  An incident report must highlight point and place of impact hence never repeating or indulging in skullduggery while on the open waters.

Actually, I and disGUSS are both from the same community – The People’s Republic of Victoria.  In this village, everyone has a false name…a bad name that reeks of ignobility, wretchedness and backwardness.   Some of the more preposterous names were Pumpkin Curry, Put-on-water, Big-Buckter, Big Sardine and Big Sugar cake.  The bearer of Big-sugar cake was a taxi driver and he claimed he made three complete round trips between Victoria and Georgetown…a total of 18 miles each way, eating profusely all the time, before completing the exercise.

Some of these names on mere suspicion of uttering them, you had to run for cover.  Speck-dog was another real-real bad one. The kinda name as soon as you announce it, you are propelled into a trot or a run for your dear life.

Every man, every woman and the neutered genders who were born, raised, crazed, may have lived, has lived or plans to live in that sanctuary ethnic enclave, would emerge with a false name.  The only person in the entire 83,000 square miles of Guyana who was born and raised in the PRV and does not have a false name, almost six decades later,  is Ivor La Rose.  But that is a matter for a different arena.

This man, disGUSS, real name Gustavus Gladyn…last name withheld because of privacy issues, also had some strange habits and principles.  You would call his name on a Friday night and he would circle the whole village, change his clothes, arm himself with a sledge hammer, and come back and look for you.  One night, many years ago, he came with a scythe.  I fell in a drain and he sliced in one swoop my shirt off my back.  I held my breath, my sanity and my dignity all in one hand before rising to my feet, hours after I thought he was gone.  This time I had to run faster, longer in the opposite direction, in a zig-zag manner never to cross his path until adulthood.

He lived and worked as a surveyor in several rural and interior locations.  Some people knew him as plain Surveyor, others as Land Surveyor or GG while still others called him Chung.  On rare occasions, men of his ilk, stamina and stature, in an endearing manner, will fall him ARTHUR CHUNG…he would smile but not necessarily in approval.  That grin will signal his termination of contact with the guys at the rum shop where he would load up before retiring on weekends when he got paid.

Chung was a bird that always grazed by itself…like blue-crane, never in a flock.  Irrespective of the situation, this big-man was always by himself and to himself.  He worked hard, lived alone and barely communicated.  Chung, the bird, was like that too and some.  It would secrete itself along the coastal plains and shorelines and transform itself into something like a snake.  It would lie flat out and would only raise its head when a fish or worm is close enough for him to leap on it.  At that point, the wings would make a noise like ‘chung-chung-chung-chung’ as it makes its haul and moves to another distant and remote location to establish another hunt….disGUSS had all those features.

Growing up in the village, men his age and ilk, called him Gus; those my age, added the ‘dis’ because of his illusive and elusive qualities.

In 1972, August, Carifesta month, I saw him briefly.  I attended a swari and he lived somewhere nearby in a rented house. And in June, around the 22nd of 2008, I met him at the Parika stelling, both of us en route to the Essequibo delta when talks break-down.  I was pleasantly surprised when he came over to me, clutching both my arms and locking them shut, as he gave me a total bear hug.  I smelled all the alcohol he drank that day and before as he remained entrenched, close up and asked if I had known who I was talking to.  My quiet retort was “I may be blind but I ent stupid; No I, know I.”

There was no pause or break as I rehearsed deliberately all the names I had known him by, trying not to offend and or reoffend this burly man and so I said…”Yes.  This has to be Comrade Guss.”  Big mistake, big trouble.  The bash or boojong seemed imminent but prayer changes things.  He reminded me, expletives and all, that he was not a comrade.

My worst fears came through.  I thought in rapid succession that as an adult now with 59 years experience, all would be well and the communication would be mutual.  My geneology, my heritage saved my life this time.

This time, I am not so sure if he turned around or I was turned around on the Adventure bound steamer but I was tip-toeing as he spared me and my life from a watery grave.  On releasing me he rebuked me saying out loud, “Me-know-yuh-daaddy.”

Gus currently lives in a warehouse for senior citizens in New Jersey and I recently had cause to break bread with him and imbibe some ’21-year old’  Guyana brew.  I was there with him, alone for more than three hours.  In the background, he played songs of faith and recalled every interaction we had over six decades.  Guss is a decent man even though he may be a bit sick in the head.  His childhood was difficult by his own admission and all he ever wanted in life, was to be both free and freed from the everyday pains and the diluting of his environment and community.

His life is now one of resignation.  He told me I was free to call him any name now because designations do not matter.   Gus on his demise plans to donate his kidneys and his eyes.  I smiled at the latter.

Gus discussed and showed me his will and displayed a transcript for when he is funeralised.  There will be a brief service at a funeral place in East Orange.  He wants a pan-man to render some of his favorite songs.  He has already contracted a person to present a poem by DOBRU….I WANT TO HATE SOMEBODY TODAY.

At this stage I kinda got the feeling that he distrusted even the oxygen that he breathed.  His room was bare, bereft of pictures, birds, tokens, certificates and trinkets.  He did not have a television and or a land line.  The Government gave him a cell phone with 300 minutes a month.  Twice weekly, a woman comes to clean his room and make sure he has his needed medications and keeps his doctor’s appointments.  He drinks daily and speaks rarely.  He will be 90 soon and drools of the day when he “goes to see the king.”

He has already bought his casket, his suit, the flowers are on order.  His most valuable earthly possession is a gold key chain which more looks like a donkey back brace…that will be laid at his feet.  All his burial paraphernalia, his burial costume, expenses and arrangements have been paid for.  He owes no one and no one owes him.  He describes himself as a “single father and I have fought a good fight.”  He now wants to add my name to the list of people whom he would like to subscribe to his eulogy.  I did not say ‘yeah’ or ‘nay’ but listened with curious intensity to glean and understand; to stand under a man who lived his entire career to himself and by himself.

Perhaps in time to come, I may have a better understanding too of how the ‘dis’ was added and integrated into his name.  That is my eternal ambition.

08 14 2011

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Comments

  • Rosaliene Bacchus  On September 12, 2011 at 10:14 pm

    Engaging story.

  • ndtewarie  On September 12, 2011 at 11:47 pm

    UPBRINGING

    Fellow countrymen, if you love your children
    And want to see them as decent men and women
    Then you’ll have to do your homework
    Or your kid would end up like a jerk

    Why do we only train animals?
    Look around at some of your pals
    They had no training
    No proper upbringing

    No parent should neglect a child
    To allow it to just grow up wild
    Though to blame society is fashionable
    You are the only culprit that is culpable

    I know it needs the Wisdom of Solomon
    And it’s a job and a bloody full time one
    Coupled with the patience of Job and then some
    Much needed for the difficult days yet to come

    Do you remember your mother’s favorite saying
    Don’t talk with food in your mouth when eating
    Then how she would preach, Never Pout
    That Silence is golden, never shout

    But when you listen to some folks in a crowd
    They behave so rambunctious and so darn loud
    Were their parents dumb, stupid or incapable?
    Me thinks they were brought up in a stable

    Then there were the basics
    And she knew all the tricks
    Always strict and maybe mean
    When it comes to personal hygiene

    But today some grown-ups look like trash
    As if from creation they never ever wash
    People or animal, you can’t tell which, it’s sad
    For they, believe it or not, smell very, very bad

    These people maybe have no friend
    Some one who can show them the end
    Someone to give them at least a hint
    And introduce them to a double mint

    Here they spend more time on their dogs
    As their kids are left to play like hogs
    Ready with bag and scoop they ran
    After their dogs as often as they can

    If only they spend that quality time
    With their kids to prevent crime
    The world would be a better place
    And we’d be more humane as a race

    So if you’re guilty of these upbringings
    Went through some of these sufferings
    Don’t sit and mope, but use your wits
    And don’t pass along your bad habits.
    Don’t kill me OK?
    Naraine Datt

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