Heartache Queen Unshackled

by Cameka Taylor

Kingston, Jamaica

I was thirteen years old and should have been enjoying a typical Saturday afternoon at my home - doing domestic chores: dusting, washing dishes, cleaning and rearranging the household furniture, doing the laundry and ending the day with a nice bowl of soup. But something had gone awry that Saturday and I could take no more. My cup was full and brimming over. Once again, based on mere assumptions, I was being blamed for something I had not done. Something was missing and I had to find it. This was not the first time I was blamed for a missing item as you recall from my early notoriety. But I also recall vividly at the age of about eight years old, the summer holiday beating I received from my mother. It is forever etched in my mind, but now without pain.

Just like with Aunt Merl, money was missing and it seemed the sum of money was very important to my mother. In a fit of rage and rummaging around frantically, my mom conducted an intense search. She ransacked the house; but wherever she turned, the money could not be found. She was convinced that I was the culprit.

With each failed search I was beaten. I recall being beaten with a belt and then with a stick. I recall running to my step dad for refuge but he only pushed me to my mom for more beatings. It felt as if she was going beat me to a pulp that day and no one was coming to my rescue, not even the neighbours in the tenement yard at 4440 Drive, in Olympic Gardens, where we resided.

My appeals to my mom fell on deaf ears. I did not take the money. I am not a thief. I did not trouble the money. Evening came and my mom did not give up her search although the beating had ceased.

Finally, before the close of the evening, the search yielded a positive result. The coil of money was found hidden in a spool of thread. It appeared to have been genuinely misplaced; hidden too well. I recall feeling vindicated. It was not me and no one died as a result. But resentment began brewing in my heart towards my mom before I was ten years old. And so it seemed trouble and accusations were in hot pursuit of my life. I was a child very much misunderstood and like that old Jamaican proverb says, “Every weh mi tun macka juk mi.” (“Everywhere I turned prickles hurt me”). No place was safe for me and oh I wished death would come and deliver me. “I couldn’t take it anymore. I could not do anything right. I wished I was not born. It was better to be dead than alive.” With that frame of mind, I saw a bottle on the dresser with pink pills which I thought would do the job. They were large pills. I decided to take a number of them and wait to die. But my waiting was in vain. I had not even succeeded in death. There was no hospitalization and no sickness.

Now I believe those pills might have been vitamins tablets and not anything to give me the intended overdose I was seeking. No one knew of my suicide attempt and it remained that way for many years until I broke my silence. My mom however knew that I was a troubled child. Attempted suicide became the escape route whenever I got into trouble.

At the age of fourteen, I gave my heart to the Lord and became a Christian. But problems and misunderstanding still prevailed at home and thoughts of suicide continued to plague my mind. Oh how I wrestled with knowing it was wrong! Again at age fifteen, I almost gave in. Once again, I thought my mom was being unreasonable. This time I had some brown pills, either sleeping or iron pills, in one hand and the Bible in the other, wrestling with the idea of suicide.