Memories Don’t Live Like People Do

Donauta Watson

I remember when Bogle dead, I remember the Pepper Seed and the Butterfly, I remember Maverick a do the Bruk Up, my introduction to 90tz steeped in the bwoys dem a dance. I remem­ber M.J. birthday party. I remember Petal daughter who dressed like big woman and did wear big woman hairstyle, I remember how she used to dance like big woman too. I remember how me use to watch her curious like and wonder how the lifestyle fit her so easily. I remember Donna and Kemar, Marlon and Santy, Sophisticats salon. Me remember Dimey and Sasha, Keisha and Tony, Keisha and Pana. And Keisha and Donovan. I remember Rutland Road. Clarkson, P.S. 219, Lincoln Terrace Park, and Dead Man Hill. I remember playing Manhunt, running through the plaza, Mookie screaming, “Refrigerator Donna,” and how it did shame me. I remember being in the 90tz while keeping secrets in the 90tz. I remember Cripple and Jiro, Eddy sister and how she did walk round dressed like Aaliyah, how me use to watch har curious like and think how she look suh fearless. I remember Eddy in the Elephant Man Pon De River video, I remember Terror Fabulous Action, Brandy, and Monica The Boy Is Mine. I remem­ber calling Bobby Simmons to request Britney Spears Oops!…I Did It Again pon repeat.

I remember Biggie Smalls, I remember Keisha inna the shower and me yelling “Keisha—Biggie dead.” I remember her crying. Crying like Biggie was a family member. I remember her baggy Tommy Hilfiger shirts and when she cut her hair short even though Mommy did tell har nuff fi cut her hair short. I remem­ber Total and En Vogue, Flavia and blind eye Keisha, Charlene and Wingate Park. I remember Chip, I remember Chip madda, I remember when them steal Chip shoes after school and him walk all the way home barefoot. I remember the pearly white shoes him did a wear a him madda funeral and how me tell him wid me head down I like him shoes but did really wan seh, Chip, me sorry bout your madda.

I remember Ms. Mac house, Mr. Reid house, and Mr. Miller house. I remember moving from block to block, house to house cause me mother always back up pon the rent. I remember big belly Jack in the laundromat round the corner pon Rutland, and Ms. Enie corner store shop. I remember getting me hair done on Saturdays at Annie shop and Latoya Annie niece and the exact moment when Latoya first start gwann gwanny gwanny like she don’t remember me. I remember Gwenny hair salon when it did downtown Brooklyn before she move ga the Bronx. I remember Ms. Hall and Ms. O’Connor, Kevin and him LL Cool J lips, and how all the girls did have crush pon him and Ms. O’Connor son. I remember Kings County Hospital, Jannette and Sade and Marsha house and Indian. I remember staying up late with a dol­lar worth a candy at Marsha house watching Apollo on Saturday nights. I remember Marcia sweet and sour fried chicken and potato salad, I remember watching her cook, I remember seh it’s Marcia, Aunty Marcia who teach me how fi peel a onion and teach me Psalm 23. I remember when Shaniah did born. And how is me who teach her how fi walk.

I remember Meyer Levin, steel pan Merak and Seonn, Mr. Edwards and the time Mr. Edwards ask Carmen, “Carmen weh you look pon me suh fa, yuh hungry?” I remember Ms. Baptiste and Haiti and the revolution and Merline and Canarsie and the tall light-skin boy me let feel up me breast while wearing me new pretty pretty white bra. I remember Monique and Junior and how Junior wouldn’t stop look me even though him must a been close to twenty-one and me barely yet finish junior high school. Me remember the color Iceberg tights me use to wear when me start dress like big woman and exactly when me shape start come in, it tek long ehh. Me remember Barbizon and the black Gucci pant­suit and the name-brand clothes me use to wear gah 34th Street. I remember asking Eddy to teach me how to dance, I remember wanting to move like the man dem move. I remember Martin Luther King Jr. High School, me blue and white uniform and Chinese French fries, and being shy, me remember Gabrielle and Michelle Hart, Jerelle and Ms. Thompson and how she always ah seh, “It’s elementary, dear Watson.” I remember Ms. Teitel, reading Pearl S. Buck The Good Earth and Frank McCourt Angela’s Ashes.

Me remember Harlem and Wolfie, Janice and light-skin Norma. Me remember the house me madda use to sell outta, the bareness of it. I remember the overpowering smell of weed, Arizona. I remember money and guns. Food from Jimbo’s. I remember Flo and when Flo dead, how them shoot har up even though she did a hide inna the bathroom and she was a woman. I remember the woman dem and how them use to sell pon 125th and how dem dress come a Flo funeral and the pictures of the woman dem, how them look tough and look bold and look good and I remember how it did scare me. I remember when me hear seh Janice grand­baby fall out one window from ooo much story high, I remember the gay man that use to watch me pon 145th how him did nice and how him lickle one bedroom did feel sad, I remember my nervousness, I remember the thoughts of what to do if Mommy never come back.

I remember when me madda get deported. I remember my mother weekends in jail. But way before that I remember when Mommy did pregnant with Alicia, and Suffera, and Bev and Jolly-o and Caan Pipe and the time Mommy and Caan Pipe fight and me wake up groggy fi see Suffera a wrap Mommy head from the blow. I remember Ralph Avenue and Euclid and every time the man dem did come try fi rob har.

I remember some things bout Jamaica. I remember Winsome a beat me because me lose me schoolbook again. I remember Shawn and Terrick and how dem use to gee me my medicine, ahem. Me remember Ian and when the sore them come out pon me legs how him clean dem with Dettol and lime and lift me up cause me couldn’t walk. I remember when me never like eat food. When swallowing food did hurt. I remember the dreams dem, and how me use to talk to meself when me did lickle how dem did think seh me did a go mad, but somebody did seh a just duppy did a play wid me, me remember when dem did seh I was a angry baby, always a throw tantrum and bang me head pon di ground and sometime wouldn’t stop till night come. I remember when we just reach come a foreign how granny use to call and use to seh, me long fi see ya or when yuh come back a Jamaica?

I remember when Granny dead. I remember when Kemar dead inna di street pon 94th, I remember when Mookie dead, I remember when Santy dead; and remember when Seonn dead, I remember when Indian dead. I remember when Keisha dead; I remember Richie and I remember when Richie guh dead.

Donauta Watson is a Jamaican-born writer based in Brooklyn, NY. She holds an MFA from New York University’s Writers Workshop in Paris and her work has appeared in Pen America’s Dreaming Out Loud Anthology I-III, Revista de la Universidad de México, and Spoken Black Girl.
Originally published:
March 4, 2024


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