Pretty Gyal

February 2019

Is last year mi see dem fi di first time, di pretty brown uptown gyal dem, dress up inna costume wid dem feather and plenty glitter a dance pon Kingston street and a wine up and wine down wid dem naked self. Is mi first carnival dat, mi just come from downa Hanover, and down dere dem no have nothing like dat. Is the first time mi see anything like dat, and is the first time mi start to feel good bout how mi deh a Kingston, even though is run weh mi haffi run weh from downa country after di scammer dem start shoot up everybody. Mi come here and mi no have nowhere to live, so mi just cotch pon sidewalk or wherever mi find shelter, and it rough, and mi haffi sell miself to any man come want a piece just to get a money fi a patty or a one bun or a box milk, and sometimes mi feel like mi cyaan do it no more, cept fi di odder gyal dem, everybody look after each other, but still it rough, and mi no have no joy till dat carnival day. Cos mi never know seh uptown gyal coulda go on like dat and look pretty like dat, pretty no till, and dat day when mi see dem, mi seh to miself, next carnival mi going look like dat.

So mi pick up one feather two feather that drop off a fi dem costume, an dem feather soft and fluffy and one a dem pink like cotton candy, and mi find a piece a dis and a piece a dat, a shiny green armband and a piece a necklace and one ears ring, and mi put dem away safe and mi no tell di other gyal dem, cos mi no want dem grudge mi and mi no want dem steal it and mi no want dem laugh at mi, seh, whaappen, Tiny, yu feel yu a tun brown uptown gyal alla sudden. So mi no seh nuttin, but mi go downa Orange Street an mi buy di cream an mi start bleach, mi no bodda wid mi body but mi put it pon mi face, and by the time carnival come round again mi face clear brown not dutty black and mi ready.

So Carnival Sunday mi pull out mi feather dem and mi armband and mi necklace, and mi stick di feather dem under one kerchief and mi tie it round mi head mek headband and mi put di necklace round mi neck and mi put di armband on mi arm and mi put di ears ring inna mi hair like hairclip and mi put on one lipstick dat mi did buy and mi line up mi yeye dem wid one eyeliner dat mi did borrow and mi hitch up mi shorts mek dem short like batty rider and mi hitch up mi top mek mi belly show. And di gyal dem seh, whaah, Tiny, wha yu a seh, yu no easy, and some a dem get excited and dem try fix up demself too but none a dem look pretty like mi.

So wi walk a Half Way Tree and wi stay pon di sidewalk, and when di band pass wi a dance up and wi a wine up and di security man dem push wi off and tell wi to move off and wi ease off, den when di security move off wi come back and wi a carry on, and one a di gyal dem a do one headstand pon di sidewalk a wine upside down an di crowd a laugh clap us, and mi look pon di uptown brown gyal dem a go on like dem a sketel an mi seh, see mi yah, mi pretty too, mi just like you. And mi ease under di security rope and next thing mi in deh a dance inna di band wid di other brown gyal dem an mi start show dem how mi can wine, an dem stop an dem a watch mi. Den mi feel one shove, an mi look round and mi see one security, and him push mi and haul mi outa di band and him seh, gweh from ya, battybwoy, wi no want your kind bout yah, and him hold on to mi feather dem, pull dem from mi headband tek dem from mi, and mi cry out, gimme mi tings dem, and him laugh, and him throw di feather dem pon di ground and him spit pon dem, stamp pon dem, and him seh, gwaan, tek yu feather, yu dutty raasclaat. And di people round mi start laugh, and di other gyal dem a scamper, gone back a gully, and mi start to cry.


Kim Robinson-Walcott is the editor/head of Caribbean Quarterly, University of the West Indies, Mona, and also the editor of Jamaica Journal, published by the Institute of Jamaica. She is the author of the scholarly work Out of Order! Anthony Winkler and White West Indian Writing (UWI Press, 2006); a coauthor of Jamaican Art (LMH Publishing, 1989/2011); a coauthor and the illustrator of The How to Be Jamaican Handbook (Jamrite, 1988); and the author and illustrator of the children’s book Dale’s Mango Tree and Pat the Cat (LMH Publishing, 1992/2018).. Her scholarly articles, book chapters, short stories, and poems have been published in a number of journals and anthologies.