In the foreground is the Silver side of the cemetery, in the background,
divided by the cyclone fencing, is the American “Gold” Roll cemetery.
Even the plumber that came from time to time to fix some part of the heavily used common wet areas of the building would encourage me to hang around so that in the end I would have some knowledge of his trade. Every time he came he had some magic trick to peak my interest and he would do it over and over to keep me interested enjoying himself until, at last, he’d finish the job.
At any rate, writing had already become my interest and I would not find out how much I had learned to read and write until years later as I attempted to write assays or compositions as they called it in Spanish School. The isolation imposed on us had apparently done me some good, especially when my mother would sink into deeper depression as time would pass during my childhood experiences.
Although she was a dressmaker, as Westindians called that trade, my mother forbade me from even trying to learn anything about it in her presence. Evidently she was worried about my sexual identity since she would often tell me, “I don’t want you sewing, that’s for Maricón!” Never mind that I could have become an excellent tailor and draw a decent living from that vocation to support myself.
I would find the same attitude in my father Cobert who owned an automobile when very few Westindian men owned such an item. “Come with me,” he would order and I would accompany him quite docilely on his many excursions around the city and countryside and visits to his friends. However, he never did offer to teach me to drive even when he was forced, after his demotion, to become a chauffeur for a US Army Colonel on the Panama Canal Zone, a position he apparently disdained after having been the boss in one of the most efficiently run shops in the Engineering Division.
In fact, this became a pattern with all my paternal uncles as well, the attitude that they would refuse to teach me anything useful that they had any knowledge of, like how to get a job on the Canal Zone. Whether it was a conscious thing on their part or no, I could not say, but I noticed it readily enough from my very infancy. Other than the art of womanising, which I call pimping, the company of my Uncle Pinky, the uncle who I would most interact with, would turn rather abusive in that he would start to take advantage of me by making me work for him and not compensating me with even a small monetary encouragement during all the times that I would live with his mother and sisters.
It evolved for me into a kind of instinctive development of my deep inner self. Reading the signs of what I call an ingrained miserly personality would keep me from becoming totally dishonest and resort to stealing and assorted skulduggery as a way of getting back at them all.
“Who had been their father?” I would often ask myself. “What kind of man is this who had mistreated his children so much that they, in turn, would come to abuse and neglect their own children?” The years would pass without me finding the answer to these profound questions about my paternal grandfather. It seemed to me that it was as though those people, his offspring, wanted to forget him as soon as possible. It would not be until many years later that they would speak freely about those times in the life of their father and even a little before he suddenly passed away. Where he is buried is a mystery to me even until this very day.
I do remember them talking about bouts of anger and rage in my grandfather – their father. It seemed like he would experience bouts of frustration that would at times surface when he’d experience, for instance, having to remain at home recuperating from work injuries. Those to me were frustrated reactions to his plight regarding his hurt self esteem. Over twenty years of hard labor on that Canal Zone would not be enough for that Silver Man. Neither would it be enough, as it turned out, for any one of his descendants except for me, one of his second generation, who would experience the brunt of child abuse and neglect and still go on to receive a college education.
In my estimation of The Silver People of the first generation Black Canal Zone whose behavior I did have an opportunity to observe, I would find an alienated people who would manifest their frustrations and fears in demonstrative, quarrelsome, often abusive ways- strange and angry animals, in my opinion; creatures only known to exist in the far flung Australian continent known as “Tasmanian Devils,” whose very nature is one of aggression and irritability.
It may have seemed an unkind comparison but, as one of the targets of their anger, I began to really ponder and dread the day that I would have to follow them to their resting places at the segregated Silver Cemeteries on the banks of the Panama Canal or in Brooklyn, New York.
This story continues.