The ex-gang boy joined his classmates inside as I did also but I’m sure he was convinced that I would never forget the history of his gang’s persecution. I was just glad that most of the boys in my new school home were total strangers to me. I sat trying to remain quiet and away from the hustle reading a book I had found in the desk of the seat I had chosen. We hadn’t been in class long because we had spent the morning doing absolutely nothing constructive.
Blessedly, the bell for recess soon sounded and I, along with the rest of my companions, flooded the school corridors to stretch my feet after being cramped into tiny desks for hours. During recess I kept a watch on my apologetic prey and took mental notes. He kept a very cautious distance. Instead of the defiant thug who once terrorized me in my weakest moments, the cowering youth, who seemed to want a chance at rehabilitation, kept an observant eye on me with a look of profound respect.
I spent the few days that followed in search of that boy but he never returned to school. The wayward youth had escaped from any possible confrontations with his past and I never again encountered him in school or in any other part of the city of Colon. That encounter brought a more important issue to mind, however, the stupidity that prevailed amongst us the young West Indian men of Panama. Stupid in its total absurdity for us, coming from the constraints of the Silver Roll.
It was the spirit of hatred- self hatred- that we could ill afford rising from our condition and race as an excluded people who finally started to believe in the infamy of our history and legacy, in ourselves and our families. That aggressiveness learned in a collective of hurting humanity would turn into utter contempt where everything vile is immediately attached to ourselves and we operate in self deprecating mode as being the blame for everything harmful to existence.
I had started to see this back in Panama City any time I would meet up with West Indian kids and it had started to scare me about my heritage and people. I was hoping not to see it in the West Indian youth in Colon. The only way out, as I saw it, was to educate it out of myself first. Only then could I maintain my self respect.
This story continues.