By Akola Thompson
LOCKED away from the eyes of others in the ship’s stern, William Samuel Bremner alternating between readings, eating and sleeping, quickly lost the concept of time.He was not sure how long he had been hidden away, but to his inexperienced and restless mind, he reckoned it had been more than a week. One day, in a state of reverie, he said he felt the ship come to a slow halt and upon believing he had reached, got up excitedly and peeked out a nearby window from which he saw “buildings, tall like skyscrapers.”
Filled with joy at finally meeting his destination, the possibilities of a new and better life flooded Samuel’s mind so much that for several hours, he did not wonder as to why no one was coming down to get him. Night had fallen again and Samuel, fearing he had been forgotten, decided that he would have to leave the ship on his own; despite being a good way from the dock, he made his mind up to swim to shore.
“It was a good pull,” he said with slight exuberance, the tapping sound of his feet on tile fading the more he talked, “but I was a good swimmer, so leaving my stuff behind, I swam towards the shore. By the time I reached, I was so tired that I climbed into a little boat that was there and fell asleep.”
The next morning, Samuel, drowsy and cold, was awakened by someone calling down at him: “It was a Rasta man,” he said, which was the first thing he noticed as he had never seen one before. The second thing he noticed was the man’s accent, which was not even slightly that of the English, but an unapologetically Caribbean one. Samuel had gotten off at Trinidad; the ship from which he had swum was no longer in sight and Samuel’s fantasies of life in England immediately ceased.
The Rasta man, curious as to who he was and his purpose in the boat, began questioning him continuously. Samuel, realising that he stood no chance alone in a new country at the age of 16, decided that the best option for him was to answer the man’s questions truthfully.
“He told me that in exchange for a small percentage and food and lodging, I would have to sell weed for him.”
At this point, Samuel glanced nervously at me as if to see my reaction; I encouraged him to go on and asked whether he took the deal.
“Of course,” he said, “what else was I gonna do? I started selling for him; it didn’t take me long to learn, because I was quick in the head. Within a week, I was measuring grams and buying directly from the dealers and selling back.”
Shortly after, during a visit to a bar, he met a young woman from Santo Domingo whom he later learnt was a prostitute. Despite her work, he said, they instantly clicked and so, began talking, going out on dates and then had a relationship.
“It was like a courting- we clicked really quick,” he said, turning his face away from me. “Anyway,” he said heavily, “lets fast forward from those years…” I stopped him and asked why we must move so far ahead; he went quiet for a moment, and the only sounds between us were the murmurings in the café and his tap-tapping shoes.
“Do we have to talk about this?” he asked, turning to face me, tears settled in his eyes, “I-I really don’t feel like talking about it- yes, it’s long but it still hurts.”
Moving along to his deportation, Samuel stressed that it was not the dealing that got him sent back, but rather, his quick temper.
Always an avid reader, Samuel would frequent a café not far from where he lived and spend parts of his days reading. A homosexual man who had taken a liking to him, he said, owned the café and would occasionally serve him his coffee and throw subtle hints his way.
“I used to be friendly, but he got more bold every time and I had to tell him I’m not in for that and he began being nasty-he would spill my coffee and so. I was still civil to him, but the day he tried to touch my crotch it was like something dark came over me,” he said solemnly.
In anger, he began beating the man until onlookers pulled him off. He immediately left and went to a nearby pool shop where he played until the police came for him, guided by some of the man’s friends.
By this time, Samuel had begun learning the basics of three languages and so he decided to try to fool the police of his nationality for reasons which he himself acknowledged were not very clear. They kept him at the station for several days, wearing him thin in an attempt to get a straight answer and he grew tired and finally told them he was Guyanese. Upon realising that he was an illegal immigrant, Samuel was deported from the home he had grown to respect and the woman he had grown to love.
Back in Guyana, Samuel did not waste a lot of time before illegally travelling over to Brazil. As he had nothing or anyone for him in Guyana, he saw no reason in staying.
Once again a stranger in a foreign land, which in his opinion was much more inviting and loving than home, Samuel once again found himself in “wrong company.”
“Due to my linguistic abilities and because the men knew I was there illegally, they had me running drugs, not weed,coke,” he said.
That was the place where Samuel said he truly lost his way. Exposed to the vices of the “fast life,” Samuel said that it was not long after his arrival that he became involved with many women and began doing recreational cocaine.
Looking back now, Samuel mused that it was “all shit, I don’t want you to feel anyway about my language but it was all shit,” he said.
Eventually, said Samuel, he rather began to enjoy what he was doing and the perks that came along with it.
As the trading grew and more trust was placed in him, the ones to whom Samuel was employed provided “excellent” fake Brazilian papers for him and got him a job on a ship in which he would transport drugs to different areas.
By this time, he said, he had learnt the trade well and was not afraid of ever being caught. He travelled six times without any hiccups, but on the seventh trip, the drugs had been stolen.
“I became afraid and paranoid,” he said, “I knew I could not go back and tell them I had lost the drugs. They would think I had sold it to get the money and kill me. I couldn’t go back.”
As soon as the ship had made its round trip, Samuel said he escaped undetected and went to hide out in a hotel. He stayed holed up for approximately two days while trying to figure out what his next move would be. On the third day he said, he heard a knock on the ,but already being well learned in the way in which they operated, he knew they had come to kill him. He answered by voice and quickly dashed to the side to avoid what was coming, two gunshots in rapid succession. Snatching up his passport and his wad of money, he claimed to have jumped out of the window into the currents beneath it.
Knowing that he needed to get out the area quickly lest he be found, Samuel travelled to a small village he had frequented in the past where an old acquaintance of his lived.
“She was from the streets,” he said, “so if you said you were in trouble, she’d understand, but we weren’t’ friends, if she had known how much money I had on me, she probably would have turned me into them or kill me herself.”
Again on the verge of losing his life and the environments of which he had grown fond, Samuel began to ponder the direction his life had taken and where it was supposed to go now.
After several days of thinking and worrying, he knew there was only one place to which he could go. Back home, to Guyana.