By Gerald Hausman
Bokeelia, FL, USA
We lived in Jamaica, loved Jamaica. I was writing a book about Jamaica. It seemed that everything that was going on around us filtered into my writing and mysteriously shaped itself into a new chapter.
One day I was in Port Maria doing the daily round of bakery, supermarket, outdoor market and so on, when a small ragamuffin man came up to me and stuck a sharp machete into my stomach.
I felt the point of the blade nick me, and stick me. But it did not go in any deeper. The man held me with his eyes. The eyes were focused on mine. For a moment we held one another in that strange embrace of pure eye contact and the point of a machete.
There are times like these where you don't think, you don't act, but you can feel that something is going to happen any second, and then it does….
My mouth opened, and words poured out of it.
"I am told you are a kind and gentle soul," I said. "Why is it, all these years have passed, and we have only just met, man-to-man, heart-to-heart?"
The hardness of his eyes changed.
I went on. "I haven't an answer any more than you have an answer for the thing you are doing, pushing a knife into the belly of your brother." (I don't know - to this day - where these strange words came from.)
But for a while our duel of stares continued. Then the knife man dropped the point of his machete. His eyes filled with tears, he turned and fled. But not without saying that I was "A kind and gracious sir, a gentleman and many other nice things."
I watched him weave his way into the thickening crowd that thought a murder was going to be committed. There was a hunger in their eyes. But someone said, "You stood your ground...."
When I told what happened to one of our fellow teachers, a Jamaican Rasta, he said, "Everyone got something to say, even a madman. But most mad people are hungry. Hungry for food. Hungry for love. Hungry for something. We walk a thin line between the quick and the dead. The starved and the sated. The rich and the poor. The real question is which do you live in, heaven or hell?"
For many years, I have been buying rice and peas for the man who once stuck a knife in my gut. I have never regretted giving him love, food, or stopped praising him for saving my life. As for the doors, I know which one I passed through that day.
Gerald Hausman's latest book, Rastafarian Children of Solomon: The Legacy of The Kebra Nagast and the Path to Peace and Understanding, will be released on February 11, 2013.