This is essay two in the ” Three Essays No One Cares About for My #30th Year”
Dedicated to Shirley and Delux
There is always more than one note to the smell of sugar.
The first words I heard walking into Walker’s Subtlety is “ It smells like sugar “ and already my heckles raise. This is not the smell of sugar , there is no blood here,no gnawing, no breaking of precious skin.I teethed on sugarcane , mother determined that I would come up like she did somewhat, thousand of miles from the waters of Guyana, gnawing my first teeth into existence on resistant fibers. My first real taste of it stained or anointed with my own blood, passed down from those who shed blood to bring it to profitability for God ,Crown and Guyasuco. Rather than cut fresh from back yards and open fields , or pulled from pontoon boats for babies, it was canned an exorbitant but necessary luxury in my momma’s eyes bought from Ms. Hanif’s shop. Sugar was how she made me Guyanese, something she could bring from that earth to my mouth. It was a bit of her childhood she could give me. This is happiness , this is placation, this is the ground you will only touch so often, but it’s yours.
I peek out a hole in the wall. It is a feature of the factory not the art. People line up thinking Walker intends this. A photographer scoffs at as , a man behind me not black asks loudly “ If there is no purpose in this why are we doing it OKAY? Okay?” They do not understand ritual. I know the ocean is on the other side of that hole. I can not contemplate sugar without looking at the sea.