A GUY'S VIEW: The Door of no Return
“Close some doors. Not because of pride, incapacity or arrogance, but simply because they no long lead somewhere.” Paulo Coelho.
It was a beautiful sunny day. The sunshine was particularly golden, and because it was still early in the morning, its beauty was not dimmed by considerations of heat. The sun was still kissing the earth, gently warming it up.
The journey to this place brought him pass swaying trees, for it was a windy day. He knew that high winds cooled the day, regardless of the exposure to the sun. This day was marvelous: bright, breezy, cool. It was the epitome of what outsiders imagined a lovely Barbados day would be. What was missing was the opportunity to lie under a tree, the glass of rum, with the chaser sitting close by, and the laughter of the boys who would slam a game of dominoes. He longed to get back to that idealism, for there was no better way to spend a day under the sun.
He looked over his shoulder and caught a glimpse of the sea. Wow. Dark blue with dancing diamonds all over its surface. Not even the mined rocks when cut and polished were more beautiful than these water diamonds.
Dropping his gaze, his eyes fell on the luxury vessels that the other half use to take them across the waters. These were mostly white. The sun and the water conspired to play on the sides of these vessels. The irregular patterns created by the movement of the water as it reflected the sun against the white vessels created their own dance. The silhouetted light moved like the boneless body of a Bajan woman dancing to a hot calypso tune. He was transported back to a more festive period when the black and brown bodies of young women swayed and gyrated, seemingly without control.
And then he directed his attention to the task ahead. The line of human beings snaked around the entrance to the Door of no Return like the body of a speckled, engorged serpent. A protrusion here. A depression not too far away. It twisted this way and then that. But every face was towards the dreaded door.
The speckles were more varied than the colours of the rainbow. Every tribe was represented, although some in more numbers than others. The tribe from which one came was easily identifiable by their shade and dress. The snake reflected the various shades of all the tribes. It had never occurred to him before, but he now noticed the various shades of black that surrounded him.
And then there were the blues, reds, whites, greens of the clothing. There were colours that he had never taken the time to learn their names. Strangely enough, although he dabbled in art and had a better than average appreciation of colours, his attention did not loiter on them today. In fact, he noticed that as the colours moved closer to the door, they morphed into a dull grey and darkness. There was neither brightness nor beauty beyond the door.
He joined the line and became the end of the snake. But as soon as he did so, still others formed behind him and extended the tail a little longer. Within minutes there were so many behind him that he was no longer in the tail of the snake but in its extended belly.
People spoke in tones just above hushed. There was no sacred respect. The low tones reflected the dread that was beyond the door.
He remembered the stories of his people’s journey to this land. He now had a better appreciation of the history which he had never been taught in school but which he had investigated independently of those who would limit his knowledge.
He had read of the Door of no Return. When his ancestors were rounded up, they were transported on foot for days to the shore where they were placed on ships for the most dreaded journey known to mankind. It was a fulfilment of the Deuteronomy 28:68 prophesy: “The LORD will send you back in ships to Egypt on a journey I said you should never make again. There you will offer yourselves for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves, but no one will buy you.”
At the time that this was written the journey between Israel and Egypt was taken by foot. One did not sail from Israel to Egypt. Jacob and his family walked into Egypt. We are told that Joseph and Mary walked or rode a donkey into Egypt. So how could one who was in Israel sail into Egypt in ships? Egypt here is a metaphor for slavery. His people were the only ones who had sailed “back” into slavery in ships.
As in the prophecy, the snake of mostly black bodies was made up almost equally of males and females. And it was almost as if no one would pay a penny for them this morning. Of course, to buy in the context of the prophecy means that no one would redeem them, but neither redemption nor purchase was good enough for them this day.
After some hours, he eventually made it to the door. To his dismay, he discovered that this was only the outer door. There was still a journey from the outer door to the inner door. And the humans in the passage was like the experience of the Middle Passage. They were two lines of closely pressed bodies in a passage no more than three feet wide and designed to be traversed by one person at a time.
In addition to the assembly of the bondsmen in the pathway, this was the only path between the doors, so it continued to provide for ingress and egress into and out of the belly of the beast.
A few feet beyond the outer door, the crowd was hoarded together like cattle corralled for slaughter. The holding area was between two walls and therefore without ventilation and hot. Despite the heat, no one could fan, simply because the bodies were so tightly packed that this hand movement would not be possible. The sultry heat had to be endured without relief.
The distance between the outer door and the inner door was about twenty feet. It took him three hours to move half of that distance. And then the message came. “We are closing. We will continue tomorrow.”
This was his third day trying to get to the inner door. He would have to try again tomorrow. The sullen look on every face of those left outside could not be translated into words. They would have to continue trying to pay their taxes at the Barbados Revenue Authority office at the Treasury Building.
Why any of this was necessary and not decentralized and done at any other BRA office or even online was beyond him and them. This exercise put the lie to any talk of reduced red tape and improved systems of doing business in Barbados.
The more things change the more they remain the same.