Home / View Point / Write Start (16-18): Malique Auguste foresees a dour Carnival where masqueraders are ‘lonely together’ 

Write Start (16-18): Malique Auguste foresees a dour Carnival where masqueraders are ‘lonely together’ 

“[…] It’s Carnival Monday, 2022, and reluctantly a gloomy mass of people trickle down the street. Post-covid Carnival and barely anyone marches along the avenue because most are too concerned with catching the still present disease, except of course for those vagrants that have nowhere else to be. 

“Due to the previous pandemic, you’ve lost your job and soon you might just join those despondent few that you see. The government’s restrictions were stifling like a pillow held over one’s face. Now that they are removed you feel as though you should finally be able to breathe—but everyone still seems so far away, much more than six feet…”

Seventeen-year-old Naparima College student Malique Auguste is the ninth shortlisted writer for the 16-18 category of the Wired868 Write Start competition. Their topic is to ‘describe the ways in which you think the first post-Covid-19 Carnival will be different from its predecessors’:

Photo: Communications manager and former journalist Joanne Briggs (centre) plays mas with the Lost Tribe.
(Copyright Justin Ramcharan/Buzz-Caribbean)

It’s early on Carnival Monday, 2018, and suddenly a vibrant sea of people flood the streets. Soon enough you join them, eager for glee. 

The freedom that you feel is as intoxicating as a nice cold beer during the scorching heat. Like the bristles of a paintbrush, you’re packed closely with drunken strangers, yet you all prance about happily. From above, your costumes colour the streets like abstract art on a blank canvas. 

Individually you all were simply strokes of a brush, but now you paint a picture devoid of worries and sadness. The vibe and atmosphere bring you joy, something that you haven’t gotten to feel for a long, long time.

Later at night as you and your buddies take a break at the corner rum shop, a tired old woman next door is trying to get some sleep. Your favourite time of the year has arrived and is going better than you’d have imagined, but hers is nowhere to be seen. 

The loud music violently shakes the walls of the lady’s dilapidated wooden house like the earthquake from 2013. The insomnia is close to kicking in, so in her nightgown, she has no choice but to come to you all and plead.

“Turn the music down, please. I really need to sleep.”

Photo: The vibes nice…
(via Afropop.org)

This enrages you, so like the dirty sailor that you masqueraded as, you curse at her remorselessly.

A few moments later, an enormous blue music truck drives past. The echoes of the sweet soca melody that it blasts, invigorates you, enrapturing your soul. The masqueraders close behind it, warmly beckon you and your pals to join them in their palance. A few more sips of your neat white rum and you and your friends begin to follow the music truck.

Not surprisingly, you stumble and fall onto the warm asphalt. It was all just a little drunken fun, until you hit your head and ended up in the hospital hoping that your life won’t soon be done.

Ah! You’re awake! That was all just a dream, well more of a memory really, of your time in 2018. It’s Carnival Monday, 2022, and reluctantly a gloomy mass of people trickle down the street. Post-covid Carnival and barely anyone marches along the avenue because most are too concerned with catching the still present disease, except of course for those vagrants that have nowhere else to be. 

Due to the previous pandemic, you’ve lost your job and soon you might just join those despondent few that you see. The government’s restrictions were stifling like a pillow held over one’s face. Now that they are removed you feel as though you should finally be able to breathe—but everyone still seems so far away, much more than six feet.

Photo: Condolences to Carnival…
(Copyright Lisa Fernandez)

It’s as if you’re drifting at sea today while everyone is sitting comfortably on the bay. Individually you’re all alone, and with each other, you are simply lonely together. The atmosphere, devoid of vibes, pushes you down, forcing you into depression, a feeling that you’ve known, seemingly forever.

Later at night, you are still sitting at the rum shop, constantly cracking open beers as if searching for joy at their bottoms. Next door an old lady debates if she should go to sleep but soon happily decides that she should turn on the TV. She’s a bit tired but the silence is the perfect time to watch ‘The Young and The Restless’ rerun. The peace and quiet just might make this her favourite time of the year.

Back at the bar, your blue-bills are done so the owner kicks you out. He simply doesn’t care, despite you spending your money there year after year. 

While walking home you reminisce about pre-covid Carnival in 2018. About how you and your friends paraded along all the roads. About how you and your friends partied and drank as if the beers were free. About how you and your friends painted the streets with your costumes. But now the streets are only painted in dull streaks of blue and green, as the police and army roam about trying to keep them clean. 

Photo: A jab molassie on the prowl…
(Copyright Phenderson Djèlí Clark)

You see, this year the only masqueraders on the alley are the midnight robbers lurking in the shadows, desperately searching for their next opportunity. 

The government advertised this Carnival as ‘post-Covid’ since the infection rates have decreased significantly. So if this is post-Covid Carnival, then why haven’t you experienced a new normal once again? Why do you still feel constrained by the emotions that linger in your brain? Why have things remained the same?

I guess it’s because there is no post-covid Carnival. Covid is here to stay. Endlessly stalking the elderly and unvaccinated, those are its prey. After all, ‘This is the new normal’, is what they’d often say. 

Again, you stumble and fall and find yourself in the hospital today. Unlike last time you are not surrounded by people suffering from too much merriment on Carnival Monday, but by people gasping for air. 

You’ve found Covid’s prey. 

Editor’s Note: Wired868 will announce the winners of the inaugural Write Start competition on 13 December 2021. The first place winner will get TT$6,000, a six-month mobile plan from bmobile, and two complimentary movie tickets to CinemaONE.

Click HERE for more information on the Wired868 Write Start prize structure and do share your favourite essays!

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