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The Belt

As I moved from the window I knocked down a weight-training belt from the small table that was at the corner of the northern and eastern walls of the room. The table is nothing to talk about really, for its made from material salvaged from my first, and last , attempt at making bookshelves for my library. As our collection of books outgrew the rows of boards supported on bricks I decided one day to build shelves around the walls of our bedroom at the time. Armed with hammer, nails, saw, chisel and some lumber from the nearby hardware store, I built them in the carport on a kind of frame model that I had in my head. Considering that I hadnt touched woodworking since I was around twelve when I had made an egg rack for an exhibition in primary school, I thought I had done a pretty good job. The three stacks were so heavy that I had to get a young neighbour to help me to get them inside. I was a bit surprised when they sagged like a sway-backed horse from the weight of the books, but I was quite satisfied that I had replaced the bricks and boards. They served faithfully, though precariously, for several years, till the bungalow was enlarged and renovated into a mansion (visiting writer from England Faustin Charles said so), when they were replaced by neater, sturdier, more functional, professionally built ones as the room became a library, and was even listed as a library for some time. My poor shelves were removed and recycled into two tables and other furniture ( wood is expensive) and this table is one of them. In its legs I can still see the grooves I had made to place the former shelves. Its intention was to make my room neater and in a way it does.

The training belt that fell, and the two karate black belts and brown belts that are on it, speaking of an important period of my life, are but a little part of the jumble of varia that rest there. They include a used can of Right Guard deodorant that had done its job to keep me nice to be near, but which I hadnt found the time to drop in the waste bucket a few metres away. There is another can of Right Guard, only partially used because I hadnt noticed it was one with that kind of powdery antiperspirant. Theres another can of Homme Supreme Gold Concept II that replaces it for the time being. Dont think I have any sense in these matters, price and availability and urgency decide my choices most times, and of course, graciousness in receiving them as gifts ( be advised). I know Ill have to return to the Right Guard when the other is finished, my finances dictate that. There are sundry other items in this category. Its not that Im fixated on getting rid of BO, but one needs to be nice to be near at times, and also to sleep comfortably. Getting along in years also dictates a certain particularity in toilet care. A young friend of mind wrote a short story about an old guy and you would not believe some of the references. She was very vicious in her treatment of his degenerations and decrepitude. Also there was a time when, as a young macho man, I thought that soap and water was sufficient and the smells of nature could only be an aphrodisiac; even gentle urgings on the part of my current sweetheart didnt work, till we attended a Johnny Nash concert at the Deluxe Cinema in the 60s. A patron sitting next to us kept knocking us out every time he rose to cheer animatedly. We would have to keep ducking into our handkerchieves. I learned then that soap and water may not really be enough. And my date/s were happy Id learned the lesson.

There is a jumble of stuff on this table and no sooner than I establish some order than chaos returns.Rubbing alcohol, methylated spirits, antiseptic cream, hair dressing,glue, glue sticks, phone cleaner by Lanher manufactured by an acquaintance who attended UWI for a year or two in the 1970s and decided to be a Black entrepreneur - I always buy his products as an act of support but they are excellent as well, mosquito repellant, extra light bulbs, some souvenir cups - demitasse from Carol a past student, a cup from Dominica - from a writing workshop taught there, a Spelman College cup - a souvenir from my daughters college in USA where she won a Presidential scholarship which enabled her to reject all our joint plans for her education and career choices, a beer mug from St. Augustine Senior Secondary school - a memento for Poetry Day services to them per my old (young) friend JR, a Royal Bank cup, a unicorn pen holder statuette the pen long disappeared, a wire spike where I keep bills, receipts, cheques, credit card slips which tell a story of their own about by financial management or lack of it, innumerable pens, mainly non-functional and other bric-a-brac fill this table, including a little drum, and two wooden bookends, a gift from CLICO when I did Poetry day services for them, and which now serve as an improvised letter rack holding junk mail, newsletters, programmes, invitations and other artifacts of my history. There are also four karate belts - 2 brown and 2 black - memoirs of a time when we exulted in the physical and Zen was not a word but a way of life. One of the brown belts belongs to my daughter, Maria, who was a Kata champion for many years and who won a Caribbean championship at Queens Hall when she was 15 in 19... well, she wouldnt wish me to say. She didnt go on to her black belt. The black belts belong to me. One was my workaday black belt and the other a gift from a visiting delegation of the All-Japan Federation of Karate-do Organization (FAJKO). I was extremely proud of this as karate is a young persons sport and practice,which helped to rehabilitate me and bring me to a level of physical accomplishment that I never had before in my life and I swear that I'm glad I never had the opportunity to prove that I could defend myself in a fatal situation.

The belt that fell was a leather workout belt - a gift from Sensei Steve Parris. You would never think that I had a waist that small and abs so firm, to see me now. It evoked a smile of nostalgia remembering those truly amateur, spiritual days in the gym before everything became professional. We trained some of the first women bodybuilders, as well as some of the greatest looking women you could imagine, women with brain and beauty and sometimes money too, including models and one beauty queen contestant who almost won the Miss World Pageant. Sometimes our clique got crazy and would pile on the weight, especially on the leg press machine, sometimes crossing over 500 pounds without a proper belt, because testosterone had taken over. Sensei Steve had given me the belt to save me from injuring my (old) self. I was never paid for my services there, but the opportunity to challenge my physical possibilities was greatly appreciated. The gym replaced the dojo as my second home until I discovered the pleasure of road running. As I picked up the belt, which had fallen on my old Nike Air Icarus sneakers I realized that that was another story.

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