Open with black screen and the sound of a twin-engine aircraft, the drone of muffled propellers – you are inside the aircraft. The blackness retreats as voluminous clouds fill the screen. You are passing through them. Cut to the outside. The sound of the engines changes, it is crisper and more distant.
You see the aircraft – an old fashioned, slightly rounded Douglas DC-3 with a metallic finish – riding the thermals through billows of vapour. Back to the inside, looking out and down, the muffled propeller drone returns. The clouds are now separating into ever thinner fleeting wisps. You can see the forested peaks of the Northern Range rising from below. The aircraft is descending.
Now you are on the ground. In front of you is a white wooden building with a wall of double doors. These doors are almost entirely made of small panes of rectangular glass. The doors are all wide open. Above them hangs a large sign which reads: Piarco Airport Trinidad. Above this sign, perched midway on the slope of a sheet-tin roof, is another sign which reads: Welcome. Directly above both signs looms a circular observation tower, and higher still, a Union Jack flutters in the breeze.
Cut to inside the double doors. Ceiling fans stir the soporific air. A janitor lazily mops the tiled floor. His black bald head glistens with sweat and he rests a moment to wipe his brow with a white handkerchief. Huge swollen hands suggest heavier work, or a fight. Opposite the first wall of open doors is another. One set of these is open; two starched sentries swelter either side. In the centre of the room are four mahogany benches lovingly varnished to a crystal finish. Upon one of these sits a reddened, wire coat hanger of a man wearing a beige linen suit. His pencil moustache matches his build. He flicks impatiently through a newspaper and you don’t quite catch the headlines.
You move out past the sentries and overlook the taxi lanes leading to the runway. Despite the clouds resting on the mountains behind you it is clear and the light is bright. Corbeau, black feathered sharks of the sky, circle in search of the tiniest movement on the scrub beyond the tarmac. Apart from their sporadic crowing, the only sound is that of a hammer ringing against steel from a distant hangar. It is clear but quiet, gently puncturing the silence like a forgotten metronome.
Back aboard the plane, the engines whirr as it banks left, beginning the approach to the runway. The noise disturbs the alligators and anacondas in Caroni swamp below, but not the Scarlet Ibis who do not return until just before dusk. You see an alligator submerge, an anaconda slowly uncoil, then cut back to the cabin and its dampened hum. Passengers are stirring, rousing themselves from the hours of enforced lethargy. Seats are returned to their upright positions, blankets and books tidied away. Cigars and cigarettes extinguished. Passports, landing cards, entrance visas and wallets emerge from their respective dormitories in pockets and handbags. Opened window-blinds allow the solar brilliance to pierce the previously somnolent atmosphere. A buzz of anticipation pervades the air.
The relative tranquillity of the airport setting is interrupted by the oscillating drone of an approaching aircraft. You look up to the right to see the three o’clock sun reflecting off the fuselage. Behind you, the coat hanger man emerges from the waiting room. He holds his newspaper across his brow as he squints up at the plane. A different motor sound draws his gaze towards the other end of the runway. You follow his line of sight to an ambulance and a fire engine purring in readiness; in case of an emergency.
Cut back to the aeroplane. The propellers roar as it nears the asphalt. It appears to quicken as the wheels bounce on the runway’s surface. You await the squeal of burning rubber even though you know that only happens in movies. The aircraft rolls on. You watch it as it slows and then turns onto the taxi lane towards the terminal.
Inside the cabin, the flight attendants are reminding the passengers to remain seated until the plane has come to a complete stop. The passengers are restless. You focus on the hands of an auburn-haired woman seated midway down the aisle. Her neatly manicured nails are tapping nervously across the brass rim to the opening of her handbag. A voice with a Mississippi accent says, ‘It’s okay, ma’am. Everything’s just fine now, we’ve landed. It’s over.’ You glance round and see a smiling middle-aged man in a brown beige and green chequered sports jacket. It clashes markedly with his pale-blue eyes. He has a kind face that wears a look of mild concern. ‘It’s over,’ he says once more. Cut back to the woman’s hands now toying with her wedding ring.
Outside, the plane comes to a halt near the terminal building. The propellers begin to slow as the engines fade. Passenger boarding stairs are manoeuvred into place by four black ground-staff. They are clothed in denim dungarees, blue shirts, work boots and thick sandy-coloured gloves. They all sport different hats. The starched sentries have opened the remaining doors on the runway side of the building. A draught now moves through the seating area. Several officials are standing inside. The coat hanger man has moved closer to the aircraft.
The hatch has now opened and an air hostess stands at the top of the stairs assisting passengers as they emerge. You are again inside the plane, standing in the queue in readiness to exit. You reach the doorway and thank members of the cabin crew who have lined up to bid everyone farewell. Then you are at the top of the stairs and you notice the person in front of you is shocked by the sudden heat. From behind, the man from Mississippi says, ‘Watch your step now, ma’am,’ as you begin your descent. When you reach the bottom, the coat hanger man in the beige linen suit approaches you rapidly. Droplets of sweat sit above his pencil moustache.
‘At last, darling,’ he says in clipped English. ‘I was beginning to wonder whether the damn bird hadn’t taken a dip in the tally ho. How was the flight, darling? Beastly long, I suppose. Never mind, here now, hey. Let’s get the paperwork done with. Did you bring many cases, dear? I do hope they don’t take forever to unload; I must get back to the office post-haste. Blasted socialists wreaking havoc everywhere and I’ve got oil executives kicking up a right old stink. How’s your mother? Any news from Gordon? This way, darling, this way.’
Inside the terminal, in the waiting area, passengers are gathered. They are reacting loudly to the heat. Men have removed their jackets and hats. Women are seated and fanning themselves with whatever comes to hand. Excited children are desperately suppressing their urge to jump about. The officials are moving through the crowd, examining travel documents. Outside, the ground-staff are slowly unloading the baggage from the hold onto trolleys.
Cut to the front of the airport building and you see the coat hanger man emerge with the auburn-haired woman in a grey pencil skirt and white blouse with patent leather shoes. She is carrying her hat, jacket and a handbag with the brass rim. Her pale and freckled skin could not be more of a contrast to that of the frail-looking porter who follows the couple with a suitcase in each hand. You watch as they approach a black saloon car bearing government insignia. The woman gets in. The porter struggles to fit the suitcases into the car boot. Coat hanger man climbs into the driver’s seat. The woman opens her window. The car reverses onto the road as the man from Mississippi exits the terminal building. ‘Enjoy your stay, ma’am,’ he yells.
You are watching royal palms through the passenger side window. The bottom third of their trunks are painted white. You wonder why. You are heading west, and to your right is a ridge of mountains covered in lush green jungle. The road surface appears new until you reach a built-up area with houses perched on stilts. They have roofs of thatch or corrugated iron. The windows are unglazed and have slatted wooden shutters across them. People of many different hues of darkness line the route sitting in doorways, on porches, or just on the dirt in front of their homes. They all stare as the vehicle throws dust from the pock-marked road.
‘You look tired, darling,’ says the man with the pencil moustache driving the car. He turns briefly towards you and forces a smile. ‘Best get you straight home. Jemima will look after you. Just tell her what you need. I won’t be back until well after dinner, I’m afraid, so please don’t wait for me, darling. You have a good sleep and we’ll catch up tomorrow.’
The engine’s drone gradually fades.
Black feet in slip-on sandals stride across a red tiled floor towards a door. You see a plump black hand twist a brass knob and watch the bottom of the door swing open across a hardwood floor. The feet continue to a low table near to a window. A tray with fresh fruit, a metal pot of coffee, a jug of cream, a bowl of white sugar, a silver spoon, a small plate with a paring knife, a cup and saucer, is placed on the table.
The black hands reach up and draw the curtains. The window is a set of French doors. Behind its glass blooms a magnificent tropical garden. You turn from the window and follow the light streaming through it towards a large mosquito net hanging over a king-size bed. Beneath the net, lying on top of the bedclothes is the auburn-haired woman. She is wearing cream-coloured silk pyjamas. You hear the sound of someone clearing their throat followed by a deliberate cough. ‘Mrs Warner. Mrs Warner, your husband say he call away urgent. He say he back fuh dinner.’ Then you hear footsteps on the wooden floor and the door closing. The auburn-haired woman, Mrs Warner, stirs very slightly.
You turn from the sleeping woman back to the window and slowly move out into the garden. The tropical plants have been precisely landscaped and the neatly tended shrubs, lawn and borders bring to mind the image of the woman’s nails against her handbag. Both the hands and the gardens have been manicured. Several varieties of palm fringe the area – coconut, red and traveller. Kiskadees chirp their question. Scarlet Peacock, Green Heliconian and Small Postman butterflies flutter to and fro. At the window, Mrs Warner appears drinking her cup of coffee.
Cut to late afternoon and Mrs Warner taking tea alone in the drawing room. The shadows are lengthening.
Cut to evening and Mrs Warner is seated at a long dining table. Jamima, the maid enters saying, ‘Boy jus bring dis letter, miss.’ Those perfectly manicured nails come once more into focus as her hands unfold the note. It reads:
Trouble in the south, darling.
Must deal with, darling. National crisis.
Will look in on you when I get back.
Love, Tim x
Cut to black feet in slip-on sandals striding across a red tiled floor towards a door. A plump black hand twists a brass knob and the door swings open. The feet stride across the hardwood floor to a low table near to a window. You see a tray with fresh fruit, a metal pot of coffee, a jug of cream, a bowl of white sugar, a silver spoon, a small plate with a paring knife, a cup and saucer. The tray is placed down on the table. Black hands reach up and draw the curtains. The light from the window beams towards a mosquito net hanging over a king-size bed. On the bed, above the bedclothes, the auburn-haired Mrs Warner sits up. She is wearing cream-coloured silk pyjamas.
Cut to inside the mosquito net. You see a plump black woman, Jamima, with thick legs, fat arms and a heavy breast. She is looking at you from the other side of the veil. A gingham headscarf covers her hair. She wears a blue apron. She says, ‘He gone already, miss, else he never came home.’ There is no tone of sympathy in her voice. She speaks without concern. Her eyes seem slightly cruel. She turns to leave.
Cut to the garden, looking at the bedroom window. Inside, Mrs Warner is drinking her cup of coffee.
Cut to the drawing room in the late afternoon. Mrs Warner is taking tea, alone. The shadows are lengthening.
Cut to evening and Mrs Warner is seated at a long dining table. She is alone.
Cut to black feet in slip-on sandals striding across a red tiled floor towards a door. A plump black hand twists a brass knob and again the door swings open. The feet stride across the hardwood floor to a low table near to a window. You see a tray with fresh fruit, a metal pot of coffee, a jug of cream, a bowl of white sugar, a silver spoon, a small plate with a paring knife, a cup and saucer; everything is placed on the table. Black hands reach up and draw the curtains. The light from the window beams towards a mosquito net hanging over a king-size bed. Above the bedclothes lie some cream-coloured silk pyjamas.
From the main gate to the house runs a straight gravel drive. It is approximately one hundred yards long and lined by royal palms. The bottom third of their trunks are painted white. Through the wrought iron railings of the main gate, you see two sets of feet walking towards the house.
As your gaze lifts, you see the Mrs Warner and an athletically built black man in smart polished shoes. He wears neatly pressed grey flannel trousers and a crisp white shirt. It is tightly stretched across his broad shoulders. His strong biceps fill the upper part of the sleeves. His left hand carries a red folder.
You are now at the doorway to the house watching the pair approach. They are chatting casually, easily with one another. She sports a wide-brimmed straw sunhat and is laughing. They climb the three short steps to the veranda and you move behind them. The man passes the red folder to his right hand. As they enter through the doorway to the house he places his left hand onto her lower back and says, ‘I should just leave this here with you. You can give it to him later.’
The curtains of the drawing room are half drawn. The Mrs Warner leans against the back of a dinning chair. She is semi-silhouetted against the column of light from the window. In her hand is a tumbler of white rum. You are looking up from an armchair into where her eyes would be if the glare was kinder. A noise in the hallway causes you to look through the open door. You stare for a moment anticipating an explanation for the sound to materialise. It does not.
The next thing you see is the black man smiling up at you from the armchair. His teeth are perfect, white.
Black feet in slip-on sandals stride across a red tiled floor towards a door. They halt some distance away. From behind the door muffled moans are heard. The black feet in slip-on sandals turn and walk away.
The light from the bedroom window beams towards a mosquito net hanging over a king-size bed. Beneath it, above the bedclothes, writhing bodies glisten. Fade to black screen.
The sound of a twin engine aircraft fills your ears, the drone of muffled propellers – you are inside the aircraft. The blackness retreats as voluminous clouds fill the screen. You are passing through them. Cut to the outside. The sound of the engines changes, it is crisper and a little distant.
You see the aircraft – an old fashioned, slightly rounded Douglas DC-3 with a metallic finish – riding the thermals through billows of vapour. Back to the inside looking out and down, the muffled propeller drone returns. The clouds are condensing into ever thicker plumes. The forested peaks of the Northern Range are disappearing below.
You focus on the hands of an auburn-haired woman who is seated midway down the aisle. Her neatly manicured nails are tapping nervously across the brass rim to the opening of her handbag. You slowly move away and see her face. She is crying.
As the sound of the twin-engines fade from earshot, you are again on the ground. You are in front of a house perched on stilts. It has a corrugated iron roof. The windows are unglazed and they have slatted wooden shutters across them. A black man in smart polished shoes is being led by two uniformed officials to a car parked on the dusty road in front of the house. He wears neatly pressed grey flannel trousers and a crisp white shirt. It is tightly stretched across his broad shoulders. His strong biceps fill the upper part of the sleeves. He holds up his head defiantly. People of many different hues of darkness stare from their doorways and porches, or just from the dirt in front of their homes. You are saddened and a little confused.
Photo by tinscho