“I can’t sit down. I just have to get up, I have to get up and get. I can’t sit down and say that my joint hurting. And the same day it happen I get up and go about my business because I have to sell my papers.”
Words of paper vendor 64-year-old Camille who has been walking the streets for almost 20 years selling newspapers. Recently she lost her apartment in a fire and she related to me that the very evening of the fire she was back on the street selling newspapers.
“When was the fire I was sleeping and I barely get up after I hear like somebody talking in me sleep. I had me spectacles and so on the bed and me bag that I went home with but when I get up it was so much heat that I just run out the house,” she said, fixing the red head-tie on her head as she spoke.
“You see this.” She points to multi-coloured bag on her shoulder. “Is papers I still get in there you know and I know it late but maybe I would still get a few sale,” Camille said veering off from the course of the conversation.
She stops of to argue with the employee of one of the newspaper companies because the change he returned was in $100 and $20 bills, and she preferred to have a $500 bill instead.
“I know you get $500, you know I know you get,” she says as she looked sternly at him.
He pacifies her with some kind words and she once again turns to me.
“You know I run out the house naked as I born? Is somebody had to come and give me a dress to put on and I just went over the road and sit down and watch. Is everything went up in fire, me washing machine, me stove, me everything.” She ended this sentence with a long pause as if she wanted to say more but she stopped.
“After the fire I went by a friend and I just lie down and catch a rest, then I wake up and I bathe. She give me clothes to put on and come out to pay and order my papers. Wah else I coulda do? Just stay home and think about it? I still have to eat you know,” she says almost fiercely.
“I ain’t use to pay rent, with this paper business you really can’t pay rent is just barely enough to help you buy food and so. But it was still me home and it was me own space, it was a lil apartment but was home.
“Now I living by me sister and I ain’t get headache really. Me sister does cook and wash and everything fuh me and I does give she a lil something at the end of the month. And most time I does deh out. I leave early in the morning and I does go back in the afternoon time like this. I want a lil TV and then is bed and me sister would wake me up in the morning and I does gone.”
“You don’t have children?” I enquired.
“Yes I have children, I have two daughters but I don’t really want go and live with them. They have children and dem own family. Right now I tell you I don’t have any headache and I does prefer to be by me self. Is suh I like it,” Camille says as she once again fixes her head-tie.
The head-tie is red and so is the waist-coat she is wearing, in the pockets of which she keeps her change.
“I had four children you know but me two sons dead, dem was big man and dem dead,” she says this quietly and her eyes became wide as if she was reminiscing.
“One dead in the interior in a accident and deh other one he had cancer and he dead.
“But I have me daughters and my grandchild,” Camille added in an apparent attempt to console herself.
“But you know how I get into this paper business, is me brothers them use to sell. When I use to be selling bags and drinks and so on, they use to sell papers.”
This statement seemed to announce that Camille was done talking about her children although there was so much more I wanted to ask especially about her now dead sons. Maybe she sensed it and was hesitant to go down that road. I don’t know and I did not probe.
“I does sell all four newspapers and I don’t have no competition in this business. I does just walk and sell me newspaper and I have some customers who does pay month and I does mek me lil money,” she continues.
“It is not a business really but at least you making a lil money but I can’t pay no rent and so with the money.
“But to tell you the truth I want my own space and I know I will find something,” she said, her eyes wide with what looked like excitement.
She pauses and then looks at her watch and I got the message, the hour was late and Camille wanted to leave.
“Okay, I would see you later then,” I said, giving her the chance to leave.
Camille grabs hold of one of my hands in a tight grips and says “Yes see you baby.”
She walks away briskly and I watched her petite figure get smaller as she proceeded down the road.