It should have been a morning of joy and hopes, but it turned out to be a morning of sorrow. There were not enough towels to wipe away tears from some of my familly members' eyes. I felt so guilty, but I had to leave. I had to go where I believe I could have a better life and a hopeful future. So I kiss my family good-bye, and I departed.
On the morning of August 2, 2003, just a few hours before my flight, I dressed up in my nice clothes: my Wrangler jeans and my Ted Lapidus V-neck white T-shirt. I shone like a new penny and was finally ready to leave Haiti with my passport and ticket snug in my back pocket. My flight was at a quarter to noon, and it was only nine thirty, so I walked around the neighborhood to say farewell to some of my families and friends. I went by my auntie Rosemaine’s house, which was my last stop before I arrived at my mother’s restaurant. When I got there, I started kissing everybody good-bye. Some of my little cousins started crying. It was very sad to leave, but as I said before, I had to leave.
"I’m gonna miss you, Pouchon!" one of my little cousins cried.
"I know that, Marta. I will miss you too," I replied to her as I held her hand consolingly.
Most of my little cousins cried that day. I knew that they would not only miss me, but they would miss all the great moments of laughter I used to share with them. They would miss the little candy and the little money I used to give to them every day on my way back home from school.
Since my flight time was getting close, I left my auntie’s house and walked to my mother’s restaurant to say good-bye to her and some of her friends. There were hordes of people in front of the restaurant: customers, friends, families—all waiting to say farewell to me. Some of my friends were shocked—they didn’t know I was leaving the country. I had to keep my trip a secret because I didn’t want certain people to know that I was leaving Haiti.
I walked to my mom, who sat on the porch, to hug her and kiss her farewell. She started crying.
I held her hand and asked her, "Why are you crying, mom?"
"I don’t know." She shook her head.
What am I doing to my mother? I thought to myself.
After I failed to console her, I turned around to kiss my little sister farewell, and she started crying. I looked at my daddy, his eyes dried as he sipped his beer.
"Oriana! What are you crying for?" my dad asked my mom. "T Pouchon is my son; nothing bad is going to happen to him. God bless him."
I gained strength; I was going to cry but managed to hold the tears back.
My dad was not a regular churchgoer, and neither was my mom. But they never in their life undertook anything without God’s name involved. Two days before I left Haiti, my dad took me by a lake and prayed to God. He laid his palm on my head and said, "God will bless you in the environment you are going to be."
I never saw my dad open a Bible in his life, but he always knew and said that the almighty God is the key that opens all doors. He knew the power of the Holy Spirit. As he used to say, "Something is bigger than me, and that is the Holy Spirit."
Since my mom wouldn’t stop crying and time was running out, I diverted my attention to Catie, my six-year-old sister who was playing on the floor, and who had no idea why everybody was crying.
I picked her up and said to her, "Are you going to miss me, Catie?"
She started crying.
"Why are you crying?" I asked.
She didn’t even know why she was crying.
She said, "Patron," meaning "Boss" as she used to call me.
"Send me money and candy."
"Okay, Catie. I will send you candies," I answered, laughing my cheek off. Catie never asked for anything else besides money and candy.
Catie became my little baby sister after my mom adopted her from her mother. She is my cousin Camitha’s first child.
When Camitha got pregnant with her, she was kicked out of her parent’s house because her parents were some strong Christian believers. And they did not support with her getting pregnant before marriage. She moved in with us after two months she was pregnant. After Catie was born, my spoiled baby sister RoseCarmelle was no longer the baby sister. Catie became the baby sister, and she received the majority of the candy and all the money.
As all the crying wouldn’t stop, I looked at my watch. It was a quarter after ten, just an hour and fifteen minutes away before I completely said farewell once and for all to the most beautiful island.
"Pouchon, hurry up, man! Time is close!" My cousin Erick yelled this as if he couldn’t wait for me to get in his small Hyundai, which he mistook for a Bentley. He repeated: "Come on, man. Let’s go!"
I couldn’t even finish drinking my orange juice. I kissed my mom on her forehead and quietly said, "I love you, Mom. Bye."
She didn’t even say anything back.
I kissed my sister bye. I shook my brother’s hand; I shook everybody’s hands, and it was time to leave my family. While I made my way toward the car to leave, I looked to the right corner of the restaurant and saw Auntie Tifi, one of my mom’s best friends, crying and asking me for a hug. I ran to her to kiss her farewell, and she whispered in my ear, "We are going to miss you. Be safe. God bless you."
"Pouchon, you’re gonna miss the flight!" my cousin Erick shouted.
I jumped in the front passenger seat of the car. My dad and best friend Bernadeau were in the backseat. Erick turned on his car engine, and we left to the airport. As I was leaving, I looked at my mom and waved good-bye. Her head was down, and she didn’t even look at me.
That was the last time I ever saw my mother.
Erick slammed on the accelerator, eager to make it to the airport on time. Some of my friends were standing up on the side of the street waving at me, saying bye. My heart melted. I felt so sad that I had to leave all my family and friends. But life was not safe there, and my country didn’t promise a great future. So to say, it was better to be sad that day than to stay there. As Erick was speeding down the road, my dad sat behind me without saying a word, just drinking his beer.
It wasn’t until we neared the airport that Erick asked him, "What is the last word for Pouchon?"
"Me and Pouchon already talked, Erick. God will tell him the last word."
That was his faith. God would tell me the last word.
It was a quarter to eleven, an hour before my flight, when Erick pulled up in front of Toussaint Louverture Airport. We got out of the car, my friend Bernadeau grabbing my luggage and walking with me to the check-in point. As we walked, I started crying, but I hid it. I didn’t want my dad to see that I was crying because he always told me to be strong. I had a little fear they would turn me down at the counter, that something would go wrong, as I remembered my father’s words, "God is with you. Nothing bad could happen to you."
I gained strength.
We got to the boarding gate. My father and Erick were not allowed to go any further.
I hugged Erick farewell, and he said to me, "Keep your head up! Be safe!"
And I hugged my father for a good three minutes, and he said to me, "Remember my rules."
There is no word to explain the feeling I felt as I entered the airport to leave Haiti. The ecstasy of knowing I was going to be safe, mixed with the sorrow that went out for all the loved ones I had left behind.
"Will they let you in all the way?" I asked my friend Bernadeau as he held my suitcase.
"I don’t know, but I’ll try to stay as far as they let me."
Somehow, Bernadeau sneaked in and walked me all the way to the immigration checkpoint. The line was long; many Haitians were going to St. Martin and Curaçao. I knew I was having possibly the last conversation I’d ever have with Bernadeau.
As I was the next person to be called, I hugged Bernadeau farewell. He told me, "We will see you in the United States."
He walked out of the airport and left. Then I was by myself, or I should say like my father always said: God is with me.
"Next in line, please?" a beautiful Haitian immigration agent called me forward in French.
I walked up and greeted her. "Good morning, madam."
"Good morning, sir. May I have your passport and ticket, please?" she asked.
"Yes, you may, ma’am." I handed my passport to her. She looked at the passport carefully. She checked if my visa was good, and then she asked, "You are traveling to St Martin, sir?"
"Yes, ma’am," I answered.
She gave me back my passport, my ticket, and my boarding pass. I was ready to leave Haiti.
I breathed a sigh of relief then walked to sit in the waiting area. Many people were waiting. I looked to the crowd to see if there was anybody I knew, but I didn’t see anyone. I walked to a corner to have a seat by myself as I waited for the plane. While I sat there, I started thinking all kinds of thoughts. When will I see my family again? That was the question that stuck in my mind. After some minutes had gone by, I heard a noise, I looked up, the plane arrived, and I got up and walked to get onboard.
My seat was next to a window just like I had hoped. The plane was full with passengers. Some were going to Curacao, and some St. Martin. It was around noon when the flight attendant first gave her instructions. Then, five minutes later, I was in the air aboard an American airline going to St. Martin. I looked down through the window to say farewell to Haiti. All I saw were the tents that most of the population lived in. The view brought so much pain that I just kept my eyes looking out the window until the plane landed at Princess Juliana International Airport in St. Martin.