Remembering Reuben


“Hurry up and come back
Was the last thing she said to her son
The day his life was taken
She didn’t know he wouldn’t come back
He died from a bullet of a gun
And now an a little boy is gone…”

I’m a bit ashamed that I have never seen the video to this tune (don’t ask me how I exist in my Yaabubble sometimes) but I very well know the tune. It’s by T.O.K. and was released sometime in 2005. The tune has been haunting me for years – but most recently the last few days. And no – it’s not – at least consciously – because of the incessant killings/deaths of our young people plaguing our everyday. Subconsciously it is based on an experience that even now burdens me to write about that happened nearly 14 years ago. But writing is my way ordinarily to deal with whatever besieges me and cant otherwise be expunged psychically. I struggled to compose a short story about it but had kind of left it hanging. So this tune has been bouncing round my head for days. I decided to free up the vibration in this post, which is why I checked out the YouTube for the song and came upon the video I’d never seen. I then reread the short story (which I wrote last year sometime – actually I know exactly when I started it – such is the force of this experience) and now having seen this video realise the levels of synchronicity involved.

I had just returned from Guyana in the summer of 2005. Had a – let’s say – spiritual ‘opening’ during that time. I was inspired to start doing natural body care and became a supplier of Nubian Heritage products (this was the year we set up Nubia Pamper Day). Samples in hand I trotted to a shop in Brixton Market, where a beautiful brother had one of the first vegan outlets (he is Zionly of the Manor that’s now in South East London) and thought I could maybe interest him in the products. He wasn’t there. Instead, there was a gorgeous sister, slim, her face ever so gentle looking- a tidy bundle of locks draping her face beautifully. There was a rasta brother there too – he looked vexed (rather he wore the sometimes vexed look on African restaurant owners’ face like you’re disturbing them instead of offering custom). He was allegedly cooking. Nothing was in the glass case as usual when Zion was there. He had gone away and left the outlet in this brother and sister’s care. But they were moving slow. And to my realisation this was the same day of Emperor Haile Selassie’s (his god’s) birthday, July 23rd – it was a Saturday.

I was speaking beautifully and freely with the sister (as we can when we naturally connect) about the products. She was interested and said she’d seen or heard of them before. We were bonding. The brother got vexer (I know it’s not a word!) and started ordering her to get on with the tasks he’d set her. She said she was doing as he’d instructed. Without warning the brother’s hand flew like lightning across her face. Imagine the sound was like a heavy object being lopped into a pool of water. I swerved my head and asked the brother if he had just hit her. She was clutching her delicate face, her nose bleeding. “Naaah” he said. I experienced an out of body and the greatest curses I ever could muster fell relentlessly from my mouth. This would be reason for which I rarely curse in my life – and when I do it’s because the situation is peaked to almost otherworldly/outer body levels.

The brother was trying to hold the sister – hide the sister – pretend he was cuddling her. I looked at her and asked if he’d ever done this before (don’t ask me why). “No,” she said. I imagined she was lying and for obvious reasons. So I began to gather my things (returning to my body somewhat) and was going to mind my own business and splurt. But I caught her eyes, under his grip – and she mouthed to me “D o n t l e a v e.” I rested my bag down again. Said to the brother – “let her out of there, come on let her out.” You see, steam from the pots was gathering, making the small outlet unbearably hot, which I thought wouldn’t be good for the sister since the horrific impact and the fact her nose was bleeding. “Naah, na, she good.” He was saying. But she started slowly to try to remove herself from under him. Same time, I persisted cussing him – and even hurled the lash that he should be ashamed that he hadn’t prepared the food for his God’s birthday by now (it was proper late, long past lunch time) whilst others (the Spanish outlets for example) had plenty customers scoffing away. I added “You want Empress and effing knocking your Empress…” (having just returned from Guyana – I was speaking with the recent freshness of the Guyanese lingua). Another rasta brother came in the shop, looking for food. I implored – ” Don’t eat he food – he just KNACK (in Guyanese) he wife”. The brother said nothing – he too looked vexed and scowling – obviously for his own reasons but I was judging the dude and wondering – “WELL?” expecting some species of a reaction. Nothing.

Meantime the sister had manoeuvred outside the shop. I happened to have just purchased a bottle of healing oil (smells of mint) from this Indian elder who used to sell a range of healing and spiritual oils at the back of the market, opposite the leisure centre. I gave the sister some to inhale. This she did and loved it, saying she would get some. I said she could have that one. And we resumed our sisterliness with this new incentive to communicate, understand, share. The brother was busy inside, having to continue progress with the way past lunch time food, for more people were coming into the shop in search of same. He had stepped out at least one time – if I recall – to see how she was but then retreated quickly to get on with food prep, and because I’m sure I was yet raging at him – embarrassing the brother when I replay the tape in my mind. I missed a bit (though I wouldn’t learn this till weeks later). The sister, whose name, let’s say begins with J. told me that at one time during my raging at him, I spoke in ‘tongues’ (yes, something of that nature) then said some other stuff about him that I cannot/could not remember at all – but I was ‘reading him’ telling him about himself more deeply, spiritually, something of a prophetic nature about his demise. I will not hazard the absolute memory at all of what that was – but I recall her saying it and me looking blankly at her.
Eventually, I asked her where she lived.
“You should go home,” I told her. She wanted to do that. I was driving at the time and said I’d be ok to take her. She agreed. We left.

On route to her home she said he’d never done anything quite like that before. But then she dropped an atomic. He’d picked up a knife as if to attack her one day because of some disagreement – my memory is pushing at it being because she didn’t want to have sex with him or some effery like that! He had come over from Jamaica and wanted her to marry him – so he could stay, she told me. She didn’t want to. At least, he was prodding her and she couldn’t make up her mind. She had two children – they were twins. 17 year old boys. One was banged up she said – but he was a ‘good boy.’ She had by now been trying to contact the other – Reuben (I’ve reasoned that his energy is propelling this post) to let him know what had happened; that she was on her way home. He wasn’t responding to her calls. Throughout the drive, which seemed interminable, she told me so many things, miserable, tragically heart-breaking. I felt for her.

We reached her home. Parked the car just outside. She had been continuously trying to get hold of her son, but wasn’t yet able. We sat in my car, talking and talking till she had actually made up her mind that she would leave the brother. She wanted to contact her son so they could change the locks to their home.

I had noticed a black Jaguar parked in front of my car, its number plate read: “JAH I” which we thought wonderful as it was Selassie’s birthday. We smiled together at seeing that.

It was getting late and there was no sign of her being able to contact her son. I was etching to leave and go home (I’d been out my house and in this thing too long). She said she had a lovely neighbour who lived across the way. She could go and sit with him until she got through to her son. She didn’t seem to want to go in the house, so we just sat in the car for hours. Talking.

The sequence may now go skewy hereon – but in my memory went thus. Without warning, her front door opened. The rasta (same one, her man) stepped out. He came to my side of the car and was pleading with her. We were both shocked – connected eyes, wondering how he had been in the house all this time. So my outer body energy returned. He was stooping down beside the car saying ”J…come inside, meh sarry.” J was refusing to look at let alone speak to him. But he persisted still from my side of the car (the pavement, rather than road) trying to reach her- actually at one point reaching across me to touch her hand. His hand grazed against my skin – making me shiver as though some spider had landed there. I hurled further abuses at him – saying “she don’t wanna talk to you. Move from here.” He was trying to ignore me. In a spell the neighbour whom she must have called came across to join us. He actually could see everything from his window. I stepped out of my car then. I explained what had happened to him. He had a lovely, calming manner. The brother then was like, “me and J was getting alang good good and dis woman come mess up…” I yelled in his face ‘LIE! You KNACK she foh nuttin…” and so on. The lovely neighbour looked at him and said – ‘no, you shouldn’t do that. You must talk not hit her…’ gently, his natural calm was beautiful. Then J gets out of the car. She and the neighbour start heading across the road, towards the neighbour’s house. “Look” she said to me, “there’s my son.”

HER SON. Small framed, looked more like 15 than 17, had a beautiful face, like his mother’s approached us with an energy that scared me (now that I had a little more control – sprung from being surprised at how young he looked, that this youth would somehow have to defend and protect his mother). He was with a friend, who was a little older looking and taller, lighter in complexion to her son’s brown. Her son didn’t ask me anything with words. He was in my face, pleading for me to tell him. I did – but a now tempered tone had entered my voice (fearful of the disparities between the ‘men’ that would have to resolve this thing). When I finished, the rasta brother said ‘”nah, it noh go soh…” He didn’t have time to finish. The youth said – “you hit ma mum?” And with fire blazing every cell in his body raced into the house, telling his friend to “keep him there,” which the friend did somehow. Rather I noticed the brother seemed to be pinned to the spot – seemingly of his free will and I was now saying to him to “go.” Son returned with a bicycle pump (or what looked much like one) and pumped lashes into the rasta’s head. I was like – “stop” after about two or five (!) cause I thought it was justified but then “ok, ok, stop now.” The neighbour was shouting from his window across the way for them to stop. The rasta was taking the blows, which were mostly aimed at his thickly locked head, so may not have been impacting as badly as it seemed, but then he started edging away towards the main road that crossed their street (Chatsworth). The youth’s friend was also firing punches at the brother. He flung a few back, but they were feeble. They had reached the top of the road, a pub was nearby. The neighbour had come out of his yard. People had gathered (but I reckon I’ve added them to this scene for sake of logic because I was seeing cropped and isolated images at this time).

Then THUNDER. The rasta pulled a large knife from nowhere it seemed and cut the boy across his neck. Then ran. I ran after him but didn’t reach far because an invisible force reached out and boomeranged me back to where the boy was now laying. Blood spewing from his neck. I was screaming for someone to call an ambulance. Pub people had come out. The boy’s eyes started rolling back in his head. I started to call to him in the severest anguish whilst trying to keep calm in my voice – to hold on. Hold on. Hold on. The ambulance is coming, I was saying. I was praying. Praying but cant remember what I was saying. An eternity seemed to lapse before the kissmabackside ambulance came. I was vexed it took so long. They gathered the boy up and put him in the ambulance. Police were now there. The boy’s mother – where was she. At first I just couldn’t see her – but recall looking, wondering where. She had actually by now come down – just before the boy was taken away in the ambulance.

The cops started asking us all these questions. I was shattered mentally. The mother seemed calm like a quiet river. The neighbour was messed up – weeping inconsolably. The boy’s friend had flown the scene long time before all this. Constant questions the cops kept asking us were irritating me. I was knackered. It was now well late – but being summer night hadn’t drawn down yet save for the dismal tragedy that flared into a nightmare during this holy day.

Key witnesses – they took me and J to the station. We were separated then. At some point during the statement I had been giving, one of the cops came in and said the boy had died. I screamed and screamed with reels of animalistic ferocity as though the child had been mine. I never had time to imagine or any need to know how exactly that news reverberated in the heart of his mother. I felt everything she must have felt- for in that ferocious screaming it was my child they were telling me had just diedI had given birth to him along with one other and he had just been ripped from me in the most brutal and senseless way. And by a man with whom I had shared my bed the night before. I wailed and wailed for ages. The cops couldn’t console me but must have thought I was blaming them (some part of me was) – cause I kept saying “but the boy was alive, he was alive. The boy was alive.” For I believed he was when I last saw him. He was alive. I had never seen anyone die (murdered), so would not have noticed the moment life just slipped away, such was the knife’s slash across his jugular.

now I used to recall it with much misery that the cops – after taking my statement, seeing how distressed I was, dropped me back to my car and let me drive home in that state. But my friend Kathy poked the memory proper that she and her husband had come to the station to collect me and take make back to my car. I will tell you this. I relied on ancestral, spiritual energies for getting me back home because in the now early hours of that Sunday morning, in territory I didn’t know (and unable to focus on anything like the A TO Z), I made it home on autopilot – spiritual guidance. Kathy has told me that I threw away a jacket I had used to put under the boy – for it was smeared with his blood. I needed her for this memory – it had vanished – the jacket I cannot recall at all.

The weeks and months after were a blur. I was granted leave from work for a while. I communicated with J a lot. We grew in friendship (that’s lost now, not for any reason other than random life changes/movements here and there). I even went to the house one day – before the funeral.
The funeral was one of the most desperately tragic I attended. He was in one of those glass carriages, trimmed black. They had let his brother out to attend. I think he may have had a girlfriend. He seemed popular with plenty friends there. There was a special community feel to their presence. J let me release one of the white doves. It was raining during the funeral. But on my way home, the sun splashed and I saw his rainbow. Before then during the repast in the hall, they played the T.O.K tune.

“When you cry I cry
I cry along with you
When you smile I smile
I smile along with you.”

Time passed and the trial came. This was miserably anticipated – I dreaded having to go through it. I didn’t want to see the brother. J had told me that he had been writing to her, blaming me for the entire thing, considering me some kind of evil force that penetrated their life to bring this tragedy on them. He hated me she said he’d written. The knife she somehow learnt was intended to be used on me. That “JAH I” number plate now made sense but the boy…the boy how do I reason why his life was taken like that. I tried and wouldn’t attempt putting in out here.

So I bore witness, as did J. I saw the sketch the cops had made – based on my description – of the knife the brother had used – it was never recovered. I saw also the very accurate description I had given (seriously photographic memory) of the bicycle pump type thing the boy had used to lash the brother with.

The judgement, unfortunately aided by my testimony was that the brother was provoked – the boy having struck him first – and responded in self-defence. The missing knife couldn’t lend credence to the brother’s premeditations. He got 6 years. Was released after four or five – for “good behaviour” and sent back to Jamaica.

This was about the last time I communicated with J – after hearing this and I don’t know what became of her. Reuben’s brother had been released I remember her saying and was in a frightful state of anger – verbally lashing out at her. Their relationship had grown miserable, bitter…

“My mother’s face was shaped like Nefertiti. I said that to Binghi one day. I wanted to see if he had noticed the likeness. Everyone always said she looked like Nefertiti. He said he liked that. He liked that ‘his woman’ looked royal; said she was his empress just like Selassie’s Empress Menen. He started calling her his ‘Queen Nefertiti.’ My rating of him sunk lower after that. I thought he was cheap. A man who couldn’t find his own term of endearment for the woman he presumes to love was a fraud. It never sounded special but cheap because it was pirated.
But my mum’s Nefertiti look was real to me, especially when she wrapped her hair. It pulled up her cheeks, though these were already high and soft against her slim face. I always kissed her on both cheeks. That was before Binghi moved in.
“Why ya-always a kiss kiss ar like is your oman.” I wanted to tell him she was. My brother, we’re twins, and I were sure of one thing, after our father left we had to defend, protect and love our mother. We had never trusted any of her boyfriends. Binghi was just taking up time. He was not smart, either, the way we remembered our dad being smart.” An extract from the short story I wrote about this experience, written from the boy’s (imagined) perspective.

I can’t say why the song has been reverberating so intensely but it may after all be my subconscious responding to the many senseless killings of our young boys. And Reuben asking to be remembered – that his particular slaying might be atypical but likewise bears on the collective burden of our communities. I have tried to translate the story in my way of retelling into fiction and keep trusting that we will find a way to transform ourselves, our desolate experiences, transmute all the terror into love and peace and beauty. Remind our young people and elders that we need each other, that we must love one another, build our futures out of that light that has the power to brighten the darkest days such is the magnificence of well nurtured love.

“There isn’t a day here I can’t feel what my brother feels. The darkness is as real for him as it is for me. It is what has sustained him all these years. His hatred for my mother is a curse that not magic but some new kind of love might cure. At least I’ve been thinking that way about it all these years. Pain is always personal and unique and some people know just how to molly cuddle it till the end of their days. But love can unshackle it, prise it out of that private cave where it so comfortably crawls and breathes. Love can turn that darkness iridescent so it can no longer entomb the heart in fixed despair.”

Shout Out.

Scroll to Top

🎉 Celebrating 10 Years of Excellence! 🎉

Join us in commemorating a decade of dedication to academic achievement, creativity, and personal growth through the power of words.

For the past 10 years, we’ve specialized in elevating content and quality through our Editing and Proofreading services, enriching publications spanning fiction, non-fiction, blogs, essays, dissertations, professional statements, and websites.

Our Tuition service has nurtured excellence in personal and academic realms, offering tailored one-to-one and group sessions to foster development.

Additionally, our Publishing service has brought to life captivating fiction and non-fiction books, aiming to uplift spirits, inspire minds, and enrich cultural understanding.

Thank you for being a part of our journey! Here’s to another decade of empowering minds and shaping futures. 📚✨”

Join the newsletter

Subscription Form