Tibon's Companion (Rewrite of Cliff Scene from The Farming Bones) - Joseph Dunn '16

     The edge of the cliff loomed above the crashing surf. The salt burned my throat, like the tears burned my eyes. I looked to my left, I could make out five other people. The man directly to my left was pleading with the soldiers in flawless Spanish, his skin was light. He did not have the skin of my people. Beside him was a man who was standing in silence. One of his arms was noticeably smaller than the other. He did not plead, his mind was set, he wanted to leave on his own terms. The rest of the group was too far away to properly make out, but I heard Kreyol and broken Spanish echoing in a desperate chorus. The soldiers brandished their bayonets, ready for us to try something, anything which would allow them to take out their aggression on us. The light skinned man ran up to the soldiers, dropping to his knees begging.
     “Please I’m Dominican, you can’t do this. My family has supported the Generalissimo since the beginning. My wife and kids need me, I’m the only one who can provide for them.” I wanted to warn him, but before I could, the soldier in front of him slashed at his face with his bayonet, narrowly missing his eye. Before he could get up, or move away, a peasant rushed forward and cut him down with his machete. I shut my eyes to the violence, I could not make myself look.
      The soldiers took a step towards us, over the corpse of the man. Looking to my left, two people had already leapt off the cliff. The one with the mismatched arms stood stone faced, he spread his arms and simply fell. I looked back at the soldiers, The Generalissimo had put fear in their eyes, anger. I knew they were willing to kill, but even more than that, they wanted to kill. Haitians were no longer even people in their eyes, the Generalissimo had changed that.
      I closed my eyes and stepped back. My foot left the cliff and I tried to stop myself, but it was far too late. I went limp as I began to tumble. Limbs were hanging from the rocks from those who didn’t make it, too many to count. I never felt the water meet me. The first thing I remember was swimming towards the shore. I noticed people along the beach. They were wielding machetes, ready to remove the heads of anyone who came ashore. I looked around and that's when I saw the man with mismatched arms, he was struggling to swim but he had a direction to go. A cave. I swam after him, finally catching up after he reached a place to hold on. The spray was ever present, chilling me to my tired bones. My legs were burning from the fall, they were shredded from the impact with the water. I gritted my teeth.
      “My name’s Makenson,” I choked out through the seawater.
      “M’se Tibon” he called, his voice just barely audible over the roar of the sea. “We stay until night, then the soldiers won’t come to the shore. Alright?” His eyes were open wide, he was afraid, afraid of what might happen. He was young, maybe in his 20’s. However in his eyes you could see he had already grown tired. He had not had a chance to live his life, and already he felt like his life was near its end. I simply nodded at him, to avoid swallowing the salt water. The ocean pounded at my back, with a force like nothing I had felt. Every fiber of my crushed soul worked to hold on to the huge boulder. Hours passed and the daylight still flooded into the cave. Before long I began to doubt my willpower.
      “A little longer,” I said. I looked towards Tibon, his face showed the pain he was in, but he knew he was going to survive. It was the same face he had at the top of the cliff. He was adamant and strong, but his eyes could not hide everything. There was still fear, he knew his entire life had just changed and it scared him.
      “Do you have any family?” He didn’t even look my way, my words had been washed out to sea with the surf. “Do you have any family still here?” I screamed as loud as I could this time, the spray filled my mouth with salt. I spat it out and shuddered. Tibon glanced over and then lowered his bald head. I understood immediately.
      Finally after what must have been five hours the sun had gone from the sky. I let go of the ledge and struggled through the waves, out of the cave. The shore was dark, nothing but a dotted line of lights several hundred yards inland. The soldiers had long since returned to patrol. Or perhaps, they had gone back to their homes, forgetting what they had just done. Tibon and I skirted around the small town staying on the beach for a couple miles before he spoke.
      “Where in Haiti are you going? Do you still have family there, a place that I could stay with you?” I looked at him for a few minutes. He still had the same look of pain, but the fear seemed to have left his eyes.
      “I’m staying here,” I replied. “Ain’t got family elsewhere, no reason to leave the ones I do have.”
      “Ha, no reason to leave? No reason at all? You were almost just killed by the people of this country, they don’t want you here anymore, they never wanted you here. They only dealt with us because they didn’t want to do the hard labor. They aren’t like us.” We both remained silent. His breathing had become labored, and he turned his back to me, struggling to make a stride.
      “I’m staying because whether they want us or not we will have a better life here, where there is money and food. My wife and I left Haiti because there was not enough space to have our child. This was the only place that I wasn’t afraid my child would starve. I don’t have any other chances.” Tibon was sobbing, deep shaky breaths were rattling his body. His small arm was torn up from hanging onto the ledge the whole day. The dark was set on us, it was cloudy, no stars, no moon, just dark.
       “You think they won’t kill you if you go back” he asked, his voice shaking. “You think there will still be work for us?”
       “I don’t know if there is anything for us here, but I need to go back to my family. I need to try. If I go back to Haiti without them, then I will have nothing. My life will be empty and I will never be able to change that.” Tibon hobbled off in silence, not wishing me luck in my travels, or even acknowledging me. Just thinking, accepting his new life.
      It was several hours before I got back to the small collection of shanties that I called my home. All of the doors had been kicked in. The smell of cane clung to the air, its claws gripping to anything it could. I walked in the door and closed my eyes. My wife was in the chair with my daughter. I turned my back to them. Every breath became heavy and painful. Breathing was no longer a pleasure. The house was silent, I was alone.