Tales: Short Story – Dwayne

Below is an excerpt from a short story I wrote a few years ago called Land of the Endless Babblers. This short story is about all the interesting characters I grew up around. Here is a person I think that everyone will get a laugh out, introducing Dwayne.

 

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DWAYNE WAS A TALL MUSCULAR MAN with a medium to light skin complexion, and was in his early to mid-40s when I first knew him.  He was well-spoken and was skilled at switching between the local dialect and the Queen’s English.  I came to know him as a formidable character who shifted from a calm person into a hyperactive or even semi-violent individual.  I can’t recall when he first appeared in the village, but I knew that while I was a young child he was not living there.  By the time I was in the latter part of primary school; Dwayne made an appearance and by High School he was well-known for being the village jester.  I later found out that he was the half-brother of one of my friend’s mother.  They never acknowledge the relationship and would only say that he was the half-brother of their mother and nothing more.  The back story on Dwayne was never clear.  I heard many things about him, and one was the fact that he was a well-educated person who grew up in the village, but left years ago.  He lived in the capital at one point, and then it was rumored that he lived in America.  I couldn’t establish a concrete background and many people didn’t care where he had been or why his behavior was bizarre.  Rumors about his alleged drug use in America were secretly talked about.  It was never uncommon for us to assume that the reason for strange behaviors from villagers who once lived in America for a significant amount of time was due to drug use or from the many vices that plagued Americans.  When islanders returned to the island from American; many of their personalities seemed altered in some way.  We all readily assumed that America with its low moral standard and need for modernity affected them.

DWAYNE’S BEHAVIOR WAS LIKE A LIGHT SWITCH.  When it was off you couldn’t pick him out of a crowd.  He was well-dressed in suites and ties, and attended church religiously.  When the light was switched on he was loud, pushy, and demanded attention in various ways.  He was known for standing in random areas of the village with the Holy Bible preaching to anyone who would listen.  At his most extreme he would ride around the village in red speedos on a unicycle reading the Bible out loud.  Then he would perform juggling tricks while reciting verses and hymns.  Other times he would aggravate other villagers by intentional provoking heated conversations or running after children he knew were afraid of him.  He was very unpredictable and sometimes when I passed him standing in the road, I felt vulnerable.  His tirades would last for hours or days.  What was certain about his behavior was that at any level of madness he always returned to normal, and never seemed to acknowledge his dark side.

It was hard to muster up enough sympathy for Dwayne, since his aim was to seek attention, aggravate and push the limits.  At times I hated him and wished he would drop dead or disappear from the earth.  I could never see who he really was or feel sorry for him in those moments.  I only saw him as a crazy loud mouth who was using mental illness as a scapegoat.  He never walked around the village in a daze like the others because he was too smart to be institutionalized.  In some ways we could always search our hearts for sympathy or even feel pity for the others, but not him.  While the other mentally ill villagers seem to be suspended in artful madness, Dwayne frustrated all of us and we hated him for it.  His behavior seemed manufactured, and I was sure that he was taking something to cause his Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personality.

I recalled one night looking outside and seeing him in his customary red speedo dancing in the pouring rain.  Then there was the time I spent a full day in Basseterre attending the island’s high school science fair.  Driving back on the bus we came upon a 7 mile stretch of road that started before we got to Ross University.  It was a boring drive when we got to this point, with miles of sugarcane fields on both sides of the road.  Halfway into our journey I noticed vehicles veering out of their lanes in the distance.  As we got closer I saw a large queen size mattress.  At first sighting it looked like someone loaded a mattress on the back of a donkey that was walking in the middle of the road, but when we got closer I saw two legs.  The person was dragging a mattress mounted on their back.  The image that came to mind immediately was of Jesus Christ carrying the cross on his long journey to his death.  When our bus moved to avoid hitting the person, I saw that it was Dwayne.  Once again he wearing his red speedo, while carrying a mattress on his back.  As the bus passed all the students laughed loudly, while me and another girl from the village looked at each other then looked at him in silence.  Just then a group of girls on the bus then belted out, “Isn’t he from your village?”  Then the bus erupted in a deafening laughter that lasted until I got to my stop.  It was a very embarrassing moment.  One that left me feeling as if my own mother was committing this very act herself.  To be associated with someone who acted out in this way angered me.  As the bus made its way to various stops, my mind was still trying to comprehend what I saw.  How was Dwayne physically able to carrying a queen-size mattress on his back in the hot sun?  It was mid-May, and the temperature reached about 97 degrees Fahrenheit, causing the asphalt on the road to feel like the pits of hell.  Plus, he was carrying a queen size mattress which was sometimes a two man lift.  At that point I couldn’t fathom how he was capable of such activity.  I was sure his madness had reach level 100, allowing him to preform incredible feats.

After this incident, Dwayne’s behavior went downhill fast.  He launched into a lengthy bout of madness that lasted for months.  His madness didn’t only extend to the village, but he also ventured into the town to do the same thing.  While, we knew that his mind wasn’t quite there, he knew what to do and what not to do in certain areas.  He never ran around the capital in his speedo because he knew the Royal Police Force would arrest him.  He then gave up the convenience of public transportation, and declined rides when he started walking to and from the village to Basseterre.  This was a very long walk, when you consider it took about 30 minutes by bus.  Then he started losing weight and slowly became a shadow of his former self.  We could see this change in his gaunt face, and the sad expressions he carried daily.  Everyone could tell that he was depressed, but they said nothing about it.   Something about his energy level wavered and bottomed out at an all-time low.  He was no longer hyper-active, but he still wasn’t walking around like a zombie.  It was in this depressed state, I saw who he really was and I felt sorry for him.  Prior to this I was unable to see through the façade of his manic highs.  When he was depressed and no longer seeking senseless attention, I knew that his pain was real and that he was misunderstood.  I saw a very lonely man during these days.  I could see his hopelessness, and knew that all the outburst and public performance he gave us was an act.  For all the times he disturbed the public, he was combatting depression in an upbeat way.  He had no way of dealing with it, and it was possible that hyperactivity was the only thing that saved him from lapsing into the depressed state we finally saw him in.  This quiet phase lasted for months.  Even the villagers who were used to his antics couldn’t recognize him.  Regardless of this everyone left him alone and avoiding contact.

Everyone in the village paid attention to him at the wrong time, but never bothered to question his silliness.  After a few months of this he was back to normal, and once again you couldn’t pick him out of a crowd.  When he snapped back to normal, he seemed to remain in a functional state for a lengthy amount of time, which fooled all of us into thinking he was cured.  As soon as the normalcy subsided the manic behavior surfaced again, and that’s when the villagers all agreed that despite the irritation he caused, we preferred him in either the manic or normal state.  We all understood that the depressed state didn’t fit him or us at all.