I saw Pete for the first time when I was introduced to Auntie Leigh. He was a confused 19 year old surreptitiously trying to engage a (basic-school-level) 3-year-old child in continuous conversation. All I recall of that was that I liked his bright-red track top so much that he let me try it on and wear it, sleeves drooping way beyond my arms. (Unlike Fawn, who proclaimed to every earthly molecule the injustice of losing her fabulous high school popularity, and having to get her GCE and JSC passes through evening classes because of pregnancy by Pete; he kept his woes to himself. She felt her family had rejected her in favour of her own child. No one knew Pete's perceptions of his family's reaction.)
I next encountered Pete when I went to Auntie Leigh's a year or two later to meet and spend time with my father. I heard music, and peering into Auntie Leigh's dimly-lit family room, I saw Pete sitting at the piano. "Hullo," he said. I went over to him, and he patted the bench for me to sit beside him. I presumed he was waiting for his own dad. He was his quiet self, not clumsily constructing conversation with a kindergartener. His helper stood by the door, keenly watching us for a moment, then she shrugged and left. He closed the door. "Tell me a song to play," he said. And soon he was pounding out Stevie Wonder's then current album at my request, while I danced around the room. He stood and danced while he played, rocking and bopping his head. We both bellowed songs, me mutilating the lyrics confidently. Auntie Leigh arrived and called a jarring halt to our fun. She asked what the noise was in aid of, she asked if I'd gotten anything to eat, she said she was telling him for the hundredth time to cut his hair. Then he pushed her out and locked the door. He took a rubber band from a desk drawer, and pulled his hair back into an afro-puff "ponytail."
Behind the mess of hair, his forehead was a map of scars.
"That's why yu won't cut yu hair?" I asked.
"No," he said matter-of-factly, "Ah just don't want mi hair to hurt or bleed."
"Oh," I answered, and tried to process that. My grammy had cut my hair the summer before, because it was thick and time-consuming for her to wash it and detangle it. But my hair hadn't hurt or bled. It had all just looked dead on the floor, cut off from its life source. I thought maybe that's what he meant by hurt. "I kinda understand," I said.
Then we went to the window and looked at daylight through a telescope. I told him I liked looking through things, and he lit up. "Ah have something for yu!" he gushed, "I'm so forgetful."
"Is a Viewmaster?!" I guessed.
"No, this." And he handed me a knapsack with a little bright-red tracksuit. "Put it on," he said. "I'm goin' to put on mine that you liked." I was thrilled.
His helper followed him back into the room after he'd changed. He shooed her away, and as soon as her footsteps faded into the kitchen, he hoisted me through the window. In matching tracksuits we ran 'round the corner, down Stanton Terrace, and were soon tearing across Lady Musgrave road to screeching tyres and screaming horns.
"We look like twins," he said, looking at our identical attire. "People must be wondering if we're twins." I smiled at that. "Yup," I agreed; I didn't mind having a twin who could dance like Michael jackson, and he could.
His dad's car rounded us up, and took us back to Auntie Leigh, who announced that he was endangering me, and that she was sending me home for my own safety. He argued; he beat his head against the grill until his forehead bled. His father yanked him away from the verandah and dragged him inside, while neighbours gawked. Auntie Leigh's relative was a doctor who lived a few houses away. Discreetly, he tended Pete, and whispered about Pete's needing to return to England, and oh, what embarrassment, with those gossips outside feigning concern then calling Pete "Mad-eeks" behind his back.
I told Auntie Leigh I couldn't leave yet, that I had to meet my father, that I had to spend even a little time with my father.
"Then who yu think yu spend de whole day wid?" she asked in her flat Chiney voice.