There was an old man whose days were spent sitting on the streets of Charlestown, at times in the shade, at times in the sun, always watchful of passersby. He’d sit singing a seemingly meaningless song, but, with perhaps one refrain that might make sense. He would tap out a rhythm with a piece of steel against an old soda bottle and his tunes would carry down the sidewalks, following you into shops or office buildings.
This man played an important role on Nevis, on an island with an intimate population of 10,000, he was our town crier. With his constant tapping and his random observations, it seemed as if he was marking time and measuring the absurd.
He often wore wreaths he had made from vines and electrical wires. I remember him in pink from the flowers of coralita. He created garlands and bouquets, braiding together debris, stuffing wild flowers into empty bottles, which he placed all over town; in the high arches of alleyways, wrapped around street signs and hanging in doorframes. The memorabilia and street art he left behind seemed to be his comment on what was discarded, what was ignored and what was beautiful.
I never knew his name, but everyone called him Jamdem. I thought he was beautiful.