The old Cathédrale Notre-Dame cast a long shadow on Cap-Haïtien’s town square. My sister Maryse and I sat in a cramped café, sipping on papaya smoothies made thick with condensed milk. Just outside, next to the blue-and-white ouvert sign hanging in the window, two young boys in tattered, American-branded T-shirts opened the door for customers. With outstretched dark-skinned hands, they held their palms to the sun, hoping for spare change.
I drummed my glass with my fingertips and glanced at my Blackberry as we waited for the rest of our crew to arrive. Two boxy TVs mounted on a wall broadcast a soccer match between Chile and Uruguay, and a Konpa music video where Haitian men with tight-fitting shirts unbuttoned daringly low crooned to dour-faced, sexily clad ingenues. The café’s air conditioner blew a sharp breeze against my neck, which still glistened with sweat from the short walk over from the large studio apartment I rented above a hardware store. Behind a long glass counter displaying peanut and coconut brittle, several brown-skinned women with wide hips and narrow waists served smoked herring, cornmeal, and sòs pwa, a red-bean sauce, to the breakfast crowd—a group of single men with their noses pressed to their phones or else pointed up toward the music videos or the soccer match playing on-screen.
“How much longer?” I asked Maryse in a low voice, so as not to draw attention to us. We had grown accustomed to—and resentful of—men’s stares and vulgar comments. As diaspora—Haitians born to Haitian nationals—living lot- bo- dlo, or on the other side of the water, our Creole is mangled by our foreign accents, spoken in staccato as we search for words buried beneath our Americanness.