CHARLES Rose had everything. He had money, fame, a job he loved and more. He travelled the world constantly and he never paid for plane tickets. It was simply the way Rose lived. His life was almost too good to be true… and then it all came crashing down.
I’d heard many stories about him (people called him a legend) and they were fascinating. He was a respected welder until he lost everything.
I visited Rose on Wednesday night. We spoke for a long time (just over an hour) and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. He laughed a lot, but most of the time, I felt sad.
“I used to work at a construction company when I was about 17 years old. I started as a labourer but I knew I couldn’t go far in that position. I used to watch the welders when they are working. When everyone went for lunch I’d take the lead and put pieces of iron together,” Rose said shortly after the interview started.
“I wanted to be a qualified welder so I went to school and I learned how to weld. There was a school in Cul De Sac but I had to walk to town because there were no transports on Sundays. Things were very different back then,” he explained.
It was one of the best decisions he ever made. He got opportunities he never dreamed of and for a long time, his life seemed perfect. People hired him whenever they could and they also told others about him.
“I worked at Hess in Cul-de-Sac for about two years; that’s where I started working. You know the big tanks by Hess? I worked on all of that, I was the master. I went overseas afterwards. When I left Saint Lucia I went to Sint Eustatius. From there I went to Aruba, Chile, Venezuela, Honduras, etc. I worked for different companies and I was also a supervisor. I spent about six months with a company called Brown and Root and I spent 13 years working for Chicago Bridge and Iron,” the 61-year-old said.
“I was a very hard worker and I loved my job; I could do everything. A man has the knowledge to be anything in the world, that’s something a lot of people don’t know and you could learn a lot just by watching someone else. I learned how to drive by watching another person,” Rose added.
When he travelled overseas, life got sweeter. He started making “real money” and he flew in first class constantly. Rose even travelled on chartered airplanes; he also worked for a millionaire. He was certainly “living the dream”.
“When I started working with Chicago Bridge that’s when I really started making money. I got paid in US dollars. Before that I got paid in EC dollars,” he explained.
But Rose’s life changed drastically after he started using cocaine. His life went down the drain quickly and his money vanished as soon as he touched it. People were dumbfounded and they all asked the same question—why?
Here’s his response: “I used to buy cocaine for white men; my bosses, and then I started using it. I bought it in Aruba and back then cocaine was everywhere, there was nothing like Customs so when boats came in nobody checked them. I used to smoke marijuana but I stopped smoking it a long time ago. It’s been over 20 years.”
Rose never imagined his life would turn out this way. According to him, “nobody educated you on those things back then. You only see these things on television now but back then there was no TV, nothing.”
“I left Aruba. I had to return but when I got to St. Marteen I found out my passport was expired. I did not know that so I had to come back to Saint Lucia. When I got here, I worked for one guy but he didn’t pay me well. I did not look for a job after that because I could not get off the drugs. I started carrying coconuts for people to sell,” Rose explained.
He still loves welding but he hates being underpaid. When his life changed, people’s attitudes changed too, Rose said. It was a rude awakening.
“Some people don’t like to pay. They tell you ‘hold that’—that’s why I don’t weld for people right now. I’m a first-class welder. I used to work all the way in Marisule for a guy fabricating bars; I used to make a lot of things and when Friday comes he’d tell me hold $20.00. Where is my salary? It doesn’t give me taste to work. I’m not a boy,” he added.
He misses his old life terribly. Now, he’s almost penniless and his old life is nothing but a distant memory.
“I regret it. I pound my head on the bed sometimes and ask myself what am I doing because I still use drugs. When you have money and spend all on drugs and you’re broke the next day, it’s not a nice feeling. If you have $1000 you’ll spend all because when you take the first hit of cocaine it feels good and you just want more and more,” he said.
“I know it’s not a good thing and it destroys the body but I still use it. I need the encouragement. I still have hope because if I get help I’ll get back on my feet. I still have a brain to get back to who I was,” Rose added.
But he says he’s never alone. He calls on God constantly and Rose said God helps him daily.
“I call on God a lot. I could have been a millionaire right now. Sometimes I pound my head on the bed when I think of who I was and who I am now. I never built a home. I live in my sister’s house (I added a small piece to it and that’s where I’m staying). My mother gave me a house before she died but I sold it. I bought drugs with the money,” Rose said sheepishly.
He continued: “I need the help and encouragement that’s all I need. Sometimes I spend all my money and I go to bed hungry and I call God—some people don’t confess their sins in a proper manner, they hide things but I always speak the truth when I call on God. Sometimes I say I spent my money badly Lord, I haven’t got a cent and I have to go to work the next day I have nothing.”
“People shouldn’t hide things from God. He knows what you did already and you’re going to lie? How will you get anything? I speak the truth,” he added.
He urged young people to make the best of their time and said he wish he did the same.
“Stay away from drugs. Go to school and learn all you can so that you can get a good occupation,” Rose advised.
He’s a father and a husband, he hasn’t seen his wife in years, however.
Most people know him as “Corbeau” There’s a funny story behind the name and hopefully I can share it with you one day. And just so you know, there’s more to Rose than meets than eye.