I called Ritchie back to see if he could get me home earlier. He could not. I told him I was worried about my job. He told me he could get me a doctor’s note from one of his father’s friends. He also agreed that he would take her anywhere she needed to go.
The next call I had to make would be difficult. I called my sister, Suzanne. She was upset. She asked me how could I make such a decision without telling her or anyone. I tried to calm her down. I explained my plan to get back. After I explained everything she was fine. She agreed she would not tell my Father. I told her Ritchie would take her anywhere she needs to go but she would have to call him.
She said,“I don’t need it. I will call someone else. “
“Are you sure?” I asked.
“Yes”, she replied.
“Just take it, you may need it”, I pleaded with her.
She did not like Ritchie. She still looked at him as our Jamaican housekeeper’s son. My sister had a difficult time with the “no class” system that makes everyone “equal” in America.
Before I hung up she said, “Enjoy the vacation. Think of our vacations in Jamaica”
My family took vacations at FDR in Jamaica for a long weekend every year. This was not that type of vacation.
The Monday was really bad. The food was expensive but I was committed to staying there.
I ventured off to a little shop down the road from the hotel. I started talking to a guy there. He explained to me that the plane in the water was from a drug run. He explained that when the plane crashed everyone went out to the plane. Not to check for survivors but to retrieve any drug or money in it. I soon learned how extensive the drug culture was in the Bahamas.
The next few days I developed a routine.
I had to get some clothes. I went to another shop in that plaza. I did not have a lot of clothes. I washed what I had in the hotel room with the soap.
I went back to the desk and was able to negotiate a low room rate for the rest of the week. I was reminded I had to use the casino. That night I did play slots and I used the black jack coupons I had. I won $30 on the one-arm bandits. I lost it all playing cards. I was determined to win. For the next 3 days I was in the casino trying to win. I realized I was getting addicted to gambling. I had to stop. I was hooked to the “one arm bandit”. I lost over $100 the next 3 days. I had to find something else to do.
The plans were in place to leave Friday. I had to get to the pier on the East end of the island. This is where I would meet Ritchie’s father’s friend. I figure I would scope out the place before the Friday voyage. I took the bus there.
The pier was quiet and laid back. I did not come off the bus. I just wanted to know where it was. I would be there late that evening.
The gambling took my mind away from all the worries about getting back home. I was not worried about the debt I was accumulating. I needed to ease my mind. I kept rationalizing thinking I could go back and pay the money off. Every time I pulled the arm down I figured I would win.
I wore a hat everywhere so no one could recognize me.
I learned a little about the Bahamas. The people were laid back like Jamaica. The one thing that was different was the attitude. The US dollar was one for one. So many the people were not worried about the economy. I also learned that the drug money and off shore banking helped the economy.
Kelvin called my room the day before we were to travel to Miami. He wanted to meet tonight. I believe he wanted to see whom they were carrying on his boat. We would meet at a bar near the hotel. He told me he would find me. I told him the color of the shirt I was wearing.
He was late. We were to meet at 5:00 pm. For the short time I was in the Bahamas I learned that Bahamian time was the same as Jamaican time. In the USA they called it “black people time”.
The purpose of our meeting at the bar was for him to give me the details of the trip. The plans had changed. He did not want to give it to me over the phone. I did not know how he looked. He gave me no description.
“I will find you”, he said.
It was a scary thought as I still was worried Bahamian immigration was looking for me. It was not very easy to trust anyone when you are constantly looking behind your back. However, when you are desperate, trust goes out the door.
“Are you biggah D son’s friend?”
It was a voice from directly behind me. I was startled because I was not aware when he crept up behind me.
“Yes”, I replied
“Can you swim?” the voice asked.
“Yes”, I replied
There was silence. I was waiting for him to say something. He was now beside me staring in my eyes.
I am Kelvin he said abruptly
I told him my name while keeping a serious face.
He was dark skinned about 6 foot and very muscular. He looked like a black GI Joe. His eyes were light gray. In Jamaica we say Cat Eyes. His eyes made his staring more piercing.
“Tomorrow look for a boat named Silent Mermaid at the Cable Beach Dock,” he said as he sleuthed away like a cat.
The next day I stayed in my room for most of the day. . I had breakfast, lunch and an early dinner in the hotel. It was also a very rainy day. There was a weather system passing over the island. I hoped the weather system would pass before my trip.
I was watching the clock in the room. Time was going slowly. I took a nap and when I got up it was time to go.
It was still raining as I went down to check out. My bill was very high but I could not refute it. I tried to keep a straight face as I paid the bill. It was extremely high. I had the front desk call a taxi. I would not miss my stay here.
The taxi took me to the dock and I found the boat. It was a big go-fast cigarette boat. It was the only one with lights on and activity on-board.
Kelvin and 4 other men were loading boxes on the boat. The men stopped when I approached.
“It’s okay, he is coming with us”, Kelvin told them.
The work continued.
“Help them with the boxes” Kelvin beckoned to me.
The boxes had floats on them. We were putting them in a secret compartment below deck.
It was still raining lightly.
Within an hour of my arrival we were on our way. Two of the other men were left at the dock. It was Kelvin, two other men and myself. The initial journey start out at medium speed as we maneuvered out to the open seas. I could see other boats and other islands. While at the hotel I learned that there were over 700 islands in the Bahamas.
When we got out to the open seas they picked up the speed. It was really fast. I started to feel sick. I had been on boats before in Jamaica. My father had a friend who had a boat. Occasionally we would go out to Lime Key (near Port Royal) to “lime” for the day.
This boat was going very fast. I felt nauseated.
Kelvin noticed I was not looking well and brought me a disposable bag.
“Do not throw up on the boat. Do it in this bag”
As he walked away I could not hold it. I started to throw-up in the bag. I thought maybe I would get some relief after the first one. It kept coming. After about 10 minutes of throwing-up I felt better. I curled up in a corner of the boat and tried to keep still.
Suddenly the boat started to slow down. Then it stopped. Then the engine was turned off and the lights turned off.
All I could hear was waves.
Kelvin looked at me and put a finger on his lip. He was signaling me to be quiet. I looked around. There were no lights out there.
We were drifting in the silence for about 20 minutes. Suddenly I heard the faint sound of another boat engine. I looked behind and could see some lights reflecting off the sea. The light was moving from side to side. It was a searchlight. It was too far away to see our boat. It was adjacent to our boat and moving away.
Once the boat was not in view they waited another 15 minutes before starting the boat again. We were on our way.
The “stop” gave me new energy. I think the thought of being pursued by another ship really caught my attention. I was not sick anymore.
Moments later I saw faint lights in the distance. It was land. I was feeling excited.
Kelvin and the guy driving the boat were talking. I could vaguely hear them. They were discussing what to do with me. Where should I be dropped off?
We were not parallel to the shoreline.
The discussion seemed to be getting heated. Kelvin wanted them to take me closer to the shore. The pilot of the boat said it was too risky.
They realized that I was hearing them and started to whisper. I looked away but tried to listen. I could not hear what they were saying.
The boat started to slow down like it did before. The engine was off and we were drifting. I knew this time that the boat was stopping because of me.
Kelvin confirmed this.
“This is where you will have to get off and swim to shore”
I looked out at the dark shoreline. It seemed close.
“Okay” I replied. I was so excited about finally going home that I was not even worried about the danger I was putting myself in.
Kelvin handed me my knapsack. His eyes were not as piercing as before. It was a look of concern.
“Thanks”, I replied.
I took off my sneakers but left on some sock. I put my sneakers into my bag. He helped me into the water. It was cold. I let go of the side of the boat and threaded the water.
“You have to swim away. The current from the boat is going to be too strong for you to swim to shore,” Kelvin shouted.
I started to swim toward the direction of the shore. I was freezing in the cold water.
I was not sure how far I was before I heard the boat start up.
Swimming to shore was more difficult than I thought. I was getting tired. The last time I swam was in Jamaica over 7 years ago. My muscles were tired and the shore was much farther than I estimated. I stopped and threaded water to catch my breath. I could see the shoreline. It was getting closer.
Threading water seemed to take more energy than swimming. I started swimming again. I told myself that I would not stop until I got to the shore. All I kept thinking about was getting home; seeing my sister, seeing Ritchie, getting back to school and my job.
The water began to get colder. I knew I was getting close to the shore. I swam harder. My leg muscles felt like they were cramping but I had to keep going.
My right leg started to stiffen but I was almost there. I lifted my head and realized I was there. The water was now waist deep. I walked on to the beach. I wanted to stop and rest but I remember Kelvin saying that I should not stop on the beach. I put my sneakers on and started to walk.
I was not sure where I was. All I knew was that I was at home.
I could hear traffic close by. I walked in that direction and found a road. I needed to find somewhere to change. I had a dry set of clothes in plastic in my bag. I saw a McDonald’s along the road. As I approached it I looked for the dumpster area. I quickly found it. The dumpster was fenced off with solid wood fences. The gate was not locked so I went in. The stench was unbearable but it was the perfect place to change. I threw my wet clothes and bag away. My shoes were very damp but they were not soaking wet.
As I left the dumpster area I looked around to see if anyone saw me. It was still very dark. I walked to the front of the McDonald’s. It was closed. I started to look for a phone booth. There was a gas station a few chains away. I walked over to it. There was a phone booth on the side.
I still had quarters from my winnings at the casino.
I dropped a quarter in and I dialed Ritchie’s number.
Nothing. Then a recorded message stated that I needed to insert an additional 75 cents more for the call. I looked at the address on the phone booth. I was in Palm Beach. I was not worried. Ritchie knew how to find any city in between Miami and Orlando.
I quickly inserted 75 cents.
“Hello, who dis?”, It was Ritchie. It felt good to hear his voice.
“Yow” I replied.
“My bwoy, yuh reach. Whey you deh?”
“Palm Beach” I replied. I then told him the city I saw on the phone booth.
“Hole tight my bwoy, mi deh pon mi way” he hung up.
As I hung up the phone a sense of calm came over me. I was home at last.
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