"The Other Side Of Tourism" writer Myrna Loy, meets some "new friends" including the Jamaican mosquitoes.
Trip Reports

The Other Side Of Tourism – Part 13

Chapter XXI – BYAH DREAD

Winston called to say he would be at the hotel by 3.00 in the afternoon.

I had decided that Winston would not be allowed in my room because he had a habit of ‘catching ‘. I called the receptionist and advised her that I was expecting my brother and that she should call me down when he arrived.

My brother arrived uncharacteristically on time — 3.00 p.m. on the dot. The reception called me and I came down and met him. He was heavy laden with a big bag, forcing him to slouch over. Just as I thought, he brought the bag to stay over.

“Are you hungry?” I asked him, a ruse to lure him from the hotel.

“I am sorry you couldn’t come up to my room — visitors are not allowed in guest rooms” I continued.

“Me stay a dis hotel already yu know..” he said.

(I wasn’t sure what he meant by that declaration and I wasn’t really interested).

I had daily subsistence left of JA$220 left which was enough to treat him to lunch, provided I chose the meal.

“Yeh, mon, me starving”

“Well, I’m going to treat you a meal”

He didn’t seem appreciative.

“Me need fe mek a phone call to someone pon dem cellular phone”

Cellular Phone? that call will cost a pretty penny. (My brother had a history of high telephone bills).

I didn’t respond..

“Bwoy me ‘ave fe get hole’ of dis man fe mek a transaction”

“There is a phone in the Pelican, you can use that”, I said coldly.

We went in and I waited to be seated while Winston went to use the phone. Anticipating his choice, I ordered a vegetarian meal for JA$95.

He came back shortly:

“One bwoy deh pon de phone a talk him foolishness”

“Well, just hang around and wait — what would you like to drink?” I asked, hoping that he would say ice-water):

“Mek I see de menu”

“Supposing he orders beer or something like that, I wouldn’t have enough money.” I thought.

“Jus get me some limeade”

Relieved, I knew I could afford that.

He went back to the phone and came back smiling. He had obviously made the connection:

“Me get hole of me frien’. Him tell me seh a session a gwan tonight a ‘Dead En’. Yu wan’ go?”

“I haven’t been anywhere, so I might as well”

“Alright but me can’t tek de bag, me cyan leave in your room until later?”

“Yes, o.k.” I said reluctantly, experiencing Winston’s lack of responsibility in the past.

We ate, I paid, and we left.

“Where do you want to go?” I said, showing no mercy for his burden.

“Tek de bag upstairs fe me na” he appealed.

I took it and lugged it to my room, I hope it’s not filled with ganga, I thought, as I dumped the heavy monstrosity on the floor.

I refreshed myself a little, put on some pants because I didn’t want the mosquitos biting my legs, changed my blouse, and returned.

“Mek we go up so” he said pointing to the make-shift beach where some street urchins assembled.

Here we go, I thought, but followed him obediently.

He stopped — he noticed someone he recognized:

“Wha’ppen sah?”

“Rasta man – w’appen?”

“Me cool, mon.. irie, mon”

“So iz wah yu a seh?

“Me dyah, yu know..”

This unintelligible magniloquence (constituting invented vocabulary) had them rivetting in bouts of laughter, seemingly, for hours.

Intermittently, Winston put a protective arm around the shoulders of an acquaintance and whispered. Sporadically he would lift his head up, and twist it from side to side in a sinister fashion. Occasionally, he would nod in my direction as if to confirm that everything was under control.

After about five minutes, I got fed up and told Winston I wanted to go.

Sensing my exclusion, he decided to introduce me to his ‘bredren’:

“A me sister dis” as if he was taking credit for my cultivated appearance but pardoning my austerity.

My ‘enemy’ smiled approvingly nodding their heads. Big deal, as if I need their endorsement, I thought reproachfully.

“Mek I bill a spliff na — yu smoke?”

“No, I don’t”.

We found ourselves tempting fate, vegetated on the edge of a cliff, overlooking the sea. The scenery was beautiful. The harsh environment was lost in its beauty and I looked out towards the skyline where nebulous buildings formed geometric faces within which, admonishing red lights flickered, like eyes squinting.

The sea silently brushed against the sand and recoiled spontaneously. A man and a woman passed, holding hands, laughing… I reminisced for a while.

How romantic. I envied the couple. I wanted to be like them, instead of sitting here looking down at destructive elements pitching its vengeance at the cliffs.

When I looked up, her blonde hair was still flying in the wind. I wanted to toss my braids in the breeze, while walking with someone special, the sand masturbating the soles of my feet, my toes responsive to the water.

Meditative influences had been activated unconsciously. I had been involuntarily narcotized by marijuana. I stopped reflecting on what I didn’t have and appreciated the immediate beauty of my surroundings and what was accessible in the here and now. This brotherly-love, this ability to see beauty, to feel peace. Even the environment, I had selected it.. at random… on the spur of the moment. I felt reconciled. My time was mine to do what I chose with it. I chose to be here overlooking a cliff — to be with my brother as he inhaled his spliff (the smoke continuing to invade my nostrils).

I watched him remove his tam, his reproachful dreadlocks slithered across his brown complexion like large pythons. If only I had a paint brush.. it was a scene to be painted… a scene to be captured forever.

After about fifteen minutes of meditation, silent musing, exchanging monosyllabic ‘words of wisdom’, we got up and started walking towards ‘Dead En’.

“Me meet someone yu know. A Canadian. Him a go do a ting fe me” my brother announced triumphantly.

“Really…?” I thought, I showed no interest.

As we walked towards our destination, Winston stopped several times, conversing with questionable inhabitants.

“Wha’ppen. Byah-Dread?” (‘Byah’ was Winston’s nickname).

“Me coool, mon, irie.. “

Off they would go whispering again, and the formulated dialogue would repeat itself like the rhyme of a song.

I started to become impatient. This was not a woman’s scene. I was not that desperate to hear music… but I followed him as he liaised with his comrades, and I stopped when he stopped.

“So what flight you a leave pon?” Byah turned to me and asked.

“American Airlines” I responded curiously, wondering what that could have to do with the person he was talking to.

“Where yu come aaaf, New York?

“No, Newark, why?”

“Me bredren here have a suitcase him want someone fe check it in fe him, but him waant it fe go a New York”

[I was disgusted that he would even think of involving me in such lunacy]

“Well it’s just as well I am going to Newark then, isn’t it?” I said angrily.

When the person walked off, I told Winston that if he had any ideas about me transporting anything, or having anything to do with anything illegal, he had better forget it… he had better recruit people who had nothing to live for.

“Noh, Noh, mon, me wouldn’t do dat..” he responded defensively. “.. but Myrns, you know if me did have a contact in America how much money me could mek? The person would not ‘ave to do nuttin you know, jus receive the goods”.

I looked at him scathingly.

We walked in silence. He held no remorse, besides, his bredren accommodated his interest until we reached our destination. He bought me rum punch and I sipped it slowly (there were no restrooms). Every now and then he would leave me and talk with ‘his bredren’. I kept drinking until I felt a bit tipsy, and then I started feeling tired, and then I started feeling out of place…

The squinting eyes in the scorched visage of a wandering beggar (no more than 5 or 6 years old) came up to me:

“Beg yu a two dol…”

Viciously amputating the sentence of the destitute prey, I spat: “Don’t beg!” and ruthlessly turned my back on what the natives called a ‘slum youth’.

“Dem ‘ave money you know, more money dan me an’ you. Is dem mudda sen’ dem out fe beg..” I heard somebody say as if trying to justify my hostility.

“Winston, I want to go back to the hotel” I said.

“O.K. I will see if I can get you a lift” he said peacefully.

We started walking in the direction of the hotel when he met another one of his ‘bredren’ and asked him to drop me off at the hotel.

“Don’t forget to come for your bag…” I reminded him. “…remember, Winston, I’m leaving first thing tomorrow morning”

“Naah, man, it ‘ave in my ganga gum, me can’t leave dat”. A calm demeanor settled on him like satisfaction.

“Ganga GUM? supposing someone caught me with it, I started feeling nervous..

“What time does ‘Dead En’ finish? I enquired.

“H-h’it a g-gwaan til m-marnin'” came an unregulated utterance.

I got into the car, which looked like a mangled saucepan and drove as though it had no tyres and was dropped off at the hotel. If I had any sense I would have asked the guy to wait for the bag, but I didn’t think about it until it was too late. The guy drove off. I was so exhausted, I fell asleep.

Part 14 will be published next month….

(Copyright 1993)

About the author

Myrna Loy