After our bout of European-style endless drinking, I needed to sober up but was out of good options. There were burgers but, who goes to Jamaica for that? Earlier that day when I arrived, I did my best to eat my life’s worth of missed meals in jerk chicken and wanted more. On the streets in Jamaica, unlike in New Orleans where it’s served with rice & peas and plantains, the jerk is simpler, more efficiently served: a jerk leg-quarter and “hardo bread”—a thickly sliced, mildly sweet, dense “hard dough” bread. In the end, I settled for water. The bartender who served me was smug-eyed after taking her tip, her lips turned wry as she dryly asked me if I had enough. Conceding, I told her that I might have had too much. She then told me that the locals’ name for the blue drink, rather appropriately, was a “Stupid Motherfucker” and walked off with a hand full of now crumpled cash. The pettiness and the drink were killing me.
Leaving the bar, I took note of my surroundings and walked towards the beach and the apparent abyss that lay beyond it. I removed my shoes and let myself feel the grit and presence of the crispy sand beneath my feet as I waddled over to and plopped down—these days I plop—onto a deck chair. I felt a smile sneak across my face as I let the realization of being in Jamaica and my buzz wash over me. The air was a salty soup—thick, hot, and familiar like New Orleans, where the humidity grips you and holds close like your body’s own flesh. Jamaica is the same. Resonating all throughout the compound was the distinct, harmonic and mechanic chirp-croak of the Jamaican tree frogs. Like cicadas, you tend to hear them in the evening, their songs metronomic and mesmeric. As I listened to them, I was forced inward, feeling hpthe stillness of the deep night swoop down on me. Hushed, I heard the waves. At the same time, my eyes adjusted to the darkness and I saw it: Stretched out before me shimmering under the light of the full moon was the entirety of the Atlantic Ocean, imposing, majestic, and absolute. It was the same ocean of my youth, of my ancestors; the same ocean that connected me to the Jamaicans and to the Brits alike. It would be there much longer than my buzz, my trip, indeed, us all. “This”, I thought. “This!”.