Rasta Vibes in Kingston JA

“Yo! Look at that white girl smoking weed in the street!” —a British male voice said.

“She shouldn’t be doing that! How’d she get there?”—a female one.

I heaved my hot and heavy torso around in the plastic lawn chair to see where the voices were coming from— a group of tourists wearing colonial-esque panama hats and khaki shorts. They were walking on the opposite side of the street.

“What’s that white girl doing smoking weed in the street?” —said a voice that could’ve been female or male.

The klackety-klack talk-talk racket-making group step step stepped in sync with the sounds “shuffle shuffle shuffle” and I dry laughed because the oppressive sun had muted all other sound on the island, so the British tourists sounded like parrots squawking among elephants shuffling. I thought: I’ll tell ya what a white girl is doing in the streets of Kingston J-A. I started to have the one-sided conversation in my mind, talking at the Brits, telling them that I was on my way to Venezuela. That’s where I was supposed to be. But I landed in the wee Caribbean island country with a name that sounds divine–Jah may-ker, God maker–and I was stopped at the immigration officer’s stand and swiftly taken to a room where I sat for a while. You know what the shit-kicker-entry requirements dictated? A return ticket to the passport country of origin. Did I have that? Nope. So suddenly I was in the wrong place at wrong time because I didn’t look up the rules. I was a white girl traveling alone and I got left alone in the detention room and I’m fucked because I didn’t look up the rules. The immigration officers come back after a while and tell me that they will let me get on a plane to Venezuela, as long as I didn’t come back to Jamaica. But I had missed my connecting flight with all these rules shenanigans and needed to wait a night and a day and another night to get on the next one. I didn’t have anywhere to stay. I asked the immigration officers for a phone book and chose a bed and breakfast at random. I got there, checked in, and fell asleep, face down, shoes on, in the bed. I got woken up early by LOUD. I rolled over, staid laid-in-bed, and watched the pieces of sun disappear and come back as the curtains shook from the bass music LOUD. Reggae music. LOUD. Window rattling loud. What-the-fuck level loud. So I got up and followed the sound. It lead me next door to the bed and breakfast, right to the Bob Marley House (and museum) with the speakers pointing toward the bed and breakfast house. Booming reggae bass LOUD. So I signed up for a tour before I had brushed my teeth in the morning (but, it turned out, it was past noon). So I was touring and oohing and ahhing then I stood, gazing at the bullet hole in the wall where someone had tried to shoot n’ kill Marley years before. I leaned in, and my necklace jangled. A Rasta who was walking near me heard my necklace, saw my necklace, and exclaimed, “Yo! You gwon chill with me.” He put his arm around me and I felt instantly welcome like I was instantly in the right place at the right right time.

And that’s how I got to be where I was, sitting in a plastic lawn chair, sitting in front of the Bob Marley House, grinning from ear to ear cuz I was in the peak of my weed-smoking days and I had just landed the biggest mothertrucking spliff I had ever seen, and I was chilling, stewing in the good vibes.

“Yo, you gyal!” said the Rasta next to me, a huge dude in a cotton-fishnet (the thick kind of fishnet), huge as in drinks-organic-carrot-celery-beet-juice so he is superhuman-healthy-huge, eyeing me from behind an equally huge spliff. “Tell again why you wearing dem charms!”

“Well,” I started, trying to suck the inside of my cheeks—they were so dry–“Well,” I started again, “We are all one.” I leaned forward and the necklace—my chain that holds a star of Judah, a sickle and crescent, and a cross—rattled.

Organic-carrot-celery-beet juice superdood reached out: his hand was enormous and I wondered if mine would shrink in his as I extended. “One love,” he said, high-fived my not-sure-what-to-do hand. The others—three other Rasta men and one Rasta woman sitting fifteen feet away, under a coconut tree, all airing their placid faces, hanging out in the shade behind the juice trailer-hut next to the main Marley house, out of ear shot but in full atmosphere—they smiled, too.

“Irie,” he said. “We all one.”

“And I feel alright,” I replied, smiling, sinking into me, happy, content, being.

If only we wore our divine nature around our neck. If only we remembered we are all one despite the shapes of cultures and country-laws that divide us. If only we all just got quiet and vibed.

January 2002

Places as characters are really my jam.

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