The Holy Bible says that God himself rested on the Seventh day, after creating Everything.
Getting up early is not my normal weekend routine. Normally I try to grab as much sleep as I can but this Saturday, the sabbath day, was different. After work, or any physical creation, there must be a mental rest a recreation, a recharging of your batteries. This weekend, instead of sleeping late, to re-energize, I was going to my version of Mecca, to Colin Channer’s creation, the Calabash Festival, the magical magnetic melting pot, with the St. Elizabeth beach providing a beautiful back drop, a place where authors from around the world would read and discuss, samples of their work and then sell and sign books for appropriately awestruck fans.
I was already somewhat peeved though. I had intended to go to the festival from Friday and even took time off from work. Only to hear, at the last minute, that the bus ride, I had booked, and paid for, was cancelled, due to a lack of customers. Perhaps the free day was a blessing in disguise though as it allowed me to rest and recover fully from the flu I was fighting all week and now I felt a whole lot better.
I was peeved also because I’d overslept and was running late, hurrying now, scrambling, to meet the bus without even taking a bite to eat. I often go without breakfast during weekdays but it seems like my stomach knew it was a Saturday and was already growling as I turned into the parking spot where the bus was supposed to be leaving any minute now.
No bus was in sight. I was glad that I had not been left behind, or arrived late, but peeved that I had not eaten any breakfast. Being too early is almost as bad as being too late.
I sat next to two older ladies on the edge of the small group that would be my fellow travellers on the Journey to Jake’s in St. Elizabeth.
They responded politely to my “Good Morning”, and continued their apparently conspiratorial whispered conversation. I could overhear their conversation and even smiled at times as one lady described her daily stresses at work and the friend added her bits of wisdom and positivity. As they talked to each other more travellers began to arrive.
A car came up and the driver had a smug smile on his face as he waved hello to us. Behind his smile I could read the thoughts clearly, “See, I told you is pure uptown Brown people going to this thing”. His companion, a dark lady, seemed afraid to come out of the car as she looked at me and the ladies near me like we were predators eyeing her for our next meal. We were all Brownings.
I understood their thoughts perhaps because I had many of their fears myself. I was beginning to think it was a “Browning” bus trip too and was afraid of that. I actually think of myself as a black man, which is kind of strange
since everyone around me sees me as, “Brown” , or they even sometimes treat me like my worst nightmare, “White”. In Jamaica everyone is described by a racial segmentation that defined them. To be Black on a Browning bus would be as incongrous as a White at the local dancehall. I was reading the mind of the driver and his female companion but really I was revealing only my own prejudices and baggage. I had travelled light just a notebook, a book I was reading, about Ancient Chinese Strategy, and my camera, which was tucked in my pocket. But the colour baggage was always with us Jamaicans and it is oh so heavy.
Other cars arrived and dropped off more fellow travellers. One group of four, two guys two ladies, seemed to be young professionals on vacation from the UK and they stared at us all like we were idiots. They appeared Black.
Probably their minds were White though.
The lady from the first car now seemed emboldened enough to emerge from her car and it turned out she was wearing a very sexy pair of shorts and had incredible legs perhaps that was why she was reluctant to emerge from
the car. It wasn’t Brownings she feared it was me. A man.
I was the hungry predator she was wary of. Her boyfriend, or whoever the guy that dropped her off is, seemed really amused and happy not to be joining her for the trip and waved at us all as he drove off.
I scanned the group, trying to see who else, may be, what I now, had the temerity to, think of myself as. Who else was a Writer ?
A quiet expressionless lady sitting on the patio section seemed a likely candidate. She was obviously observing everyone as I was and making sharp mental calculations.
Two more attractive dark chocolate women arrived and sat right beside me they were dressed in the latest designer wear but not very friendly as they spoke only to each other. A tall brown guy who I knew from UWI camera club days arrived with his girlfriend attached to his ribs.
One of the Brown whisperers now asked me if I’d been to Calabash before and I let them both know it was my first trip. Same for them they said with smiles. They were virgins too. I found that somewhat hard to believe but managed to keep my doubts to myself. I was interested in writing I said. They seemed genuinely interested about my writing and waiting for me to say more but I had nothing much to add and they soon returned to their whispers. A friend of theirs, another Brown lady, but of Indian descent, joined them both and raised the volume of their conversation just as the bus arrived.
It was big and green and fully air conditioned. Great. There was no doubt we’d arrive in comfort although we were now heading out later than planned.Being too early is almost as bad as being too late. Would we reach Jakes, the location of Calabash, in time ?
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