I'm not going to tell you his name. It doesn't really matter.
But you should know that I thought he was one of the "bredren," a good egg, as my parents might say. An "ital" rasta man, as the natty dreadlocks would agree. Righteous, seen?
After all, he was welcomed, told to "siddung nuh", as a half dozen of us sat in a cluster of beach chaises and watched the horizon swallow up the sun one warm July "eve-ling" in Westmoreland. He was a slight man, his khakis hung loosely on his frame, and his natty dreadlocks nearly touched the sand as he padded up the beach toward us.
Yah, suh. All the genkle-men present nodded, we know 'im laaang time, whatta gwan, Natty?
Much patois-rich reminiscing, a remembrance of times past jamaican-style. Ganja smoke is their madeleine. I drifted off.......
So when I was alone on the beach and saw him again, I hailed him up. "Yes, I-yah, can I buy you one cold drink?" I asked. Natty dreadlocks headed straight to the bar and asked for "one cold Heineken. Tenks, miss." Sure, mon, no problem. While it was still half-full and cold in his hand, he asked if I would buy him "one next one, miss?" Now, I know the runnings. And often those who most deserve a round of drinks are those who never ask so I told him I had an errand to do with the children and I'd "soon come back." If he was still around when I returned, sure, no problem, one next Heineken coming right up.
So guess who was still clutching the by-now empty bottle, waiting for my return one full hour later? I dutifully bought Natty one more cold Heineken. Then he pulled me close. He whispered in my ear, "Wha mi really wan is sum money fi pay mi real estate taxes. Mi need $150 Jays, miss, cyaann yuh help mi nuh?"
For those of you who don't know, $150 Jamaican dollars at that time was the equivalent of about U.S. $2.50. Yes, that's right. About two U.S. dollars and fifty cents.
For his "real estate taxes" he says.
When I shared this story with my husband and his friends, they all laughed softly, but with sadness. "The Rock hole 'im dung, mon. Nuh give 'im nuttin more," and they shook their heads.
"Toxes, eeenh? Natty nah own nuttin fi tox. A crack-cocaine a 'im biggest tox. He muss pay it......"
4"x6" ink and watercolor on paper.
A print of this painting is available for purchase here.