The Other Side of Jamaica - My Family Travels


A perfect picture: a palm tree on a deserted beach, a starlit sky, the sound of the waves crashing against the shore. I dig my toes into the sand trying to take in every inch, every sound, and every scent that floats in on the breeze. There is a thunderstorm wrecking havoc upon deep waters somewhere out over the horizon, giving those on the shore a magnificent show of lights. The sounds of the crickets mix with the distant noise of the distant resort. Above me, the palm tree is only a reminder of Paradise, its shade no longer necessary.

I close my eyes and the stars, the palm, and the storm all disappear. I just listen. The crickets have stopped, the humming of the resort quiets for a moment, and even the waves have receded, drawing their sound to themselves. It is just me in the silence, sitting cross-legged on an empty beach, digging my hands into flaky white sand, and smelling the salty air.

Then, I notice something new. Cars screech on the street behind me, blaring horns on wheels invading the silence. Now, the wind begins to blow in from the west, and I can no longer smell the sea but only rot. The scent startles me, and my eyes shoot open.

Thirty feet to my left a light illuminates the surrounding area. However, its light does not touch the beach, only a foreboding barrier, and the end of Paradise. There stands a ten-foot high chain link fence with an extra two feet of barbed wire on top. Curiously enough, the barbed wire leans toward me, towards Paradise. As if daring me to try to leave what is around me for what lays beyond the chain link fence. The wind from the west comes in stronger still and a part of me yearns to move to a smoother, less defiled sanctuary. Yet I dig deeper into the sand around me.

Beyond the fence, a man comes out of the shadows of a littered backyard. He leans against a wooden table, takes off his shirt and lights up a cigarette. He turns and props his foot up on the table and whacking his foot with the ragged shirt, curses under his breath, attempting to rid himself of the ever-present sand.

I look away, embarrassed, feeling as if I have intruded upon a man’s private frustration. I go back to watching the storm. The lightening that used to be only down to my right now shoots across half the skyline. Right to left, in a rapid succession of bolts. I follow the streak of light, and end looking to my left once more, past the fence.

The man is gone. Another car screeches behind me and again the scent registers in my nose. As I am about to leave another man appears behind the fence. Also smoking his life away, he staggers out of the same shadowy lane as the first. He paces in the light and silently sags down on top of an old trunk, his posture expressing his defeat.

I look at the brightness of the stars, the beauty of the beach, I squeeze my eyes shut and try to only focus on the crashing of the dark, mysterious waves.

Instead, I hear the man start to cry, another car horn, and the wind blows even stronger from the west.

Now I cannot help but kick the sand beneath my feet as I run. The Paradise my parents had spoke of had been infected with noise, rot, and pain. Poverty at its best, hidden by paradise.

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