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Oliver Benjamin                            
Roy worked hard and gradually the men on the boat took him in to
their confidence. Kicking coffee cold turkey generated a kind of
zombified numbness in his brain that the sun, breeze and ganja only
enhanced. The ordeal proved cleansing—a kind of forced vacation
from land and the mind. That is, until they pulled near Port of Spain
and he had to confront the fact that he was not only broke but he had
no passport and no way of earning any money.
As they sailed near Dragon’s Mouth, the sailors handed him a
grey life-preserver and suggested he swim to the opposite side of the
peninsula. They would come and fetch him the next day. Until then,
there were plenty of bananas and coconuts and he could easily take
shelter on the beach.
Roy paddled across the still waters clear to the other side. It took
him the better part of the day to make the trip, but it had not been
uneventful. A group of friendly manatees took him for one of their
own and crowded around him as he swam. Because they nursed their
young upright like human women, Carib Indians named them after
their own word for breast, “manati.” Drunken English seamen,
mistaking the friendly, buxom sea mammals for women, called them
“mermaids,” figments of their desperate longing. And desperate they
must have been, Roy mused, to pine for these strange, dumpy
He passed his Siren friends and pushed on farther up the
coastline. They hooted after him and he tried to reciprocate but was
laughing too hard.
He passed a long beach populated with joyful white tourists
staving off the coming fall. The next bay was unpopulated in
comparison and so it was there he chose to angle shoreward. When
he finally stood up, exhausted and bleary, it was nearly dark. He
crawled upon the sand and disappeared into a deep slumber.
Days passed and the sailors did not come to call on him.
Shoeless and destitute, he had no choice but to remain there,
nestled in among the shade, subsisting on fish, bananas, and
coconuts. He drew drinking water from a nearby public well. None of
the villagers had any idea he wasn’t a native. He kept his mouth shut
and they assumed he was crazy. All told, it wasn’t a bad way to while
away some time. He felt strangely as if he had come home.
Of course, everyone in the world who came to the Caribbean felt
this way. Some have said our protohuman ancestors lived like this
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