Made it down to the town square without realizing it. Too deep in my thoughts I suppose. The dramatic shift from self indulgence to the hustle on the street put me in a mild stupor. Had forgotten why I came. I stood at the busy street corner momentarily and looked around. It was a no crossing moment and a small crowd slowly began to form around me. Everyone appeared tuned in to their personal devices.
“Yo, Rass! See me yah”, a familiar voice called out.
It was Bess. A farmer who, In my opinion had the best locally grown weed right now. She waved at me and I nodded in her general direction. I then followed the crowd across the street and broke left. The vendors here had setup makeshift shelters along the sidewalk and were hawking freshly grown fruits, vegetables, spices and whatnot. That colorful arrangement and sudden aroma was a delight. A mild hunger took form. Behind the vendors, buildings hosted offices and stores that offered additional services. There is a head shop in there. Always busy and usually a last resort when stocking up. I prefer locally grown smoke. Right now Bess has the best.
“How are you Bess?” I asked, then awkwardly leaned up against the wall next to her.
“Bwoy mi deh yah, you know”. She replied with her usual delightful charm.
The stench of prime marijuana filled the air. A slow burning spliff hung lazily from the side of her lips. Her thick dreadlocks fell aimlessly down her shoulders, across her “Make Jamaica Great Again” t-shirt. A slogan that heralded dark times in local politics. She wasn’t a political woman at all, she wore what was available. Bess was a big woman with about two kids going through the education system. She shows up to the square rarely and only when there is a surplus.
“Jus’ a gwaan wi’ the struggle you no see.” She grinned.
“Streets are busy today. What’s the occasion?”
“No occasion Rass, You just don’t come down often enough.” Bess jabbed. “You stay up in a di’ hill too much man. Mus’ come down an’ social little.”
I shook my head, “Uh uh. I’m good. Too much drama in the square.”
“Drama” She scoffed. “You don’t see drama yet.”
“I got ya. How the greens?” She gave me a wry look and reached over to her left. She unraveled the knot from a nicely bloated crocus bag and proudly produced a handful of very pungent buds. It was still fresh and would need to be aired it out a little. An ounce of that would be fine I thought. Also a few leaves of that nicely cured tobacco to go along with it.
“You kno’ hear wha’ happen las’ night?” She asked excitedly as we made our exchanged. “War brok’ out in a di square. Lawd god.”
Another community disturbance. The massive influx of foreign investments never trickled as promised. Yes, a lot of jobs were created but a lot of debt came along with it. Over time jobs grew too expensive. People struggled to keep up. Then automation rolled in and well, things changed.
Bess began to tell a story about two friends, a cutlass, a gun and some debt. Many got hurt, families got involved and so did the authorities. That would explain the damage to the pharmacy window down the road. She was very animated as she narrated. I nodded along and listened.
As she told her story. I watched an aged drone hover above the pharmacy. It acted as security while workers were busy clearing debris and moving equipment. Drones are ubiquitous here on this tiny island. Common uses: surveillance and deliveries. Most are privately owned and all must be registered to be in compliance.
Further off into the distance and up the hillside, I could see the roof top belonging to that building poking out from the mountains lush greenery. The place with the secretive occupants. Also the place responsible for the unusual tremors. It’s been a while since we’ve had one. Maybe someone was able to reach out to them. Maybe the tremors have stopped completely. I have doubts.
As her story arced into the violence. My mobile chirped an alert, a package delivery it stated. Delivery drone was close and requested details on pickup. When I get home I indicated, then enabled tracking. Should coincide the delivery with my arrival. Bess carried on with her story, then closed the scene with a large crowd, a traffic jam and lots of excitement. Most all transportation in Jamaica had been automated. Very few traditional vehicles left. Traffic jams were rare hence kind of a deal. She then burst out into a hearty laugh. I’ll admit I missed the joke. I nodded along and smiled anyways.
Just then, further in the distance. An object began it’s approach to that building up in the hill. The object was a lot larger than your typical delivery drone and did not follow any recognizable design. The markings were difficult to read from here. The camera on my mobile wasn’t much help either. I watched it descend behind the foliage and wondered about the residents. For weeks I’ve been trying to speak to someone there. Would really be nice to learn a little more about these tremors.
“Them there Russians don’t joke bredda.” Said Bess. “More time them buy a crocus bag or two a bush from me. Mi no know wha’ them a do with all that weed.”
“You’ve met them?” I asked surprised. “And you say that they are Russians?”
Bess nodded and exhaled an impressive cloud of smoke. “Yes man. Once in a while one a them roll out to the farm in a the country an’ buy from me. Them don’t talk whole heap, but them alright though.”
This was fantastic news I thought. My last attempt at a face to face was a wasted afternoon outside the front gate. Security cameras visible. Someone must have known I was out there. No one ever came out. Bess, well she may be a possible line of communication.
After more pleasantries, I made plans to meet up with her at the farm. Perhaps later this week. We parted ways and bee lined homeward with my fresh supply of greens. I could have hitched a ride back up the hill you know. There are transports that ferry passengers along the main road. Instead I elected to walk. Bess was right, I don’t get out much and the walking felt good. Too much time spent in front of the workstation I suppose. If I’m not working, I’m gaming.
As I pulled up to the gate I could hear a familiar hum. My delivery was moments away. The mobile, it chirped the pending arrival. I acknowledged and strolled over to the makeshift landing pad in the front yard. Stood there and waited while my stomach growled.