On a sunny Monday afternoon, I’m chillin’ alone up in the hostel on front street. Not many passer-through’s these days, and I imagine I’ll be searching for greener pasture’s tomorrow or the next day. In the meantime, this quiet little second floor veranda rings with stories from before.
The rooms are still full at Amaya’s, not tourists usually, central American’s on business or one reason or another. Zayn (not that Zayn) is here from Belize City, trying to get his baby-mama of 10 years back in to his life. He’s a drunken mess, but he means well. All in all it feels pretty residential.
So last year the ratio’s were a little different. Probably 75% tourists staying here, in a hostel that has 4 rooms, and one bigger, long term room. Pip & Jo gave me the big room with a discount. Last year the man living there was named Ray. Not Rotten Ray, but some called him Rotten Jr. A midwestern American who lost his daughter in a car crash, and from there had nothing really else to live for. So he cashed in all his savings, came down here and planned to blow all his money and die. The whole situation had a bit more humour than it sounds. Dark humour. Because we were always able to drag him to the party and have a good time. I figured PG would turn him around, and it was looking good when I left last year. Coming back, this time around, they tell me he was deteriorating, had run out of money and hope, and last they heard he went home to Wyoming or Idaho or something. Been hoping he’s been doing well.
But I digress, Last year he was a great member of the Amaya’s Veranda, it was a great place to be, namely for travellers… And once in a while a local would be passing by for some other reason. Sometimes they’d mingle right in to the energy, but most of them would stick to themselves. It is a modest nation.
And so, some forgotten night, there was a man, with dark skin, laying in the hammock minding his own, browsing his phone. The gang was having a time not 20 feet over. I noticed he’d been there a while… So I came over to make friends with the Belizean Brudda. I prepared my best local Kriol, the broken-english language informally spoken everywhere in Belize, which always sounds stupid coming from a white guy.
“Aye bwai whey you live?” Nailed it.
“Excuse me?” he asked
I stammered, “ Whey… whey you live?” My inebriated mind finally clicked in the realization that this guy wasn’t Belizean… “I mean, hey man! Where are you from?”
He stares at me completely unimpressed.
“Ohio!” I tried to move things along. “ O H “ and I threw my elbow up. Because I’m pretty sure Ohio State Kids do that. One half says “O” “H” and the other half goes “ I” “O”… well this other half didn’t. He stared at my drunken apologetic smile with distaste.
“I’m sorry man, I honestly thought you were Belizean”
“Why Because I’m Black?”
“No!” … I paused “Well…. yeah!” I shrugged with a big “Come on you understand” toothy smile.
Bam! In a place where you can forget the world around you I was slammed in the face with American Liberalism, having already known that 9 out of 10 times in that situation, the guy’s gonna be Belizean.
“Right because black people can’t go travelling” He scolded.
Well now he’s just being twirpy about it. But on the other hand, I totally understand, this drunken jungle man is in his face trying to crack him open. He’s just trying to check Facebook.
I began trying to explain, cut myself off, apologized once more and carried on to have a great night with the regular gang. Yet still looking back hoping to make amends before the night was through. All’s well that ends well. Needing to sit down, the only seat was right beside Ohio’s hammock. I dropped in, and minded my own business. I guess he’d had some time to think the situation over and was ready for a new start. We spoke of where I’m from then he got into some boring ramble about what he’s studying at College. I think his name was Eric, but he’d already lost me. I was winding down after a somewhat heavier night of carousing. He wasn’t that particularly interesting of a fellow to get to know… but that has nothing to do with the fact that he’s black.
I waited for a pause in the conversation. “Well Eric, if you’ll excuse me I need to go throw up, I’ve had way too much to drink.” I disappeared down the stairs and out in to the alley way…
And… uhmmm, that’s the last time I ever saw Eric from Ohio.