It seemed odd to be talking about paid sex on our honeymoon. But the conversation in this water-drenched Jamaican bar had decidedly taken a turn. Sometime during the continual drumbeat of nine hours of rain, the talk had proceeded from a failed snorkeling trip for newlyweds to the island's thriving cottage industry of Rastafarian prostitutes.
"Yahhhhh mon (yeah man)," Charlie said. "The white woman. She come for the Rasta mon. They come from all o'er the world to spread the AIDS." Charlie smiled briefly, showing brown-stained teeth. The gaps and generous gums made him look like a black, overgrown Dennis the Menace.
As though the words weren't clear enough, Charlie's friend--a thirty-year-old reggae singer who calls himself Gummy Dee--slapped his fingers against his thigh in a crude simulation of the sex act. Although my bride and I had never seen such a gesture before, we instantly recognized what it meant. So did everyone else in the bar.
Jamaicans, once they know you do not offend easily, will tell you exactly what is on their minds--no matter how vulgar. And one thing that seems to be constantly on the minds of the ones we met is sex. My pretty, young bride, Carol, was sitting on a stool in the back corner of the bar. She was far enough away from the open front not to get wet, but close enough to hear the inside dope on the fascinating scene we had been watching for a week. She flushed occasionally from the explicitness of the descriptions of male prostitution. Her eyes got wide and she giggled when one of the men would direct a comment to her. But, she made no movement to leave. And you couldn't have torn me away. It was like being behind the scenes for a steamy segment of Inside Edition.
Earlier that morning, we were having coffee on the porch of our hotel room. We were talking about the sadness of leaving Jamaica. We stayed in a small hotel in Negril on the western edge of the island. It is sixty kilometers from Montego Bay. This tropical tourist trap is seven miles of white beaches, sheer rock cliffs, clear, emerald water and has a year-round rotating population of fat, rude visitors from Chicago named Bob. Most of the Bobs stay at the Hedonism II Resort, a few miles east of us, where the nude beach and the 24-hour-a-day party is the picture of the island they will take home with them.
As we were commiserating our coming departure and re-entrance to the Arizona dust bowl, a hotel door opened on the second floor across from us. "Wrinkle," a 38-year-old Jamaican, was exiting the room with whispers to someone inside. Sarah from Boston, who had flown in the previous morning, flittered outside in a long, white undershirt. A brief kiss. The door closed.
We had seen this scene unfold every day for the past week. It was always Wrinkle. Only the women had changed. Wrinkle is the local, in-house love king. He comes with the hotel like towels or the maid.
Wrinkle walked down the stairs and continued to the stoop of our porch. By now, we were buds. We'd already taken him out to dinner. He'd spent the whole time talking about the Rastafarian religion. But we were well-aware how he made his living. "Good morning," we chimed. "Yahh mon. It be," he answered. Wrinkle stopped and talked. From his shirt pocket, he pulled out a half-smoked spliff. His ten-year growth of dreadlocks was rumpled, but he didn't seem to mind. He motioned for the lighter on the table and I obliged. Between deep drags of his "ganja," the Jamaican word for marijuana, he warned us of the coming winds and rain for the day.
Wrinkle walked to the bar where we would all soon start and end our day. Boston Sarah would follow him a few minutes later after she substituted shorts and a bikini top for the tee shirt. Passing us by, she smiled impishly and mouthed the words "good morning" too softly to hear. She appeared to be in her late thirties, early forties. Her hair was brown and getting darker and she was a little overweight. Her figure wasn't bad, but looked like it would soon become a puzzle--a body where the parts don't seem to fit.
We had met Boston Sarah the night before. She told me she was here to "recover." If you can believe an American tourist, she said she was an attorney in a Boston suburb. Her firm specialized in real estate law and bankruptcy litigation. Boston Sarah was burned out and didn't know what she wanted to do with her life. Meeting another American in a foreign bar gave her the courage to dump her woes. She was divorced with one child. She hadn't dated anyone in months and her "ex was being his typical bastard self." Her life in Boston was work, or kid and lonely. That's why she came back here to see Wrinkle. She had met him last year on a vacation with her friends. He took her around town. She liked the easy way he accepted life. He was so unlike the men she knew at home. "Wrinkle helps my mind. I don't meet Wrinkles at happy hour."