We were out in a large field, between the jungle and the roadside in the Belize district, a place we had been before. We had spent time here over 20 years before with a friend of ours named Zebullon, a man who had taught Benjamin and I both a lot about herbs and nature, and who often talked to us about "Father Good Spirit."
I picked a leaf from a new vine budding out of the earth and stretched out my hand to show it to Benjamin. "This is guaco," I ascertained.
You don't smell it? Benjamin confirmed, it was the plant we had been looking for all morning. And I was happy to have found it before him as we often compete to find plants first.
Water dropped on leaves making them jump a little, showing the beginning of a rain. And Benjamin and I were being bitten. Not by regular mosquitoes, big black buzzing bottle flies. "Bottle ass," Benjamin said as he pulled on a guaco vine, rolling it up to take it with us.
Zebullon's father was from the Orange Walk district further north where his well-to-do Mestizo family had founded a distillery around the turn of the century. His mother was a black Creole woman, a domestic worker from Belize City.
But Zebullon barely knew his father who eventually moved to Honduras, that's where people would flee from Belize in those days, or Guatemala or Mexico, never the States or England as Benjamin reminded me recently.
But it was Zebullon's stepfather, a Garifuna man from Dangriga town further south, that had taught him about herbs and where to find barks that he used to offer me, like guaco.
Time is a living thing. It lives and breathes and moves. When I first met Zebullon, I was 21 and new to Belize, just arrived from Estados Unidos. Benjamin had known Zebullon since they were children as they grew up together in a neighborhood called Yarborough, prounounced "Yabra" in Belize City.
His birth name was Marlon Ramirez, but he had adopted the name Zebullon after he became a part of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, a sect of Ras Tafari, where many males born in the month of September are called so. .At the time that I met Zebullon we were all members of the Rastafarian faith;
But Zebullon had become disenchanted with Rastafari and some of its teachings and had begun to separate himself . And at the time that I met him he had started calling himself "Roots," and as I learned much later had the word ROOTS tattooed on his abdomen.
But that particular day in 1995, when I arrived at the Phillip Goldson Airport in Belize with my Kingman, Izra, the afternoon sun beamed down on our heads. We walked from the tarmac to the building passed through customs. Then we went outside where cabs waited for customer. “Yes I” Ezra said to one of the men standing among the group that was clamoring for fares.
---Where yi going?
My Kingman Ezra motioned for me to get into the back seat of the sedan that looked more a personal car with its dents and dings. Ezra sat beside the driver and rolled down the window. As the car pulled off, Ezra looked back at me from the front passenger seat of the cab. Sand flies bit my ankles. Brooklyn, where we'd travel from, had no flies like this leaving marks on skin long after.
Fly bad ah night, Ezra warned about his home country when he turned forward againtaking in the forest from his open window, adding, Lemongrass simmer eena pot keep way fly.
About that time Zebullon was just coming into the city too from gathering herbs in the jungle and felt the biting sand flies that come before moonrise as he approached the Baron Bliss Lighthouse on his way to Yarborough, but Zebullon did not swat his hand against his bit flesh.
He let the bugs feed on him. As the night became fully ripe like the star fruit he supped earlier in the jungle, the biting would subside. Zebullon rounded the the Baron Bliss Lighthouse on his dirt bike, a landmark named for a man who never arrived here, but died in the harbor
Zebullon saw in the darkening sky, bright stars hiding a storm coming from the North, that could have passed over and go perhaps, South, past the Maya Mountains' Sleeping Giant and the Bay of Honduras continuing on into Sierra Madre de Chiapas of Guatemala in the distance. Or may not. Either way, it was clear that rain would fall. With the rain would come the breeze from far out at sea—Like the first coconuts which spread across many continents floating along ocean currents
A comfort, like the lapping of the water on the rocky shore because the sand flies retire at breeze's arrival, except for a few. And stronger winds bent the coconut palms like truth.
The cab dropped us off in Belize City on Waight Street in front of a house with a rusty zinc fence and plywood planks that bridged a smelly gully , and we
were newly fallen fruit to the young men and boys surrounding us like jungle ants. The maroon sun was setting fast, burying itself under the bushy head of palms.
Dem a come from States! yelled Ezra's tall, skinny cousin, Roderick to the whole street, as he emerged from the house.
Long time mi nuh see yu my bwoy! Ah wha yu a bring mi from foreign?
In the middle of Waight Street, Zebullon stood by looking on at the commotion, in front of his own house which was across from us, his gold skin glinted in twilight, his bushy, torso-length dreadlocks hid under a red, gold and green knitted cap.
And he stood there watching my Kingman Ezra and I and the young men and boys from the neighborhood ‘til the street lamp turned on and swarmed with moths, Till Ezra walked over to Zebullon,in the middle of the street motioning for me to come. Zebullon had lived longer than Ezra, but neither had reached thirty, Eric stood almost a foot shorter, darker complected with shoulder-length dreadlocks, while Zebullon’s locks were much longer.
Father Good Spirit, Zebullon greeted us
Dis bredrin I-man ah grow up wid on dis ya street, Ezra said by way of introduction
But Zebullon turned his expressionless face toward me and said No. No. he said. I-man no come from hereso,
Dis da not fi mi home and Zebullon about-faced, walked over his gully planks through his ruby zinc gate across the street and it swung shut.
(To be continued)