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The Rasta Bus

By Taylor Turner

     Enzokuhle stared at the new suburban homes with fresh green lawns and shiny black asphalt driveways. It was a most unusual sight to him compared to downtown Kingston where he was from. Up north was a completely foreign place, growing from the leaning shacks where he grew up in, to those fancy plantations he saw in one of the magazines from the States. He thought of the many meals his Momma made him in that shack, how it was the best thing he’d ever tasted; the best of times. 

     But it’s been a long time since he was a boy. Enzo was now 38, always feeling tired but never sleeping. They were constantly on the road, and sleeping on a bus with seven other men was hard. His band, the Rasta Reception, is on tour across Jamaica. The driver, Maocha, bought an old omnibus from a guy he knew and the guys painted it red, green, and gold; the reggae colors, making it the Rasta Bus. Maocha was a kind older man, the tips of his dreads and beard were turning gray, but he was still full of life and spirit. He was a percussionist, always banging and drumming on the steering wheel with a tune stuck in his head. D’Angelo sat across from Enzo with a large joint lit in his hand, ashes falling all over his pants. They called him Angel Voice because that boy could sing; he would sing with so much passion and volume, they say he could reach heaven with that voice. 

     D’Angelo passed him the joint and Enzo took a long drag. He felt the release of his worries and stresses slip away. He passed it to Badrick, their bass guitarist, who took it mindlessly without even looking. Badrick was a gyalis, a hopeless romantic, they all knew it to be true. He fell in love with the first woman he saw in every town they played in, and every time, he had to break hearts and leave. He was still young, Enzo thought, he would learn to stick with one woman. Without warning, Kenyi woke from his nap in a panic. The old man had crazy nightmares every now and then, but it still scared Enzo every time he shouted like that. Enzo tries not to strain his voice as it’s bad for his singing voice. Kenyi looked around in a huff and Massai sat next to him to calm him down, a regular routine that became during this tour. Massai is older than Maochi and himself and acts as if he is their father. Massai’s dreads were so long, they could touch the floor, but it was tied back into a messy ponytail. He was the oldest Rastafari member of them all, and he never once cut his hair. Enzo looked at him as a sort of an elder or leader, even though he was only a few years older than Maochi.

     “Every’ting’s alright, mon. Breathe easy. No need to get jiji.” Massai patted Kenyi’s shoulder. Massai held out his hand to Badrick. Knowing what he was asking for, Badrick silently handed him the joint. “Take a hit a’dis. It’ll make ya level.” 

     Kenyi took the joint and took a puff while Massai lit it. “Dat shit tuff, mon!” Kenyi said while smoke blew out his nose. “Yu done know I ain’t young no mo’e!” 

     The men erupted into laughter. Massai patted his shoulder again and said, “Yu feel betta doe, right?” 

     Kenyi chuckled, his shoulders relaxed and he sat back in his seat. “Ey Mao, ‘ell us a story.” 

Maochi always had the best stories. D’Angelo butted in and said, “Nah, mon, he done told us all ‘is stories!” Maochi from the driver’s seat shouted back, “Come Gwope!”

     D’Angelo laughed maniacally, “Ight, Do yu ting!”

Maochi continued, “Heng up, y’all. Memba mi tell yu ‘bout mi wife and I.” Maochi looked at them through the rearview mirror. “I jus’ burned some weed, right? Mi did a burn some high-grade weed. Brada, me start ti see tings. As in hallucinations. Mi just say, ‘alright, mi just go relax, take mi wife, we go to da zoo, see da monkeys and da donkeys.’ Next t’ing I know, mi take mi wife, go home, all night I give her some hot fuck! Y’know mi wife is hataz, very goodz. But check this out… wake up inna di morning, an ya see how the devil wicked… cuz when mi look beside mi, it’s not mi wife dat inna di bed. But a di same monkey from the zoo!”

     Enzo and his men screamed together. D’Angelo clapped his hands and shouted, “Gwope, mon!” Enzo, choking up with laughter, said, “Dat shot, Mao!” 

     Kenyi smiled from ear to ear, “Dat beat ya ‘ada stories, Mao. Yu beat dem bad!” 

     Maochi smiled proudly. He could barely keep his eyes on the road, his eyes swelling up with tears. "A mi tell yu! Mi wife wasn’t happy!”

     Their laughter continued for a few moments. Once it died down, Badrick stood up from his seat and asked, “Ey, Mao. We at HalfWay Tree yet?” 

     “Chill, Paddie, we got a lil’ ways left,” Maochi reassured. 

     D’Angelo, restless as ever, bumped Badrick on the back, “It alright brada. It be like last show. Everyone wishin’ we sing Bob Marley, but when we play our jams, d’ey all start leavin’.”

     Massai walked up to D’Angelo, “Now brada, yu forg’ting our purpose. We no play for fame and glory like bro’da Marley. We play to sho’ good spirit an to make ‘em happy. We sho’ what Rasta tis all ‘bout!”

     “I hear ya, Massai,” D’Angelo said, a bit of lament in his voice, “but all I sayin’ is it be nice for ‘em to come to hear us, y’know? They don’t even clap fo’ us after we play!” 

     Kenyi, still puffing on his joint, said, “I see ya, mon. Marley paved da way for reggae, now tis our turn to walk.” 

     Enzo continued, “We not gon’ get famous ova’night, mon. Y’know it take time to get recognized.” Enzo felt what D’Angelo was saying as he thought the same thing. He kept telling himself the same thing every night. “Wit’ Haile’s guidance, we prosper.”

     D’Angelo shrugged his shoulders and sank into his seat. Enzo worried about the young one and gave a small prayer for him. Maochi’s story reminded him of his own wife, Kalisa. Every moment felt like half of him was gone, like a hole in his heart that couldn’t be filled. He wondered why he left her with their daughter Jada to go on this tour. Jada was only one and a half years old, he was missing the most important times of a child’s life—her first words, her first walk, eating with a spoon—all while he was traveling in this bus singing for people who don’t care. He felt like the worst dad in the world. But, he remembers why they are here; more people need to hear about Rastafari, and to spread good vibes to the people of Jamaica. 

     Reggae was the sound of their people. When Enzo is singing and playing guitar, he feels the closest to his ancestors and heritage. Playing reggae awakened those beyond the grave and serenades them in the afterlife, at least that’s what Enzo believed. He likes to think that his momma is there with him playing at every show. He believed in his religion, and in his band members, who have grown to be brothers to him. He was with his family, but it was kind of ironic to leave one family to be with another. He prayed that his wife and daughter were doing well without him and that he would be home soon. 

     Enzo reminded himself of the journal he kept in his backpack. He mostly used it for writing song lyrics, but lately he's used it to write letters to Kalisa and Jada. He knew he couldn't mail them back home, but he used them as a keepsake, to record his thoughts and emotions in the moment he felt them. Enzo released all his anxieties and fears into every word he wrote.

      Dear my lovely Kalisa and beautiful daughter Jada,

      I write to you again. It tis Day 57 since we say goodbye, and I've longed for your presence since. We continue to travel across Jamaica. I stare out this foggy smudged window watching the country fly by. There are so many new buildings being built… like the old Jamaica was dying and a new age is being born. I don’t like the changes. I miss the days of swimming in the crystal blue ocean, those perfect days when the sky was the same color as the ocean, the smell of the saltwater on our skin, and Momma’s special beach sandwiches. You member those?

     Just like the ocean, I never know how important something is to me till it’s gone. This long tour has me thinking how much I love my wife and daughter. I feel a constant ache in all of my body, such despair in my heart because of your absence. I promise to take my beautiful girls to the beach every day as long as the sky don't fall. 

     Our audience is still small. People hear our music but do not listen. I have felt such sadness for our band, and yet we're still not seen. It tis hard getting people to understand and follow our ways. My spirits may be down and my hopes are low, I still am determined to make my suffering worth something. I want to do good… but how can I?

     “Ey! Enzo!” D’Angelo shouted, snapping Enzo’s attention to him. “Quit ri’ting for a minute, mon! These puppies are ‘ungry. Go get ya stash.”

     Enzo moved to the back of the bus where the pot was kept in a small metal bin. He pulled out a glass jar of fat buds and held it out to D’Angelo. He rolled a few joints and passed them around. Enzo kept one for himself, took his seat, and took a few drags. He was tired of thinking about his momma, worrying about his family, and the state of his country. He waited for his mind to become foggy and closed his eyes.

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