Bzzzz. Swat! Bzzzz. Swat! Milton, a bartender with a wide gap between his front teeth slapped his own forehead - hard - twice in just a few seconds. I can only assume that his intention was to kill the mosquito, that had been buzzing around his head. He missed both times. The mosquito, though, apparently took the hint and disappeared.
Milton and I were standing outside a small shop in Greater Portmore, St Catherine. It was early afternoon. I had met him close to an hour earlier and we passed the time talking about how much Portmore had grown in the past few years.
"It really coming like a different country to itself now," he said. "People talk about Portmore like how dem talk about Miami. We have our own likkle place over here, man," Milton said. It was a particularly windy afternoon and Milton was engaged in a mighty struggle to keep his cap on his head. With every gust, his hand rushed to protect his precious headgear which, he said, was a gift from his child's mother who lives in New York.
"If it did ever blow away, she kill me," he said, looking genuinely worried. I asked Milton why he didn't take the cap off, just to be safe. "No sah!" he snapped. "Sun too hot. Plus at least it protect mi head back from all ah di mosquito dem." I asked the gap-toothed bartender if mosquitoes were a major problem in that part of Portmore.
"Weh yuh really ask mi seh?" he said with dramatic flair. I told him I had always heard jokes about Portmore and mosquitoes, but I didn't know if they were based on facts of any kind.
"Bredrin, if yuh lef yuh shoes outside ah night, mosquito tek it weh and gone. If yuh lef yuh clothes pon line, dem tek it and go sport," said Milton. I chuckled. "It nuh funny!" he said, pulling for a black plastic bag that had been resting at his feet. Out of it he pulled what looked like a tennis racket.
"Dis is the only ting dat save we in Portmore," he said. "Yuh use it fi zap di mosquito dem. Mind sharp everybody inna Portmore have one. Yuh haffi walk wid it like how yuh walk wid yuh shoes, else dog nyam yuh supper. Or mi should say, else mosquito nyam yuh nose."
Milton went on to describe a dreary tale of sleepless nights, miserable mornings and agonising evenings spent locked inside his home with his wife, hiding from mosquitoes.
"Me is a man like siddung outside and hold a vibe, yuh know man," he said. "Sake ah mosquito mi haffi lock up inside like house mouse wid dis woman and har nagging. More time mi woulda stay out till all 10 o'clock and den just go in and sleep. But now mi haffi hitch up wid har from sun set else mosquito kill mi outside. Di window dem haffi lock and di door. One likkle space and dem find dem way inside and, if that happen, dem sing inna yuh ears whole night. It terrible, man."
Milton was clearly troubled by all this, so I asked him what he planned to do about it. Much more of the same would surely drive him mad.
"Mi nuh know yuh know!" he said.
"Portmore need fi start charge di mosquito dem tax. Maybe dat will help, 'cause believe me, if we don't do something bout dem, man will soon start go home and find dem woman into bed wid mosquito. Is so dem wicked, man. Is so dem wicked," Milton said.
Where should Robert go next? Let him know at firstname.lastname@example.org
The following is feedback to last week's Roving with Lalah at Red Light in St Andrew:
Love this piece of writing! So easy to read and understand. Thanks, Robert!
I love Red Light and that whole area. This article makes me want to move back home to Jamaica.
A great read! Looking forward to next week already.
Really enjoyed this piece. Thanks a lot, Robert. Rove on!