Twilight Drive in Grenada

You are standing in front of a large yellow van parked on a high mountain road. You are tired and muddy from a four-mile hike through the jungle. It is past seven o’clock, and the sun is beginning to sink below the horizon. You and the other hikers pile into the van, and you take a window seat on the left side. The driver, aptly named Yellow Man, gets into the driver’s seat on the right side. He is wearing a yellow shirt, yellow pants, yellow socks and shoes, and a yellow rubber band in his long beard. He starts the engine and the van begins to roll down the slope. For no particular reason, you slide back the window and stick your head out in to the evening air.

The wind is warm on your face, carrying with it the smell of damp vegetation and, occasionally, goats. You also catch a faint whiff of rotting mangoes. Over the rushing air, you hear the almost-electronic peeping of thousands of tiny frogs in the jungle. The road winds through the mountains, looping back and forth through the valleys and slopes. Sometimes your view is blocked by a wall of volcanic stone, and sometimes the rainforest drops away, revealing the whole island spread out before you like a wrinkled green quilt.

You pass through a small town. The houses are painted all manner of colors: powder blue, bright pink, mango orange, and banana yellow. Reggae music blasts from a small pub where local men talk and play pool. Occasionally, a car rushes past in the opposite direction. Because you are seated on the left side of the van, you do not have to worry about your head being forcibly removed by on-coming traffic, but you do have watch out for branches sticking out into the road.

At one point, you pass a landfill. You smell it long before you see it in the fading light: the stench of burning rubber. The huge piles of garbage have been burning for years, rendering this beautiful valley entirely uninhabitable. You are very relieved as the van drives away, and start to breathe from your nose again.

The van gradually makes its way out of the mountains and into the capital, St. George’s. It is well past eight o’clock and the sun is long gone. The only light comes from the orange street lamps, and the van’s own headlights. By this time, your neck is very sore from holding it outside the window for over an hour. You briefly pull your head back into the vehicle, but you just can’t stand the inanity of the conversation from the back seat.

You are beginning to feel sleepy by the time the van drives through the marina gate. You hear the sound of tires crunching over gravel as the vehicle comes to a halt, and draw your head back through the window for the last time. Yellow Man kills the engine, hops out, and opens all the doors. The seventeen occupants of the fifteen-passenger van all tumble out. You gather up the bag of muddy shoes, and say good night to the other weary hikers. As you walk down the dock toward home, calypso music drifts across the water from faraway hills.