I attended a Caribbean medical school, Saint George’s University, on the island of Grenada. It’s a beautiful place with clean beaches, clear water and enjoyable activites such as leather back turtle expeditions; however it also has aspects that aren’t as charming. In essence, it is a third world country with the same type of begging drug addicts that is seen in your everyday, ordinary country.
One particular night on this island was more memorable than others. My classmates and I were celebrating the end of another round of exams. This is a familiar scene of drunken debauchery that often leads to errors in fidelity. The night started at the night club, ‘Karma,’ in the city.
As the dancing and drinking progressed, the regular hard hitters in my class were slurring their words while those that tend to keep their composure were maintaining with a rum and coke or Carib. By the end, everybody was a sweaty mess due to the heat and humidity of Caribbean climate.
At 3am it was time to leave and as many of us that could possibly fit plowed into an empty cab. Bodies were stacked on top of each other in this vehicle that resembled the likes of a VW bus. Full of inebriated medical students, the driver took off.
It was the usual cab drive back to campus, flying down narrow one-way roads and veering too close to comfort along cliff edges that ended in the ocean. [Un]fortunately, I was dropped off first because I live off campus in the neighborhood, Lance Aux Epines. He came to a jerking stop at the deserted roundabout next to the Texaco gas station. As my legs hit the ground, he was already speeding off with the rest of the piled bodies in the cab.
When it hit me what had just happened, it was too late. I was a white boy in a third world country with a figurative bulls-eye targeted on my wallet. I quickly put any thoughts of how easily I could be physically overtaken and began to walk toward my neighborhood.
In between the roundabout and Lance Aux Epines there are half-dozen small huts. They’re notoriously festered with bums and drug addicts. The usual, ‘hey white boy, you looking?’ could be heard. On this occasion two gentlemen chose to escort me back to my apartment. The more aggressive of the two locals was notably pushy, and from what I gathered later, more desperate for money. The less desperate chap hung back a few steps, yet remained within 10 to 15 feet of us as at all times.
The aggressive gentleman politely struck up a conversation with me as we continued to walk. “You got an extra couple EC to spare, brother?” This was the usual conversation opener that the locals used when talking to the students. I decided to ignore the polite request and kept moving. I have a strong opinion to not give handouts to leeches because this encourages future requests for more money. However, looking back I may have avoided the later predicament if I had just given him the money.
Ignoring him did not deter the man from following me and continuing the one-sided conversation. In fact, making him walk more must have irritated him as determined by the transition in the conversation. The topic became an argument that I owe him money. This was how these interactions commonly progressed because the locals that chose not to work a normal job for money had a tendency to view us as philanthropists that enjoyed handing out money. Personally, I am not a man to give away money.
He became increasingly irritated by my lack of generosity. Thus, he began lightly grabbing my right shoulder to get me to pay more attention to him, much like a 3 year old child would do to his mother when he dires his mother’s attention. As I kept walking, the light grabbing of my shoulder became more serious, which meant I had to step up soon.
I stopped. Looked him in the eyes and told him that I didn’t have any money on me. We both knew it was a lie, but the purpose was to inform him that I would not give him any anything.
At this point, the less aggressive local that had been trailing behind us sternly announced to the gentleman tugging at me, “Leave him! You shouldn’t have smoked my stuff if you didn’t have the money.”
After hearing this, I quickly began walking again, for the situation had just elevated to a different level. I understood why the aggressive local was so desperate for my money. He now had to pay this drug dealer and I was his means of acquiring the money to pay his debt.
As well, the desperate local’s urge for me to give him money became more serious. Of the thoughts that were going through my mind, the most prominent one was trying to wrap my head around the idea that this leech somehow thinks I will be responsible for paying his debt when he was the one that didn’t have the self control not to smoke somebody else’s marijuana. I was failing to grasp the extraordinarily loose connection that I had with this local’s inability to delay gratification so that he can get paid at a real job in order to afford his drug habits.
The roundabout and huts were getting further behind us as we entered Lance Aux Epines. The long driveway to my apartment complex was quickly approaching on the left and these two gentlemen were refusing to allow me to carry on alone. I didn’t want to show them where I lived in case they ever sought revenge by breaking in to my apartment. Thus, I stopped just before the driveway. I tried to convince the desperate local once again that I was not going to give him a single penny, but he wasn’t having it. The local that was further behind had now caught up to us and joined in with the other local in harassing me about giving them money. Thus, it became an increasingly frustrating situation in which I owed them money for services I couldn’t recall them performing.
As this twisted conversation continued between the three of us, a Range Rover driving toward us became visible. I thought myself to be lucky since this vehicle would be more likely to help me rather than these drug addicts/dealers. To all of our dismay, he wasn’t there to help any of us except for himself.
The vehicles in Grenada are right hand drive (the driver sits on the right side of the car). The Range Rover was approaching so that the passenger side was toward us, and as it got closer, we could see the window lowering. The vehicle stopped three feet from us. The dim street light up the road barely allowed the passenger to be visible. I could not determine what either of these men were wearing, but it was definitely not police outfits.
The reason that they had stopped suddenly became clear, the passenger quickly pulled a shotgun into visibility and pointed it directly at me. I’m not certain why it was directed at me, but I’ll have to assume it was because I was the only one that stood in place. The two gentlemen that were following me began running past the Range Rover, which forced the passenger holding the shotgun to hand it off to the driver so that he could be free to chase them. The passenger had jumped out of the vehicle in time to catch the more aggressive local by the arm. The other local was fleeing into the nearby brush to disappear. Despite the shotgun switching to the driver’s hands, it remained pointed at me. Being able to see the orientation of the barrel left me without the courage to discuss what they were after. I had never had a gun pointed with intent at me, and it was a chilling experience that made me not want to move.
The man that jumped out of the passenger seat was dressed in inconspicuous long pants and a cotton t-shirt. He was now man-handling the local and yelling at him to strip all of his clothes to the ground. The local undressed with as much resistance as he could manage while he was being repeatedly shoved against the back of the Range Rover. With his pants now completely off, wearing only whitey-tighties and t-shirt, he tried to make another run for it.
He did not get very far when a third man jumped out of the vehicle to give chase. This man had not been visible before because he was hidden by the darkness of the night and the tint of the windows. This was also at the point that some of my questions were answered, but not all of them. The third man was dressed in formal police attire. After giving chase for only a few steps, the officer caught him and proceeded to punch him in the abdomen until the local toppled forward on to the ground. He then dragged the local to the back of the SUV and the stripping continued. It was a very forceful event that included as much yelling as there were punches.
The driver with the shotgun still pointed at me demanded to know if I had bought anything from them. I proceeded to try to explain that I was merely trying to get home when the leeches tried to suck me dry of money and I wanted nothing to do with them. While the driver was distracted by the scene behind the SUV, I decided to move out of the direction that the barrel of the shotgun was pointed.
After stripping the leech completely naked, including whitey-tighties, it did not seem that they found any contraband. I was disappointed by this, but not surprised. The desperate local had been so hard up for money that it was easy to assume that he had used any drug that was in his possession.
The officer, with the help of the other passenger, then threw the local into the back of the Range Rover where there appeared to be a cage set up for such occasions. The shotgun was finally removed from sight, and the men got back into the car without saying another word to me. I wasn’t sure why they thought I was dangerous enough to keep the barrel pointed at me, but it was very effective.