Riding the Bus in Grenada (a Poem)

Sharon Almerigi takes her life in her hands

Illustration by Lilo Nido

Riding a Grenadian bus is like a spiritual experience.
Not because it puts you closer to the hereafter,
and not because you find yourself uttering
prayers when being transported at incredible speeds.
But because of the state of mind that comes over you
during the exhilarating journey.
It’s a sense of peace,
the kind that you get from total surrender to a higher authority.
That higher authority you entrust
with your precious soul is a skilled driver
who knows every rut and crack
of his route and can steer his trinket-filled
time-capsule through spaces
you wouldn’t even attempt on a bicycle.
Appearing like a sultan on his beaded throne,
relaxed, aristocratic, handsome, he isn’t to be bothered.

If you have a question
you can pose it to his doorman.
He’s the guy with the money who is perfectly comfortable
occupying less than one inch of seat space.
This multi-faceted individual
wears a variety of hats.
He’s an aggressive salesman in the market square,
and when he’s earned enough riders
he becomes an accountant
and arranger of bodies, placing them all —
thin, fat, young, old—
in strategic locations
according to size and order of literature.

The door slams, and there’s a slow climb.
It’s like the first ascent of a roller coaster
when you know it’s too late to turn back.
You’re on your way. Over town and country,
past church, cemetery and rum shop,
around hairpin curves and blind corners.
You wonder, with vehicles, animals
and pedestrians flying past your view,
why you feel so relaxed?
After all, there are such things as
falling rocks, landslides
and crash-and-burn endings.
You search the faces around you for traces of fear
but there’s not one bit of tension
in those necks that tilt in unison around every corner.
There’s only this pleasant sense of being
totally at peace with the world.

From whence came this unforeseen euphoria?
Was it the hypnotic cadence of reggae
that seemed to synchronise all hearts on board?
No, I think the kind of serenity
you get from riding on a Grenadian bus
comes from a solid assurance of tomorrow
and an optimistic faith in survival.
So whenever I’m tempted to get nervous and distressed
over life’s little challenges (and big ones too)
I like to imagine I’m on a Grenadian bus
where I’ve placed my fear of the worst into the hands
of the intrepid sultan and his able man of business.