Nils meets me at the airport with a SAAB to drive me back. He has taken to smoking. I recall that he may have begun the last time, before he left, cigars, perhaps an occasional cigarette, but he had promised to stop, or said that he would stop. He smokes incessantly in the car.
'You said you would stop.'
'Oh. yes, well, I can't now. I'm too dependant'
'Residency must be pretty tough..'
'Yes. It is. It'll do this to you.'
He smokes one cigarette after another, blowing white smoke out the window to mingle with the white haze from the dogwood trees. He smokes some more. Stubble appears on his chin... his eyes sink slowly into his head.
Nils is metamorphosing. From his eyebrows up, he looks like Nils, face down, he is turning into Staffan Normark, former chairman of Molecular Microbiology.
I want to say something, but I don't know what I should say: 'You should stop smoking, you're turning into Staffan Normark,' but how would that sound? He might take it the wrong way.
... David has a nice bungalow on one of the barrier islands. They, the government or a miltary agency, deforested everything from Myrtle Beach to south of Jacksonville to clear everyone off of the islands. Things have grown back to near jungle status, as they once were before the developing began. David has been allowed to return to keep an eye on things. I still think he waits tables.
I can see over vast expanses of marsh and estuary from his front porch. Between two points of land the meandering waterways open into a sound. It would be a perfect day to go sailing. Maria lives a few miles down the dirt road in a house, built by David and some of his friends from the army. Her roof has not yet rusted. I imagine it 'pings' wonderfully in a rainstorm. Maybe I'll go visit her.
Except, well, I don't think I should. We heard reports, wild rumors of an invasion over the radio. Haiti. Haiti is sending an invasion force to the U.S. to pre-emptorily forestall a U.S. invasion of Haiti. These rumors came out of Charleston, but if we are in danger we must be further south, in Florida. There is no one around, no military installation, nothing. Nothing worth taking. David is fairly upset by the reports because he's the closest thing to miltary personel for 50 miles around. He'd have to defend everything and everyone himself. He has a gun, one gun, and his friend Tyler has a gun too. They get together to clean their weapons in case we're invaded. I tell him he should hide it and not admit to anything. If the Haitans discover he has a weapon, they might be more prone to a battle. Otherwise they'll probably just leave us alone. I think this invasion is a symbolic invasion: if we're going to take their land, they want to compensate by taking ours, well, 'they' as in the ruling government. Governments don't like to have land ripped out from beneath them, regardless of what the voting populace thinks.
I decide to visit Maria, around 7PM. While I'm floating over to her house, the invasion begins. I meet her floating down the road. She tells me not to go any further, the Haitians have taken her house. It was the first semblance of civilization they encountered. They were very happy to take it. Now they have a tangible structure. We turn around and go back to David's to warn him. He, Tyler and a few other people have gathered behind a stone wall by David's house, preparing for a fight. Maria tells them not to do it, the Haitians are actually very nice, they'll leave after a few days. This move is just to show they invaded us before we invaded them.
However, all the men want to fight. Maria and I go inside to make some lemonade. Ultimately David and the others come inside too. 'They're only Haitian special forces, but we'll be outnumbered 100 to 1. I don't like the army enough that I'm going to get killed for a symbolic invasion. Maybe we'll have a barbecue instead...'
Within minutes, three big rastas wearing fatigues break down our door and trample in carrying machine guns and heavy weapons. A trickle of smaller men come in behind them. Haitian Special Forces. The man who seems to be their captian says, 'Excuse me bot we teke this house for Haiti.' He bows slightly to be polite. Everyone shouts 'Vive Haiti CHA! CHA! CHA!,' high fives all around, loud cheers in french. David shrugs his shoulders and looks at me. No one seems to know what to do. David tells me he's going to get the grille started.
'Qu'est qu'il fait?,' the captian asks me.
'Un grand boum. Nous allons avoir un grand boum, un Bar-B-Q..'
'Ah, pour nous?'
I think of telling him the truth: no, not for them, only because we have nothing better to do under occupation, but perhaps he would prefer it we held a party for them... that wouldn't be right though... we're certainly not happy to be occupied. I tell him today is a celebrated day for having a party, that's why we're having it. The commander does not seem to be adverse to having a BBQ while we're occupied. He just won't let David or any of his friends leave the house.
The rasta core discovers the Jack Daniels under the kitchen sink and begins passing beverage around in their army issue cups. Someone asks me if we have a piano.. there should be music. I tell him we have a radio. However, since we are under occupation we can't listen to the radio. Most of the arriving army satisfies itself by singing drunken reggae songs to the beat of overturned pots and drumming sticks.
Three of the smaller rastas are helping David and his friends cook the burgers. One of the lieutenants helps Maria and I make lemonade for eveyone. He tells us it's very hot here, and the land they chose to take has no roads. They had to clear everything with machettis, and even then they couldn't bring tanks or any big equipment ashore. Their boats will be back in two days to take them back to Haiti. He seems unconcerned about what will happen if the U.S. send forces into south Florida to clear them out before their boats return. He adds some vodka to the pitcher of lemonade and takes it to the dining room, joining his drunken comrades.