"Can I help you, sir?" A big man, who was clearly in charge, appeared in my line of sight. Blocking me from the taxi stand.
"No...um, yes." I start to point at the tent. "I'd like to buy.."
"That's for the taxi drivers, not for sale." He said as he walked back down to the beach.
I stood there confused for a few seconds and then walked a little closer to the tent. Every time someone opened one of the chafing dishes I would try to figure out what was in them. One had chicken wings gently simmering in a thick liquid. The other had big chunks of fatty ham that were bathing in a thin juice. The smell coming from this area was intoxicating. I needed to try this food. I started to walk back to the beach to look for the man in charge. I took some cash from my wallet and folded it in my hand.
"Are you sure I can't buy some of that food?" I pointed to the tent with the cash.
"Sorry, sir, that is for the taxi drivers." And he walked away from me again. I knew right there this guy was not my in to try this food.
I walked back to our camp and sat on my chair. Waiting for me was a nice strong rum drink. I took a sip and started to accept that I was not eating something special today.
"Do you smell that?" Kris asks me. "Where is it coming from?"
"Over there." I pointed. Then I explained to her why I was not eating any.
"You like making friends." She said.
"Make friends with a taxi driver."
"Brilliant!" I said as I jumped out of my chair, almost spilling my drink.
I found myself walking near the taxi stand. Pretending to be interested in all the trinkets at the shops. Going through the t-shirts, trying to be inconspicuous. But, I'm sure I appeared out of place. Clearly I was only interested in the food. My eyes on it the whole time. I was walking closer to the tent. I was scanning all the taxi drivers, gauging the friendliest one. The next thing I knew, I was amongst them.
"That smells great." My opening line.
"Taste good, too." One taxi driver said. All his friends agreed with nods and happy grunts. I started to tell them how I would like to buy some. Before I could get the sentences out, one had made me a small plate. I thankfully accepted and tried to hand him some money. He refused and I persisted, then I just slipped it into his shirt's top pocket. He continued talking to his friends and I headed back to my beach chair.
The plate he had made for me consisted of the chicken wings and some coconut bread. Noticeably absent from the dish were the chunks of ham, but that's okay. The last thing that I was going to do was place a special order for some ham. They were nice enough to share their food with me, I was not going to push my luck. The chicken tasted great. It was briefly grilled, then braised in a sweet and spicy sauce. It also had a nice citrusy aftertaste to it. The coconut bread was thick and dense and had a subtle sweetness to it. It was perfect for wiping up the sauce off the plate. I was very happy, and very satisfied. I sat back in my chair, sipped my rum drink, and enjoyed the rest of the day. Most of my thoughts were filled with images of the ham that I never tasted. But, it didn't matter. Because I knew that someday, somehow, I would be back in Tortola, back on that beach, and eating that ham.