“You have to keep your vision clear, cause only a coward lives in fear.” - Nas
There I stood, on the second floor of a crowded bar. Surrounded by a group of familiar faces that had always felt somewhat unfamiliar. I gripped my Red Stripe a little closer to my chest, thinking I would also need a shot to cope with my introversion.
I had debated about whether or not to take this trip South Carolina. But as soon as I heard about the beaches at Hilton Head it sounded more like folklore than a quiet town to visit. Every year, the tradition was the graduating class at Williams College rented homes along the beach for one last party weekend before our adult lives officially began. I was only 23 years old and I had done enough partying for a few men. But back then, I considered that more a badge of honor than a warning sign.
My first night out in this two-story bar gave me doubts about my decision. I started to feel this place was just a substitute for the dorm floor parties with kegs, jello shots and the snitch of Abercrombie & Fitch cologne. Where upper-middle class and sheltered white kids seemed like they experienced a cathartic release when they sang in belligerent unison once “Sweet Home Alabama” started playing over someone’s overpriced laptop speakers.
Yes these were the some people, but this wasn’t quite the same place. The humidity let you know immediately this place was different. The type of air that made you feel a consequence for sitting still and a greater one for moving. The town was quite, yet alive with luscious plants and a confident wind that came and left with the type of steady force that made you wonder if it had a message to convey.
I realized that message on the second floor of this two-story bar when the band started to play. “He was a buffalo soldier, dreadlock-rasta.” I had heard this Bob Marley song before, but I never felt it. I was captured. I stood in the middle of the packed bar in a trance-like stance. This cover-band that I had never heard of went from being background noise of another lame Williams party to men that will forever be a part of my story. They stopped whatever agenda I made for myself that night. The weekend that was supposed to be about party folklore had become an occasion to be reminded of my purpose.
“Fighting on Arrival, Fighting for Survival.”
The words looped in my head. I stayed up all night. I only told Devin Fitzgerald of the spiritual experience at the bar. He look at me intently as I explained what happened. When I finished talking he calmly responded saying “follow me.” We walked up to two unattended bikes and started to ride them through the streets of Hilton Head as the sun started to rise. We took our bikes to the beach and road along the shore. We didn’t say anything to each other, we didn’t need to, the ocean did all the talking. I have held it’s message close to my chest ever since.