I have always known that I was not supposed to have been born here. My taste buds are not like that of the people around me. My taste in music was definitely not like the people around me. My thought process is not like anyone around me and my friends are not shy in informing me of this. My mom and I would blast reggae and African music on Saturdays and we traveled the world through the airwaves. We danced, swayed, clapped, chuckled and circled to the music. When we finally dropped from exhaustion I would say to her: “Mom I was not supposed to be born here. I feel like I’m supposed to be somewhere else.” She always nodded in affirmation and told me she understood. The music we danced to seemed to take me away and so we would stop dancing. Like a yo-yo something just seemed to pull me back and return me from where I started. I could never explain the feeling and could never describe the absence but I just knew there was more. I’ve always been comfortable in my skin but it always felt as if something was missing.
Have you ever tasted spaghetti made by someone who pours that Prego sauce straight out of the jar? The cook just pours the mildly seasoned, mediocre, red sauce lightly peppered with parsley over steaming pasta and stirs the pot. And just as it is, it falls on your plate and you are told to enjoy that. Bon Appétit say. You stare at the thin watered down sauce as it runs away from the pasta. It has nothing exciting about it. No special seasoning, no alluring smell attached to the steam that rises from the dish. It looks like boiled tomato. Well that was my life prior to 2012.
July 2012, my spaghetti sauce got spiced! …and tasted authentically Italian. For the first time, I stepped foot in Jamaica!! My spaghetti sauce was seasoned with sunshine, warmth, and beaches and attitude. A friend of mine always says that island blood dies hard and it has to be true. I do have island roots but I am detached from them. I have no idea where they are located and though I try I certainly do not know how to reach them.
As physically distant as those roots are, they are they only reason that I could explain the connection to that place. That gravitational pull of a connection is always why I felt more at home the deeper south I would travel. As I stepped off of the airplane it became easier to breath. I was HOME and I could not take the smile off of my face.
Jamaica had much to offer. The people were nice and personable, some were aggressive and full of vibes and attitude and I loved all of it. Hearing them chat patwah was like witnessing a soulful musical. Their language was so colorful and animated. It not only included their voice but also their bodies. Whether tense and vex or calm and easy, hearing people speak was like feeling the rhythm and thud of drums in my chest. It made Jamaica musical to me- this even when reggae was not playing. Even the sounds of the crickets were mesmerizing. Crickets in The States do have a calming effect (as long as the cricket doesn’t sneak into the house) but the sound of the Jamaican crickets just seem to have more song… more rhythm. Maybe if the sound of them was more common to me I wouldn’t make such a big deal out of it, but until the day that happens, a big deal it remains.
The weather was up and down and I still had no problem. I always had a problem with Mid-Atlantic weather. Give me heat, humidity and rain. I would rather suffer that than snow, ice and artic weather. I complained many times about the sun when it decided to place a strong slash across my face but I very much prefer that. I remember getting off of the bus to eat at Scotchie’s. The bus was air conditioned and so I traveled with no anguish. Stepping off of the bus was a different story. The humidity in the air felt as if I drove full speed into a brick wall. My head and neck even jerked back in a halting motion as if my body were trying to gasp for the last bit of the world’s Oxygen. I remember a heavy suffocating feeling like trying to breathe through multiple plastic bags. Even with what I thought was extreme heat, I still loved it all the same.
Jamaica left so much of an imprint and vibe in me that most days now I think about and plan on my permanent return. I have visited again and again and continue to do so until I can really make it my home. Mi soon come.