They say nothing clears the mind like a long trip. I was about to go on one.
Seth was going back to Kentucky to pick up some of things he had left there when he moved to Miami. He invited me to go with him and I accepted. I had vacation time since the wedding was off. Why not use it. Rosa really didn’t care where I went.
The start of the journey was a little awkward. It could be it was too early in the morning or unfamiliarity. The awkwardness starts as soon as I entered the mini-van Seth rented. He was blasting hard rock and heavy metal music. I tried to bear it for a little bit but could not. I hated rock and heavy metal music.
“Do you want me to change the music” Seth asked.
“Yes” I responded.
He fumbled around and put in another CD. What came next was worst.
He switched to country music.
I put the CD player on pause.
“Can we play the radio” I asked.
Eventually we agreed on music. It would be soft rock, 60’s and 70’s hits.
The Jamaican expression “See mi a one, come live wid mi is annada” came to mind.
I worked with Seth but it would be different being around him for the long drive the next few days.
In the beginning the conversation we had while driving was limited to work. Seth was recently promoted to a director. We talked about the people at work. We talked about some of the incidents at work. The gossip and who was sleeping with whom. I learned that he loved working at the company. He wanted to move up in the company.
I also got some inside “scoop” on who was going to be promoted. I was not one of them. He discussed some of the office politics and how people operated when it came to “power”. It proved some of things I saw at work but never had any evidence to confirm. There was one lady who was very paranoid about being left out of the “management loop”. She tried to be tough as a boss. She tried hard to please upper level management. She was one of the meanest mangers and no one trusted her. If you saw her coming you would head in the other direction. He told me she was insecure and complained to the Human Resources (HR) department. Upper management did not like her but could not fire her because of her complaints to HR. In fact they start to take advantage of her insecurity to push her performance. She was a hard worker.
As we moved into to the state of Georgia Seth started to talk politics. He was a Republican, which I assumed he would be. He assumed that I was a Democrat. I did not vote so I did not have a party but I liked the Democrats. He was trying to convince me to become a Republican.
I thought all politicians are corrupt. I did not want to engage in the conversation but we were in a moving vehicle where there was no walking away. The conversation also seemed to help with the pace of the long drive.
With his assumption of me being a Democrat Seth asked some tough questions in his efforts to have me switch parties. The goal of the questions was to bolster his premise that my views as a Jamaican are more Republican than I may think.
He tried to box me in. He wanted Yes or No answers.
“Do you agree with abortion, yes or no?”
I paused before answering. My memory of suspecting Rosa having an abortion came to mind. The thought of losing a child to an abortion disturbed me.
“No” I replied.
Do you believe in creating an environment where anyone can start a successful business, yes or no?”
Before I could answer he added more.
“All the Jamaicans I know since I moved here either have a business on the side or they are striving to start one.”
He was right. Jamaicans living in the USA were very entrepreneurial. We love the idea of starting a business.
“Yes” I replied to his question.
“Do you believe in prayer in schools, yes or no?”
In Jamaica we did prayer and pledge growing up. There was nothing wrong with it.
“Yes” I replied.
The question got more difficult. I knew where he was headed next.
“Do you believe in gay rights, yes or No?”
Before I could answer he added a comment.
“All the Jamaicans I met do not believe in the gay agenda. They even told me that there are songs made to kill homosexuals in Jamaica. They had a name for gay men…bataaman…or something like that”
I was not really sure what he was asking as I did not know what was the gay agenda or gay rights.
I worked with gay people and had no problem with them. I came to the conclusion that what people did in their bed room was none of my business even if that orientation was different.
The way Seth put the question did not allow me any wiggle room. Before I could say anything he responded.
“I think you are on the side of most Jamaicans”
“Why do you say that?” I asked. I hate when people put words in my mouth.
“Your silence and the look on your face”
“I don’t care what people do in their bedroom” I responded.
“That was not my question. Do you believe in gay rights?”
I was caught in a difficult position. If I said yes to gay right he could tell some of the Jamaicans at work and it would cause a problem.
“Not every question is a yes or no answer”
Okay let’s leave that one. How do you feel about immigration? You came here the right way and now you have all these illegal’s who are coming here taking away jobs. Do you think there should be stricter immigration laws?
“Yes “, I shot back quickly. The question was a good one. I disagreed with him but could not say anything. There was no way I could show this disagreement as it would open up questions. These questions may lead to him finding out that I was an illegal alien. I will let him continue to assume I was here legally.
“Do you realize that you agree with most of the policies of the Republicans? You should switch parties” Seth declared.
“You would be different” he added.
Our discussion on politics was cordial and even funny but that comment hit a nerve.
“What do you mean by different?”
“Different from the norm” he replied.
He was skirting the issue of race. It was one of the things I found both black and white people do. They “skate” around race. I loved having that discussion.
“Do you mean I would be different because I am black?”
Even though it was getting dark I could see Seth’s face. He was turning red.
“Aaahh….. I guess so”
I opened Pandora’s Box. We now moved from politics to race.
“I hear that black people don’t join the Republican Party because they believe the Republicans don’t like black people”
That hit a nerve with him.
“That is not true; in fact it was a Republican President that freed the slaves”
“But most of the mean comments against black people seem to come for Republicans” I countered.
“Sure there are some silly comments made on both sides but that does not mean Republicans hate black people”
I think he was being very careful of how he said things to avoid the word racist. I pushed the button further.
“Most black I know she the Republican Party as racist”
“That is a lie the media has been feeding everyone for years but that is just not the case”
“Are there any black Republicans in your hometown?”
Seth paused before he answered. He was even redder.
“I don’t know any in my hometown. I did not grow up around black people”
My mouth almost dropped to the floor.
“What do you mean you did not grow up around any black people?”
“My hometown has only white people and a few native Indians. The only black people I saw were on TV”
What a shocker. I was going to a town with no black people. Then I started to wonder. How could he grow up not encountering black people? I was now curious.
“When did you first encounter real black people?”
“When I came to Florida”
“Wow!!!” I said it out loud. I did not mean to say it out loud.
Even growing up in Jamaica with is a majority black country I encountered ever race. With a country like the USA with black people in the movies and in the media I could not picture someone not interacting with them.
Seth started to smile “I know it sounds funny but it is true. Now promise me you won’t go around telling everyone this”.
“I won’t” I replied. I appreciated his honesty.
We both went silent. We were entering Tennessee.
I was now questioning the trip to this small town in Kentucky. I had heard about KKK and Neo-Nazis groups still in small towns in the US. Would I be safe? I think Seth read my mind.
“Don’t worry about my town. They are not racist people there” He was trying to reassure me. I smiled back at him to acknowledge his statement. The reality is that I cannot see what is in someone’s heart by looking at them from the outside.
We stopped to get gas. I took over driving. We took a long break from talking. Seth got some sleep. The deal was I would drive till I got to the exit near his home town.
We arrived late evening to Seth’s parent’s house. They were waiting for us on the porch. The home was like the ones you see in the old time TV show. The Andy Griffiths TV show came to mind. Seth rushed to the porch and hugged his parents. I lagged behind. His father was a tall man with a crew cut. He looked like a farmer. His mother was a short lady with blond hair and blue eyes. The same eyes Seth had.
His father gave me a stiff hand shake. His mother grabbed me and gave me a big hug.
“So this is your Jamaican friend we heard so much about”
“Yep” Seth replied.
“You all must be hungry?” his mother asked.
Before we could answer she was pushing us to the dinner table. She had a Southern meal ready with apple pie for dessert. His parents prayed before we ate.
Seth’s mother was warm and engaging. Her blue eyes were unavoidable. She asked questions about Jamaica. She and Seth’s dad wanted to visit one day. I told them what I usually tell the typical tourist traveler. Go to Ocho Rios and Dunn’s River Falls.
We talked for a while before I excused myself to go to the bathroom. The more I saw of the house the more I was convinced it was something from an old movie. The bathroom was modern.
There was a heated discussion when I got back to the table. The quieted down when they saw me. I would later learn from Seth that his ex-wife was harassing his parents and spreading rumors about him.
Seth’s mother showed me the room I would be sleeping in. It was cozy and decorated country style. There was a bed, a night stand and a few paintings. The night stand had a big bible on it. After a shower I went to sleep. I was very tired.
After being in Seth’s home town for 2 days I realized I was the talk of the town. Everyone wanted to meet me. Everyone wanted to talk to me. We went to the town church the Sunday during my stay. I felt like a celebrity afterward. Everyone came up to meet me.
At first I thought my popularity was because I was black and as Seth mentioned there were not any black residents in his town. I soon learned that was probably not the case. I was popular because I was Jamaican. They wanted to know if I was related to Bob Marley or if I was related to any of the Jamaican Bobsled team members? The bobsled team had gained popularity since they made a movie about them in 1993. I loved the attention and the feeling of being wanted by everyone. Seth told me to have fun with it as it would help him with his popularity in the town. So I had some fun. I made up a few stories along the way. By the end of day 3, I was a distant cousin of a member of the Bobsled team and also a distant cousin to Bob Marley.
There was the one girl I saw before and after the church service that never came over to meet me.
She was a tall, blond with brown eyes. She was not drop dead gorgeous but had a look that was intriguing and beautiful at the same time. She had a look that magnetized you. She had big eyes.
Our eyes met a few times and I knew there was something. I looked away but during and after the church services our eyes met again. After the service people came over to meet me but she did not. She was talking to a few people as I was meeting people. I would glance over to her. Each time I did this she was looking at me. Our eyes kept meeting.
I was not going to pursue it as I was still holding hope that Rosa and I would get married some day.
I encountered her again when Seth took me to the local bar. She was with friends. Our eyes kept meeting. We even bumped into each other as she was going to the ladies room and I was leaving the men’s rest room. Our eyes met but no words were spoken. There was no need for words. Our eyes spoke to each other.
The real reason for the visit was Seth getting some things from his old house. He gave it to his ex-wife after the divorce. The encounter with Seth’s ex-wife at the house was not fun. It was the only experience on the trip I regretted. Seth had mentioned that she was a “crazy witch” and I thought he was exaggerating especially with the warm welcome I got from all the nice people in the town. I could not imagine anyone being mean. After my experience with her I was surprised a broom was not parked outside.
Seth had called 5 weeks ahead to tell her the evening he was coming over to get his things. We drove to the house at the time he told her. She was not there. We waited for an hour and she did not show up. For 3 days we played a cat and mouse game with her.
On day four we finally were able to get in the house. She was a tall brunette that was not bad looking. She seemed to be dressed extra sexy in a mini-skirt and tight blouse. Seth mentioned she was trying to say “this is what you used to have and it is still good.
Everything was going fine until Seth went into the master bedroom to get a few of his items. I was in the spare room taking items back and forth to the minivan.
“That’s not yours” I heard Seth ex-wife scream.
“It is” I heard Seth reply.
That was when a string of four and eight letter curse words came out her mouth. She was bringing up stuff about their marriage. She questioned him as a provider. She was questioning his performance in bed. I was getting “bits and pieces” of this one-sided quarrel as I continued to carry items back and forth. Then I heard a scream.
“Go back to Miami to your spick bit*ch”
She caught a glimpse of me as she said it. She screamed at me.
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“What are you looking at boy?”
That set Seth off. He told her to behave. She continued to spew hate at him. I was afraid the police was going to be called as we were outside and I am sure the neighbors could hear. It seemed it would eventually escalate into a physical confrontation as she was now grabbing items from his hand.
Seth walked away.
“Let’s go” he told me.
We got in the mini-van and left. He got most of the items he came for. We drove in silence for a little while then he apologized for her behavior. I told him there was no need to apologize.
It was the day before we were headed back to Miami. It seemed like everyone knew we were leaving. The town wanted to send us off so Seth parents had a barbeque for us.
The mystery girl that I saw at the church service and the bar was there.
Being that it was the day before I was leaving there was nothing to lose. I was drawn to her. She was talking to 3 other people but as soon as she saw me she knew. She stepped away from the “conversation circle”.
“Hi, I saw you a few times but we never met”
“I am Amber” she extended her hand.
When we touched there was electricity. It was quick. She realized it and so did I.
We became engrossed in a conversation like old friends. We talked for hours. I ignored all the people that were waiting to wish me well. I quickly shook the hand of others to get back to the conversation. We talked about everything. We spoke about our childhood, our parents, our jobs, our likes, our dislikes and our dreams of the future. She wanted to visit Jamaica.
It was getting late and everyone was leaving. “Where did the time go?” I thought to myself.
This is where it got very awkward.
“I have to go. I work in the morning”, Amber said.
I wanted to badly say “Please stay a little longer, but could not”
What was I to do next? I wanted her phone number. It seemed like the next logical step after spending hours talking to her. But I could not do that. I had Rosa waiting for me back in Miami. I had to come up with something.
“Do you think you would ever visit Miami”, I asked.
“Maybe, if someone invites me”, she replied. She was clearly talking about me.
I need to not close this wide open door.
“I live with my sister right but if you ever want to visit you have an open invitation”, It was a great line but how was she to contact me. It did however leave the door open. It would also make her feel safe as Sue would be there. If she did accept I would try would “make up an excuse”.
“That would be great” she replied.
Then I did it.
“Can you give me your phone number” I asked.
I would hide it away from Rosa and Sue. Then she had a strange request.
“Can you write me instead?” she asked.
She saw the look on my face. Was she ashamed if I called her?
“I live with my parents who eavesdrop on every call. I love writing. It is more personal”
She did mention her love for poetry and writing before. It made sense. She is the type of person that would cherish letters and read them over and over. She was very different that any girl I ever met and I liked it.
I found a notepad and she wrote her address.
Our hands touched again as I passed her the note pad. There was more electricity. Our eyes met in a long stare. It felt like a long kiss but it was not.
“Good bye” she walked away.
“Bye” I turned and walked back to the house.
We both looked back at each other at the same time.
I stood at the back door and watched her disappear in the dark. I waited for 5 minutes. I was waiting for her to re-appear.
I had to get some sleep. We were leaving early in the morning. Sleep would not come. Amber was on my mind. I never felt this comfortable around anyone since Angela. I had butterflies every time I thought of Amber. My mind also went back to my memories of the last relationship with a white girlfriend. It was awkward. Interracial relationships have come a long way since. Seeing black and white couples were now normal especially in Miami. Rosa and I were mainly “bed buddies” maybe I should break up with her and focus more on to Amber. If there was a relationship would she move to Miami? I was not going to leave there. I was planning for something that may never happen. Then I remembered the feeling when our eyes met. I fell asleep.
We were on the road by 4:00 am the next morning. Seth would drive the first leg of the trip. I tried to get some sleep but after an hour I gave up. Seth had the AC on “cold” and playing the radio loudly to keep himself awake. He was tired too. As soon as he saw my eye open he started a conversation.
“So you and Amber hit it off”
“She is friendly” I replied.
“That was not friendly, she likes you” he replied.
“She’s nice” I replied trying to avoid talking about it.
“I don’t think you understand. No man has been able to get to her. You did”
He began to explain how many of his friends tried to get into her “pants” and how a few even proposed to her.
He said she was different and loved to write.
Anyone who got to her would be looked at as “the man”. He told me that Amber and I were the talk of the barbeque. People thought we were in our own world. He then warned me.
“You won’t get in her pants as she is a good Christian girl who won’t give it up until marriage”
I was not surprised. She mentioned her beliefs a few times. She was not trying to convert me. She was authentic in her belief and I like that.
This led us to a discussion on religion.
“Do you believe in God?” Seth asked.
“Yes”, I replied.
“Are you a born-again Christian?” he asked.
I was not sure what he was asking. I considered myself a Christian and a good person. I believe in God. I was confirmed and went to Catholic Church in Jamaica. I was even an altar boy. I was sure I was going to heaven.
“I am Catholic” I replied.
He had a puzzled look on his face.
“I hear you but are you a Christian?” he asked.
I started to get defensive.
“What does that mean to you?”I asked.
Seth was calm and had an answer that seems almost rehearsed.
“Someone who believes that Jesus Christ died for your sins and you accepted him as your Lord and Savior. You read the bible and pray to him daily”
He sounded like one of the preachers I encountered while flipping through the channels on TV.
“Oh, sure I have” I replied. I was lying. I did not understand what he was saying and did not want to. I visited other churches outside the Catholic faith a few times but never really got into the “church stuff”.
I was a bit confused by Seth professing Christianity. He went out to bars and drank. He had a few girlfriends since moving to Miami. He swore a lot. He was not my model of what a Christian was like so him asking about my beliefs was strange. He must have read my mind.
“I know I may not be what you think a Christian is like but I do have a relationship with Go d through Jesus Christ”
I did not what to hear anymore. I changed the topic.
“Slow down a little” we don’t want to get a ticket “
“Oooh I did not realize I was going that fast” he replied “We Christians break the laws sometime” he added jokingly. I think he knew I was trying to change the conversation.
“Whenever you need a break let me know and I can take over driving.”
“I will” he replied.
We drove in silence for a while. I fell asleep.
I woke up when the car came to a stop.
We were at a rest stop. He filled up on gas and then went to the rest room.
When he came back he handed me the keys. I would drive the rest of the way.
“Where are we”, I asked.
“We are in Georgia”
I was very careful to follow the speed limit when I was driving. I did not need to draw any attention to myself. I did not need a speeding ticket. Seth teased me and said I was too cautious.
Seth fell asleep for a little while. When he woke up we started to discuss a topic men never discuss among themselves; their relationship.
How do I impress a Jamaican girl?
It was a strange question.
“What do you mean how do you impress a Jamaican girl”
“Exactly what I said, how do you impress a Jamaican Girl?”
I was not sure where he was going with this conversation.
“Jamaican girls are like any other girls. There is nothing extra you need to do.”
“Well I heard I have to have Ambition”
Something was going on.
“In any relationship you must have ambition” I replied. Then I asked.
“Are you trying to date a Jamaican Girl?”
“Yes, I am”
I was caught off guard. Now it became clearer why he had all these questions on Jamaican culture during the trip.
“When did you become interested in Jamaican girls?”
“Since I met one that I really like”
I was curious. There were a few Jamaican ladies that worked in our building. Maybe he was trying to date one of them.
“Do I know her?”
“Yes you do” he replied.
“Who is it?”
That was a surprise.
Krystal Yu was one of Sue’s Jamaican friends from school. She was a beautiful half Chinese girl. How did he meet her?
“Kristal? Who did you meet her?” I asked.
“I saw her with your sister at a club I ventured into one night” he replied.
He had met Sue one afternoon when she came by the office to drive home with me.
Even though Sue was still going out with Sidney she kept her independence and had a girl’s night out once a month. She once took Rosa with her. Rosa did not enjoy it.
“I have been pursuing her for months now but she has been playing very hard to get. We talked on the phone but she will not go out on a date with me. She thinks I am only trying to get into her pants because I want to sleep with a Jamaican girl. I really do like her”
I could understand why he liked her. She was one of the sweetest people you could ever meet. I don’t think she could hurt a fly. She had her head on right. Her plan was to go back to Jamaica where her family had a business. She was going to be a veterinarian.
“I don’t know what to tell you. Maybe all you learned from me on Jamaican culture will impress her”
“You don’t understand. I am in love with her. I have never felt this way about another girl before”
This was a bit awkward. I have never heard a man confess to another man he was involved with a girl apart from in the movies.
“Did you tell her that”, I asked.
“No, I have not” he replied.
“Then keep it that way until you make some progress. At least go out on a first date with her” I replied. I hate to see men desperate for a woman.
“Can you do some snooping to find out why she does not like me” he asked.
“I will”, I was going to do my snooping anyway.
Our trip ended like it started, early morning at my apartment. All I wanted to do was sleep in my own bed.