Three weeks after the robbery, I was finally starting to feel less anxious and more like myself again. Miss Bettie’s words had struck a chord with me that evening. Jamaica was a rough place, a hard place, and I didn’t think it was a place that I could live in anymore, but it had still hurt me to hear her suggest I would forget all about it, just like it had hurt me when Adrianne said I wasn’t a Jamaican. I still loved the country, despite its many imperfections. So I had decided that I needed to just relax and enjoy my remaining time on the island. I had also decided to push any thoughts of Colin out of my mind until I got back. I would deal with that once the school year was over.
Anyway, I was excited about tonight’s plans. Kevin’s older brothers, identical twins who were studying at Howard University in Washington D.C., were coming in town for a family wedding and I was looking forward to finally meeting them after having heard so much about them. They had gone back to the States right after Christmas, so I hadn’t even had a chance to meet them over the holidays. I made sure to look good, wearing a white fitted tank top, black miniskirt and white t-strap sandals.
We’d agreed that the four of us would go to dinner at Jamrock Sports Bar and Grill to get a chance to get to know each other without all the chaos of the wedding around us. Jamrock was a popular hang-out spot on Knutsford Boulevard on the Hip Strip, and seemed like the perfect place for us to just sit and talk and get to know each other.
Apparently, the twins were just as eager to meet me as I was to meet them. According to Kevin, they were very curious to see the girl that had finally managed to “capture” their brother (like I was some kind of big game hunter!) By the time that Kevin had picked me up and brought me to Jamrock, the two of them were already settled in, each with a Red Stripe in hand, eagerly looking toward the front door awaiting our arrival.
Boy, there’s no way that I could have missed those two, I thought with wonder as soon as we walked into Jamrock and I saw them. The two brothers looked like mirror images of each other. They had the same haircut and were dressed similarly. Even the way that they sat and their mannerisms were almost exactly the same. “That’s amazing,” I muttered to myself, not even realizing I was speaking aloud.
Kevin heard me. “It’s like one person, eeh?” he asked. “When I was young and they would bother me, I was convinced they were actually a two-headed monster.”
I was still giggling as we reached the table. “Whappen, breddas?” Kevin greeted. “Nadiya, these are my brothers, Anthony and Brian. Anthony and Brian, this is the famous Nadiya.” I was relieved to hear that their parents hadn’t given them rhyming names. That would have been a little too much.
“Hi Nadiya, nice to meet you,” they both said in perfect unison. Then they looked at each other and burst out laughing.
“Sorry about that, we do that all the time,” said Anthony, grinning as Kevin and I took our seats. “I swear we don’t do it on purpose.” Although they didn’t look too much like Kevin otherwise, the twins had the same perfect smile as he did.
“It’s true,” Kevin piped up. “They always do that. It was like getting teased in stereo,” he added with a roll of his eyes.
“I’m ignoring him,” Brian said pointedly, looking at me. “You’re the one we’re here to meet anyway. So are you having a good time at UWI?”
“Definitely! It’s been absolutely amazing. I’ve had a really fun time on campus.” That wasn’t a lie, we had been off-campus when the horribleness had happened. “And that’s not only because of your brother,” I added with a shy smile, “although he’s a big part of it.”
They both laughed again (at the exact same time with the exact same laugh), and Kevin grinned proudly. “You don’ see seh I have good taste in women?”
“We taught you well,” said Anthony with a wink at me.
“So are you guys enjoying being at Howard?” I turned the question back on them. Before they could answer, the waitress approached us to take our order. I wasn’t at all surprised to hear Anthony and Brian order the same thing.
“This is getting ridiculous, you guys,” I teased. They were so easygoing, just like their brother, that I felt comfortable teasing them already. “You even eat the same stuff?”
Brian shrugged and grinned. “I guess genes count for a lot. But back to your question about Howard…”
“Oh, we love it!” Anthony enthused. “We did our first degrees there on track scholarships, we both did biology, and now we’re in dental school. We just had to stay there. It’s a lot of fun, you get a good education, and there are so many Jamaican people there. So we never get too homesick. Plus we met so many people from so many different places, all over Africa, the Caribbean and of course, America…. It’s been an amazing experience, I tell you. We think that we’ll both be coming back here once we’re done, probably open up our own dental office, but I’m glad we got the chance to experience something different. And Washington itself is a very cool city. It has its rough parts, like any city, but certainly no rougher than Kingston!” he added wryly.
“I thought about going to Howard too for a while,” added Kevin. “They both kept saying how great it was for them and plus, our father went there too.” I wasn’t surprised to hear it. Through the decades, many Jamaicans had passed through the doors of Howard University.
“Yeah, I went down to Washington with some friends one year for Howard Homecoming and it was absolutely crazy. It looked like so much fun. And I do remember there being a lot of Jamaicans there.”
As they continued to talk, I discovered that the twins were both single, had both broken up with serious girlfriends in the past few months, were both avid cricket players and both wanted to do orthodontics. Eventually, I had to ask them, “So is there anything that you guys don’t have in common?”
They looked at each other first and then Brian said with a smirk, “Well, there is one thing. My poor twin brother, who is otherwise quite intelligent, is insane when it comes to just one issue.”
“Me? I’m the insane one?” Anthony asked incredulously. “But look at what your party has done to this country over the years!”
Kevin turned to me to explain as the two brothers suddenly started squabbling loudly. “So they’re identical in everything, EXCEPT for the political party they support. Anthony is a Labourite, and Brian is a diehard PNP man.”
There were two main political parties in Jamaica, the Jamaica Labour Party and the People’s National Party, and from their inceptions, the battle between them had been bitter, and often bloody. At election time in Jamaica, violence was practically guaranteed to increase. People were willing to kill for the party that they supported and members of both parties were widely suspected to have affiliations with hardcore gangs. There were many regions of Jamaica that were JLP-only or PNP-only and God help someone openly supporting the opposing party who stepped into one of those partisan regions during election time.
I tuned back in to what the brothers were saying. “Listen, this country has not known any greater leaders than Norman and Michael Manley. Norman is the one who brought us to independence! And it’s external forces that stopped Manley’s plans from working in the seventies” said Brian, pointing a finger in his brother’s face. “The two of them did so many positive things for this country and the PNP has continued to serve Jamaica well. We gave Jamaica its first female prime minister!”
Anthony threw up his hands in disgust. “Yu mussi mad. Jamaica was a mess in the seventies! To this day we haven’t fully recovered. You want to talk great leaders, then let’s talk about Busta and Seaga!”
Wide-eyed, I interjected with alarm, “I’m so sorry, you guys, I really didn’t mean to start an argument.”
They both halted and turned to look at me in surprise. “Oh, we do this all the time,” said Brian with an easy smile. “A nuh nutten. We can and do argue about politics at the drop of a hat, trus’ me, it would have happened about five minutes later if you hadn’t said a thing.” And with that, he turned back to his brother with a scowl and started arguing his point again.
Once our food came, the political argument finally ended. When questioned, I told them, quite truthfully, that both had argued their points beautifully and I couldn’t pick a victor. I also absolutely refused to tell them which way my views leaned, that just didn’t seem like a smart idea! Anyway, the four of us ended up having a great night and I was disappointed when we were done and the twins had to run off to another engagement. They were actually headed to their cousin Audrey’s fiance’s bachelor party. I was glad that Kevin hadn’t been invited. I trust him completely, I thought to myself, but there’s no need to expose him to gyrating naked women unnecessarily! I had seen the mischievous glints in the twins’ eyes when they were leaving, and could only imagine what their night was going to be like.
I started to think about his brothers’ political conversation again as we walked back to Kevin’s car. “What’s on your mind?” he asked, slinging his arm around my shoulders. “You look deep in thought.”
I turned to him as we reached the car. “I don’t know, I was just thinking that, wouldn’t it be great if everyone in Jamaica could be like those two? They have such opposite political beliefs and they both feel so strongly about it, but yet they obviously wouldn’t dream of letting it come between them. I mean, imagine if all these political gangs and garrison communities could be the same way.”
“Hmmph. Yeah, would be nice, eeh? There would be a lot more Jamaicans alive today if people followed their lead.”
“You know, in most countries, there would be complete shock if anyone was ever killed over an election, but here it’s a relief when that doesn’t happen. That’s absolutely crazy. Things have got to change.” The political violence was yet another item in the long list of problems that the island had.
“But do you think that will ever happen? Too many gunmen and too many politicians are too intertwined. You would have to change the entire political culture, in my opinion. And you would need both parties to cooperate for that to happen which is impossible.”
“It’s sad to think that things would always be this way.” We were silent for another minute. I let out a long sigh. “That’s enough depressing talk,” I declared. “Jamaica’s got too many problems to solve in one conversation. Come on, let’s go get some dessert somewhere.”