Later that night, I was about to get into bed when I decided I had better call home. The past little while had been hectic and I’d barely had a chance to speak to my parents throughout orientation. I knew they must be dying to know how I was doing and if I was OK.
“Bwoy, yu’ jus’ dash us weh!” scolded my mother as soon as she realized it was me on the other end of the line. “We haven’t heard from you in a week, Nadiya!”
I rolled my eyes, glad that she couldn’t see me. “Mummy, it’s been orientation. You know how that goes. I didn’t have much time to call you, and I wanted to make sure I had a while to talk before I called.”
“Alright, well, just don’t try and get off the telephone too fast. Tell me everything.” I proceeded to tell her about all the activities and events that we’d been doing for orientation, Arlene, Cassandra and the other girls we lived with, Kevin and other guys that I’d met on hall, and the few family members that I’d been able to see so far.
“I’m so happy that you’re having a good time out there; I knew that you would love it. But make sure you get a lot of sleep tonight for your classes tomorrow! Now hold on, your father wants to talk to you.”
She passed off the phone to my father. After he grumbled something about me needing to check in more often, I told him about the people I was meeting from the other Caribbean islands, about the family, about current events in Jamaica, and about how Jeremy was enjoying Chancellor Hall. I could just see him puffing up with pride at the latter. It was funny how different my parents were in terms of what they wanted to talk about.
I talked to him for about five more minutes, said a quick goodbye to my mother, and then went to bed. I had thought talking to my parents would make me homesick, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that I didn’t feel that way at all.
Almost two weeks later, I was sitting at my desk, completely but happily submerged in my studies. I already had a huge amount of reading to do, but I was enjoying my classes too much to feel overwhelmed by it. I had done a good job in picking my courses; all of my professors were really knowledgeable and really enthusiastic about what they were teaching and I found everything that we talked about fascinating. Jeremy had already started teasing me about how much I liked school but I didn’t care. I was learning about the authors, culture, and politics of the Caribbean, and by doing that, I felt like I was learning more about who I was and where I had come from. “How can I not be excited?” I often responded. I never quite got through to Jeremy with that one though; that answer usually led to an eye-roll and the words “nerd” or “geek” being thrown out.
But as much as I loved my courses, I loved the social aspect of being at UWI even more. Now that classes had started, things on hall had calmed down a little as people got into their books, but it was still a very bustling and active place. I had learned to fall asleep to the sounds of yells, laughter and pounding bass outside my window every night, and had gotten accustomed to people bawling out my name below my window when they wanted to get my attention. I had already made tons of friends from all walks of life both in class and on hall, and I adored all the girls that I lived with. And it wasn’t just all gossip and lighthearted banter; we got into plenty of deep conversations and political debates on campus, and I loved the intellectual stimulation.
As for my family, I was getting to know Jeremy and Adrianne better every day, and I had promised to go on a girls’ day with Bridget once I got back from Mandeville, which I was headed to that upcoming weekend with Arlene.
The only downer of it all was that I’d only seen Kevin one time since our meeting at Jeremy’s. We had bumped into each other once on campus and since we’d both had some free time, we had gone for lunch together that day. We’d had such a great conversation that we had completely lost track of time, and I ended up being late for class. I had found out that we had some mutual family friends, although really, that hadn’t surprised me too much, since in the Jamaican middle class there seemed to always be only one or two degrees of separation. But wonderful as our conversation had been, we spoke strictly as friends, there hadn’t even been a hint of flirting this time around. If that was all that I could get though, I would gladly settle for it. He was someone that, near-obsessive attraction to him aside, I could see as a lifelong friend if we ever got the opportunity. We had so much in common! But I was just too shy to ask him for his phone number. I didn’t want him to think that I was hitting on him.
Anyway, although my attraction to Kevin had only gotten stronger, I was also well aware that he was not the only guy on campus. Take Omar. He was a guy on hall, who was also in one of my classes, and he had made it very clear to me that he was interested. I figured it wouldn’t be too long before he asked me out on a date, and I was pretty sure that I would say yes. He wasn’t the best looking guy in the world, but he was a lot of fun to be around, and very funny.
A knock at my door woke me up out of my reverie. “Hey Nadiya, what are you doing tonight?” It was Kimberly, one of the other girls that I lived with. I knew right away why Kim was asking. She was the stereotypical Trini; she loved nothing more than to fete. She often joked that since she was so far away from her strict parents, she needed to maximize on enjoying her freedom. She had chosen to go to the Jamaican campus of UWI instead of to the Trinidadian campus just to get away from under her parents’ thumb.
“I have no plans and I’m almost done my reading. Why, what’s up? What party is going on tonight?”
Kim giggled. “Am I that obvious?”
“Well, let’s just say you never come to my door asking if I want to go the library. So really, what’s the party tonight?”
“My friend told me that there’s some uptown party going on, in New Kingston. It should be rayl nice,” she said in her Trini drawl. “Do you have class tomorrow?” It was a Thursday night.
“Yeah, but not until the afternoon.” I thought quickly. “Sure, I’ll go, why not? Sounds like fun.”
“OK, great! It’s me, you, Arlene, Cassie and one of my other friends. We’re going to leave by eleven, alright?”
“I’ll be ready!” I knew I could be ready by eleven, but I had already learned that Jamaican time was not the same as real time. The earliest that we would leave would be eleven-thirty. I had plenty of time.
Despite that, I quickly raced through the rest of my reading. It was interesting stuff, yes, but now my mind was on going out partying. Just as I closed my book, as if she had been waiting for me, Cassandra appeared at the door. “Oh good, you’re done your work! I just finished mine too. So, you know the crucial question…”
“What am I wearing tonight?”
“You got it! Do you know yet?”
“No, I hadn’t thought about it. You?”
“I have some options, but let me know what you think. I tink one of dem too conservative and the other one too skimpy.”
Cassandra’s room was right across the hall from mine, so we spent the next while walking back and forth between each other’s rooms, comparing outfits and trying on clothes. Kim quickly joined in the act. We had decided on an outfit for Cassandra (mixing pieces of the conservative and skimpy choices) and one for Kim when Arlene came rushing through the door.
“Hello girls,” she sang. “Wow, you already starting to get ready? Lemme hurry up, I was just visiting with a friend.” Arlene’s room was right next to mine, so she hurried into her room and opened her wardrobe. By the time that the four of us were dressed and finally ready to go, I had gotten a serious workout from all the laughing, running back and forth, and posing for impromptu pictures that we had done. But we all looked fabulous, even if I did say so myself. I had my hair slicked back into a high bun, and was wearing a blue short romper with nude strappy heels. I had to admit I was pretty pleased with my appearance.
Kimberly’s friend had a car and was picking us up, so we all walked down to the gate to meet her once eleven-thirty hit. As we were walking down the path toward the gate, Omar happened to be walking up. His eyes lit up when he saw me. “Hot girls!” he teased. “Where yu all goin’ tonight?”
Kim told him where it was that we were headed. “Good!” he grinned. “That’s where I’m going tonight too. I’ll see all you there in a little while, OK?” He gave me a wink as he walked past.
Arlene elbowed me as soon as he was out of earshot. “So what do you think of Omar?” she asked in a low voice, as the other two girls were chatting. “I know he’s not Kevin, but…”
I laughed. “Well, no, he’s not, but I think he’d be fun to go out with.”
“Well, well, well! Tonight is going to be very interesting then because he was looking at you like he wanted to eat you up!”
As we got closer to the gate and in view of Kim’s friend, she started honking the horn impatiently. We said goodnight to the guards as we hurried through the gate and piled into the car. “Come on, girls!” proclaimed our driver as we put our seatbelts on and she started to drive. “I hope we are all ready to have a good time tonight! School is stressing me out and I need a stress-reliever!” She turned the stereo up loud, the five of us started chatting louder, and before I knew it, our drive through the streets of Kingston was over and we had reached the party. With the group of girls that I was with, and knowing that Omar would be showing up later, I was really looking forward to the night.
When we got there, the line-up to get in wasn’t too long so within minutes of arriving, we had paid our money and were inside the party. Although inside probably wasn’t the right word to use. As was typical of most Jamaican social events, the party was actually being held outdoors. Who knew weather was such a huge part of quality of life? I thought to myself as I looked around. Give me warm temperatures and a cool breeze and life is good! Jamaica’s year-round tropical weather allowed for way more time outdoors than was possible in Canada, at least for someone like me who wasn’t into skiing and other winter activities, and I was sure it contributed to why the culture here was so laid-back and friendly. There was no winter weather to keep people locked up in their houses for half the year, or to have them rushing around in a foul mood when they were outside. Here I was, in October, at a party where I could look directly up at the night sky, with stars as my ceiling, feeling a cool breeze on my skin. I couldn’t keep the satisfied grin off of my face.
“Let’s go get a drink,” suggested Cassandra, interrupting my thoughts, “before it gets too ram up and we can’t get to the bar.” We each got ourselves something and then positioned ourselves at a spot near the entrance so that we could watch everyone as they came in. But before long, the party started to fill up, and as the crowd got bigger and bigger, and the music got better and better, we couldn’t fight it anymore; we had to leave our spot and go dance. Now, my friends had been trying since orientation week to teach me all the current Jamaican dance moves, but for the life of me, my attempts were still too shoddy for me to feel comfortable busting them out yet. All this time, I’d thought that I was a good dancer but being in Jamaica had me admitting otherwise! Still, I loved seeing the whole crowd feeling the music and doing one dance all together, it made for a beautiful scene. I just wished that I could fully participate.
As I was dancing and singing along to the music, looking around the party, I suddenly caught a glimpse of Kevin’s face in the crowd. My heart instantly started to beat faster. He had already spotted me by the time that I saw him, and he made his way through the crowd towards me with a smile on his face.
“Hey Nadiya!” he laughed, giving my hand a squeeze. “You’re coming out to experience some Jamaican party life?”
I smiled and looked down, feeling self-conscious. He made me sound like some kind of Canadian anthropologist. “I can’t study all the time, right?”
He slid behind me, put an arm around my waist, and said into my ear, “Well, let’s see how good you Canadians are at dancing.” I thought for a second that I might faint, but thankfully I managed to stay on my feet. We danced for the next twenty minutes or so, and in that time I could swear I’d died and gone to heaven. I couldn’t remember ever meshing so well with a guy on the dance floor before, and for that little while, I was convinced that dancing right there on that spot with him was where I was meant to be for the rest of my life. We didn’t talk at all during the time that we were dancing, but it still felt totally comfortable. Now I felt that I was fully participating with the rest of the crowd. So I was absolutely and completely deflated when he abruptly stopped dancing as if the music had cut off suddenly. But it hadn’t. “Well, thank you for the dance,” he grinned with a mock bow. “Check yu lata, alright?” Then he just turned and walked away, disappearing into the crowd.
I felt totally dejected and rejected. I tried to keep on dancing by myself just to save face, but I didn’t even recognize the songs that were being played anymore. I stopped moving and sighed audibly. It seemed obvious that Kevin had gotten bored of dancing with me, and that he hadn’t at all been feeling what I had. That’s what I get for getting my hopes up again, I chastised myself. For a while there, I had started to think, again, that he was interested in me too. Get it together, Nadiya! I ordered myself. I couldn’t let it ruin my night. After all, I hadn’t come to the party to spend time with him, I’d come to have fun with my girls. My girls! Where are they anyway? Suddenly, I realized that I’d temporarily forgotten all about the people I’d come with. Fortunately, I hadn’t lost them; they were standing only a few feet away, all watching me with amused looks on their faces, so I sheepishly stepped over to where they were.
“Hi!” giggled Cassandra, “you’re back!”
“Yeah, sorry, I was kind of off in my own little world for a while there. That was the famous Kevin, although that probably goes without saying.”
“Well, now I see what all the fuss is about!” Arlene giggled. “He is gorgeous, just like you said.”
“Tell me about it! But anyway, enough about him. He’s gone off to do whatever so I’m not going to worry about him anymore tonight. What about you guys, are you having fun?”
Cassandra nodded. “Yeh man! Hey, Omar is here now, you know. I saw him watching you. I think he was keeping his distance when he saw you with Kevin, but I’m sure he’ll be appearing any second now.”
Arlene interjected, “Four…three…two…”
I had to bite the inside of my cheek to hold in the laughter when Omar appeared at my side. Out of one ear, I could hear Arlene cussing to Cassandra about being one second too slow.
“Nadiya, you’re finally free! Do you mind if I get a little dance now?”
“Of course not, Omar,” I grinned. I loved his enthusiasm. He stepped in behind me just as Kevin had, although admittedly it felt totally different.
“I wanted to dance with you earlier, you know,” he volunteered, “but I noticed that you were occupied and I didn’t want to interrupt. Should I be jealous?”
I dismissed him with a wave of my hand. “Not at all, Kevin and I are just friends. Actually, he’s a friend of my cousin’s.”
“OK, that’s good. I’m glad to hear it.”
I raised an eyebrow and smiled coyly. “Oh really? And why is that?” I asked teasingly.
“Well, because when I take you out to dinner and a movie, I don’t want any angry man calling and cussing me!”
I burst out laughing. “Now, in order for you to take me to dinner and a movie, I have to agree to go. How do you know that that’s going to happen?” I had to admit that I liked Omar’s style, and enjoyed flirting with him. He was a very charming guy.
“Hmm, well, I guess I don’t. So that’s the all-important question then. Are you going to agree to dinner and a movie with me?”
I was silent for a minute, trying to look like I was thinking hard, with a teasing smile on my face.
“Don’t keep me in suspense!” he finally burst out. He actually looked a little nervous, which was really cute.
I giggled again. “OK, OK. Yes, Omar, I would love to go out with you.”
“Good!” He grinned widely, looking relieved. “So when are we going to go? What about this weekend?”
“Arlene and I are going to Mandeville tomorrow evening, but I’ll be back by Sunday afternoon.”
“Is Sunday night too early then?”
I tried not to laugh at his eagerness. I suspected he would have taken me out that same night if he could have. “No, that’s fine. We should be back with plenty of time.”
“Great. I’m really looking forward to it.”
“Me too, Omar.”
“Well, let me leave you to have fun with your friends. I’m sure they don’t want me to monopolize all your time. Lata, yu hear?” He squeezed my arm and headed off through the crowd, glancing back once with a huge grin.
I watched him walk away with my own smile on my face. I really appreciated the fact that he had spent a good amount of time with me, but then left me to have fun with the people I came with. Classy guy. I knew that Sunday night was going to be a good time. As I watched him walk away, I couldn’t help noticing that he happened to walk past Kevin. Which meant that I couldn’t help noticing that Kevin was now dancing with another girl, a very pretty girl who was a lot closer to his height than I was, and that he was whispering into her ear. They both started to beam at whatever it was he was saying to her, and I decided to turn away. I didn’t need to see anymore. I needed to focus on being friends only with Kevin, since that seemed to be all that he was interested in, and on dating other guys, starting with Omar.