My new job made everyone happy except me. I was working much harder than at the other job. However, the pay was better and it was in the daytime. I was always very tired. For about a week span I was working both jobs, which made it even worse. I would be in late, up early and just not getting enough sleep. I had to quit the night job because it would make life easier for Aunt Fern and family. They would probably get a lot more sleep at night. I just was scared because I never quit a job before. I wondered how my boss, Pedro, would react. Would he be angry & report me to INS. Aunt fern tried to settle my nerves. She told me leaving a job for another is a normal thing in America and that as you move up in life you try to do and find better. I know in Jamaica, my mother was working in the bank since I was born. Most people I know in Jamaica had the same job for all their life.
That night I remember her pulling the car up in front of the familiar building that I thought was my worse nightmare for the past few months. I came a little earlier than normal. The plan was for her to stay outside as I walk in and tell my boss I was going taking another job. I would offer to stay the night if he was short of workers. If he did not want me to stay, I would leave with her.
As I entered the building and started looking for Pedro, my nerves set in. My stomach was uncomfortable. I saw him entering one of the broom closets on the first floor where all the cleaning stuff was. Normally he would be handing out assignments to us and the cleaning stuff we got. As I approached him, my heart started to beat faster. He greeted me and asked why I was so early. I blurted it all out and said I had a new job. I don’t know if I made any sense but I think he saw the nervousness on my face. He said good luck and told me I would not have to stay the night if I did not want to. I was too nervous so I left.
I did not get a chance to see Juan. He knew that I had the other job that very first week I started but I was never able to tell him goodbye. That really saddened me because he was the only thing that made working bearable.
I was happy to have a job in the daytime. It meant I had more time to do things in the evenings. I had formed a friendship with one of the teenagers on the block. His name was Tim. He was 18 years old and had just graduated from high school. He did not have a job & was not looking for one. He had no plans for the future & enjoyed the idea of living at home. He played basketball daily. He played a major influence on me for a while and his ideology helped to enforce a stereotype I had often heard about black Americans being lazy.
Tim helped me to assimilate to my new social environment. I remember the first time we met, how he laughed at the way I dressed. He also laughed at my hairstyle. I had a Napoleon hairstyle. I had on faded jeans, brown moccasins, and a green t-shirt. He said I was ‘roll calling’ which meant nothing matched. I soon learned about matching clothes & started to dress differently in the limited clothes I had. I remember him asking if I was a member of a posse & if I smoked ganja. At the time these questions were somewhat innocent to me but as time went on the ‘weed’ inquiry I realized was a stereotype many have about Jamaica. The posse question was weird but I soon realized that there were rival Jamaican posses living Miami fighting for drug turf. They were both very violent and can remember my Aunt saying they were making it difficult for other Jamaicans in Miami. Shower and Sprangler posse.
They played American football on the street in the evening and they invited me to play. I did not know the game or really care for it but I wanted to fit in. I started out by throwing the ball to Tim, one on one. Then next it was run and catch. I was good at throwing to someone on the run but not good at the run and catch. It a bit complicated to understand and was so different from the football I knew. Because of this, I was designated as the quarterback, name of the “throwers” position, whenever we played with the others on the street. On the first day playing with a team, I threw the ball for a touchdown. I guess the days of ‘flinging’ stone paid off. I picked up the game quickly & my love for American football started then.
My parents & I were getting frustrated with the wait for the social security card. My job was slow as we had completed one house and was doing odd jobs 2 to 3 days out of the week. I needed a steady job with at least a minimum wage pay. I had a cousin in Tampa who had just been deported. He was 6 years older than I was. He was very close to my Dad, who was the father figure in his life. He grew up near Tivoli & had a rough life. He had lived in Tampa for 10 years when the father he never knew filed for him & he got his Green Card. While there, he became a big-time “Jugglist”. The police caught him driving a large bail of ganja to New York. He was back in Jamaica for almost 2 months & was in touch with my family. It was decided that I would use his social security card & become him.
Photo by Badhon Ebrahim on Unsplash