When I took my 11th trip to Jamaica I finally had it made the bracelet. I always noticed on my trips to Jamaica that small change was thrown around all over the street. When I would bend to pick it up, a friend would say, ‘Leave it, that’s nothing.” Never say that to a Jamaicaholic, because to us, everything in Jamaica is precious and has worth. I especially liked the little octagon shaped one-dollar coins.
I had been to a shop in Negril where a clever gentleman was making a living by making artwork and jewelry out of coins from all over the world. I wanted to have him attach several of my favorite $1.00 coins to a silver charm bracelet. Trip after trip, I never found the time to get it done. On trip #11 I was determined.
I found Andy, and had to go to his home to get the bracelet made as he had now given up his shop. His home is a study in Bohemian good taste. His wife is the resident artist at M’ville and their home, every square inch of it, is a field trip within itself.
It didn’t take long for Andy and his two pretty little dogs to finish my bracelet. It became a great conversation starter, as most Jamaican people who saw it on my wrist reacted. They thought it was just the most unique idea they had seen. They seemed to be proud that something as small as 25 cents US had been turned into a work of art.
This morning I took a picture of the bracelet to put on Jamaicans.com. I laid it on a maroon velvet background, took the pic, and posted it. This evening I was walking back to the jewelry box with the bracelet and I started to wonder through what hands these coins had passed. Jamaican hands, American hands, Italian hands, a potpourri of hands.
Her name is Miss Inez. She is just a little older than me, but she looks like she could be my grandmother. Jamaica is a hard life. For more that 20 years, she has worked at the same villa, for the same pay. If no one stays there, she makes no money those weeks. Her own home does not have running water, and she and her husband raised 9 children without it.
Her voice never elevates above barely audible. She smells like pineapple and coconut and ginger. Her body is soft when you hug her and her skin feels like a baby’s. When I rented the villa, she captivated me. I wanted to know all about her. I stayed in the kitchen, in her way, as she cooked daily, asking about any and everything. She said she did not mind, because some guests stay there for weeks, and never even ask her name.
I found out later that the entire week she was caring for me and my friends, cooking for us, smiling for us, talking to us, entertaining us, nurturing us, looking out for us, she went home to a husband who was dying of cancer. He died 4 days after we left. We never knew…and probably left all of our Jamaican change and dollars there as part of our tip. Did one of the coins pass through her hands?
His name is Curry. He cooks for a living at two different resorts. If he cooks breakfast here, and lunch at the other one, and back for dinner there, when does he rest? When does he buy the supplies? When does he clean up? Does he ever sleep?
I have never seen him when his step is not double-time quick and he never looks tired, or irritable, or short, or cross, or impatient. Just Curry.
He invited me into his life one Tuesday. Mysterious Curry. Curry, who I do not know where he sleeps, when he sleeps, or if he sleeps. He wanted to know if I wanted to go into the hills. He explained that he makes his rounds every other Tuesday to his family. I agreed, I want to go.
We first stop at an Aunt’s home who gave me cool coconut water in a glass with a silver coaster. When we leave I am mesmerized by the light show over my head. High up in the hills, with no lights and pollution, I get my first real glimpse of the stars. I am unable to take my eyes off them.
Curry goes to his mother’s and hands her a big fist full of J$1,000 bills, his contribution to her well being. It is a LOT of money. What a good son!!!! Nothing is said between them. She hugs me, but not her son. This visit is short, and matter of fact, but it occurs under the stars.
This hard working, self-sacrificing Jamaican man, the one you seldom hear about. Did someone leave a coin as part of a tip for him? Did a coin pass through these hands?
His name is D. I met him three years ago. He does women for a living. His mother ejected him from the house at 14. Soon after, he learned his talent for a way with the ladies. He is tall and rough looking. A pretty boy he is not, but he has a mystique that cannot be denied, a magnetism, and charm (when he decides to use it), that can be lethal.
Irresistible, tantalizing, hypnotizing, Jamaican man, takes her, she is lost. Her life will never be the same. It is everything about him that intrigues her. His culture, his status, his roughness, his smoothness, his ire, his approval, they become the focal point of her universe. He can do no wrong, and he can do no right. He can’t belong to her, and she cannot bear to loose him.
His life force draws her back across the ocean again and again. When they make love she is consumed by a fire. When she is not with him, there is no fire in her soul. She is now a part of the hopeless abyss that Jamaican love can thrust you in. One day, one woman left him all her Jamaican money at Sangster, and in it was a $1.00 coin, and it passed through his hands.
As I wear my bracelet, touch it, and let it flip through my fingers, I wear Jamaica. The hundreds of people through whose hands these coins have passed, I now own a little piece of their lives. I can keep you in my jewelry case, take you out when I need you, touch you, feel you. You are in the bracelet.