Missing The Culture and Meeting The “Mother-in-law” : Memoirs Of An Illegal Alien Part 17

Work was going very well but the signs of Jamaica made me homesick. I remember one day walking home from work and a guy walking in front of me with a boom box on his shoulder playing reggae loudly. It was a tape with dancehall music the type of music you would not hear on the radio station on Leroy’s radio. It was from a live Jamaican dance. It is a style of music that I never listen and was dismissed in my home as ‘rubbish’.

While in Jamaica I never really listened much reggae music. The only reggae I listened to was Bob Marley. Back home I mainly listened fete music, soft rock, rap, pop and soul. The Police, Eurythmics, Run DMC were some of my favorites. I had a satellite dish at home and would watch MTV. Dancehall and reggae was just not something I listened to. Also my parents did play reggae at the home.

This day my music taste would change, as the familiarity of home was overwhelming.

I started a conversation the way most Jamaicans I met did.

“What part of Jamaica are you from” I asked as I caught up to him.

When he realized I was Jamaican his eyes light like many of the Jamaicans I have met while living here. His patois was strong and as we would say ‘im chat bad’. His name was Dewayne and he moved here from Jamaica 5years ago. He was from Frankfield, Clarendon.

I asked ‘Where you get the music’

He replied ‘Mi fren sen it fram yaawd. A di latest riddim dem. Yuh like it’

I was shocked at my response ‘yeah, it sound good’

He replied ‘Yuh walk da waya nuff”

“Yes” I replied.

“Ef yuh walk da way yah next Wednesday mi will dub a copy for you. Jus bring a 90 minit blank tape fe gi mi back” he replied.

And this is how my love for dancehall music started. I bought a Walkman at the pharmacy next door. I remember that first tape like yesterday. Lt Stitchie had a “dub plate” that always had me laughing

‘Wha will yuh do ef yuh ooman fulla looks,
Pretty like a money but yet she cyan cook
Ax ar fe cook fish tea fe yuh dinnah
But she sweeten it with milk
an sugar…
an vanilla…ahh..ahah..ahaha.

Every Wednesday I would meet Dewayne with a blank tape. I started to accumulate tapes from all the sound system; Killamanjaro, Body Guard, Stur Gav, Black Scorpio, Stur Mars, Gemini, Stone Love, Body Guard, Black Star and Bass Oddessy. I had to keep my collection very private, as Aunt Fern and Uncle Wade were Christians. This type of music would probably upset them. I am sure they would be surprised that the young man who went to church with them on Sundays was a ‘dancehall’ fan.

My yearning for all things Jamaican brought more surprises. One day Leroy came back from a break with 2 patties. As I watched him eat memories of Tastees patties came back to mind. My father used to buy the Tastees patties for us to eat when he picked us up from school. I think Leroy saw the look in my eyes and he offered one of the patties to me.

“Yuh want one” he asked as he handed it to me.

I did not refuse. The crust was not as flaky as Tastees but it was ok good.

“Dere is a patty store round de road.” He said.

He proceeded to give directions.

The next evening on the way home I went by the patty store. I was amazed. There was hard dough bread, gizzahs. They even sold merchandise like t-shirts and other Jamaican items. One thing caught my eye. It was Rasta belt. It was one of the things that I saw many Jamaicans here wear to identify them as Jamaican.

In Jamaica I would never wear a Rasta belt. Or perhaps I should say my parents would never approve. Rastafari was viewed as a way to rebel. I remember one of my best friends older brother became a Rasta and his parents were horrified. Being that the family was well off it shocked everyone. I remember going up to my friend’s house and the brother was outside smoking weed. He was reasoning with another Rasta. He called me over and started to talk. He spoke about ‘Babylon’ system keeping people down and the education system was meant to keep us down.

I remember thinking to myself ‘what type of foolishness’ is he talking about. He had everything he would ever needed. He graduated one of the top students at Campion and was almost done with UWI. He was suppose to be come a doctor. His family was prominent and he was assured a job, a car and wealth. I just never got what he was trying to say during those reasoning sessions.

It was cool hanging out with him as I could freely smoke a cigarette without fearing him telling my parents. It was not a habit but just the thing to do and even though my parent did they always said we should not. I don’t miss it a bit.

Now back to the belt. I was going to buy it. I would wear it outside of Aunt Fern’s house so I would not get caught, as I know she would never approve.

While in the line and seeing all the Jamaican food it dawned on me that my yearning was more because Aunt Fern never cooks Jamaican food. I had 2 patties and a cocoa break and a D &G grape soda. I think it was the best meal I had since arriving here. I was at the bakery at least once a week.

My relationship with Sherri-Ann was better with the new job. We met at the mall and went to movies a few times. I was now able to spend a few hours alone with her at the apartment she and her mother lived.

I told her about the place and she insisted I bring her a patty on one of my week day visits to her house. So one day during the week I took some patties and a few of my dancehall tapes over to her apartment. We played music loudly all the time but not dancehall.

While we were eating the patties I put on a dancehall tape and gave her a sly smile. Like myself she was not a dancehall fan but the “Sleng Teng ‘ rhythm started to ‘lick’ and she got into it. She got up and started to ‘wine’ and laughing as she teased me. It was a wild side of her that I never saw before.

“You thought I don’t know the moves” as she danced.

She sat back down on my lap and kissed me passionately. The music was blaring and now ‘Call the police’ was playing and she got up again and started to ‘wine’ on my lap.

I was laughing and enjoying the “show”.

Suddenly a lady appeared in a nurses’ outfit in the kitchen doorway. It was her mom. I had never met her before but seen her in Sherri-Ann’s photo album. She was not very happy. My heart was in my mouth.

“Sherri-Ann” she screamed, “what’s going on here? Who is this boy? Did’nt I tell you not to have anyone here. What you running here disco? Turn off this “naygah” music”

I was frozen. I wanted to walk out and leave but her mother was in the doorways that lead out to the apartment entrance. She looked like she was going pounce. I awkwardly said said “Hello” and started to get up.

What happened next surprised me Sherri-Ann’s blocked my path and looked at her mother.

“He is not leaving he is my guest. Plus we use to go to Campion together” she said as she looked intensely at her mother.

That took it to another level. I thought her mother would “rush” her.

With the music still blaring her mother with a look that could kill said ‘Please leave’.

I am not sure how I got by Sherri-Ann but I started for the door. Sherri-Ann and her mother started a heated argument. Sherri-Ann was saying her mom was never there and why should she care.

I don’t remember all they said by the time I hit the door. However the last statement I heard as I was walking out the door was a bit stinging.

‘You don’t know him or his parents. All these boys want is a long hair, fair skin girl they can screw’.

The statement played in my mind for the rest of that day.

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