Culture Memoirs of An Illegal Alien

Frustration, Death, Homosexuality in Jamaica, More Trouble : Memoirs Of An Illegal Alien Part 41

As an illegal alien you deal with frustration all the time. There are many times I felt that I was at my break point. The request to bring papers to show that I could work in the United States was stressful. Not because I did not have the “right papers” but because it was just another reminder that I was an illegal alien. I had confidence that my driver’s license and social security card would be sufficient. In the past, I would be worried about the social security card however this one was good and I had filed taxes on it. All they wanted to see was the original documents. I took everything to work the next day and showed it to the HR Department. They made copies and assured me they were just updating their files.

The frustration of always having to look behind my back is what was the most jarring of this experience. I felt caged. I like the United States but I also wanted to see other places in the world. It was a dream I had when I was growing up. I had relatives that lived in France, Canada and England that I would love to see one day.   They were times I just felt like it was best to go home. At least there I would have my freedom and not looking behind my back. At those times I would remind myself that I would not have the same opportunities I currently have in the US.

My only way out of this whole thing was to find another source for “papers”. If I could do that I would not have this hanging over my head.

Sue was just starting her Masters. She completed her Bachelors in 3 years by taking more than the regular course load. I envied her for this as she only had to focus on school. I had to go to school and go to work. Sue and Ritchie were not talking marriage. She was focused on school. He encouraged her to do that. I think deep down he was not ready to get married. Maybe he did want to get married but the unselfish side of me wants it to happen quickly. Sue could file for me.

My frustration would only get worse. My father called to tell us that one of our cousins died. He had been sick for a while but no one would say what he was sick with. Sue told me she thought he had AIDS. He was a womanizer. AIDS in Jamaica is still a “hush hush” topic. AIDS was still seen as a homosexual disease.

We had another cousin everyone knew was gay. No one wanted to acknowledge it. He was 38 not married and always seemed to be posing with a pretty woman on his arm. He was not effeminate. He always dressed very nicely. He was fun to be around. He could light up a room. He had a nice house that was always clean. Not a speck of dust.

He had a nice job at one of the big companies in Jamaica. He won awards every year.

There were rumors about him entering Miss Gay Mobay and that he was “funny”.   No one in the family wanted to talk about it. The topic was off limits. Everyone would ask him the same questions at family events.

“That’s a nice girl you are with. Are you going to marry her?”

He would always respond, “I am playing the field”

Now that my other cousin died my sister said that he may also have been gay and the woman he had around him was a “front”.

I did not believe that. I would talk about things he did with women that I don’t think a gay person would. He always had “girlie” magazines. I saw him around women and he was not awkward with them. I remember seeing him “feel up” one of the girlfriends he brought to a family gathering.

My Jamaican high school, Campion College, was slightly more tolerant than most others. This was mainly because there were many Americans and the children of diplomats there. There were quite a few effeminate boys at school that hung out. Everyone said they were gay. Most of the students I knew believe it was wrong to be gay but the feeling was leave them alone. There were a few hardcore “homophobia” students who would tease these boys and call them the “batty boy” crew. This was mainly done behind their backs. I remember how the whispers about the “crew” stopped when Culture Club and Boy George had their hit songs playing on every station in Jamaica.

I remember there were stories of a teacher at school who was gay and his boyfriend being a prominent business man whose son attended my high school. This prominent businessman was also frequently featured in the daily newspaper, the Gleaner. This prominent business man would pick him up sometimes very late at school. He would park across the street near St. Peter and Paul prep school and the teacher would walk over to his car. If we knew this was going on I think many of this teacher’s, and prominent business man’s friends also knew what was going on. They were both married.  There were rumors of a private club near Mona where gay men “hung out” a couple times during the week.  Married men having a night where they play dominoes, cards and/or drink with their friends is not unusual in Jamaica. My father and his friends did this at our house.

My feelings on gay people had changed since I came to America. It was culture shocked to see people being openly gay in public. When I worked at the supermarket there was a gay guy from the US Virgin Islands. The thought of someone from the Caribbean being openly gay was the first shock. The way he carried himself was the second shock. He wore his pants tight like a lady and he had 2 earnings in his ear. He had his hair straightened like a lady and was very effeminate. He would tell everyone who would listen about his boyfriend and what they did. It was like he was trying to convince everyone that having a boyfriend as a man was the same thing as having a girlfriend as a man. He was flamboyant but he was also very funny. He had the weirdest expressions but he always seemed to make everyone laugh. At first I was very reserved in the way I interacted with him and tried not to laugh at his jokes. However, there is no way to bottle humor in. He was a comedian.

All the talk about him being gay, or not, did not overshadow the fact that I would not be able to attend the funeral. I think by now all my family knew that I was an illegal alien. That was another point of frustration for me.

Sue went to Jamaica the following weekend for the funeral. The funeral would be the Sunday. I did not sit around and “mope” over things because Rosa was there with me. She knew I wanted to be there and pampered me.

That Saturday while were eating dinner, on the day of the funeral, something caught my eye on the television. There was a man on a boat being dragged away in handcuffs. The face was very familiar. It was a man that Ritchie’s father had me contact when I was stuck in the Bahamas. He was the one who took me to Florida on his boat.

“What’s wrong baby,” Rosa asked.

“This looks interesting,” I replied trying not to give the impression that I knew the guy.

I watched intently.  

There was a major drug sting by the DEA. They had rounded up over 200 people in South Florida and the Bahamas involved with drug trafficking and distribution. As I listened to the story I felt a pit in my stomach. This was not going to be good. I was not worried that this guy having any connection to me, because he did not. I was thinking about Ritchie. Even though he was not a “jugglist” his father was.  

My first instinct was to call him. I excused myself and told Rosa I was going to the bathroom. I went into my room and started to dial Ritchie’s number. I was about to put in the last digit then I stopped.

I thought to myself “If his father is arrested or under suspicion all their phones may be bugged”. I was paranoid. Probably watching too much Miami Vice caused my paranoia.

I did not hear from Ritchie. He was to confirm with me that he was picking up Sue from the airport Monday morning. He was MIA and I was not going to call him.

Sunday evening Sue called from Jamaica.

‘Have you heard from Ritchie?”

“No”, I did not want to alarm her. I was also not going to discuss anything over the phone.

He has not called me since I came down” she responded. I could tell she was worried. She was probably missing him more than anything. They were inseparable.

“I have not heard from him. Maybe something came up”. That was probably the wrong thing to say. No woman wants to hear something came up.

“Can you call him for me and find out what is going on. Then call me back” she asked.


I hung up the phone and waited for 15 minutes. I was not going to call Ritchie and get tangled in whatever was going on with him. I would lie to my sister.

I called her back.

“No one picked up the phone”

There was silence. She was worried. I could tell. I had to do something to console her till she gets back to Miami.

“It must be an emergency. I think I remember him saying something about a sick relative” I was lying and trying anything to “bring it off”.

I was not getting a response from her, so I tried harder.

“I am sure you will hear from him tonight. He must be missing you”

“Yeah, It is probably an emergency” she responded.

“I will pick you up from the Airport tomorrow evening. You can tell me everything about the funeral. ”

I hung up feeling really bad. I know she was worried but I could not say anything.

No word from Ritchie that evening or the next day.

On the way to the airport all I could think about was what to tell her about Ritchie. I really did not know where he is so I will try to focus to conversations on the trip to Jamaica.

Sue was waiting at the international arrival area at the Miami Airport

As soon as she got in the car I started to ask about the funeral and the family. She was my eyes and ears when she went to Jamaica. I wanted to know everything about everyone.

Before I could say anything she asked.

“Have you heard from Ritchie?”

“No but I am sure we will. It has to be an emergency”

I tried to change the subject and ask about my cousin’s funeral.

“Did anyone mention what he died off?”

“No”, her response was abrupt.

“Did you ask?”

“I asked Aunty Gwen, but she said his kidney’s failed”, it was another abrupt response.

Then I asked about my “gay” cousin. That is when she started to talk. He is always the center of every family gathering so it was the perfect “distraction” topic.

“He showed up with this beautiful ‘chiney’ girl but later that evening he came with a male friend to the house”.

“Did he seem concerned since Matthew died from AIDS?”

“Nobody was talking about it. I asked his sister if she thinks he is getting married but she did not want to take about it”

We talked all the way home about Jamaica.

Nothing has changed in Jamaica. Everyone was in denial.

There was a big problem waiting for us at home.

As soon as we walked in the door the phone rang. Sue ran to the phone. Even though part of me hoped it was Ritchie and part of me hoped it was not, I did not want my phone tapped.

The big smile on her face confirmed who was on the other end. It was Ritchie. Her smile soon turned to a look of concern. Then she was crying. I kept beckoning to her to tell me what was going on. Then she gave me the phone.

“Mi bwoy, mi need a favor”

“What you need”

“Mi need a place fi cool out”

“What happened?” I knew what happened but was trying to show concern and deflect that fact that I knew something.

“Babylon have mi fadda, im deh a jail”

He confirmed everything that I had suspected. His father was caught in the major drug sting and was arrested. He actually was on TV. I had not seen him being that I caught the news clip in the middle.

Ritchie tried to sound tough but I knew he was wreck. He could not go back to any of the homes his father owned. His plan was to go to Atlanta to “cool out”. He had assured us that he had not been “juggling” and that the police would not come looking for him.

“Can I come stay at your base fe two weeks?” he asked

Sue had been staring at me the whole time we were talking. I am sure she knew he was going to ask me the question. I was still in charge of the house and I am glad she had the respect to defer this question to me. I also remember how Ritchie helped me in my time of need. I had some major concerns but it would be a betrayal to let Ritchie down in his time of need.

“Yes, sure”, I responded. I thought to myself. Two weeks was not that long.

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