Dallas was not what I thought it would be, based on what I heard. I was expecting racism to hit me in the face. Dimitri, one of the Black American stock guys told me to be careful in Texas. I remember his exact words.
”Be careful bro, those rednecks in Texas hate n_____rs. Those crazy cr___kers just hung a brother out there”, Dimitri warned me.
I knew about the story. It was not a hanging. A black man was tied and dragged behind a truck by a group of white racist men. They had shown the dead man’s picture a few times on the TV news. It was a picture that was etched in my mind. I hated to paint all the white people of Texas with a broad brush but in my mind this incident said they all hated black people. I was in for a surprise.
The people were extremely friendly. Coming from South Florida where people get a cheap thrill from cutting people off in traffic it felt weird. It was the type of friendliness I saw on American TV shows when I was growing up in Jamaica. When I came to Miami I thought that friendliness would be there. People were not very friendly and I felt the TV shows gave the wrong impression of America. This type of friendliness made me feel like I was in the “real” America.
It started at the airport where a young white airport worker noticed I was looking around for the exit.
Can I help you sir?
At first I looked behind me to see if he was addressing someone else.
Yes, where is the exit to the airport shuttles? I asked
”The exits are over there,” he pointed. “I will walk you over to them”
During the 10 minute walk he struck up a conversation with me. He told me there were some great things to do in the city. He took me to the exit door and wished me a great visit.
It felt like I should have tipped him but he was just a regular airport worker. Maybe he was just a real friendly guy I thought to myself.
That was not he case as I encountered more friendly people.
I would be taking the hotel’s shuttle from the airport. I was already late due to the delayed flight. A man near by must have seen the frantic look on my face. He was dressed like the pictures you saw of the stereotypical Texan. He had on boots, jeans and a big cowboy hat.
”Are you okay?” he asked.
”Yes”, I replied. I was lying.
”You sure. We have a big airport”
”I am looking for the Hilton bus shuttle. My flight was late and I hope they didn’t cancel my reservations,” I confessed to him.
”I don’t know where the shuttle pick-up is located. Do you have a phone for the hotel?” he asked.
”Yes” I replied.
”Here use my phone to call them” he handed me his mobile phone.
Wow, I thought to myself. These people are really friendly.
I called the hotel and they told me where in the airport the shuttle pick-up was located. It was at the next terminal.
”Thanks” I said handing him back his phone.
”My pleasure and enjoy your time here in Dallas”
The friendliness of everyone in Dallas was awkward but in the 4 days I was there I got used to it.
The Hilton hotel I would be staying at was in a place called Plano. The training would take place in the hotel’s conference room. As soon as I was checked in I went to hotel restaurant to eat. I was provided with meal vouchers for the 3 restaurants in the hotel.
I was tired the first day of training. I went to sleep late after eating late. As they say in Jamaica “mi mash up”.
The trainer was a ball of energy. He was a little heavy but moved around the room like a child on candy. He also picked on people to answer questions. He kept me awake because he demanded attention.
I also made friends with the four people in my group during a break out session. We were all from different parts if the USA.
There was Oscar who was from New York. He was about 50, white, 5’2 and overweight. He could barley walk because of his weight. He was of Italian heritage and spoke a lot about his wife and 2 sons.
Joel was from Atlanta. He about 30, white, 6’2 and muscular. He was the quietest person in the group. He was very meticulous in everything he did. He used to be in the military.
Laurel was from North Carolina. She was white and medium built. She was the oldest in the group. She had a distinct Southern twang. She was the motherly figure in the group. She was a widow who went to work after her husband died and all her children moved away. She had some great southern proverbs. She reminded me of an ole time Jamaican granny.
There was Erika. She was about 26, white and tall. She was originally from Puerto Rico but now lived in Orlando, Florida. She had worked her way from cashier to manager. She was a divorcee. She had a son from the marriage. She was not bad looking and was dressed to “kill”. It was ironic meeting Puerto Rican on the trip after having theconversation with Donesha
on traveling to Puerto Rico from the USA did not require any travel documents.
We got along very well as a group. I was always skeptical of groups being that I had a bad experience with my last group at college. One guy was not pulling his weight on the project we were assigned. I told him about it in the presence of our group. He blew up and wanted to fight me. One of the group members had to “hold him back”. This was not going to be a play fight where you want someone to hold you back. He literally wanted to go at me.
At the end of the first day our group agreed to eat dinner together and met up at the bar.
Erika and I became really engrossed in a conversation while drinking. We were comparing similarities between Jamaica and Puerto Rico. There were a lot especially in the foods and fruits we eat. I would describe a fruit’s appearance, taste and texture. She would think about it, confirm my description and then tell me what they called it in Puerto Rico.
As we spoke Erika was drinking hard and fast. I was also drinking hard and fast. I typically don’t drink “hard” as I always feared getting pulled over by police and eventually turned over to immigration. Tonight was different. I was going up to my hotel room right after. The conversation was easy.
The rest of the group went to their rooms leaving Erika and I at the bar.
Erika did most of the talking. She grew up wanting to be a singer but got married young after she got pregnant. Her family pressured her to get married. She regretted it. She has been single since her marriage. She said men were too much trouble. She said any man who wanted to be with her would have to know it was a package deal; she and her 5-year old son.
When someone opens up to you it make you feel obligated to open up to them.
She asked if I had children. I told her no. One thing led to another and I was telling her about my relationship with the“crazy Cuban” girl Elena
We were so engrossed in the conversation we did not realize it was almost midnight.
“I have had too much to drink. Can you walk me back to my room?” She asked.
“Sure” I replied.
She fidgeted in her bag for her room key. When she got the door she opened and grabbed me.
”Come and tuck me in?” she whispered in my ear.
Before I knew it we were kissing passionately on her bed. I kept thinking I had to stop. I was not going to have unprotected sex with a stranger and catch something. I needed a condom. My brain told to stop but the lower part of my body said go. It had been almost a year since I had been with anyone. As my friend would say “Oil deh pon mi back”. I could not.
I woke up in a cold sweat and a head ache. Erika was lying next to me on the bed. I was in her room. I looked over at the clock in the hotel room. It was 5:00 am. I slowly tried to get out the bed so as not to wake her. It did not work.
She looked over at me.
”Where are you going?” She asked still half asleep.
”I am going to the bathroom?” I replied.
”Okay, come back. Let’s have some more fun” she replied in a sexy voice.
I smiled at her.
She turned and put the covers over her head as I turned on the lights.
My body was saying get back in bed and live for the moment. The brain was telling me get “heck” out of there.
The bathroom was located near the room entrance. My clothes were at the entrance. I peeked out the bathroom door. Erika was still under the covers and I could here a faint snore. Should I get back in bed and wake her up? My body said yes. Should I put my clothes on and leave? My brain said yes.
My brain won this battle.
I slipped out the room and bolted down to the elevators. My room was 2 floors up.
I looked behind me right before entering my room to be sure Erika did not follow me.
I showered and tried to get some sleep. Training would start at 9:00. I could not sleep. I kept thinking I slept with a woman I barley knew and without any protection. For any young male having a one night stand with a woman is something to celebrate. For me as an illegal alien I have to over think the situation and its effect on my status. Any regularly man would have jumped back in bed to have sex with no commitment but not me. I had a goal in mind and anything that will affect my goal is a problem. I kept playing out the scenario of what just happened. I enjoyed the act but there could be consequences. What if she gave me a sexual disease? She looked normal but you never know.
What if she became pregnant? I was not ready for a child. All the emotions I felt from the time Sherri-Ann Kong
told me she was pregnant came back. Then it hit me. She may be the perfect person to marry for a green card. It would look legitimate as we would have a child together. Then I realized how it could work against me being that we would have a connection. One that would make it difficult for any type of business arrangement.
It was awkward seeing Erika in the training room. I tried to avoid making eye contact with her. When we broke out into our group I kept my distance and did not engage her in any direct conversations. I could feel her staring at me.
During the end of our group session I went to the bathroom. I needed to “go” but I also wanted to be away from Erika.
As I exited the bathroom Erika was at the door.
She grabbed my hand and led me to a quiet area in the lobby.
”You are treating me like the plague and before it becomes obvious to everyone in the group let’s get something straight. Last night was not something I have ever done before. You are the first person I ever did this with. Second my tubes are tied so you don’t have to worry about me being pregnant. Third let’s just move on like nothing happened because you left like you regretted it. I am fine with that because you may have done these types of one night stands in the past and I am just another girl to you”
I did not get a word in. She walked away. I stood there for a bit and took a deep breath of relief. She was not pregnant and it seems she did not sleep around.
I walked back to the training. Erika and I were back to some type of “normal”. I don’t think anyone in the group suspected anything. Erika and I went back to the bar again with the group. We wanted to put on a good “front”.
For the next 3 days we pretended like it never happened. On the last day of training everyone in the group wished each other goodbye and exchanged contact information. I would probably never contact or see Erika again.
I was just about to doze off in the airport gate area when felt my chair shake. A lady sat beside. I thought to my self “why did she come sit beside me when there were so many empty chairs around. I soon found out.
She wanted to talk. I did not.
She was on her way to a wedding in New York for one of her best friends. She was not happy about the wedding. She thought her friend was making a mistake. The groom was a cheater. He even tried to pick her up.
I quickly dismissed myself by telling her I had to go to the bathroom. I moved to another area and waited there until the flight was being boarded.
The gentleman that sat beside me on the plane was Asian. I tried to avoid talking. I picked up a newspaper someone left in the seat pocket.
”Hi, my name is Newell”, he extended his hand during.
I am not sure how he knew this but he asked
”Where are you from?” he asked.
”Florida”, I replied
”I heard an accent when you were at the ticket counter”, he mentioned.
Scary as I did not even see him in the line.
Even though I lived in the USA over a decade I still had a Jamaican accent
”Jamaica” I replied.
”I am immigrant also,” he stated.
He then proceeded to tell me an amazing story that captivated me through the whole flight. He was a Chinese immigrant who 10 years ago was a stowaway in a ship to America. He was an activist in China and was targeted by the government. His family helped him escape. They paid for his passage to Burma then Thailand then Africa. He was stranded in Africa for a year when he got on a ship to America.
The ship got shipwrecked in Queens, New York, and they jumped off trying to swim ashore. He could not swim and passed out. When he woke up he was in a hospital bed. He tried to get up but realized he was handcuffed to the bed. He was taken to an immigration detention center in Pennsylvania.
I felt hopeless. There were a few Chinese prisoners. One committed suicide. They did not know what was going to happen as they could not send him back to China as he would be killed. The president signed an order 10 years ago that gave them temporary legal status. He wanted me to know that he was now a citizen and would do the same thing over again.
He then started to tell me that he only buys American. He believes all immigrants should buy American. The conversation lasted the whole flight. It was an amazing story that kept me engaged through flight. It was a fitting reminder of the goal I set for myself at the beginning of the trip…getting a green card by any means necessary