It seems like everyone in town has turned out for our departure. The only other guests returned from Negril late the night before, after we were asleep. Now they’re having breakfast at the bar, looking bewildered by all the attention we’re receiving. Courtney and Boy George are both here, and they’ve brought letters for us to post to girls they know back in the states. Boy George gives my daughter a beaded necklace. Young Jamaican men can seem so innocent, but I know this particular one is going to be trouble for the ladies some day. Al gives us a small cactus, with Lost Beach 2001 and all of our names carved in it. It’s still growing strong as I’m writing this. Harold and Mark bring our bags to the lobby, where Dennis and the van await.
It’s Romy’s day off, but our waitress from his alternate days, Audrey, is waiting in the lobby. So are Myrna, Marcy, and Karel. The owners are waiting there also. The girls hug my little daughter, Steve shakes my son’s hand, and Beth kisses my wife on the cheek. Mark nudges me, motions toward my wife and says “The tears begin to flow”. Sure enough, he’s absolutely right. My wife is crying.
As we started down that long dirt road, Dennis asked us if it was OK for him to bring his girlfriend and her daughter along to MoBay. That was fine with us, so he stopped in front of his house, and they came running out…seems like this whole thing was planned out in advance. By the time we arrived in Little London, Dennis noticed that one tire was a little flat, so we stopped at a gas station to add air. He debated calling Lost Beach for another van, but eventually decided that the leak was slow enough that we would just stop periodically for air.
The trip took us through Sav-La-Mar and then into the mountains. No teenagers along on this trip, so Dennis didn’t have to play the rap-reggae (reggae hip-hop? gangsta reggae?) that we listened to on the way to the falls. His tastes were a little more subdued; we spent the whole trip listening to UB40 (reggae lite?). There was one song called Kingston Town that seemed to fit our mood, we were missing Jamaica already.
Dennis kept looking down at the tire and decided we needed to stop for more air. Unfortunately the only service station we came to didn’t have any. Dennis kept shaking his head in frustration. “Must be the only gas station in Jamaica without air,” he said. About a mile further and the tire was completely flat. And, of course, the rain was pouring down. Dennis’s girlfriend held the umbrella while Dennis and I changed the tire. It wasn’t easy, and we had to move the jack a few times before we got it right. Dennis was very worried that we might miss our flight. But we were still on vacation, and told him that we’d be perfectly happy to stay one more night. “You know how we say ‘no problem, man’?” he asked, “Well this IS problem, man!” Somehow, he managed to get us back on the road again, and we did make it to the airport on time for our flight.
Usually, when we’re about to leave a place we’ve enjoyed, I tell the kids to take a look around and say goodbye. But we were in a rush because of the delay, and we never really said goodbye to Jamaica. And that’s perfectly all right with me. I don’t really want to say goodbye anyway. Since we’ve been back, we’ve bored all of our friends with stories, and sometimes out of nowhere one of us (usually my young daughter) will ask “Remember when…?”, followed by a story about Mark, or Al, or Squeak. Then we all smile, each of us knowing that we’ve got something inside of us that no one else will ever have. And each of us knowing that somewhere, miles and a world away, we’ve got another place that we can call home.