Don’t forget I’m waiting for you. That was the last thing Brownie said to Junior before he left for New York. They had been dating for just a few months when he started looking about his visa to go chase the American dream. Through the process of saving up to pay Miss Minna’s daughter, the one who went to Spanish Town once a week to get birth and death certificates and any other official documents you needed from the Registrar’s Office, papers that took upwards of six months if you applied for them yourself but that you could get back in a week if you paid the three thousand dollars she asked for her expedited service. Five fi di two of you though, she told Junior, since me know you. And he and Brownie saved up, planning as they squirreled away dollars under their own mattresses.
They were silent on the bus to Kingston though. While she made tea and wrapped a piece of bread “for the bus ride”, Ma had reminded him, kibba you mouth lest you jinx it. So they hadn’t talked too much about New York on the ride to town and by the time they were on their way back, there wasn’t anything to talk about anymore.
They both still wanted to migrate but Brownie had clearly gotten the wrong clerk at the embassy – a fat, white woman with red rouge that went almost to her eyelashes and curly hair that she had pulled back in a red white and blue head tie that made her look like she, herself, represented America. She didn’t ask for the bank statement, just looked at the passport and matched what she saw there with the face in front of her. Ms. America must have been immune to the pale skin and long hair that most of the men would agree were Brownie’s best features. Not to mention the thickness below her rail thin waist – that didn’t show over the counter so she couldn’t rely on her bottom but her top should have been enough, if that kind of thing worked in the visa line. Either way, the officer had stamped the ticket and returned her passport, empty, while at the next window, Junior’s was being bundled up with his papers and stacked atop the pile of those that would be embossed with a visa later that day.
The separation of their destinies had started that day. While Junior saved up for the plane ticket, Brownie spent money for their ice cream dates. Where she talked about him coming back to visit, he pictured the Brooklyn streets he’d seen in every rap video they showed on TVJ. While she talked about what a long-distance relationship would mean, he listened and tried to inject enthusiasm in his voice. Don’t wait for me, Junior said, wondering how long it would take for one of “dem boys” to get through with her, testing himself to see how he felt about the idea of it and concluding that it didn’t matter. He’d probably have a white girl in his dorm room bed by then anyway, he thought. He didn’t say that though. He was still here, so he said Yes at the right places, held her when she talked about how hard it would be to come over and not see him, even made plans for when he visited for the holidays. He could do that. It wouldn’t hurt his future in America to revisit his past whenever he returned to Jamaica. But in truth, what he wanted to say was that even though he loved her, he was excited about meeting new girls in America. But with all the honesty they talked about, he couldn’t bring himself to say it so the night before he left for America, she came and sat on his bed and cried while she helped him pack the flasks of homemade rum punch and bar-sourced coffee liqueur that would weigh down his suitcase until Aunt Ruby met him at JFK. Just saying the airport name in his mind made him feel like he was already in “foreign“.
I put something in your suitcase but don’t look for it until you reach over there, Brownie said, and sat down in the middle of his bed, hugging his pillow to her chest.
Come, he held his hand out to her. She gripped the pillow tighter and used it to shield her eyes. He knew she was setting up to cry but he didn’t want to watch that. He called out in the direction of her room, I soon come back, Ma.
At the door, she slipped on her shoes. Goodnight, Mummy, Brownie said towards the room, the blue television light dancing in otherwise darkness.
Goodnight, daughter, Ma answered. Even though Junior won’t be here tomorrow, you visit me anytime, okay? Don’t be a stranger, you hear?
The pressure that his girlfriend of a year already called his mother Mummy and was called her daughter in turn, was something Junior had been doing his best to not focus on. They had their own relationship and he wasn’t going to interfere or let it stifle him.
Brownie held on to his left bicep while he opened and closed again the piece of zinc covering three pieces of board nailed together in a Z-shape, that served as a gate. She didn’t let go even when they walked by the bar where his cousins were already sitting at their usual table on the piazza playing dominoes. Junior nodded at them when they passed. He would be back, the nod said, and their heads shook in collective acknowledgement. He sighed, as if he could inhale the whole scene and she wouldn’t see the gesture or what it meant. They were going to get him drunk tonight, he knew, but he hoped she wouldn’t mention it. She had been getting on his case since the time he had gotten drunk and almost crashed his cousin’s car. It was a close call, he knew, but she didn’t need to keep talking about it. No matter what their relationship, she wasn’t his mother – he already had one of those.
Man, he would be really happy when he got on that plane tomorrow.
So you nervous, she asked.
Yes. Kind of, he lied. He knew that’s what she wanted to hear.
What do you think is going to be the best part of going away?
What kind of question that? I don’t know what going happen.
I know you don’t know. But what you think?
Not this again, Junior thought silently. This line of questioning always ended up in their having an argument and he didn’t feel like getting into one tonight. If they had a fight, there wouldn’t be time to make up and he would be free to do what he wanted with no guilt. But Don didn’t want to take the easy way out even if she was almost offering it to him on a silver platter with this argumentative catalyst.
Why you ask so many questions? Junior made his voice get deep, as though it was filled with emotion and he pulled her close to him and looked down in her face and kissed her deeply. It was the kiss that always made her swoon and lean against him for support. He knew his girl well enough to know what to do to shut her up.
When she finally opened her eyes again, they were wet with tears. I’m going to miss you, Junie.
I’m going to miss you too. And it was true. He would miss her. How could he not miss her? He saw her every day. Sometimes when he came home from work, she was already at his house, watching TV with his mom or passing things from the her cook. She was like his wife, if he wanted one, which he didn’t.
Are you going to write me? she asked.
A wha you a ask me? You know rude boy don’t write no love letter! He laughed.
Well, I going to write to you everyday and you better reply and tell me how much you miss me.
They both laughed. Junior couldn’t and definitely wouldn’t promise that but it was funny to think about. In all the visions he had about living in one of the most exciting cities in the world, in all the thoughts he had about living in a dorm, meeting people from all around the world, playing soccer, going to bars, eating pizza, picking up chicks, in none of those images did he envision himself buying stationery and writing cute letters to send to St Elizabeth. In fact, now that he thought about it, he wanted to crack up laughing but he knew it would hurt her feelings and he didn’t want to do that.
They walked in silence to her gate.
Junie, you want to come inside?
No, babes. Her face fell a little at the rejection. I going hang out with Ma little bit.
She brightened at the thought that she wasn’t being blown off. She would only give up spending this last night with him if it meant he was spending it with his mother instead.
Alright. I love you. You know that right?
Yes. I know.
And I’ll see you in four months when you come back for Christmas.
Yes. I’ll see you.
I love you. She looked like she was going to cry again.
I love you too. Junior stroked her face. He didn’t want to see her cry. Go inside. I’ll wait for you to get in the house before I leave.
She grabbed him and hugged him again, like she was leaving his impression on her body. Then she let go suddenly and started to walk inside. At the steps, she looked back and called out. Don’t forget that you’re coming back to me, okay?
She put a foot on the step and turned back again. Junior swallowed the sigh he felt.
Don’t forget that I’m waiting for you, okay?
She opened the door and waved again.
It was dark and she was too far away to see his foot tapping. Junior waited until she had disappeared from the view through the window next to the door. An unwelcome heaviness flooded the space in his chest when he walked away from her gate for what he knew was the last time. Screw that, he thought. Junior knew what to do to dull that feeling. He headed for the bar.
Did you enjoy this latest installment? Let me know in the comments. Thanks.
Copyright (C) 2017 by Karen Wright
The above is an excerpt from an ongoing creative writing project which will probably be heavily edited in the future. Please do not copy or otherwise share this content.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
Thanks Paul for fueling this latest edit.
A few months ago, I started a new novel and shared some of these chapters on this blog. I am finally finishing up this project so I decided to start again at the top and release them to you. Over the course of the next few weeks, I will share the entire draft here on this page. Come back to read the rest of the story.