Happy Friday everyone!This story, I promise will give you a glimpse of life in the Caribbean as a young white girl, during a time when Race was an even bigger Issue.
"When we docked in Jamaica, I stretched and breathed in the fresh air. It was beautiful with trees all around. Small homes hid between large trees. Children ran along the dock in dirty, shredded shorts and yelled in the same gibberish as the ones on the boat. Women discarded hats and ran to various men in crooked ties and limp hats. The man from the boat passed and gently brushed against my shoulder. I blushed and held down my head, when I looked up, father’s face held an expression I was unable to read.
I gripped the suitcase tightly in my sweaty palms. A nun with a pink and spotted face stepped towards us. She held on to her rosary and smiled at us. Mother smiled a genuine smile at her and I despised her even more. She led us to a small, damaged car at the side of the dirt road. I sat in the back seat of the hot car; a tall man with skin like coffee threw our luggage in the back which made the car scrape against the road, and made the journey go on forever. The nun was chatting to my father about the community, it was called River Rock, but I didn't hear why, because I was distracted by the greenery that seemed so surreal.
We passed some small shops along the way. Shirtless men leaned against the broken down shops smoking and drinking. They waved at us as we passed, All waved except mother who turned her head away. We pulled up at a small catholic church at a beach, I sniffed the salty air and ran from the car to the huge ocean. I have never felt or seen the ocean before and mother’s glare wasn’t enough to make me stop. I pulled my dress above my knees and ran into the cool water, squealing when father picked me up and threw me in and soaked me to skin. We walked to the back of the church where a small house stood. It was surrounded by coconut trees and a little hammock under a fruit tree I didn’t recognize. The nun opened the door and handed us the key to our new home. We were greeted with a tropical smell which blew me away with happiness. My room was small and cool, with a large window looking over the ocean. I fell backwards on the bed in my wet, salty dress, and closed my eyes thinking of the man on the dock.
The water under the shower was different from the one in England. It was warm and silky and plunged deep within my skin, relieving me of the crowded boat. I didn’t wear dresses or stockings on the island, only breezy T-shirts and cotton shorts. My skin became tanned, while mother stayed in the house in her long dresses and sipped tea. I didn’t see the man anymore, but each time I went to Mass I couldn’t close my eyes during the prayer, in case he would walk through the door with his smile lighting up the world.
I stopped looking for the man when I started school. I sat in a class with twenty children staring at me. I used to have a tutor who came to the house every other day, but when he migrated to England, father decided that I should go to school where I could make some friends. Mother disagreed and cried that I would adopt their ways, but father said in a clear, thundering voice that made mother silent. “How am I to preach neighbourly love, if I don’t want my family to be a part of them?” The morning was rainy and gloomy and we drove around a couple times before we realized that we passed the school.
The sign “River Rock All-Age school” was written on a piece of cardboard with almost all the letters missing. Father gave the devotion; the children stood before him gaping and staring at his hair, skin and eyes, then all over again, as if they just couldn’t believe. I tugged nervously at the dress, wondering if I was over-dressed. The principal beamed at me as he led me to the grade twelve class. The class stopped as the children stared fixedly on me, and then they whispered loudly among each other. “Her eye dem blue!”
“How her hair yellow?” The principal barked order and he lead me with pride to the front desk that shone with polish. I stopped short and couldn’t sit when I saw that my teacher was the man from the dock. He stood at the front with the chalk in his hand. He looked different, his skin seemed to glow in the warm Caribbean sun and he looked professional. He looked so serious in his sharp shirt and pants that I felt like so young sitting before him.
The students surrounded me each time we had break. They watched me as I ate, their mouths opening and closing each time mine did. They were my shade and shelter from the rain, and I would award for their service by allowing them to touch my hair and skin or stare into my blue eyes.
Mr. Harris would often ignore me in class. He would never pick on me or he would merely glance at my raised hand. I gave up and didn’t bother, but every day I would run home and soak my pillow with tears. I was sure he could see me, because I could feel his eyes on me as I ran daintily from school each evening. He would glance at my legs when the light wind blew the my dress above my knees.I would let it stay there, for just a piece of his attention.
I sat on bed staring at the electric light. I didn’t really give it much thought, but when father asked some men to fix the roof in my room. I realized that they hadn’t a clue about it. They would gaze on it for awhile before they could actually start working. There was going to be some fish catching in preparation for Jamaica’s independence from England; a piece of information I didn’t even know, and It happened three years ago, when I didn’t even know a place called Jamaica existed.
I saw him in the dark pulling in a net, his muscles bulging. He was sweating because he would frequently wipe his palm over his face. His laugh was like the rumble of an engine, so smooth and clean. I heard mother yelling “Josephine!” but I ignored her and walked further along the beach, until her voice was drowned by the crashing waves. I stepped towards him, but a woman held him from behind and pushed him in the rough sea. He giggled like a girl and held her waist, pulling her down with him. She playfully slapped him and then he picked her up and kissed her.
My eyes burned with tears and I ran towards the trees. A voice like thunder yelled out my name. I stopped and listened to the feet padding lightly on the sand. I turned to face him, the moon shone on his face and his eyes sparkled. The moon was full, so I could see him clearly. His hair lay flat on his head, almost straight like fathers. He wore no shirt, so I could see the wet straight hairs on his chest. A line marked his arm, showing a contrast of colour, one so light he seemed white, and the other as golden as his face.
He stepped towards me and I shivered. He held my face and laughed, murmuring my name under his breath.
“Josephine, you too young.” I flung his hand away from my face and glared at him, but he still smiled.
“I’ll be seventeen this year!” I said a little too loudly. He chuckled and held up his head to the moon, I could see that his eyes were brown. “Why don’t you choose me in class?” I said a little too desperately. He looked at me intently, his eyes burning and he glowered, which scared me.
“You think dem children will ever forgive you,"he paused “if you answer anything ‘bout slavery?”
I understood him and held down my head. He pressed his face close to mine; I could smell the alcohol on his breath. I spoke before he could.
“How comes you are so light?”He laughed and glanced at the activity behind us.
“My father a white man, he own the estate over by Glendon, that’s where I live.”
“You live in that big house!?” I marvelled.
“That’s why she want me,” he glanced at the girl he picked up and we laughed.
We were silent, listening to the men tackle the net and the birds overhead. I heard my mother’s voice, once more I ignored it. He held my hand, they covered mine, and then he stooped to my level and pressed his plump lips against mine. My mind swirled and spun, at this new pleasure. He stood at looked at me and smiled shyly, and then he cleared his voice.“Take care Josephine.”
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