What do you do when you feel like home is dying?
The dollar in Jamaica is .006 of the an American dollar.
We think our pennies mean nothing.
The moment I set foot out of the vestibule, I can feel the heat.
I would come out with my bags and see the line of buses waiting to take me to my hotel.
This trip is different. I’m not just visiting family. I’m not just getting a chance to feel the island, again.
I am burying my grandmother.
However, I can’t help but feel this pang in my stomach. The way these workers greet me.
Rhythms of Gud Mawnin’, and Gud ‘Aftanoon fill the air.
As the guides nod to my existence. I don’t respond because I want so desperately to feel like I’m from here. Even though I know they know, I’m not.
I think about the first time I came to Jamaica after begging my mother to show me where she went to school. I remember walking through the streets, the quality of my linen gives me away.
I shoot back to where I am in the airport. I’m thinking of guides again.
Are they actually greeting me?
I think of my food service job.
Do they feel the way I do when I’m in uniform?
Unseen and an extension of merchandise?
The water of this land is clean. You can see the strength of the color. The water in my home town is gated off with a no trespassing sign. The high levels of lead makes it unsafe to swim.
Nature is different, here. They’re not arranged in a constructed “this is what’s left of nature” type of way. The palm trees grow naturally.
There are coconuts nestled at the tops of them. There are men with the machetes my grandmother used to keep in my backyard when I was young.
And when she was young.
The houses in Jamaica have bright colors. They are painted in an arrangement of yellows, oranges, reds, green, and white, trimmed with sand. The air is filled with deeper voices.
I think so often:
How connected are you to the land you stand on? Do you even know who stood on it before you? “
How do you respect who was on it before you?
Tell me what does that even look like?
In a time where visiting land is also-in the most subtle and seductive way-taking from the land.
When I go back to this land that was home to my family before me, I feel desperately severed.
In a series of strange ways.
When I went to bury my grandmother in the land that my great-grandparents stood, My cousins asked me,” Mi nuh know how di people dem innuh merica poor.”
I responded saying: These are good questions to ask.
You can go to the back and pile up the ackee and cut off the cerasee bush from the tree.
Living off the land and not having a job is more feasible.
All the while they have fruit that grows on the land. Their houses would be deemed as huts.
We chat about how some Americans don’t believe the pandemic is real.
When the day was done, I headed back to the house we were staying in.
The days are hot in the Caribbean. I was ready to shower. I turned the knob that has a red dot. No water came out.
I immediately felt embarrassed that I assumed there would be hot water. There would have to be a heater or boiler installed in the house to warm the water. The privilege on me.
It’s not that it’s needed. It’s just fashioned as if it’ll be there. How many American dollars would that take? I start to count. How many Jamaican dollars would that take? And how soon will it be that holding those Jamaican dollars wouldn’t mean anything, anymore? When will my heart break? When will my heart shatter?
I immediately feel embarrassed to miss the hot water.
The poverty levels rise, so therefore only the hotels are “safe.” The beaches get closed off from the public for these luxury hotels. The people losing access to the land to the wealth of those who visit. The crime is rising and rising. People don’t have access. People become safe.
And my stomach pangs again, knowing I am one of these people. Feeding this beast who needs to eat. So that the people have jobs. So that the people have money, so that they people can live.
I look at the top of the hill where my great-grandparents’ house remains. I think of how he bought the land from a slave owner. I think about this slave owner’s tombstone that sits on the land. I think of how my great-grandfather named this land, “Good Intent’. I look at the houses that my family are struggling to complete.
I wonder if this is the “good intent” Edwin (my great- grandfather) meant for us.
I wonder if I could leave the stress of the States. How my skin color in proximity to others dehumanize me in so many layers. Makes me question the minds of people I called friends. Question the souls of the people I am amongst. The desperation and pain that screams in my soul that they never hear.
But on this land I feel whole to the degree, I desperately need.
But then I realize how all my family members who could, left here to be in the States.
And I think:
Could I even come back?
Should I even come back?