Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Fiction Series: Boroughs Apart: Part 13


Hey, Everyone! We give away a lot of creative content, for free, here at Rivaflowz.com. In return, we’d like to ask you one favor! Can you share the link to this post? Use the hashtag  #BoroughsApart and tag @rivaflowz (on IG or Twitter) and let people know how much you enjoy the series! If you'd like all the parts to this fiction series, click HERE.


Reynold arrived when the festivities were almost over. Likkle was a small seaside joint, usually filled with locals. Tonight it was empty, except for two of the teachers he worked with, a bartender, a busboy, and Cheryl. She was jamming to Duke Reid, sipping something clear through a straw. 

"I hope that's water."

Cheryl spun around, in her stool, "Glad you could make it, mystery man."

A fellow math teacher, Peta-Gaye, picked up her purse and got ready to leave, "I see you got him here. Let me make my exit, so you can get to know one another better."

Reynold smiled, "What is she talking about?"

"I might have bragged that I influenced you to come."

"Oh is that right?"

"Well, you came so late. Thank the lord Peta was here, because I would've been a liar." 

"You're still a liar."

Cheryl looked him directly in the eyes, "How so, mystery man?"

"Because you didn't influence me. Trying to get away from grading is what got me here."

She touched his face, with her fingertips, "And clearly something else. What's got you running?"

Reynold doubted her intuition, she knew he was just trying to get under his skin, "Nothing. Bartender, I'll take a stout."

"It's cool. In time, you'll tell me."

Reynold and Cheryl spent the rest of the evening getting to know one another. They were the only ones left in the bar, an establishment that didn't close until the last drinker was gone.

Several weekday outings were spent at Likkle. Reynold would've loved to think he was falling for her, but he knew better. He was falling into comfort, something that he knew Cheryl was waiting for and that he needed. She spoke of an ex-husband and miscarriages. He spoke of Harlem and odd jobs. 

She often inquired, "That's it? Smoke, jazz lounges, and bars? No girl? No children left behind?"

Reynold would briefly think of Ruth and then he'd shake his head no.


Ella put her hand on Evan's shoulder and pinched it. She whispered, "Can I speak to you, privately?"

Bethany and Evan's father were in the kitchen, making sure the food was ready. Ella, Evan, Reynold, and Rebecca stared at one another in silence. Evan finally broke it, "We'll be right back. I want to show Ella our garden."

Rebecca jumped up, "I loved that garden! Can I come?"

"It looks exactly the same."

Evan grabbed Ella's hand and brought her downstairs and out to the garden.

"What's up?"

"Who is that girl?"

Evan sighed, "She's...she's my ex-girlfriend. I can't even lie to you."

"What is she doing here?"

Evan didn't expect her to be so calm, "My father invited her here, I didn't know he'd do something like that."

"I bet."

"What does that mean?"

Ella lowered her voice, "I've seen that girl, before. One of these days I came to meet you and your father was seeing her off. They looked a little too friendly."

"What? Why didn't you tell me that? Do you know what you're implying?"

"I do. That's how you know I'm not lying. I saw what I saw and she doesn't belong here."

Before Evan could reply, they heard the sound of glass shattering above them. 



Cheryl sat on the edge of Reynold's bed, confused and crying. He still hadn't gotten used to the sound of the island, after being in Harlem. He was thankful for the crickets that drowned the sound of Cheryl's not so subtle tears.

"I'm not ready to be a father."

"I'm not asking you to be ready. I'm asking you to acknowledge that this child is yours and that you'll try."

"I don't have a choice, do I?"

"I want this child, Reynold."

"Okay."

On the first night she decided to sleep over, Reynold warned her. He knew he was no good to anyone and still she'd managed to slip into his life. She sat in his shirts, checking student solutions, at his living room table. She insisted on coming over to cook, even when he told her that he'd be fine. She met him at the bus stop, in the morning, hoping they could go in together. 

When he told her their union wouldn't work, they were driving over potholes, the bus rumbling beneath their feet. She put her palm over his heart, "I'm broken, you're broken, I get it. Let's mend, together."

He was silent. He gave her no confirmation that he felt the same way. Yet, they'd made love time and time again. Once, he'd let Ruth's name slip. Cheryl pretended not to notice. She hoped the longer she stayed, the more his past would fade. 

But his pain didn't dissipate. 
Cheryl continued to pretend the attention he gave her was love.
They reached inside one another, trying to find tomorrow.
They failed.
Jamaica's night whispered through their windows. 

Reynold sat up and pulled Cheryl close to him, he placed his hand on her heart, "Let's mend."

But under his hand, was an aging tear, that would continue to crack, long after their daughter was born.


Evan Jr. tried to teach his son about love. 

When Third came home, with his first crush slipped between a construction paper heart, he sat him down to talk about girls that would one day be women. 

"Find one that loves you more than you love them."

"Why?"

"Because she'll be loyal, she'll never leave your side."

"Why can't you love each other the same? Why can't we stay by one another's side?"

Evan Jr. looked at his pre-teen son, he was wise beyond his years. He realized he could teach him nothing about love; his father knew nothing of it and his mother seemed void of it. No one had ever truly taught him how to love a woman. He mimicked what entertainment told him and what his father left behind:

Love was a fairytale at home, but whatever else you wanted it to be when you left. 

Absent.
A tan ring finger. 
Something on the side. 
A promise never kept.
A lie.
A fallacy. 
A smile.

He remembered where his father took his last breath. It was at his summer home, with his other family. He left this world where he felt content. 

Rebecca, the girl his son loved since he was thirteen, showed up at his office a grown woman. She was 26, fresh out of a master's program.

She put her resume in front of him, closed the blinds, and sat on his desk, "I want an interview."

He was shocked, "I see that."

"Do I have the job?"

Something inherited and dark suddenly kicked in, "What job is that?"

Rebecca pulled her coat off, feigning that it was warm, "Any job you're willing to give me."

The last time he saw Rebecca, she was twenty-one and storming out of his house, upset with his son. He stopped to ask her what was wrong.

"Your son wants to be a philanthropist. I need to be kept."

"He has more than enough money to do that."

"Oh, I know. He broke up with me!"

Now, she was here asking to be kept once again. Evan Jr. stood up, thinking of his rebel son, docile wife, and irritating mother and decided that he wanted to be content.


There was glass everywhere.

The tray Ruth brought down the steps, with all the glasses, was strewn with shards all over the living room floor.

Rebecca stood with her hands on her hips, "Your grandmother was always a bat."

Evan almost raised his voice, but then he saw Reynold kneel down and start to pick up the pieces.

Ruth slowly kneeled down and assisted him. They stole glances at one another while putting the pieces into the tray, as everyone looked on.

Evan's father spoke, "Ma, I'll call the staff to do that."

Reynold and Ruth continued to pick up the pieces, until he broke the silence, "Let me do it, Ruth."

Ruth stopped but continued to look down, shaking the smallest glass from her fingers. 

Evan's father was confused, "How do you know my mother's name?"

Reynold pushed the tray aside and helped Ruth up. 

Ruth looked at him like it was the first time. He was just as handsome as the day she met him, if not more, "I see you found your way back to Harlem. I thought we'd have to meet on much higher ground, that upper room."

Reynold laughed, put his hands around her face just in case she wasn't real and kissed her full on the lips, "No, Ruth baby. I'm here. I'm still here."

Everyone in the room was stunned, everyone except for Evan.

"Is this the man from your stories, grandma?"

Ruth nodded and held Reynold's hand. She knew she'd never let go again. Evan's father walked closer to Ruth and Reynold, a realization plastered across his face. 

"I don't know what's going on here, but I want you and that girl out of my house."






Monday, August 31, 2015

Fiction Series: Boroughs Apart: Part 12







Hey, Everyone! We give away a lot of creative content, for free, here at Rivaflowz.com. In return, we’d like to ask you one favor! Can you share the link to this post? Hashtag it #BoroughsApart and tag @rivaflowz (on IG or Twitter) and let people know how much you enjoy the series! If you'd like all the parts to this fiction series, click HERE.

Reynold's wife swung like a pendulum, from the banister of their second floor stairwell. He tried to muster something, anything, but failed. Even in her demise, he could not love her the way she should've been loved.


__________________________________

Cheryl was a schoolteacher at the same college Reynold taught in. In Jamaica, college was tertiary education. It wasn't a  place you received a degree, but rather a place that you prepared for it. Reynold was a teacher before he left the island, but couldn't find work as more than a waiter or bartender in America. This was the only good thing about being back home.  

Cheryl was intrigued by the literature he taught. Students walked into her math class with new Renaissance poetry, work she'd never seen in any textbook. They seemed to enjoy him and talked about his presence, long into their equations.

She finally approached him, after three weeks of mystery. When anyone greeted him, he didn't speak. The other teachers, especially the women, buzzed about how gorgeous he was, but were thrown off by his rudeness.

He was sitting at a lunch table, after school let out, reading a book, when she finally spoke, "What are you reading?"

"To be exact: Battle of The Landlord, but the entire book is Langston's poetry."

"Who?"

"Langston Hughes."

"Is he big in New York?"

"How do you know that's where I was?"

"You lost a bit of your accent. It was just a guess. I see that I'm right."

"Maybe."

"Why don't you speak to anybody?"

"I'm speaking to you now."

"You know what I mean."

Reynold looked up at Cheryl. She was cocoa, with a head full of curls, and she smelled like shea and coconut, distinguishable from the other side of the table. 

"I like to keep to myself."

"Can you keep to yourself, at Likkle, tonight?"

"Likkle? What's that?" 

"It's a bar, downtown. The staff goes there to grab a drink after our craziest days."

"Was today crazy?"

"Every day is crazy."

Reynold smiled, "Thanks, but no thanks."

Cheryl got up to leave, "Well, we're there all night if you change your mind."

Reynold got home an hour later. The walk from the school, to his small flat was hot and heavy with thoughts. He couldn't stop thinking about Ruth. He thought coming back home, the change of scenery, was enough to rid himself of the memories. Sadly, she was seared on to his mind, taking her seat there forever. After he dropped his work bag and pulled out papers to grade, he found his way to the bedroom. He opened his sock drawer and pulled out a picture of Ruth. She sat smiling, on a rooftop in Harlem. The black and white photo seemed to move, Reynold could imagine her hair flapping in the fall wind, her beauty fighting with the smog and smell of the city.

He put the picture back into the drawer and sat at his kitchen table to finish grading. Halfway through a few promising essays, the realization hit him. It punched him harder than when he'd gone to the diner to find Ruth, when he roamed the subways looking for her, when he stepped off of the plane at Garvey airport.

He was never going to see Ruth, again.

Reynold grabbed his coat and stepped outside to hail a cab. A small car pulled up and he sat in the backseat. 

"Where to boss?"

"Downtown. Likkle."



Evan Sr. returned home early, that evening. His wife was stunned, already at the dinner table with their son. The table was set for two. The moment she heard his key in the door she motioned to the maid to set his place. 

Instead of walking to his office, he walked straight into the dining room. He looked relaxed and happy, he wasn't wearing his usual business attire, but was donned in a buttoned shirt and jeans. It seemed as if he was taking more time off of work, to handle other affairs. 

He sat in his seat and smiled; he rubbed his son on the head. Evan Jr. was going to be 12 this year. He was bright-eyed and excited to see his father. He was his biggest fan. 

Evan Jr. spoke first, "Dad! At school we..."

"One second, son. I need to talk about some business with your mom."

Ruth looked up from her plate, visibly disinterested in anything he had to say, "You're home early. I thought you'd be out on the Island all week."

"I was and then I got a call from a long-time tenant that's moving out of 135."

"My father's building?"

"You mean my building. I inherited all of that."

"We did..."

"Whatever. Remember that party I picked you up from?"

"Scarcely. We were young, so long ago."

"Interesting. I remember it like it was yesterday. You were visiting with these two roommates. One of them is gone, the other still lives there."

Ruth could feel her heart, beating a mile a minute, "So?"

"So, he's moving out in the fall. He'll be gone for the rest of the summer and wants to sublet before his official move out date, in September."

"Okay. That sounds fine."

"Would you like to know where he's going?"

Ruth pushed her broccoli with her fork, she tried to act as if she didn't care, "Where?"

"To Jamaica. He's going to a wedding. I think his old roommate is getting married. Nice, right? We should go to Jamaica, sometime."

Ruth stuffed the broccoli in her mouth, she hoped it would go down with the tears that almost made their way to the surface. 

"Any friends there, Ruth?"

Ruth pushed through the pain and smiled, "No."

Evan Sr. cut a piece of his steak, "Good. Now, son, tell me about school today..." 



"Why the hell would you invite her here?"

Evan's mother seemed taken aback. She was under the impression that her son requested Rebecca's presence, that he'd changed his mind about Ella. 

"You didn't want her here?"

"No! Ella is on her way."

Evan's father chuckled, "We're all family. We can eat together. Rebecca used to be here all of the time."

Evan grit his teeth and clenched his fists; Rebecca standing in between them was the only thing keeping him from clocking his dad. 

Grandma Ruth stood up abruptly, "I see I'm going to need more scotch for this evening."

She stood up and walked towards the steps.

Evan's father looked annoyed, "Ma, where are you going?"

"To get my glasses!"

"You don't wear glasses!"

She yelled from her room, "My scotch glasses!"

Just then the doorbell rang, again. Evan walked to the door, knowing this time around it was Ella and her grandfather. He ushered them in and told them they could have a seat anywhere, while he took Ella's coat. Ella stared at Rebecca who'd also taken a seat, wondering why Evan's father's mistress was there. 

Evan's father introduced himself to Reynold, "I'm Mr. Marquis, Evan's father."

Reynold shook his hand and hugged his wife. He told them that he was pleased to make their acquaintance and took a seat. Evan's father looked just like the man who'd taken Ruth away from him. He was certain this was the same family. He looked towards the doors that separated the house, from the private office. He'd never forget that room. 

Evan's father spoke again, "You look familiar. Are you from Harlem?"

Reynold chuckled, "I guess you could say that."


Evan Jr. was bored. His father left, right after dinner, and told him he had to work. He'd come to understand where his father was based on his attire. It was Tuesday and he wore weekend clothing. He was not going to work.

He walked through the house and looked through the closets and drawers. He wanted to know more about his father, more than the hour intervals he'd grown accustomed to. He found himself looking through the hatboxes in his mother's closet, while she helped clean the kitchen. There was a pink box filled with letters. They were all addressed to his mother, years before he was born, from a man named Reynold. They held no stamps, so they must have been delivered by hand. 

In one of the envelopes, there was a picture. It was a photo of his mother, years younger, standing next to a man he didn't recognize. 

Evan Jr. was suddenly angry. He knew his father's absence was due to his mother's lack of loyalty. He stormed downstairs with the intention of confronting her; he was going to get her to admit her wrongdoings.

Instead of finding her washing dishes, he walked into the kitchen to find his mother curled into a ball, crying on their linoleum floor. He suddenly lost his bravery.

"Mommy?"

She sat up suddenly, wiped her eyes, and tried to pull herself together, "Yes, baby."

Evan Jr. couldn't think of anything to say. He said the first thing that came to his mind, "Where is daddy?"

"Your father is at the summer home."

"But it's winter."

Ruth pulled her son close and wrapped her arms around him, "I know, baby. I know."







Saturday, August 29, 2015

Dating Series: Looking for A Love Jones, Part 2




As most of you know, my last book of 2015 will be a memoir on love. Its release date should be mid-September. It's a compilation of stories, never told anywhere else. They've never been on this blog or any other site and it's longer than my other two books. Leading up to this release will be this final dating series. I'll release an installment each week. I hope you enjoy it. If you'd like to share it, you can do so with the hashtag #lookingforalovejones & tag @rivaflowz on IG or Twitter.

Read Part 1 of this series, HERE.

Travis 

I'm not a fan of random social media messages from men I don't know. They're always really creepy. There's one guy who insists we've met on several occasions and sometimes describes what I've worn for the day. (Yes, this is really scary.) There's another that sends me random love poems, written by Romantic Era poets. There's even a guy that sends pictures of me performing poems. He congratulates me on shows, but has never greeted me at one. He says he's not ready yet. 

Yikes.

Being in the limelight causes my eyebrow to immediately arch, whenever the Facebook message sound goes off. 

Ding. 

His profile picture was tiny, on the left side of his message, but I could already tell that he was well dressed and a deep shade of chocolate. Enlarged, his photo boasted a white linen suit against a red brick background. He was bald, with an incredible smile. 

"I fathom that if you were lighter, blonde, or had more time, your work would already be viral."

I was taken aback by his message, "Excuse me?"

"I'm a photojournalist. Do you know how difficult it is to sell stock photos of people with melanin?"

He'd started the conversation as though we'd already known each other. His statements were intriguing. I decided to play along. 

"Is it? I know nothing about that field."

"It is. My pictures are in magazines and newspapers, but in my free time I take images for folks to use in their digital spaces. Folks without melanin are flying off of the virtual shelves. However, we brown skinned folks are not." 

We messaged back and forth, for a week, and eventually exchanged numbers. I waited for a few days for a message or a call, but he failed to appear. After two weeks, I'd decided that our friendship ended within those Facebook messages. 

The living room was quiet. There'd never been a day that Ray came to visit, where things seemed solemn. I walked out from the kitchen, with his glass of water, and caught him staring at Mason's items sitting next to my couch. He'd left his bookbag and computer, while he went out to visit with friends. 

"So, he is staying here."

I handed Ray his water and sat beside him, "No. He came over for breakfast, with a mutual friend. He's a few blocks away visiting his frat brothers, from college. He asked if he could leave his things here."

"And you said yes?"

"Yeah."

"That's not like you, Ms. I-need-my-space."

"A bookbag and a laptop aren't going to stress me out."

"He left it here, so he could come back," Ray kicked Mason's bag.

"Stop that!"

Ray laughed, "Look at that. You're even protective of his stuff."

"Whatever. What did you end up doing, last night?"

"After you and homeboy had your first kiss at the bar, I went to get some numbers."

I smiled, "Oh, you caught that."

Ray rolled his eyes, "I did. I ended up taking Jenna home and then I went to see Mila."

"Who is Mila?"

"A Karen rebound."

"I thought we couldn't call them that."

"You can't, I can."

"So, tell me about her."

"Ain't much to tell. I'm not going to see her, after last night. I got what I wanted."

I rolled my eyes, "You're disgusting."

"Where'd you go with, Mason?"

"He took me home, like a gentleman. I went to sleep and then woke up this morning to prepare for his arrival."

"Where's my brunch?"

"Back at your momma's house."



Ray punched my arm, as my doorbell rung. Mason was probably back for his items after his meeting. I opened the door to find him, with two tickets in his hand.

"J. Cole concert?"

My eyes brightened, "Hell yes! Where'd you get those?"

"They're for press and since my writer can't make it tonight...why not take the best writer I know?"

I hugged him, hoping Ray wasn't behind me staring, "Thanks! I'm about to go and pick something out to wear."

Ray joined Mason in the living room and I heard the two greet one another. I pulled a pair of jeans and a cotton tee, while slightly eavesdropping on their conversation. I could barely hear them. When I figured out what I wanted to wear, I made way back into the living room. I caught Mason, mid sentence.

"That means she's single then, my brother..."

I sat between my best friend and Mason, "What are you two talking about?"

Ray got up to leave and grabbed his car keys, "Nothing. Absolutely nothing."

The concert was amazing. Afterwards, Mason and I made our way backstage and interviewed some of the other Dreamville artists. I really wanted to help and reminisced my days of writing hip-hop journalism. Mason was a few years younger than me and watching him I could see the same passion I had, for the work. 

He was finishing up an interview with an emcee, when a random girl walked over. She was an hourglass, with surgery to match. 

She spoke quickly, "Are you a reporter? You should interview me."

Mason smiled as she giggled, after her statement, "I'm good. Thanks for the offer."

"You own HipHopForever, right?"

"Yeah. How'd you know that?"

"You're fine as hell and I've seen you at a few shows."

I really didn't want to be petty, but I'm not that mature yet. I coughed. 

Mason turned to look at me, "This is my homegirl, Erica. She came with me and thank God she's helping with some of the writing."

The random girl acted as if he hadn't introduced me. She pulled a business card out of her bosom (as if!) and handed it to him, "Call me sometime."

When she walked off, I took the card from him. It had a huge picture of her face and bosom plastered on it and it said her name and "model." I gave it back to him, "Typical."

Mason put his arms around me, "You're not jealous, are you?"

I grit my teeth, "No. Besides, I work for you. I'm just one of your writers." 

He smiled, "You do not! I didn't mean it like that."

I laughed, "I'm just messing with you. C'mon, let's go." 

Travis

Travis finally called. 

He'd been in the hospital, visiting his sister for the last two weeks. She'd fallen ill and they were incredibly close. He spent every moment, by her side. I listened to him as he spoke: things didn't look good, he'd only left the hospital to breathe, he hated that place and was only there for her. 

"I'm not good at dealing with things like this."

"Who is?"

We tried to talk about everything but. I made him laugh and he thanked me for it. Before we knew it, four hours passed. 

"It's been really good talking to you."

I rolled over, on the sofa I was laying on, "It was good talking to you, too."

Three seconds after we'd hung up the phone, he text me, "Let's go out. tomorrow."

I was suddenly intimidated, I looked at his text and scrolled through his social media. I viewed thousands of followers that were in awe of his work, the hundreds of emojis girls left behind, and how debonair he was at all times. 

I responded, "I have to write, all day. When I get back from Jamaica?"

"You're going away?"

"Yes. Only for two weeks."

He laughed, "You can't play hooky, tomorrow?"

I swallowed my insecurities, I could hear them land in the pit of my stomach, "No, two weeks. I promise."

He was pissed, "Nah, I'm good."









Fiction Series: For Coffee: Part 2


Part one and the series can be found here! We'll be updating every week. 

Let us know if you like the series, using our hashtag: #forcoffeewithlove

Summer 1985—Brooklyn, New York, USA
Julian

"And if you don't come quick
You not gonna see your son
So I grab a bunch of roses
And I started to run"
--Barrington Levy, Here I Come

I waited on the steps of my home, for my father’s arrival. Sometimes he showed, other times my mother would come out and tell me that he called to say that he’d visit another time.

This time he showed.

As usual, I heard him coming before I saw the car. The pulsating beat of reggae announced his arrival, to the neighbors.

I grabbed my knapsack from the steps and walked to the passenger side of the car. When I opened the door, I realized he was blasting Ranking Dread’s “Fatty Boom Boom.” He was obsessed with my mother’s culture, but could barely look her in the eyes.

“You’re not coming in, to say hi to mom?”

He looked at my front door and put the car back into drive, “Maybe next time.”

My father, Delroy Williams, was American born. His family hailed from the Deep South, Alabama to be exact. His mother, my grandmother, often told stories of cotton farms and disenfranchisement laden with her beautiful accent. My father garnered his love of Caribbean culture from my grandfather. His mother moved to New York, whisked away from Monroeville by a man in a pickup truck that blasted old Jamaican Ska. They ended up in New York City, where she gave birth to Delroy in a tiny South Bronx apartment and he’d grown to be a DJ, a spinner of his father’s records, and in charge of the tunes at the party repass his father requested.

My father turned down the music, “This is what I want you to play, when I die. Don’t mourn me, dance.”

I laughed, “Going out like grandpa, huh?”

“That’s right.”

My father wore a Jamaican flag around his sienna wrist and a small hemp pouch hung on the front mirror; it held souvenir coffee beans and was painted green, yellow, and black. For a man, born here, who’d only visited the Caribbean on vacation, I was amazed at how authentic he tried to be. He’d met my mother on one of these visits, became enamored with her smile and sway, and decided to marry her right away. A few years after my birth, she’d revealed to him that she only married him to make her way to America. Although they speak, mostly about me, I don’t think he’s ever forgiven her.

“How’s school, Julian?”

“It’s cool. I’m at Erasmus now. Mommy didn’t think Wingate was a good fit for me.”

“I hear Erasmus is just as bad, now.”

“I guess, but the English teachers are really amazing. A lot of students are getting published, early on.”

“I guess you still want to be a writer.”

I chuckled, “I guess you’re still sad that I don’t want to be a DJ.”

“Selector.”

“Okay, dad. You have to be a true yardie, to earn the selector title.”

His father turned left on to the Interboro, the way to the Bronx, “I’m a yardie at heart…”

“And so was your father…we know.”

They both smiled, finding themselves doing the push and pull of writing versus music once again.
I continued, “I’m having some trouble with The Crew.”

Delroy looked concerned, “Do you need me to come down there and talk to those boys?”

“They’re not all boys, dad. Some of them are grown men. They hang around the school, some of them know mommy from back home and they keep asking me to be down.”

“No son of mine will be caught up in that foolishness.”

“I don’t want to be a part of any of it. I’m just trying to make it through this last year.”

Delroy reached over and pinched his son’s shoulder, “That’s my boy.”

I took in the scenery around the curvy highway that spun through the border of Queens and Brooklyn. Headstones peeked out from the side shrubbery. The cemetery was large and took up about a half a mile of the highway. I wondered, if my peers continued down the road they were on, how many of them would end up with their names engraved on one, before their time.   

Summer 1985—Blue Mountains, Jamaica, West Indies
Selam

Sammy followed me around the backyard, while I tried to hang up the laundry on the clothesline. He was persistent, annoying really, inquiring about our new visitors.

“I saw him and his mother come last night, Selam. They look like they’re from foreign. Which part your mummy know them from?”

I continued hanging up the clothes, “You’re too fast, Sammy. Your house is on a completely different hill and yuh find complete view of my yard.”

“Boredom.”

“He’s mommy’s childhood best friend’s son.”

“He has on Adidas! They rich!”

“They’re not rich, Sammy. That is just trend in America.”

“You like him?”

“Is that you really want ask! You come over here to fast about my love life.”

“No.”

“Sammy, I met the boy last night.”

“Which part him sleep?”

“In the guest room, with his mother.”

I looked over at Sammy, he was sitting on overturned laundry basket with his arms across his chest.

“You want to get to know him?”

“I don’t care about anything but my studies. I want to go UWI.”

“Is that right? Your mother set on you going to foreign with mummy and I.”

I stopped putting laundry up, “Excuse me?”

“We’re going up before high school finish. They’re going to put us a grade back anyway.”

“When is that?”

“The end of the summer.”

“Wha? Who told you this?”

“I overheard my mummy and your mummy talking about it.”

“Fast, just fast.”

I was suddenly extremely nervous. How could my mother plan on my departure, without a word to me?
Summer 1985—Blue Mountains, Jamaica, West Indies
Julian and Selam

Selam could hear the music through his headphones. It was music that she hadn’t really taken a liking to, but her mother seemed to enjoy it. Julie, Julian’s mother, sent tapes for her to listen to. Julian sat on the porch, bopping his head, writing in a book, and scratching his skin.

“I see I’m going to have to burn some bush for you.”

Julian took his headphones off, “What?”

“I see that you’re scratching up a storm and your arms are getting red. Mosquitos love new blood.”

“I’ve been using this spray we brought, but it’s not really working.”

Selam looked at his outfit. He seemed so out of place with his tracksuit and sneakers, in 90 degree weather.

“You’re not hot?”

Julian wiped his brow, “No.”

“A lie yuh a tell. You’re burning up. There’s no one here to look cool for. I can’t even wear my hair down, in this weather.”

Julian looked up at her bun and took off his jacket. He wore a white tank underneath.

“I’m sure you feel better now.”

“What do you do for fun, here? Milk cows and sharecrop?”

“Well, this isn’t a dairy farm, so there aren’t any cows here. We have staff that farms the land. My mother and I just do the tours, now.”

“You still didn’t answer my question.”

“What do you do for fun, city boy?”

“You can’t answer a question with a question.”

“I just did.”

“We listen to music, cool out, hit the park, skate, or catch a flick.”

“We’ve been to Kingston to Carib Theatre a few times, but you see those movies in America way before we do.”

“I’m sure.”

“We do the same things. Listen to music, make food, cool out, pick fruit. We’re not all that different.”


Julian looked around at the farm and sneered, “Right.”