Below is a series of actual events that took place March 2021.
I’m awake. With no clock to tell the time and my cell phone strategically placed across the room, there is no choice but to get up and see what time it is. Yes, my alarm is set but I haven’t set an alarm in over a year. I’ve forgotten what it sounds like and the Harlem street noise might drown out the call. Three am the cell phone alerts me. Okay I’m up earlier than I need to be.
Giving up on sleep I lie in bed questioning my decisions. Really I’m going to Jamaica for a month? Who the hell do I think I am? Pangs of guilt for not going to Uganda or not staying safe in NYC bubble up. I convince myself, there is a small window of opportunity. Soon life will resume and my absence would be noticed. If I don’t go now, when? It’s also to prove to myself I can still travel alone, take risks, and continue to make up my own rules no matter how many additional rules exist.
I arrive at the airport by 6:30am, a masked smile on my face, as I quickly realize not everyone is as excited as I am to travel. It’s crowded and a tense air of frustration and confusion linger in the air. I thrive in those settings. Like James Bond I pull back, evaluate the situation, and make my way into the crowd. Armed with the vaccine and the incurable feelings I’m not really going to pull off this great escape to Jamaica, I jump the hurdles of checking in, security, and boarding. The flight is half booked with a whole row to myself. Thank you JetBlue for your impeccable WiFi, now if only we could organize a child free zone.
I do my best work while flying. Stuck on a plane with few distractions. I get to my normal Monday morning routine of attendance taking, setting up this weeks lessons, and scheduling emails to go out during work hours. The NYC FTC interns are setup for their weekly meeting. I contemplate jumping on but understand my absence is often more powerful a lesson than any I could give in person.
We land with a thud and an applause. I’ve reached my destination. The adventure begins.
My driver is a young rasta man, son to the airbnb I am staying at. We chat a bit along the way. A two hour ride to Oracabessa in St. Mary parish. No conversation is forced, no nervous chatter persists, I believe this silent settled feelings comes with age. Feeling wise beyond my years for choosing this place to rejuvenate my spirit, I’m asked if I’d like to stop at the weed store. “Waaaaat,” is my reply. I was not made aware that Jamaica now has legal weed stores with all the packaging, branding, and protocol my heart desires. We make a quick right turn and find ourselves as the magnificent Kaya Herb House. Here is how it went down.
“Hi. First time?”
“Why yes it is! Tell me everything. I’m very excited.”
“Well first you need a medical reason for purchasing products in the store. You need to get a medical notice but have no fear we have a doctor on call that can get you your note. Would you like to continue.”
“Yes, why yes I would.”
“What are your problems?”
“Depression, anxiety, COVID? Is that a reason? COVID Depression? It should be.”
She laughed while handing a phone to me saying, “The doctor would like to speak with you.”
Taken a back as this is the fastest doctors appointment I've ever made I cautiously answer, “Hi.”
“Hi, I’m the doctor.” I can’t remember what he asked or said but within 30 seconds I’m ushered into a beautiful space with all the treasures you could imagine.
I’m not going to disclose my purchases because a lady never smokes and tells.
I arrive to Grassroots home in Oracabessa to be greeted by Aisha. Her granddaughter in tow. I’ve stayed here before. Five years to be exact. I spent my 30 birthday in this one room studio but that is a whole other story. My collection of memories from this visit are few. It was only 3 days, I was on a mission to check certain items off my list, and did not spend much time on the compound. The compound has 3 houses. The first with Aisha and her family, the second an unknown figure named Ronnie, and lastly the airbnb-able cottage. Last time I was here, Ronnie was not. She is here now, older white women, from Long Island, dreadlocks who has lived in Jamaica since 1983. We greet each other, acknowledged our shared New York heritage and know we both have a lot to discuss.
My cottage is set at the back of the property with a small porch, fridge, two beds, a gas cook top stove, sink, table, and bathroom. Perfect. All I need is a fridge of my own and I’m in heaven. My energy is high. Like a kid in a candy store, I’m not sure where to start. I’m battling the restless feeling that can often come with vacation. I breathe and remind myself this is day 1. No rush. It’s not about the photos, or the work, or the tan I will get while I’m here. It’s about slowing down, sinking into my mind, and getting comfortable with the skin I'm in.