Going home again
Kristine Atterbury, Contributor
The moment Danae stepped out of the Norman Manley International Airport, she felt a heady sense of relief wash over her. This was what she had been missing all along - the bright blue sky with the warm sunlight searing her shoulders, the delightful breeze that tickled the curls at the back of her neck, and the collective bustle of people coming and going, doors slamming, horns blaring, and the raucous sounds of patois, with a few curse words thrown in.
As she looked around for her cousin's car, she contemplated calling Matt to tell him she had got in safely but she didn't want to have to deal with him right now. He would only start questioning her about coming back. He would accuse her of abandoning him, she would retort that he didn't own her, and the arguing would start again. She didn't want to deal with the drama.
"Dutty gyal Danae!" a voice screeched nearby, and she looked up to see her cousin, Michelle, leaning out of a silver Toyota Camry, waving madly. She broke into a grin and tugged her suitcase toward the car. As she stepped off the curb, a sleek black Escalade slowed to let her pass, the driver leaning out to say, "Princess, what a way you sexy!"
Danae smiled to herself. She was home again.
Busy Signal's voice blared from the speakers. Danae and her cousin were at the very back of the club, dancing with two guys who were friends of Michelle. There was a small knot of anxiety deep in the pit of her stomach. She had been in Jamaica for nearly a week and still hadn't contacted Matt. She took a long drag of her cigarette and bobbed her head to the music. This was what she had been missing. She remembered how excited she had been when her mother shipped her off to the US to attend college. But the novelty had quickly worn off under the assault of bitterly cold winters, streets filled with unfamiliar faces, long, dreary days that seemed to stretch on forever. After graduating from college, she took a boring but steady job at a software management company. That was where she met Matt.
It was a crisp April day, the final battle between winter and spring taking place - the sun hovering hot and bright in the clear blue sky, yet with a wind that threatened to chill you to the bone. Danae was sitting on one of the picnic benches outside, eating her packed lunch when a voice asked, "Is that jerked chicken?"
She looked up into a pair of startlingly green eyes. He introduced himself as Matthew Stanwick. He was tallish, with a shock of unruly jet black hair, and the face of a male model - high cheekbones, strong jaw line, cleft on the chin. His stunning good looks were strangely in contrast to the boring white shirt he wore, and she could tell his pants hadn't been ironed recently. He sat next to her, remarking that he had always wanted to try Jamaican jerked chicken, expressing amazement when she said she had cooked it herself.
It took several weeks before Danae finally agreed to go on a date with Matt. He was too diffe-rent from the men she was used to. It was hard to get used to the idea of a romantic relationship with someone so different from her, in an environment that was not her own. She missed going out with her friends in Jamaica, going to parties, walking into the clubs decked out to the hilt, full of attitude and knowing that she looked good. She missed Jamaican men, those sexy, always well-dressed, dark-skinned, light-skinned, beautiful men with their white teeth and strong hands and chests that were big for no reason. She missed the mixture of cologne, cigarette smoke and sweet Jamaican rum on their breath, with their nonchalant faces, like they couldn't care less if you liked them or not, and the look they gave you like they could see right through your clothes, and the way they would run their hands from your side to your back, and say things like "Waapen baby" and 'Come 'ere pretty girl'. She couldn't get used to the polite American boys she encountered.
But Matt's advances were so charming, she eventually gave in. On their first date, he took her salsa dancing. She was pleasantly surprised when he pulled her onto the dance floor and spun her around expertly, his hips moving to the music. She shrieked with laughter every time he dipped her and yanked her back to her feet, making her head spin with delight. After hours of dancing and a little too much drinking, they ran out of the club, laughing until they had to stop halfway down the street, leaning against the closed doors of a convenience store, holding their sides and gasping. Then, before she knew what was happening, he stopped laughing and pulled her into a short alleyway between the stores. He pushed her against the wall and stared at her for a long moment before crushing his lips onto hers, his body pushing her further and further against the wall, his arms winding around her waist to hold her firmly in place.
Within a year, they were living together. Everything went superbly until Matt proposed to her, late one night, on the patio after dinner. He was holding a beautiful ring but all Danae saw was the life she had loved in Jamaica slipping further and further away from her. She pictured herself cemented into domestic life in Connecticut, and her mind filled with panic. When Matt saw the expression on her face, he knew her answer, and the two of them sat for a long time, saying nothing. Then he stood up, put the ring away, and went to bed without a word. A few days later, Danae booked her ticket and flew back home. She told Matt it was just a little vacation but his eyes said he knew better.
She wasn't sure she had done the right thing. Her days felt hollow and empty, and a strange sense of displacement plagued her. A pang of regret struck Danae, as she stood in the middle of the cramped club on Constant Spring Road, a man she barely knew grinding his pelvis against her. For some reason, none of this excited her the way it used to. She dropped her cigarette in her drink, suddenly feeling nauseous from the smell of nicotine. Michelle's friend leaned close to her ear and whispered "Tell yuh cousin seh is me tekkin yuh home tonight." She shuddered as his tongue ran along the edge of her earlobe. Shrinking away from him, she walked away, without a word, pulling Michelle's phone out of her purse and ducking outside quickly. The security guard standing by the door ran his eyes down her bare legs and she crossed her arms, suddenly feeling exposed. All at once she didn't know what she wanted anymore. Maybe she was too old for this kind of scene. Maybe she had been away for too long. Or maybe she was about to lose the best thing that had ever happened to her. Terrified that it was too late, she dialled Matt's number, holding her breath as it rang and rang. When he finally answered, she felt a longing for him that was sharp and unfamiliar.
"It's me," she said.
There was a pause on the other end of the line, followed by a deep breath.
"Danae," he said.
She blinked back tears of relief. "I'm coming home."