I was tired. I wanted to get home. I had struggled for the past couple of days with thoughts of my role on the team…of feeling like I don’t fit in…of feeling under utilized. These are heavy themes for a forty five year old woman who is facing up to the possibility that she is not being all that she can/could be. I was always the youngest and brightest in the room. Now I’m just another middle aged woman in middle management. But that’s a whole ‘nother story. And sure, the story is far from being over. But in the meantime, this place that I am in sucks. And I am ready for a change. But am I really? Will I have the courage and energy to make the change happen? Because I KNOW change is possible, but I also know that I have to be an active participant in it. Indeed, I may have to play the lead role in making it happen. But I repeat, that’s a whole ‘nother story.
So I was tired. I schlepped me and my knapsack and my handbag down the aisle to 18F and sure enough, there she was sitting in 18F. I mustered a smile and said: “I think you’re in my seat”. She flashed her cheap, long, jet black weave, batted some long, obviously fake eyelashes and clicked her long, bejeweled, multi-coloured tips on the arm rest: “Eeh hee? A your seat dis? Bwoy, mi just grab a seat enuh. A weh mi fi sit now?” I prayed silently: “Baby Jesus give me strength, because mi naw gi up mi window seat, and mi nuh have di skills fi tek on dis gyal yah now.”
“Let me see what seat you got on your boarding pass den nuh?” I said in as friendly a manner as I could.
“Mi get 18D”.
“Oh, cool!” I chirped brightly. “You’re in the aisle seat right here.”
“Mek me come out so you can come in” she said side-eyeing me. “Yuh look like yuh need di space fi come in yah so”.
“Bitch, watch your mouth” I chuckled silently, knowing full well that Latisha, Laquanda, Ladasha or La-SUPN LIKE DAT scored 100 with that reference to my, ahem: “full bodied physique”. LOL! “Yes, thank you. I need all the space I can get”.
I squeezed in (yes I did) and Miss Thang placed her narrow, blinged out behind in the 18D. She kept looking at her phone. She kept jumping up out of her seat, looking towards the front of the aircraft as if she was expecting someone. She kept rummaging through her bag. She kept clicking those acrylics. She fingered the huge gold plated, crystal encrusted 3D heart thingy that hung from a cow chain around her neck. She made a call and I heard references to late flight, missed earlier flight, di bag dem, blah blah blah as I tried to tune her out, wishing that we about to land in Kingston rather than just taking off from Miami. By this time, she had now taken her seat and was keening back and forth with her arms around her belly, head gently bumping on the seat in front of her. I paid closer attention to my kindle and pressed as far as I could into my seat. Lord. This was going to be a long flight. Sigh.
18E arrived, and he slid into his seat with ease. Miss Thang and 18E struck up and easy conversation. She was so hyper and looked as if she needed to just talk. She couldn’t keep still. He borrowed her phone and made a call. Turns out that he saw a pic of his woman come up on her phone when he entered the number and he was positively mystified. Well I confess, so was I! See, by this time I knew that they didn’t know each other and I too wanted to know how come! She explained that: “a one app me download, and once di person yuh call deh pan Facebook, dem pitcha come up and dem location too…even if yuh and dem ah nuh fren!” Well, at this point, I was positively mystified! So mi just join in di niceness too and start probe Miss Thang for information about the app. So we’re all now friends. We cuss the attitude filled flight attendant girl who refused to make eye contact when giving out di likkle free drink dem. She says that if she copped an attitude like that on her job at the nursing home, she wouldn’t have no work. “When me ah clean up di old white people dem, and dem stinkin shit, yuh tink me can skin up me face? Hell naw! Me haffi grin an’ bear it! If dem old people could look afta demself and nuh shit up demself, den I wouldn’t have a work!” Me and 18E nod sagely, and agree that customer service is critical and that Miss AA could stand to do a refresher course.
So we’re all getting cozy and bonding and then Miss Thang makes an announcement. “Mi ah go see mi Baby!”
“Really? When last were you home?”
“Four year now since me come home”.
“Wow! So how old is your baby? Boy or girl?”
“She a 6”
I quickly do the math. “So that last time you saw your daughter she was only 2! A baby! She couldn’t even talk! Dang, Gurl!” Yes…I said “Gurl”. We were like that now.
Tears filled her eyes.
“Yuh haffi do wha yuh haffi do. Mi miss har. Mi di have a likkle problem wid mi green card but mi just pay one lawyer man fi straighten it out, and see mi yah now. Todeh ah har birthday too!”.
At that point, we were simply two mothers. Two women with children that we loved. I said to her: “I bet yuh never sleep last night.”
“How yuh know?” she looked at me with incredulity.
“Because I have children too. And I can only imagine how you are feeling”.
By this time the tears were right there. And we looked straight at each other. Listen. We do the best we can for our children. That best looks different mother to mother, situation to situation. But the motives remain the same. She described that she was surprising her daughter and her sister and how she felt nauseous. How she hadn’t slept for the past two nights, filled with anticipation, anxiety and joy all mixed up together in one complicated mass of emotions. How she missed her earlier flight because she had to repack her overweight bags, filled with birthday gifts and clothes and stuff. How she paid American $350.00 to carry all her stuff. How she is so grateful to finally be able to do this. How she missed her daughter’s father’s funeral due to her green card issues when he was shot and killed last year. Her jumpiness and skittishness all made sense to me now.
I was sincerely moved. I noticed her gorgeous smile. I was drawn in by her unpretentiousness. I was made comfortable by her frankness. I connected with her authenticity. I looked into her eyes and understood. Mother to mother. Woman to woman.
“There are the lights of Kingston” I pointed out to her, wishing that I had let her keep the window seat. After all, seeing your home after 4 years is something to get excited about. She literally jumped out of her seat, leaning across 18E and we both bumped heads looking through the window, squealing loudly with joy. I saw a few heads turn in thinly veiled disgust. But at that point, it really didn’t matter to us.
We knew the back story. And that’s the thing. There’s always a back story. Assume that. Don’t let’s be so quick to rush to judgement. To label people. To need to put them in box before we decide if we can let them into our space or not. Perhaps we should instead suspend judgment. Simply accept until the person provides a valid reason to do otherwise. The back story counts.
“God is good” I said to her. “May God go before you and smooth your path and may your reunion be more that you imagined it would ever be. May God grant you the Perfect Two Weeks back home”.
That was it. We said goodbye in the Customs Hall. I was anxious to get home too. I hope she’s hugging up with Baby Girl, flashing her hair, dressed up to the nines and unapologetically letting her joy hang out. This is Chapter Happy of her Back Story.