The saying that ‘some Jamaican women have five children for six different men’, was true in my family; for I was the child who had two fathers. I had one father in Jamaica – pops, who educated and cared for me; and my real father living in the Bahamas, who didn’t give two hoots about my well being.
Pops was the only father I knew, and that was why I loved and cherished him tremendously. I respected the fact that he wasn’t bothered about my skin colour being many shades lighter than that of mum’s and his, or that I towered in height over them both; he believed the lies my mother told him, about her having tall, brown-complexion people in her family. But in reality, I was a jacket; I looked nothing like him or my siblings, but he loved me just the same, and grew me as his son.
People called me ‘freckled face’, and ‘cute boy’, and many girls liked my curly-looking hair, but I didn’t let their comments get to my head; it was not outward beauty that got you far in this world, success came from becoming educated, and working hard to get the things you wanted in life. My mother was an I.C.I. (Informal Commercial Importer), and it was her hard work that put food on our table, paid the bills, and bought the two-storey house in which we lived. She made sure none of her children lacked anything.
Pops kept the family together, and the home running when mum travelled to various countries; but one day he had enough.
“See the prescription tablet dem me taking for disease.” He told her one morning. “Me can’t see how me must get gonorrhea if is only one woman me sleeping with?”
There was silence; for my mother did not say a single word. That was how she handled the issues of her unfaithfulness in their marriage.
“If me, a normal, red-blooded man can keep myself from other women when you fly out of this island,” pops said, “Then why you can’t keep yourself from other men too?” He asked.
My mother did not even look at him, she just kept on staring into space.
“Me tired a dis thing happening again and again.” Pops said. “Woman, why yuh ears so hard?”
But mom closed her eyes and kept a straight face. No one could really know the kind of thoughts she was thinking.
“Bwoy, me just gwan pack out of this place.” Pops said. “Mi love my life, and me don’t want to know that the next time me go to the doctor, is medicine for AIDS me get.”
And that was the reason why pops left his family in St. Ann, and went to live by himself in a house in Portmore, St. Catherine. We visited him there many times, but he never set foot in St. Ann again.
From that time, whenever my mum travelled to buy her merchandise overseas, she made it her duty to hire a helper to take care of the house and her children, while she was away. The helper was a friend from her high school days, a woman whom we called Miss Vee. Miss Vee was a good helper, the only thing she did not do, was punished the children. She lived in our home during my mom’s absence, kept the place spic and span, and cooked very good meals.
During one school week, when I ran a high fever; I remained at home with Miss Vee, who did her best to nurse me back to good health. Then one afternoon, when I was no longer weak and poly; I was just about to fall asleep when Miss Vee slipped beneath the covers, and laid very closely beside me in the bed. That day she taught me many things which my teenage-mind had never dreamed of; things more sensual than what the bragging boys at school discussed; and things I could never tell my mum.
Our relationship lasted for three months and ended the night Miss Vee’s common-law husband came quarrelling to my mother.
“Tell yuh son fi leave big man woman alone.” He said. “Mi will kill ‘im yuh nuh!”
Mum only looked at him; she was always silent when it came to matters about sexuality. When he left, my mom gave me the wickedest whipping of my life, and she cussed off Miss Vee good and proper. I never knew my mother could fight, but that night, she fought and kicked the daylights out of Miss Vee.
When she regained her composure, Miss Vee got up off the floor and said,
“A kick you want kick the baby out of mi belly nuh? You shame sey me did a breed fi yuh son.” I stood nearby, and was shocked at the words that came out of her mouth; I did not know I could impregnate a woman.
“You nuh have to gwan so,” she continued. “Me dash wey that de belly long time.”
“Alright then,” my mum said. “Get the %@#! out a mi yard!”
“Miss Vee killed my unborn child.” I thought, crying quietly to myself. “I wonder if it was a boy or a girl?” And as I wept openly, my mum looked at me, then hissed her teeth.
“That is why yuh must teach your bwoy pickney dem how to cook.” Eliese said. She was one of my mother’s best friends. “If ‘im did know how to cook and tek care of ‘imself, you never would have to hire that whore Veronica. She is a very wicked woman.”
“But me never did think that a big woman like she would do a thing like dat to a boy who is the same age as har son.” My mum responded.
“Hush!*” Eliese said. “It could have been worse. It could have been a rusty old faggot that did bugger yuh bwoy.”
My mother hissed her teeth again; and I shuddered at the thought of being buggered.
Later that night, my mum sat me down and told me things about myself which she felt I was ready to hear. She told me that I was destined to be a man of purpose, and that the devil was only trying to steal and destroy my destiny. She also informed me that from the time I was in her womb, more than one holy man prophesied over her. They had said that the baby she was carrying would grow up to become an Evangelist.
“Don’t waste your time on worldly things,” she said. “God’s plan for life is bound to be fulfilled.”
I stared at her in disbelief.
“Mek sure you always seek God’s face, and prepare yuhself to do whatever He has called you to do.”
And that was why, a few years later, after being trained in Accounting at Brown’s Town Community College; I pursued courses in Theology at a Jamaican Bible College. Then while completing various pastoral courses, I became completely sold out to God, and was excited about becoming a preacher of the gospel. Although I excelled in my studies, the true test of my commitment to God came when I actually started preaching; and unfortunately, that was a test I failed repeatedly. Over and over again, this handsome face of mine landed me in trouble with the women. “Why were there no courses in Bible College to train ministers on how to triumph over their cunning, manipulating schemes?” I asked myself. I tried keeping these women at bay . . . there were some which I avoided, but then there were others which I fell head over heels for; women like Debbie.
“Don’t have any thing to do with that lady.” My friend Orville warned me. “She is OPP – Other People’s Property!”
But I did not listen to him. In my eyes, Debbie had all the makings of a pastor’s wife, and I wanted us to have a relationship. I honestly believed that if I won her heart, I would be able to steal her away from her fiancé.
I found Debbie to be a very nice person; we went on a several dates, and I called her home to converse with her almost every single day. I showered her with many gifts, even though my meager Assistant Pastor’s salary could hardly afford them; and I also spent valuable time and money, visiting her church, and her home which were located miles away in another parish. Then one day, Debbie asked me to pick her up at a hospital nearby.
“Why didn’t you tell me that you were that sick?” I asked her, when she painfully took a seat beside me in the car.
She remained silent.
“Hush!” I said. “You’ll soon get better.”
She sighed, and a few minutes later, she said, “I have something to tell you Roger.”
“Okay.” I responded.
“I just had an abortion.” She whimpered.
I stepped on the brakes, then quickly swerved to the left; for I had almost crashed my car into an oncoming vehicle. “What?” I said in shock. “You were pregnant? But for whom?”
“Actually, the baby was yours,” she mumbled, “But I didn’t want it.”
“Why?” I cried.
“Roger! If my boyfriend did find out about it, he would have killed me.” She said.
But I kept on crying.
“And what do you think would have happened to you, if your church found out about this?” she asked.
“But, I would have taken all the shame and disgrace for you.” I cried. “I would have also married you too.” I said.
Debbie laughed long and hard. Afterward, she became silent for awhile, and then she laughed again.
“But I don’t love you enough to marry you.” She said finally. “I don’t even want to be a pastor’s wife.”
We drove on in silence for the remainder of the journey, and when I left her at her home, I decided to avoid her at all costs; I would not even think thoughts about her again.
“A good fi yuh!” Orville said, “I won’t say again that I did tell you.”
He, Daniel, and I sat together at a gospel concert; they had come with their partners, but I was sadly alone.
“Whe ‘im sey Debbie gone?” asked Daniel.
“She gone back to her fiancé.” Replied Orville. “Lef people’s belongings man!” he continued, and ranted on and on. “Look how many man dead sake a women . . . dem was troubling the other man dem woman, yuh know.”
As the gospel artistes performed, I watched Orville as he held his little girl in his arms; and when I saw the affection between father and daughter, I pursed my lips, and tried to hold back my tears. Oh how I longed to have a child of my own, but I had lost them all. I dared not tell my friends that Debbie had aborted my baby, for I knew they would have crucified me. That baby she aborted, was the third child I had fathered which never lived two months in the womb.
“Is that how women so wicked?” I asked.
“There is no wickedness in that.” Orville said. “Remember she had her fiancé long before she even met you.” Then he added “Lef them alone!”
“Ah boy!” I sighed to myself; we were not even talking about the same thing.
“I swear,” I said to Orville and Daniel. “Don’t even show me another woman for the next five years. Mi nuh want to have anything to do with them for now.”
Within five months, I was engaged to Francine, and six months after our engagement, we became married.
“How did this happen so fast?” I asked myself. Daniel had introduced us; one thing led to another; then here I was on my honeymoon night, with beautiful Fran. All my friends said she was the best person for me, and that we would be good together; “She is a good match for you.” they said, and I believed them.
Fran and I moved away to Trelawny, where she worked in a better job at one of the hotels on the north coast. And since there were no branches of my church in that parish; I stopped preaching temporarily, and partnered with an old friend in a business that provided accounting and auditing services. Then one morning, a year and eight months after our wedding day, Fran told me she was feeling ‘pregnantish’, and when it was confirmed that she was, I felt elated.
The sun was shining and the birds were chirping when I stepped into my office the next day. “God is so good (Alleluia!), God is so good (Alleluia!), God is so good, He’s so good to me.” As I sang the chorus quietly to myself, Frank entered the room. Frank was my business partner, and when he caught me smiling to myself ever so often, he said,
“You’re in a good mood man!”
I smiled again. I wanted so much to tell him the good news, but Fran had warned me not to tell anybody about her pregnancy as yet, especially Frank.
Later that morning, Frank and I discussed a client’s case, and determined the cost for the accounting services we provided. Then Frank cleared his throat and said,
“I have something important to discuss with you Roger.”
“Okay.” I replied.
“That baby Francine is carrying is not yours; it’s mine.”
Right then and there, a dark cloud blocked my sunshine, and the birds ceased their chirping. “What’s that you said?” I asked in shock.
“Her pregnancy is my doing.” He replied.
I became silent. “So how Frank know about this pregnancy?” I asked myself. Then as I sat down, I figured that based on the age of Fran’s pregnancy, Frank must have been talking the truth. My wife had become distant and cold towards me for some months now, and had even refused to participate in our morning devotions. Our sex life was nonexistent two months ago, so the baby, in reality, could not be mine.
“But yuh sleeping around with my wife.” I said angrily. And as I got up to fight him, Fran entered our office.
“Yuh tell ‘im?” She asked Frank.
“Eh hmm.” He replied.
I was in shock. “I’m not going to deny any paternity for this child.” I said. “I’m going to take this jacket and wear it.”
They both looked at each other, and then at me.
“If is mistake yuh mek Fran, we can work it out; then afterward, we can have our own child together.” I said.
“Yuh must be a mad man!” Fran said, and scoffed at me. Then she came closer to me and said. “This is not the first time I’ve become pregnant Roger. I was pregnant exactly two months after our wedding.”
When she said that, I could do nothing but listen and stare at her.
“But I aborted that pregnancy for you, after I met Frank.” she continued.
“Why did you do that?” I cried.
“I can’t bring a child into the world for a man I don’t love.” She said. “I don’t love you; I’m in love with Frank.”
“You don’t love me?” I asked. “Me?”
She hissed her teeth. “I allowed our friends to let me think that I loved you. I didn’t even pray to God about our relationship.” She said, “And like a fool I rushed right into marrying you. I regret being with you every single day.“ Then she paused and looked at Frank and said, “The only good thing that came out of our marriage, was me being able to meet Frank.”
When she said that, I angrily began fighting Frank “You can’t tek wey mi wife from mi.” I said.
But they both grabbed me and fought me. Eventually they overpowered me and pushed me out of the office.
“Don’t come back here.” Frank said, and slammed the door.
A few persons had gathered to see the fight, and after I was thrown outdoors, I quickly got up, brushed myself off, and headed home. “O God!” I thought. “Where were the angels to guard and protect me from this danger?”
I didn’t take the bus home, but instead, walked home in a daze. If persons greeted me along the way, I did not hear them; I was lost in thought as I mulled over what had transpired, and planned my next move. When I eventually reached the house, I decided to get some sleep first, before eating anything; but on opening the door, my mouth dropped wide opened in horror at what I saw. There was not one piece of furniture inside; and the cool breeze coming in from the sea, made me realized that even the curtains were taken down from the windows. As I walked from room to room, I found each to be cold and empty; only the memories lingered within. Fran had cleared out the whole house, she took our belongings, and was gone.
Empty, hurt, and ashamed, I left Trelawny and went to live with my pops in Portmore; I remained there with him and wallowed in depression for many weeks. Eventually my wife filed for divorce, and the church Board suspended me from preaching. The saying that ‘ trouble comes in twos and threes’, was true during that sad period of my life; for right after losing my wife, and my profession, I lost my pops a few months later, when he succumbed to the injuries he received in a hit and run accident.
“Lady yuh looking for shoes? Come mek me try one pon yuh, me sure me have yuh size.” I shouted, in the warm, morning sun. “My youth! Come try on a trousers nuh?” I continued. “Perfume? Perfume any one?” I was selling from my stall in a plaza on Constant Spring Road, and was loudly advertising my wares with the hope of getting enough sales for the day.
“Eh hem!” a man cleared his throat behind me. “Is how much for the belt dem?”
“Six bills.” I responded, and turned around to see Orville. “Oh, it’s you.” I said.
“So these are the kinds of sermons you preaching now-a-days to the people dem?” He asked. “This is really what you doing with your life?”
“Nothing is wrong with higglering,” I answered. “I know how to do it, and do it well too. My mother is an I.C.I.” I said.
“Roger.” Orville said in a serious tone. “We heard what happened between you and Francine.”
“Okay.” I said, as I turned my back to him, for at the mention of her name, a torrent of tears flowed down my face.
“Don’t feel shame to cry.” He said. “Come here and share your burden with me bro.”
Exactly five years later, I stood outside an airport in New Jersey and greeted the Johnstons; they were the family assigned to care for me after I arrived there for a preaching engagement. During my three weeks there, I met a beautiful lady named Camille, and her son. Camille was also a Jamaican, a divorcee, and a very strong Christian woman. One night, during the eighth month of our friendship, I said to her,
“God is leading me to marry you Camille.”
“But my friends say I should find a woman who is younger than you are; and one who doesn’t already have a child.” I continued. “But I’m not bothered about you having a child already; I think I can become a good stepfather to your son.”
She sat silently, looking into my eyes.
“I’ve prayed and fasted about this.” I said.
“So what is your decision?” She asked.
“I agree with them.” I said. “It is quite likely that a woman like you, in your late forties, may not ever become pregnant again.”
“And you want to have your own children, right?” She said. I could sense the hurt in her voice; I knew that she loved me.
“But I’m not going to let my friends dictate my life this time around.” I said. “If God is leading me to marry you, and I end up with your son being my only child, then so be it.”
I married Camille, and we lived happily together in the US; and through thick and thin, she was my very best friend. Later on, after I furthered my studies, I was appointed the pastor of a fast-growing church; and Camille was the ideal pastor’s wife. I was invited to speak at several gospel crusades in Jamaica; and one night, while being introduced as the Guest Speaker and Evangelist, I looked around the congregation and saw my wife sitting among the pews. I had expected her to be in Jamaica the following week, and had hoped that there was nothing seriously wrong back home. After the service, I rushed to her side and kissed her.
“I missed you like crazy Camille.” I said, “Is everything okay?”
“Roger!” she exclaimed. “I have good news for you.”
“Okay.” I replied.
“I mean, this IS the news we’ve been waiting for.” She said; then nervously, but joyously she told me that at last, she was pregnant.
“She’s going to have a baby for me!” I shouted, “For me!”
From that night onward, I preached with greater enthusiasm; all my sermons reflected the gratitude I had for God, and expressed the happiness that bubbled in my heart. Camille had a very rough pregnancy, but she made it though the long nine months. When the due date arrived, I joined her in the delivery room on the night of March 16th, and witnessed the birth of our twins. All my tears of the past were replaced with joyous laughter.
“God!” I shouted. “You have done it! You have done it for me!”
And then, while holding our new born baby son and baby daughter in my hands, I said, “Lord, you know that I don’t deserve them; yet you have blessed me. You have granted me the deepest desire of my heart; I am now a father, and I thank you.” Then as I held Camille’s hand, I said “Lord, you have given me double joy for my tears!”
A term of solace used mainly in Jamaica, meaning – never mind or don’t worry. Most people who are not from Jamaica often misinterpret this to mean – ‘shut up’, instead of something comforting, which it’s really meant to be. For example:
Bob: “Ouch, I hit my toe on the door.”
Moeisha: “Hush! It soon get betta.”
Bob: “Why are you telling me to shut up? It really hurts!”
Moeisha: “Ah never sey fi shut up, mi did sey hush!”