New York was the farthest thought from my mind as I stepped on the tarmac at Sangster Airport in Montego Bay. If there weren’t so many people around, and if I had the nerve, I would have knelt right there and kissed the asphalt. Here I was, coming home to Jamaica after ten years in the North, and my anticipation of what would lie in store for me knew no bounds. I closed my eyes, lifted my pale face to the sun and felt its heat-rays radiate into my skin, itself grateful for this brief respite from the unforgiving deep-freeze of upstate New York.

“You want a taxi, my queen?” said the Redcap who literally snatched my bags out of my hand when I exited Customs. I smiled, shook my head and told him I would be going directly to an all-inclusive, so the transfer was already included. It was great to be back home, and I was pleased to see the airport amenities vastly improved since the last time I visited. Over at the Sandals Desk, I was ushered into a beautifully appointed waiting room by a young lady who managed to look welcoming even though I could see she was under incredible stress. I barely sat down before a drink was placed on the table before me, but before I could even taste it, it was time to go, they said, as my bus was waiting.

Our driver informed us that his name was Mr. Right, spelled R I G H T. The group of three single girls in the back stifled their giggles and took this as their cue to ask him to tell them where they could find the “action”, and the very discreet Mr. Right obliged by advising them later in an aside, when we made our first rest stop. On the ride, the familiar sights and the sounds of home tugged at my heart, and though my body was tired from lack of sleep to make the early morning check-in time, I was too excited to let drowsiness get the better of me. As we sped past the city limits of Montego Bay, the magnificent views kept me on the edge of my seat. I chuckled as I saw little girls on the way from school all decked out in uniforms, the boys in the familiar khakis, the bus slowing down so the goats could cross the highway.

My Negril hideaway was all I had hoped for. I had long needed to be quiet for a week to think about what to do with the rest of my life, and the description of this place had seemed to provide the answers. No worry about extra spending, the ad implied. You pay all up-front, and just live in careless abandon for the week. I decided I could live with that. I had chucked that other ad that promised I could be wicked for a week, since all I really needed was peace and some gentle thoughts to soothe my soul.

Four of us disembarked the bus and were welcomed at once with chilled towels and what seemed to be champagne. Since it was way before the happy hour, I declined, health freak that I am, and asked for orange juice instead. The sight of the blue Caribbean bordered by a fringe of the purest white sand sent my spirits soaring. It was time to strip down and go meet the sun!

My hammock was in the ideal location: close enough to my room and with a full view of the lifeguards who roamed the beach, eyes scouring the water for errant toddlers or swimmers in distress, and stopping every now and then to remove unwanted objects that marred the pristine beauty of the powdery white sand. They were all powerfully built, the guards, well-oiled and jet-black from making a living in the sun. I allowed my eyes to linger on skin for awhile, since in the harsh climate of the frigid North the only skins that were bare were the animal pelts we bought to cover our own.

The next moment I saw an athletic blond, thirthy-something-ish speaking discreetly into the palm of his hand. How can anyone come on holiday with a cell phone, I wondered. In a place like this, who wants to be found? My question was answered in less than a heartbeat, for standing right there, next to my hammock, was a group of girls, one of whose faces I recognized immediately. It was one of the daughters of the President of the United States.

Next week: Kismet

Francine Phang is an Insurance Sales Representative in Orlando

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