It started with a flat tire.
About five years ago, I was heading to an interview. Before I even made it off my block realized I had a flat tire. Awesome. Ditched the car, nailed the interview and headed back to solve the tire situation.
Luckily for me, just three blocks down my street across Dot Ave was a service station. I walked over there, explained my tire problem and a sweet man named Joe offered to help bring my dud of a car in to the station. In the three blocks to my apartment, I learned that he along with his soft lulling accent was from Jamaica, he lives with two of his cousins with and had a sweet tooth. Joe was so kind through the whole process and I was so relieved to have the car back on the road in a mere day, I wanted to do something nice for him when I picked the car up.
The following day, one of my best friends was visiting from New York. We’ll call her May. I explained how sweet Joe had been and that I wanted to do something nice for him. She happily obliged and we headed over to the gas station after buying an apple pie from the local Irish bakery.
I walked in to the garage, May sort of trailing behind (this was my gift, after all) and I tentatively asked if Joe was around. One of the other guys called for him, and he rolled out from under a car he was fixing. I told him how grateful I was for his help, and since he liked sweets, here’s an apple pie.
See, in my head, he had already done a kindness for me, so I was trying to do the same. End scene. But no. Jamaican Joe wanted to thank ME for thanking HIM. Oy. The never ending cycle of thanks.
As he was accepting the box of pie, exposing his 3 gold teeth with a huge grin, he asked: OOOOOOO MAH GOODNISSSS. DEES IS SO NIIICE! WOOOOD YOU LYKE SUM GOOOOOOD JAH-MAY-KHEN WEEEEED?
Before I could even register what he was offering, the once silent May popped out from behind me and happily exclaimed: YUP!
Seemingly out of no where, May now was only two inches behind me and had already introduced herself, where she lived–hell–probably what her astrological sign was. I turned my gaze at her with the kind of look that says: what the fuck situation did you just get us in to? May casually ignored my angered glare and proceeded to broker this exchange of…gifts.
May’s point of view was simply to be able to endure the upcoming weekend. She was visiting home, staying with her parents, visiting her 80 year old grandmother, (that still drove a Trans-Am and wore five inch stilettos) and would be dealing with questions like: when are you getting married-why aren’t you doing this-you’re doing this wrong-you need to help with the yard work. If a kind man from Jamaica was offering to give her a brief escape from her family, she was gonna take it.
Before I knew it, May was writing MY phone number down on the pie box for Jamaican Joe. IM GONNA CALL YOOOOO AFTAH MAI SHEEEEFT EEES OOOOOOVAH. DENNN YOU CAN DRAI-VE TOOOO MAI HOOOOME AND AYE’LL GEEEEVE YOOOOU SUMMMM GRAAAEETE JAH-MEE-KHEN HERB.
Awesome, May. Fucking awesome. We don’t know this man, don’t know where he lives, so sure! Let’s willingly give him MY personal contact information, drive over to HIS house that he shares with two other men that we do not know and accept illegal (at the time) drugs that could very well be laced with motor oil and bleach. Sounds like a fun and safe endeavor to me.
Jamaican Joe calls us later that afternoon. May and I hop in the car and head over to the address Joe gives us. It should be noted that this was Memorial Day weekend, and the weather was gorgeous–the sky so blue and piercing it almost hurt to look at. Memorial Day weekend with 75 degree weather–a weekend full of outdoor grilling and bike riding, right? Then why dear Christ was Joe’s neighborhood seemingly abandoned? Where were all the children playing? Where were the dishes of food in aluminum trays? Oh, that’s right. The neighborhood we were in was probably the most crime ridden area in all of Boston. The week before a six year old boy was gunned down while riding his bike. In. Broad. Daylight.
We get out of the car, ring Jamaican Joe’s buzzer and wait on the porch. A man about 6’2” wearing a grey tank top exposing his jacked arms and track pants answers the door. Clearly, this was one of Jamaican Joe’s cousins. (I can only imagine what was going through his head when he opens his front door and sees me and May–two white chicks wearing pearl earrings.)
I explained that Joe had given us his home address earlier. Jamaican Joe’s cousin graciously welcomes us in to his home and we politely decline. (In hindsight, that may have been the wisest decision of both our young lives.) Jamaican Joe comes to the door and gives me a huge hug, a Jamaican Flag to hang in my car (which I did proudly until that car was sold) and the little gift from Jamaica he was so intent on offering us.
Flat tires and new Jamaican friends. Happy Memorial Day Weekend indeed.