The Gamble : Memoirs Of An Illegal Alien Part 29Published Aug 27, 2007
It was 7 months since I sent the money and my Jamaican passport to Charlie for the 'stamp'. The stamp was the one INS places in your passport once you are approved for a green card. I would have the ability to get a new social security card, apply for citizenship and travel. It was suppose to take 4 months. I was calling Charlie every week to get an update. Nothing happened. I had to wait.
During the past 7 months a lot had changed. I was promoted to stock team supervisor at my job. With the new position I got a raise of pay and also a few more vacation days. I think the reason I got the position was my tenure there and the store was extremely busy. The turnover there was high. They had a half-day course for new supervisors explaining the responsibilities. Supervising my peers would be weird. I learned that the first week after being promoted. Jose, one of the new stock guys on my team was 2 hours late without calling in. As his supervisor I am required to give him a warning. I had to meet with him one on one. There was an office all the supervisors were allowed to use for these types of situations.
The meeting with Jose was backward. I was trying my best to get through why he was being written up but he kept interrupting. I finally had to tell him to keep quite and I wrote him up. It was very tough to do.
My passport finally came in the mail.
We had to test it. There were only 2 ways to test it. I could go to INS and apply for a lost green card or I could try to travel out the country. Charlie suggested I travel to the Bahamas. He had friends there who could get me back to the USA for 300 dollars if anything happened. He instructed me that even though I made my own decisions I wanted to talk to my father about it. Every decision I made affects the family.
My father was concerned about me trying to test the stamp. He knew it had to be done but was trying to think of another way. He asked me to go back to Charlie and ask if there was another way.
There wasn’t. To really figure it out I had to travel.
I made the decision to do go without telling my father or my sister, Kerri. I told Kerri I was going to Ritchie for the weekend.
I booked a flight to Nassau. It was $39 each way for a 1-day trip. Day trips from Miami were popular as they had casinos there for people to gamble for a day.
Angela’s roommate was Bahamian. We spoke a few times and she spoke about how beautiful it was in the Bahamas.
I was flying out early that morning. I parked at the airport. It was expensive but I had to do it for the day. The first test was the check out counter at the airport. The line was not very long. I was very nervous. I kept thinking, what am I doing? What if I get caught? There were 2 attractive ladies in front of me and they kept whispering and looking at me.
It made me more nervous. As strange as it sounds I was wondering if they knew I have no papers. Then as I listened closely my fears were lessened.
'Isn't thing-em brother’?
You mean Elaine
Then one of the ladies turned around to me and asked a question. One of the ladies asked, “Are you Elaine Duncombe's brother?”
Oh, you are Jamaican
We thought you were someone we knew from Bimini.
How long will you be in Nassau?
I am Lisa and this is Sheila.
I told them my name and I believed they were cousins and attended Miami Dade Community College. They were visiting home for the weekend. Lisa’s father had a restaurant in Bimini. We continued to talk until they got to the counter. I was next. My heart was beating fast.
Sir the ticket counter attendant beckoned me to come forward.
Tickets and travel documents please.
I gave her my passport and my plane ticket. She looked at the passport handed it back to me. She gave me directions to the terminal l would be flying out.
I was surprised how smooth it went but also knew this was not the real test. Coming back would be more difficult as I would be facing US immigration in Nassau on my return.
It felt different to be back on a plane. I was used to flying growing up. We used to travel most summers to USA and Canada.
I had a window seat. The water was beautiful and blue. It was amazing how beautiful the water is once you leave the coast of Florida.
As I looked I started thinking.
The flight was not packed so I got up to see where the girls were sitting. I was not looking to get involved with any of them but I was a little scared of going to a place where I knew no one. I had booked the – day casino junket package. There would be transportation waiting for me at the airport to take me to the hotel to gamble. I certainly was taking a gamble.
There was an empty seat across the isle where Lisa and Sheila were seated. They had big smiles on their faces when they saw me. The smile that said they were talking about me.
The conversation went very well. Lisa invited me to hear father’s restaurant to eat lunch and a tour of Nassau. She would pick me up at the hotel. I accepted. I was not going to gamble any of my hard earned money so I might as well see the island.
The flight was short. We arrived at the Lynden Pindling International Airport in Nassau in less than 45 minutes. The airport was like Jamaica. There were people just lazing around and we had to walk in the open air to disembark from the plane.
I followed the Lisa and Sheila through the airport. I had a small bag so I did not have to go to the luggage pick up area. I took their phone numbers and was off to look for my transportation to the hotel.
Everything about the airport reminded me of Jamaica. I quickly found the bus that would take me to the hotel. The bus was full of other gamblers. I sat beside a tall blond headed man. He nodded and I nodded back. We did not talk as he fell asleep during the short 10-minute drive to the hotel.
The road to the Cable beach hotel was along the coast. I was trying to compare the scenery to Jamaica but I couldn’t. It was very different. The stores I passed on the way looked like American stores and the cars were all American. They drove on the left like Jamaica and the road signs were like Jamaica. The seawater was very blue. There was not much activity on the sea. The hotel was near some duty free stores.
We arrived at the hotel in less than 15 minutes. We were greeted at the front entrance and given directions to the casino and the check in area. The package included a room for the day, a few chips to gamble and an all day buffet.
I went to the check-area. The ladies doing the hotel check-in were not friendly. They were Bahamian and probably thought I was Bahamian too. One of the young ladies grabbed my voucher and flung it back at me when she was finished. I was not in the mood to argue plus I was in a strange country. I took my keys and went up to the room. The hotel was big and colorful. The room was “musky”. It was an island view room because I chose the cheapest package. I wanted to take a nap before I walked around but could not. The bed was “frowsy”. Some one was smoking in the room and the sheets absorbed it all.
If I can’t sleep then why not eat breakfast since it was early morning. The restaurant had a gorgeous ocean view. It was really good seeing blue water again. The beaches in Miami were not as blue.
The buffet was loaded with food but the wait was a long time. There was calypso music playing in the background at the restaurant. The man in front of me started talking to me.
Are you Bahamian?
No, I am Jamaican.
No casinos in Jamaica?
“I like Jamaica. My wife and I visited Negril years ago. That was in my hippy days.” He was smiling from ear to ear. He was assuming that I traveled from Jamaica and I did not tell him any different.
I hear the beaches there are great, I replied.
You have never been to Negril? He asked.
No. I am from Kingston and never got the opportunity to travel there. I replied. It was the truth. We have been all over the island but I have never been to Negril.
We were now at the buffet. It is amazing how food can stop a conversation.
Nice talking to you young man. See you in the casino. He said as he took his plate.
The food looked fresh. I had mainly fruits.
I found a table close to window so I could watch the sea. As I ate I thought about my re-entry into the US. I was very worried about it. I was anxious. If this worked my next stop would be Jamaica. I was tired of hearing people at school talk about the great weekend they had in Jamaica. Everyone would come back and say “Jamaica Nice yuh si”. I wanted to be the one to say that. I could drive now so I could go anywhere when I get there. My anxiety was now replaced by the anticipated trip to Jamaica. I could not help it. I wanted to go to Jamaica so bad.
I sat there for about 40 minutes just thinking and watching the beach.
My thoughts were interrupted by one of the servers in the restaurant. Do you want me to take that plate sir?
Yes, I replied
It was time for me to walk around. I had seen casinos on TV but never in “real life”. It was no different. People were everywhere. The lights were bright. It was just like on TV. I tried the slots but did not win anything. I walked around just observing the poker tables. Watching the reaction of winners and losers. Time went by quickly and it was soon 12.30 pm. I was to meet Lisa at the front of the hotel.
We would eat lunch at her father restaurant.
As I exited the front of the hotel she was there. She had changed. She was in a tight blouse and jeans. She looked much better than this morning. I had to catch myself and keep my hormones in check. I was not here to complicate my life. I was here to test my “green card” stamp. My love life had changed since “my almost baby father incident” with Sherri-Ann. I was having a long distance relationship with Mary-Ann and I loved flirting with Angela. I was focused on school and work.
She drove a blue VW Jetta.
Hi, are you ready for lunch?
After lunch we will drive around Nassau?
The whole island!!
We can see most of it. I can give you a tour in a few hours.
Sure. I had nothing else to do.
Her father’s restaurant was not too far from the hotel.
It was right across from the beach. It seemed like everyone had a beach view as the main road.
The restaurant was not packed. Her father was behind the bar. She introduced. He was quite nice. Not suspicious as many of the fathers I know with daughters.
How do you like Nassau so far?
Well get ready for some real Bahamian food. We get fresh conch here daily.
I never had conch before but I remember the other stock guys at Winn Dixie saying that it is a “man food” that will help you perform. I always told them I don’t need anything to perform.
It was good.
Lisa and I compared Broward Community College and Miami Dade Community College. We talked about the Bahamas. She also liked flirting with me. She would drop little hints in our conversations. She kept trying to have me talk about the Jamaican man stamina, which they sing about in reggae songs.
Each time she dropped a flirtatious hint I smiled and changed the subject. She may start thinking I don’t like women but I was not here to complicate my life.
We were ready to take a tour. I told her father thanks for the great lunch and we were ready to take a tour of the island. After driving around for a few minutes I realized one of the reason Nassau was different from Jamaica. There were no mountains. The beaches were beautiful and the homes were colorfully painted. Downtown Nassau had many of the government buildings. They were similar in style to many of the buildings in Jamaica. They were better preserved. The final part of our tour was to Paradise Island. It was beautiful. There were new buildings going up everywhere. Lisa joked that they were setting up a real paradise on the Paradise Island.
The Paradise island tour took us right up to the time I had to go back to hotel to catch the bus.
I thanked her for her hospitality.
She gave me her Bahamian phone number and Miami number. She gave me a big hug and a kiss on the cheek.
I did not have any bags to check out so I went back to the desk and handed in the key.
I was filled with anxiety on the way back to the airport. The man sitting beside me tried to talk but I think he sensed I was not in the mood. I had a knot in my belly as we pulled up in front of the airport.
It was now dark.
The lady at the counter took my passport and ticket.
“Please go to the right for US immigrations”
I think my knees were going to buckle as I joined the line
Sir you are next, the man behind me ticket counter line.
My nervousness kept me from moving.
Do you have your resident’s card?
No Madam. I lost it. INS told me I could travel with the stamp in my passport.
Sir, hold on for a second.
She got on the phone.
Sir, please stay here.
Then she got out her booth and started to walk towards the offices close by. She had my passport in her hands. She kept looking back at me.
That was my “cue”. As soon as she looked away I quickly walked back to the gate exit and ran out the door. I was outside the airport in less than a minute.
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