Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Ode to Kester

I’ve been meaning to sit down and put my thoughts together, but life just seemed to get in the way. Today however, listening to the O’Jay sing ‘Stairway to Heaven’ the floodgates opened as emotions got the better of me, my eyes filled with tears before falling slowly down my cheeks.

Ahhhhh – where to really begin. I guess you came into my life via my daughter – you were schoolfriends and then had a brief fling, but you and I clicked; I guess you felt you could find refuge in my house. I remember one occasion where you had run away from wherever you were staying and made your way to my home. We talked about nothing in particular when the doorbell rang and it was your father looking for you. I don’t know how you moved so fast, but as I ushered your dad in – you were out the back door and over the fence. I didn’t see you for a while after that, but somehow you reappeared again with the news that you had been deported to Jamaica for some crime. I was saddened by this turn of events, you were always respectful to me and I must admit I was shocked to learn that you had been charged with robbery. You told me that you were with a group and knowing the person you are, I suspected you took the rap for friends far more street-wise than you.

With your deportation, you grew from a boy to a man. We kept in touch and when I could, I sent you phone credits and sometimes an additional monetary gift, but it wasn’t really about the money – I was your link to the US, the only home you’d really ever known – having been brought here as a mere toddler. You never ever pressured me, but hearing my voice and knowing where I was must have made it even more hard for you. Jamaica wasn’t for you and you weren’t happy there, but you made the best of the situation. What should you expect, a Yankee boy in Jamaica – authentic accent and all – it must have been hard being a target – but you kept your woes to yourself, only hinting at the stress you were going through. Your family by all accounts were never able to understand or provide the shelter, not just a roof over your head that you needed so I was happy to play the surrogate role.

Whatever words of encouragement I was able to offer kept you going as you bounced from one job to another, quickly losing the work when your ‘deportee’ status was revealed. You seemed happiest working as a groundsman on a gated estate. I warned you about keeping your own counsel and being wary of new friends who would befriend you for nefarious purposes. I told you not to take the same route home from work and things seemed to be falling into place. You seemed accepting of your situation, even though I was desperately trying to find an attorney to look at your case, but each time I mentioned neither you nor I had any money – the door was slammed shut. Even some notable attorneys in my community gave me the run around. You should not have been deported. You were not advised at trial that a guilty plea would lead to automatic removal and return to an estranged country of birth. That’s when you started getting sick, the fatigue, the coughing and shortness of breath. I thought it was exposure to pesticides and encouraged you to get yourself checked out. I was arrogant in thinking you could just walk into an emergency room and get treatment. Even though you were growing weaker and more tired, I could not in my wildest dreams imagine the outcome.

I remember our last conversation, when you told me you didn’t want to die in Jamaica. I was angry and told you in no uncertain terms that was not gonna be your fate – but I was wrong. I wish to God I was right, but it wasn’t to be.

I hadn’t heard from you for a while, I should have known something was wrong, because there was a strong presence of something in my home – I shrugged it off thinking one of my ancestors was checking on me – but I couldn’t shake the feeling. It was weird – I wasn’t scared, but I knew some spirit was there watching.

Something, or perhaps you, prompted me to check your Facebook page after you didn’t respond to my call. Chills ran over my body as I scrolled through and saw you hadn’t posted since October 28. I saw but refused to comprehend the comment from one of your friends that hit me like the kick from an ignorant mule.

I’m still in denial sometimes that you’re no longer in this realm and that I won’t hear your voice again in this season, but one thing I’m sure about - the price you paid for being a deportee is one that no one should pay and I write this in tribute to your sacrifice. Kester Robinson – RIP – gone but not forgotten.


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