14 Jan Looking Back by Jovante Anderson
I still remember how adamant I was that I was going to study in Jamaica. I got into U.W.I. Faculty of Law, and I was prepared to take a few years to work after high school so that I could afford to go to university, though I’m sure my family’s plan would have been different. They probably would have taken out every loan or found the money somehow, but I didn’t want that partly because of my pride and partly because I was in love with life and thought it would love me back enough for things to work out, the way things always work out for people that always looking for a miracle – sudden and unexpected, but always, always welcome.
So when the opportunity was presented for me to apply to study abroad, I refused it. Besides, I wanted to stay so I could be able to help my parents with the kids, and watch them grow, and go to every graduation, and birthday, and school performance. And to take the occasional march up the road to their primary school to tell teacher not to lick di pickney dem, yuh nuh see seh a good children dem dis, if dem do something call me. I also wanted to be able to learn about the Caribbean in my classes and not as an afterthought, but in the end sometimes you have to go where the money is. You must. Even if it’s to a place you’ve never been, except in your imagination. And so, Lafayette it was, this little college, whose name I had never heard before it was uttered to me by the college counselor, the miracle worker who had me in her program for free. Lafayette. The name did sound so strange in my mouth, like it don’t belong to me, like me thief it from somebody who couldn’t remember that it had gone missing. Every time I told people where I would be going to study, I felt the weight of the world accusing me.
But I also remember sitting down in my room a few days before leaving, nerves running high, cleaning and packing, and of course, surveying all the wonderful books, my grandmother’s I suppose, that were stacked onto a shelf, spilling over onto the dresser, books that were old enough to remember things about this 50-year old house. I smiled the way I usually smile at inanimate objects, like they were alive, like they could tell me something about myself, or about a time before myself, not just on the page, but by speaking. I still remember sitting among the books, now on the floor, opening and reading a couple lines of each, quickly. One about the body, another an encyclopedia, and another, a psychology book that I never recalled seeing ever before. At the time, I was so convinced that I was going to study psychology at Lafayette. This book, older than time itself, excited me and as I opened it and read the first page, I let out what I would later realize was laughter. Not the kind that rock you belly because somebody giving laugh fi peas soup. No, it was the kind that slip out of you before you know it, your body trying to make sense of the world shifting underneath it.
Marked out in bold, on the very first page, it read: LAFAYETTE COLLEGE. This place I never heard of before a couple months ago, was indeed a place that was nearer than i thought. This place was living inside my house, longer than I had been, perhaps waiting on the day I would open this older-than-time book and gasp at the incredibility of it all, how maybe this was no coincidence, an ancestral sign, a sign from God, that maybe I should go. Maybe this place was where i was to go and grow and learn. i sat there laughing, fuller now, lost in the moment and thinking maybe this was a miracle, sudden and unexpected, but welcome. Very welcome.