For my final week or two in Jamaica I couldn’t find words. I couldn’t find words for all I appreciated in what Jamaica had given and taught me. I couldn’t find the words to articulate my dread of leaving and returning to ‘life as usual’ in Canada. In the quiet darkness of midnight or the insular safety of a road trip with only two other ears to hear I could speak of one or two things – a fear, some specific lesson, a concrete blessing – but the total. The total remains largely inarticulable.

People in Kingston wanted to know what I was leaving with. What would I miss the most. People at home ask “what was it like,” and I know that I am expected to reduce more than 5 months of the most intense living I’ve experienced into a sound bite. I can’t do that. For the next – forever – my sentences will be peppered with “In Kingston …” “In Jamaica …” “There was this place we …” I am home – it is a week today. I continue to reach back.

I miss the warmth, and the sunshine, and heading to the beach. I miss the noise (though I don’t miss the smell). I miss being hassled on the street corner. I miss the rug weaver who called me ‘Little Sister.’ I miss jerk chicken and peanut cakes and laughing until my cheeks hurt. I miss Appleton Special mixed with soda water and sitting in a quiet breeze and being vulnerable and honest and connected. I miss meeting random new people and feeling an instant bond. I miss being called Cinderella because of my blonde hair. I miss the bus – hard as that may be to believe – and the route taxi drivers vying for my fare, and buying a fresh pineapple sliced into a bag on my way between the two. I miss walking into JoJo’s or Redbones or Ribbiz’ and being known.

And more than anything I miss my friends – as much as I missed my friends at ‘home’ while I was there. I miss Erin’s “hey, this is on – want to go?” and Karen’s sisterly solidarity. I miss Kate’s quiet smile as she flashes her ring finger, and Joy-Anne’s beaming “YES!” to life. I miss Sugi’s dedication to the cause, and her strength and her always spot on humour. I miss Cheeky and his giant Pajero rolling through traffic or into the mountains with no plan and always another adventure, another history lesson, a random burst of exasperated Patwa, and 15 new people to meet. I miss RuthAnn’s “No man” and singing off-key to her headphones and the quirky way Dacia said “Good morning, Sha-nnon” and then giggled.

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Beaches & sunshine & jerk chicken can’t hold a candle to these people.

It will be okay. The memories will grow in sweetness and the missing will ease off. That too will have its own sadness. Or I will sort myself out to return, and will have the bitter-sweetness of missing home instead. Or I will go somewhere new and leave another piece of my heart there.

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