Sunday, October 28, 2018

Hinge-Toothed Prophets

He was looking for a friend. I was looking for silence. My eyes stayed low, focused on my hollowing bag of plantain chips. I had gotten the last pack on the plane and the snack trolley had only gone six rows back. Admittedly, they weren't that interesting to study as they dwindled, those salty slivers I knew I shouldn't be indulging in, but I felt his eyes strong on me, neck craned to the left from his windowless window seat in my direction. But I refused to meet his eyes. Doing so would be a non-verbal contract of on-and-off conversation for the better part of three hours and forty minutes. He already told me about some of his whereabouts. "You going to Guyana?" The vessel was packed to the brim with fussy, impatient, slow-bustling, heavy-tongued and sharp-eyed travelers with Jamaican and Guyanese passports, or those who eventually traded them in for matte, navy blue USA booklets. From the look of me, I would be exiting the plane in Kingston, just like from the look of him, I knew he was Georgetown-bound. "No, Kingston," I said, a slight graze of patios trailing off my lips.

"Oh," he smiled back, revealing an endearingly tilted front tooth. Friendly Man With The Hinged Tooth And The Eager Eyes was an uncle, although I do not know if for the first, second time or otherwise. I did not ask for clarity either, but his sister was preparing to give birth and wanted him present for the baby shower. Where there was mostly joy, I could sense his irritation at the additional five hours of flight time he had ahead of him, after the grumpy aunts and uncles made their ways to May Pen or Halfway Tree or Portmore or Pembroke Hall once set free from Norman Manley in the middle of the day. "It's nighttime me reach," he continued. The rest of his explanation—something about complications with her traveling to him in New York—drowned out somewhere between the whir of the plane engine outside and the see-sawing of his thick accent. 

Eventually, though, one has to bend to warmth and good nature. The craning continued until I saw him reach down into his carryon from the corner of my eye and pull out a jumbo Ziploc bag—the kind mom uses to store her pre-seasoned chicken, fish and pork in the freezer—full of miniature sized candies. I saw his open hand extending towards me, with packets of Skittles and Swedish Fish resting in the middle. He smiled, and as I took them, so did I.