Menage a Trois, 4” x 6” ink and watercolor on paper
Let me introduce you to Mr. I Love Your Skin Color.
Or, well, Junior.
“Yuh know, mi nevah like di skin of a black ooman. Mi always like the nice creamy, soft skin of a white lady, seen?”
Nancy wasn’t buying it.
She liked Junior, she’d been seeing him over several months during frequent trips to the island. A woman of a certain age, Nancy was smart, wisecracking, and came from a cold, woodsy rural town of the northeast. And her skin WAS the color of porcelain, and so was her extensively bleached hair. She chain smoked, observed the runnings of Negril beach from behind large thick-lensed glasses, and had an unexpected sophistication lurking beneath a casually disheveled appearance.
I liked her instantly.
She shared this rather disturbing “compliment” with me shortly after we first met. I liked Junior, I still do. I didn’t know him well but he was hard not to like. He had an easy smile, was quite pleasant, and always seemed to be on the move, working and hustling, in a good way. And he was kind to Nancy.
But that remark gave us both the creeps.
She was having a good time, but was decidedly skeptical about the long-term prospects of Mr. I-Love-White-Skin. She’d learned of a Baby Mudda inna the bush, who was presumably Not An Issue, or so she was told. But still, her gut told her perhaps there was something, or some one, else which just might be an issue. She just couldn’t put her finger on it.
So she took some investigative action.
It was several months after our return to the states before she gave me an update. She’d done some snooping around Junior’s belongings and found the quintessential black book. It was the size of about 4 postage stamps, crammed full of scribbled numbers and names.The most recent entry was a name and phone number of a woman from a mid-western American city. So, Nancy says, I called “the numbah.” She started to chuckle.
Seems the numbah belonged to a black American woman, whom I’ll call Marie. She had also been a frequent visitor to Jamaica and they began to discover how much they had in common. Seems Marie had heard a variation on the I-love-your-skin theme but with the obvious twist — “Mi jess cyan tek the white lady skin, mi always luuuuv the nice brown skin of a righteous black ooman,” he’d told her.
So at least Junior doesn’t discriminate after all.
But it was probably that false expression of desire that angered them more than a straightforward case of infidelity. They were grown women, they knew that international dating was not a sure thing and their expectations were not ridiculously high. And so rather than see themselves as enemies fighting over a man, they bonded as sisters in a sham, pissed off at the false profession of love. Cheatin’ vs. lyin’, well maybe it was a distinction without a difference. Still.
They made a plan.
Now mind you this was in the days before cell phones, but just at the dawn of such wonderful features as call waiting, star 69 and the all-time favorite: 3-way calling. Nevertheless, if you wanted to reach someone in Jamaica who didn’t have a phone, which was just about everybody you were likely to meet, you either had to wait for them to phone you from the Call Box down the lane, or you could call a third party who had a phone and they would get the word out that you were trying to reach someone. So Marie put a call out to Jamaica that Junior must give her a call back. Word soon reached him and he dutifully called Marie at the designated time.
After the initial pleasantries, the how-are-you-darlin’s, the mi-miss-you-so-much and the mi-cyan’t-wait-fi-see-you, Marie told Junior she had someone with her who wanted to speak to him. A few clicks and a beep or two and Nancy was also on the line. And as far as Junior could tell, it sounded as if they were not only both in the same state, but both in the same house, sharing the same phone.
Ahh, the telephonic threesome. It’s a beautiful thing.