By Danielle Richardson

I am not a part of his American dream.

I watch as my father presses another burger to the grill, the smell of smoke and oil filling up the back patio like a fast food joint. It smells like America, this great country that I have always known about, seeing it on television my whole life and dreaming of what it would be like to live here. Now I do live here. It’s lovely, but I find myself thinking of the people and places back home more than I did before. My father sprinkles salt over the French fries and it makes me fantasize about my crystalline Caribbean Sea and the laughs and memories tangled up on the shores of Mullet Bay Beach.

More people are beginning to arrive, trickling into the house like ants to a pile of sugar. My father and his wife are having a get together. All of their American friends are coming with their children, who are around the same age as my little half-sister. It is like a scene out of a movie to me, the people getting together to laugh and have barbeque on a patio in a nice neighborhood. We have get-togethers back home, of course, but not like this. Here people come bearing gifts of devilled eggs, brownies, and macaroni. I remember meeting up with family on the beach, aunts and uncles and cousins bringing Johnny cakes, fried plantain, rum punch, and croquettes, all foods that now make my stomach ache with homesickness instead of hunger as I watch another family come through the door.

My father expects me to socialize, mingle and talk to people I have not met before. I know that this is nothing to most people, but for me it’s like a nightmare straight out of hell itself. I am generally a shy person. Throwing me into a house surrounded by strangers of a different nationality isn’t going to turn me into a social butterfly. But perhaps I should make more of an effort. As I sit and talk to a few people about generic nothings, I find my mind drifting away to the guestroom upstairs, where I can be alone.

I catch a glimpse of my father through the kitchen window. He is on the patio with all the other fathers and his wife, laughing at some joke or another. My sister runs up to them with a smile full of mischief, entertained by a game she is playing with the other children. I look at them and I do not see people from the same country as I. I see an American family, one so picture-perfect that you could put it up on a billboard advertising household goods and furniture. I see a family that is not my own. He tells me that this North Carolina house of his is my home too, but I know that it is not. This is their house, and these are their people.

I make my escape upstairs by pretending that I need to use the bathroom, but I know fully well that I have neither eaten nor drank enough to warrant a visit to the porcelain throne. I close the bedroom door as quietly as I can, but it does nothing to mute the sounds from downstairs of people laughing, forks scratching against plates, beer bottles clinking. I lie down and try to imagine that this is my bed in Sint Maarten, that the sounds from downstairs are my people getting ready to have fun and that I will be happily joining them shortly. But the lies I feed myself aren’t enough to quell the hunger for my home.

Macaroni, hot dogs, French fries, hamburgers, brownies, devilled eggs, sweet tea.

Croquettes, pastechis, johnny cakes, rum punch, fried plantain, ponche kuba, crab back.

Which is better? I don’t rightly know.

But I know to which I belong.

I am not a part of his American dream.

Nor do I want to be.

About the Author:


Danielle Richardson is from the Caribbean island of Sint Maarten. She is twenty years old and currently resides in Florida to further her education.