I live in Jamaica, Queens.

Ok so now you know I’m black.

Jamaica is chocked full of people of color…and yes, a lot of them are from the Caribbean. It used to be almost only black people but now it’s got a good mix of Indian and Middle Eastern immigrants. There’s an interesting story about Jamaica, though. It was actually settled by the Dutch, who distorted the original Native American name of Yameco. Y sounds like J in Dutch, which eventually led to Jamaica.

That’s from Wikipedia. What it doesn’t say is how all those Jamaicans saw that on the map and thought they were going home. It’s ok. I can get oxtails and rice and peas whenever I want them so I’m not complaining.

I like my neighborhood. Although I technically live in New York City, it’s not what you necessarily expect. I live in residential area that looks a lot like any other suburb in America. I live about 10 minutes from Long Island and the only cabs around here are gypsy cabs. I like that there aren’t a ton of tourists or super high priced rents. I live in a three bedroom apartment with all of my utilities covered for what some of my friends spend on a single bedroom in an apartment full of roommates and a toilet they share with the entire building.

There are parts of Jamaica that aren’t so cool. Sometimes I take the F train and walk down Parson Blvd because it’s faster. Depending on the time of night I do that, I’m walking past prostitutes, homeless, and beggars. I’m never uncomfortable (because I’m a fool) but I can imagine that others might be. I also have to walk past a Wendy’s, a Popeye’s, a McDonald’s, and two all night Dunkin Donuts to get home. Now that makes me uncomfortable. The idea of a Triple Baconator has been known to take me off course.

Baby_goats_jan_2007_cropStill, I know that if I see a white family wandering around Jamaica Ave in the middle of the night, they are lost. I don’t even ask them if they need directions. I just walk up to them, point back to the subway, and tell them to take it one stop back to JFK. They can make a stop in the McDonalds across the street if they need to pee but don’t take too long about it and don’t talk to the people in there. Get back on the train! Now!

Jamaica, Queens is home to Jamaica Ave, which is a long stretch of road dedicated to shopping. Because it’s in a black neighborhood there are tons of hair stores, tattoo shops, and places that sell fake Nike Jordans. It’s fun, though, and me and Hubs spend a lot of time hanging out there in summer. You can get the best Jamaican beef patties there from this literal hole in the wall. You yell your order in and they essentially throw your food at you. The line is usually around the block.

So imagine my surprise when I discovered my neighborhood had an exotic pet shop.

I’d just moved here for the second time and was wandering the shops alone. This made Hubs nervous because he is a native New Yorker and thinks I don’t know what I’m doing. He claims I make a face that says it’s ok to ask me to do crazy things. I call this my normal face.

Just two weeks earlier, I had a toothless man walk up to me near Penn Station with a napkin full of either crack or his teeth. I couldn’t tell because I’ve only seen crack on Intervention. He just kept saying that I would like what he wanted to show me. Of course, I knew that wasn’t true. I don’t smoke crack and I have my own teeth. I told him as much and started to walk away. He followed me, shouting that he would work with me on the price. I walked faster just short of breaking into a run yelling behind me “No, thank you! I’m not interested in teeth or crack. Thank you for offering, though!”

So Hubs really didn’t want me out and about alone. Still, he’s not the boss of me. So I was wandering Jamaica Ave, buying trinkets and other little things. Suddenly, I looked up and saw a goat staring at me through a window. I love animals, so I got a little closer. There were other goats in the store. There were also pigs and rabbits.

I was very impressed. I’d never seen a regular pet store, let alone an exotic pet store in this neighborhood. I was so excited because I’d recently decided I needed a pet pig so this would be a great time to price one. I waved at the animals who looked back with little to no interest.

But something was wrong. There were no prices displayed. In fact, there was no display at all. Normally a pet shop has a display with puppies or kittens or something. Who was running this place? They didn’t have any marketing help at all? That’s the problem with some small businesses. They really have to put some money into their marketing and displays. It makes a difference.

Wait. What’s that red stuff on the wall back there? It’s not very inviting in there. Where do you play with the animals before you take them home? I don’t even think there’s carpeting in there.

Wait. Is that blood?

valentis-fresh-meat-marketAnd that’s when I saw a man come from the back, wearing a blood soaked apron and gloves. Something wasn’t right. So I took step back and that’s when I saw the sign.

It wasn’t an exotic pet store. It was a butcher shop.

The whole exchange took about 5 minutes tops. But that’s a long time to be standing outside a butchery waving at animals about to go to slaughter and critiquing the store’s marketing plan. I thought about going in anyway to play off what had happened but then I saw a line of customers off to the side staring at me like I was slow. So I just started walking away quickly and tried to never walk down that street again.

I still want a pig, though.

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Princess Jones

Princess Jones is a fantasy author with an obsession with the stories we tell ourselves over and over. For more talk about books, connect with her on Goodreads.

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