If, on a first and final return to your parents’ island as a unit, your family must choose between routes to Jamaica’s northern coast from Kingston, know this: Both twist over cliffs, at inclines that compel drivers to build velocity and zoom blindly around bends. Both force cars to hug brink or escarpment when dodging oncoming traffic. But—assuming your family survives this drive—only one of these routes will take you through Fern Gully.
Fern Gully is supernatural. It’s tunnel grown of ferns; pulsating walls, curved up into a chlorophyllous canopy. It’s acid green, searing through your eyes into your brain.
If your parents take this route, make sure they pull off the thoroughfare and exit the car with you. Let your mom hold your hand, but when she’s not paying attention break away into a field of lime-green fiddleheads grown taller than you’ll ever be. Their fibers dangle white, as thick as your hair. Try to wrap your hands around one’s stalk. Grasp its felt-like fibers, downy and supple on your palm. This is softer than anything you will feel again. Kneel to inspect a newborn fern, one that’s sprung to your knee. Rub your finger along the curve of its head. Feel the frond’s silky baby fleece.
If your mother calls after you, if she says it’s time to leave, pluck this fiddlehead from the earth, and keep it as proof of magic. If you wait to ask permission, she will tell you not to bother. “We have ferns in our backyard,” she will say.
You’ll ask why you’ve never seen them. How could you have never noticed? She’ll promise to point them out when you get back.
When you return to the States—not the first day, but after she has rested some—she will take you out back, and point to a plant in a white pot sitting on the ground, and say, “See? See?”
And you will see nothing, nothing but a dull green houseplant.