When I hear the sound of a domino hitting a hard surface, I think of my father playing with his friends at our house when I was growing up.
Slamming dominoes is a tradition and usually a sign that someone is confident they are going to win.
My dad preferred to play partners, as opposed to cutthroat. Cutthroat is when all players are playing against each other, while partners means you play with the person across from you and against the two people on either side of you.
As a child, I found it fascinating to watch how serious these adult men were, staring at the tiles intently and then having one of them break the heavy silence with the slam of a domino on the table.
At first glance, dominoes is a game anyone can play by simply matching numbers. While this is true, it was only when I learned the strategies of the game that I truly began to enjoy playing it. I would later go on to teach my entire college dormitory how to play.
I attended a university in Florida, which is not uncommon for Caribbean kids. My school had a large international student population. I was able to make friends with people from different countries, from all walks of life, with different viewpoints of the world. In my junior year, I was finally able to stay in an upperclassman dorm. Due to the status of the dorm, there were many international and graduate school students living there.
My dorm neighbour, who would later become one of my dearest friends at school, was Jamaican. We decided to teach our new friends how to really play dominoes.
A group of us would congregate at the outside tables in the evening to play. Some were American, some Indian, some from Pakistan, others from Russia and from Finland. The lone Caribbean representatives were my neighbour Ryan and I. It took us a few rounds to get them interested, but soon playing dominoes became an everyday thing after — or even between — classes. We left a set of dominoes downstairs, a community set we bought as a group, to play whenever we could. I could not get over how captivated they became with the game. We would play for hours, well into the early morning, almost nightly.
It felt good see how excited they got when they would win. It felt even better to impart a piece of Caribbean culture on my dorm-mates, one that they took back to their homes, their families and other friends. Ryan and I left our mark on them, dots, slamming and all.