64. Diana

Next day.  As per my new routine, I made my rounds about the complex after breakfast.  I thought to give Dave a call and share with him my meeting of this young lady on the bus, whom I shall here name, Diana.  The call would have to wait till the afternoon as I knew he would be out during the morning hours – no cell phones yet.

Upon returning to my apartment, out of boredom I skimmed through some of the magazines there on my coffee table while listening to the radio.  Now what?  I rested for a little bit.  Oh yes I would call ‘mom’ and fill her in on my day up till the moment; to tell her about Diana or not, hmmm.  I would tell Dave first.

He was already home by now and Mrs. Elson called Dave to the phone.  I took a deep breath, ‘Okay Dave, don’t make a big fuss but …I met a girl on the bus.’  He gave a light-hearted laugh and replied, “Hey that’s great!  What did you guys do?”

I gave him a detailed account of how we met including our exchange of contact information.  I told him that she seemed interested in me I felt due to all the questions she asked me; where was I from, what do I do all day, and asking as many get-to-know-you questions as she could.  

Both our days had already been planned out and so we wouldn’t have any more time to spend that day.  Then Dave suggested that we should double date.  I was confused.  ‘What the hell is a double date?’ Dave just laughed at me!  

Then he explained it was more of a comfort thing.  “We would go for some dinner, take in a movie, go dancing or head out to the beach, whatever we like really.”  We could do anything as a normal date but we’d all go together and make a day or night out out of it.  “See the comfort?”  Well I really liked that idea.  

Dave and I finished our call.  In the late afternoon I decided to call Diana.  I asked her if she’d like to meet for some lunch or something.  She excitedly agreed.  We would meet tomorrow then.  She asked me if I knew the Chevron gas station on the corner and I said yes.  “Good,” she replied quickly, “meet me there tomorrow at noon.”

I had a date!  That night after my dinner and evening rounds of the property, I stayed in just taking it easy, doing much thinking about various things and listening to the radio.

Next morning routine the same although now my step was lighter.  I was definitely happy about meeting with Diana for lunch today.  

Noontime was just around the corner and with one last check in the mirror I headed out the door.  We arrived at the Chevron station at nearly the same time, both of us hungry for an adventure and some lunch too.

“If you’re interested I have a great place we can go for lunch,”  she proposed.  I was open to suggestions.  “They have the most marvelous turkey burgers!” Diana claimed.  With a big smile I told her, ‘Let’s get going then.’

We walked to this establishment, it was only 3 blocks away from where we stood.

Diana showed me the burgers on the menu and getting the feel for what I might enjoy, she then ordered for us.  She requested my burger to be well-cooked and ordered coffee for me.  She had a milkshake with her burger.  

She was absolutely correct, I really enjoyed that burger!  We were clearly entertained by each other’s answers to random questions in between bites and sips getting to know more about one another.  Lunch was my treat although she did make the hand on the check gesture, something I certainly was not used to.  

Afterwards we walked around the village for a little while.  We both had so much to say and there was never an uncomfortable silence between us.  I offered to show her ‘…from the outside,’  I specified this politely for her comfort, where I was living.  We walked that way and I showed her.  

“You could walk me up to my place and see where I live too, if you like,” she offered in return.  And so we walked up the hill to her apartment.  Diana asked me then if I’d like to come in.  ‘Of course, I would love to.’ I did not hesitate to reply.  

It was a nice little place.  She mentioned that she had a student from India staying with her at the moment.  It was a one bedroom apartment and the girl slept out on the sofa.  She was in class at that time, so it was only the two of us.

We sat and talked for quite awhile.  In there somewhere she made something for me to drink though I cannot recall now if it was hot tea or something cold; irrelevant I’m sure.  I looked around the room and noticed a lot of her decor reflected the Indian culture; travel posters, fluffy colorful pillows, books and what not.  

I asked her about her obviously immense interest and knowledge of things Indian.  Diana proceeded to explain that she gathered much information from her roomate.  She’d also studied through many books and asked a lot of questions of Indian students who’d give her the time of day.  Many did as they seemed to enjoy her interest in their culture as well as the attention paid to them.

The afternoon was effortless.  After a while I knew it was getting late, the light outside was changing and although her roomate had not returned, I knew I should be going back.  Besides in the back of my mind, I gave thought to the owner of the apartment complex might be looking for me.

The attraction between Diana and myself was definitely mutual and when I saw the opportunity to go in for a first kiss, there was no hesitation from her, only magnetic attraction and it was very, very nice.  We found ourselves holding on to one another; it was secure and exciting all at once.

Forcing a break at last from the comfort of the cuddle, I got up to leave.  Diana walked out to the street with me, hand in hand.  In parting she said to me, “I’ll stand right here till you’re down the hill.”  We shared a goodnight kiss or two and more hugs.  

It felt as though we both knew one another for a long time, the comfort was incredible and then I walked away but not before assuring her that I’d call her again.

In about fifteen minutes I was home.  What a day!  I was feeling really good about the time spent with Diana.  I slept peacefully that night.

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41. Grey Cloud Hovering Overhead … Blue Skies Visible Beyond

Noori came over that weekend as was now the normal for us and upon hearing the news about the letter, she jumped up in excitement with the biggest smile across her face and said, “Gary, after everyone has gone to bed in my house, I have been praying to Allah every night.”

Her face softened.  “I pray that He will help you and guide you.  And I ask Him to have mercy and free you from that evil family for good.”  Well that is what she said.

She was talking with a spirited high and continued in her sweet voice, “I realize now that I love you even more and I would do anything to make you happy and nurse you when you’re not healthy.  I am with you always, my dearest Gary.”

We spent as much time together as possible.  She was still in school and I would be at work, but to be sure we’d manage to see one another at some point during the week.  Weekends and holidays we definitely were able to spend more time together.  

I will tell you the truth about this young lady (haven’t I already?).  I was falling deeper in love with Noori every day.  We knew we couldn’t marry right away as besides the obvious, the religious differences wouldn’t permit; she was too young (even though she was 18) to fight her parents and brothers about it.  

The Hemma war was on its way out and the culture-clash war was immediately at hand.  Noori’s family was well known around Suva and her brothers on their motorcycles riding all over town, we’d be too easily spotted.  Our love had to stay inside my family home …still.

On the date of the court hearing, I met up 1st with my legal counsel in the courthouse and he reminded me the judge may not grant me what I want.  My case was heard by a bearded Australian judge not that it matters, it’s just what I remember about him.  Hemma’s legal representation was present, she was not.  

Here we go!  My lawyer presented my case, main arguments being that I wanted a divorce because of her parents’ influence.  “Your honor, my client cannot live a normal married life with his wife due to constant interference from her parents.  There has been no privacy in their relationship and this has become a constant hurdle.”  

My counsel continued, “My client was away it’s true.  Mr. and Mrs. Masala had a mutual agreement between the themselves about trip.  He was out seeking to make a fresh start for the two of them in London, free from distractions.”

And finally my lawyer said, “My client returns from overseas to find a man in his dining room, the handyman to be exact.  Mrs. Masala was unable to explain his presence.”

The oppositions turn to respond.  Hemma’s counsel claims these are false statements.  He’s doing his best of course to make it look as though I just abandoned my wife to go galavanting around the world.

So now I am called upon to tell my side of the story.  Her lawyer naturally protested again, and said his client claims her husband is always going away leaving her alone, so she’s taken up with her family.

Looks like she’s forgotten the part where we lost our son and she didn’t stay with me for a moment … and yet I still tried to work things out with her.

The judge called the lawyers to approach the bench and they briefly spoke.  Then the judge took a pause without leaving the room to look over the files and think over the verbal statements before making a decision.

At last he looks up from his seat at the grand desk and returning his attention to us says:  “Mr. Masala, I will not grant you a divorce at this time.  Also I cannot grant you a legal separation either.”  I’m listening to this feeling a bit bowled over.  

He explains, “I give you a year to see if there can be a reconciliation between the two of you.  And yes, you cannot leave Fiji.  You must stay away from each other [rather contradictory] as in, no harassment!  

“And one more thing Mr. Masala, in the meantime you will be paying Mrs. Masala her maintenance; half your monthly salary, every month.”  

The judge then closed the case.  Well then.  

My lawyer said he was sorry the separation couldn’t be made legal and we had to discuss the maintenance expense.  I explained to my lawyer that half of my salary always went into the family’s expenses; I gave it my brother to help pay for everything as he was the sole provider.

So he told me that, of the remaining half Hemma will get ½ of that.  That was the way it would to be and I would be paying it through his office.

I went into work for the remainder of the day.  By the time evening rolled around I was ready to go home and lie down.  I was feeling a bit done for but real glad the ball was now rolling in the right direction.

 

38. Heavy Rains Unburden the Soul – my landscape has been washed clean

No one save for a small handful of my family knew that I had returned to Fiji as it was all quite sudden.  The taxi pulled up in front of my most current Fiji address and I anxiously got out of the car.  My mother and brother-in-law chose to wait for me out there.

I saw Hemma’s father and the two courier pigeons (the younger brothers) building something outside as I walked up through the front yard.  I remember the look on his face as I walked by; it was as though he were staring at a ghost.

I went up the steps and into the house.  I noticed my mother-in-law also looked at me the exact same way.  Now for a moment if one thinks about it, when someone you love returns home after being away for a while, even after the initial shock, wouldn’t you go up to them and greet them lovingly?  I imagine so.

With the mother and sisters sitting upon the sofa in the living room, not a one of them making a move for anything, only jaws dropped down from a clear bombshell, I strolled past them headed straight for my bedroom.

The dining room must be passed to get to the bedroom and boy was it ever my turn for the bombshell.  The handyman was sitting at my table eating a meal.  Now ordinarily this would go one of two ways.

Either he just so happens to be using our dining table to enjoy his lunch break or … he feels he has the right to be there because of a familiar relationship in this family?

So which is it?  

Now I am momentarily speechless.  After two ticks into my sudden shock, here comes my wife out of our bedroom and she stopped in her tracks, a holding pattern in the doorway; her turn for the ultimate shock!

But I went over to her and I hugged her.  ‘Hemma you know, I missed you so very much.’  She returned the hug and I was glad for that.  I fear she was rendered speechless by my presence.  

So I continued speaking.  ‘I wasn’t able to make it to England.  I’ll tell you all about it a little later on.  Please just go and get your things.’  Hemma looked at me in disbelief.

‘We are going to my family house.  My mother is waiting outside in the taxi.’  I further stated.  ‘And by the way what is the handyman doing inside the house?’  Hemma started to cry.  By now the rest of her family came in, to join the reunion party no doubt.  

I turned to gaze at the handyman but he had left the scene.  I returned my eyes to my wife who was now looking desperately at her family -perhaps hoping for direction- so I too turned my attention towards them.  They were whispering among themselves.  

Hemma remained next to me.  I waited a few moments and then I asked her, ‘Are you coming with me now or what?’

She left me where I stood, going to the bedroom and as she was closing the door I quickly blocked it.  I continued to ask her, ‘Why are you doing this to me, didn’t you miss me all this time I was away?’

Hemma replied at last.  “I did.  I missed you a lot.  But please understand, you must stay here with me.”  To which I replied, ‘No.  I’ll never stay with your family again!’  

I kept going, ‘Also tell me why the handyman is alone with you in this part of the house. Your parents should have been in here with him or at the very least you would’ve called to one of your brothers or sisters, don’t you think?’  

Hemma had no response.  Looking at her blank face I collected myself quickly and spat it all out.  ‘Anyway I am going home now.  I never want to speak with you or see you ever again.  Good bye Hemma.  You broke my heart so many times but no more I tell you, I want to be free of you for good.’

Hemma was quiet, she said absolutely nothing nor reacted in any way at all.  I walked through the house and straight out the door to the taxi where my brother-in-law and mother were waiting patiently for me.  

For a moment I felt a tinge of sadness that not one single member of that family said anything to me let alone try to stop me.  I was also unhappy to know that not one of them went to the taxi to see if my mother needed a cool glass of water.

I got into the taxi and took one last look at what my life had come to; no one was even at the window looking out.  Must be karmic.

We began the drive towards home and well, it began to rain.  It rained really hard – how perfectly right.  

My family members were waiting inside to welcome me back home.  After briefly meeting with everyone, I treated myself to a cool leisurely shower and taking cue from the storm, I was hoping to wash away the previous moments of this day.  

Feeling lighter and certainly refreshed I felt it was time for a cocktail and believe me, by late afternoon I was already feeling much better… in so many ways.  I unpacked my suitcases, presented gifts and was encouraged to speak of my adventures.  

I was away from the earlier scene, surrounded by people which I knew cared about me, I felt safe in my family home and I was already learning to let go.

 

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Time was when, the family honor, their respectability was of the utmost importance.  From generations before, propriety was given in all situations.  Among those rules of conduct; never was it appropriate to leave a young lady alone with any man that is not her family member; much less a young married woman whose husband was absent from the scene, wherever they were.  

Decorum simply didn’t leave room for suspicions and doubt.  This applied to the modest families looking to keep refinement.  Hindu culture as a whole (there are always those folks doing things differently …) held steadfast in these beliefs.  No judgement being passed here only making statement of many a culture’s’ way of life.