72. Prejudice or Just Plain Crazy?

Hotel Miramar kept me busy just as our children kept Diana and the grandparents busy.  Our home was more and more lively with each passing day.  The little bundle of a daughter was still with baby needs but not causing too much commotion, apart from when she decided it was time to test her lungs and then oh boy, look out.  Our son had barely started walking and that’s plenty going on there already, isn’t it?

In all of this Diana was just as effectual in the air mail communications with the family in Fiji, all together with current photos and detailed letters; she wanted to be sure they were up-to-date on their son’s family life in California.

We took our children to the park whenever we could, usually twice a week.  As a quick flashback being at the park with children always reminded me of the family outings from my youthful self back in Fiji.  Then just as quickly I’d return to the giggling voices of my two little ones.

The boy he’s running around happy as a clam just having a ball and my daughter not at all minding the fresh sea breezes and chirping birds.  Of course it was a great way to work up a nap too, for all of us.

We had been living in the Pico apartments for quite some months when a new neighbor moved into the vacant unit upstairs, directly over our place.  I clearly recall this man was of brawny build and with him was (I can assume) his wife and older teenaged son.

The neighbors to our side had been there quite some time and we had long since become regular friends with them.

You know to this day I really cannot figure out an exact reason why this man upstairs behaved the way he did; we can still only guess he may have felt offended by the fact that my beautiful wife, clearly an anglo lady would have married a non-white man and then make children to boot!

Diana and I discussed his behavior briefly chalking it up to well, possibly he was nothing more than a mixed marriage hater?  Before you decide, read on!

The trouble began not too long after he moved in.  He’d pound on my door shouting in a strong southern American accent, “Open the door you damned Mexican!  Come out here, I’m gonna kill you!”  Wait, Mexican?  He’d already made up his mind about me, to include a label on my persons?

Interestingly he’d only do this when I was at home; it never happened while I was at work.  I mean this person never troubled Diana –thankfully- not once had he harassed her or shot an ugly glance her way.  He didn’t come out of his apartment else he wasn’t there at all, probably at work but either way it was clear he was out to torment only me.

He must’ve watched and waited for me to come home in the evenings.  Which is why we would assume his threats were just for me; he being appalled that I even had a place on this planet.  My skin was brown and my wife’s was not.  I mean we’ve really never known what else to think.  Why else he was so adamant to label me?

Forgive my thought for a moment but as you my readers should know me by now, I tell you my story with honesty in all things.  That was then and I am alas, always me. Those life experiences have brought me to who I am now.

And so to tell the story properly, in context I must relay my thoughts as I had them then so all of you can follow the narrative as it occurred.

He’d cause quite a ruckus and the neighbors would call the police.  I think it’s important at this point to mention we didn’t have a telephone.  This man would hear the sirens and dash back up the stairs to his apartment.  He’d actually get arrested but as his fate had it he was released the next day, out on bail each time in fact.

Three separate times he was arrested and 3 times he returned the very next day.  From what little information anyone had on him, he worked at a car dealership; we’re guessing he got them to bail him out?  That’s the rumor we caught in the wind but who really knows and what did that really matter?

It was approximately an 11 to 13 day period in which this went on at the rate of about every other day.  As I mentioned a few moments ago he seemed to wait and watch for me.

One afternoon round about 2 o’clock, the upstairs man came down and immediately began kicking at my front door.  He shouted crude language continually kicking at our door.

I slightly moved aside the window’s curtain to peek out at him.  To my complete disbelief I see in his hand, there’s a pistol.

I swiftly directed Diana to make haste and with the children go into the bedroom.  Not being able to come up with any further plan of action, I was right behind them heading into the bedroom, the only thought being, ‘this could buy us a few precious seconds.’

We sat on the floor under the window and I quickly told her about the gun our neighbor was brandishing.  I raised myself up to look out the window there hoping to see someone downstairs, anyone I could ask to contact the police.  I look out the window there hoping to see someone downstairs, anyone I could ask to contact the police.

At first I saw no one and I turned to look at Diana and the children.  She held them tight.  The poor little things, my son looked frightened, his parents not behaving normally and our daughter well, she’s just being a baby.  Our son softly whimpered but I know Diana encouraged him to stay quiet and fortunately the baby didn’t choose now to test her lungs.

I’m almost certain my wife saw the panic in my eyes.  I looked out the window again and this time I saw a man down there in the alleyway.  ‘Oh thank God!’ I thought to myself.  This man was swerving along his way and for any number of reasons that could’ve been the case why, it was not important to me.

I knew we had a glimmer of hope now and so, shouted out to him through the open window to please make haste and get the police.  I spat out there was a man at my front door with a gun and there are small children in here.

I‘m pretty sure he listened, he looked at me yet he did not respond.  The man then continued swerving along his path.  My heart sank.  Diana looked at me with pleading eyes that cried, Urgent, I’m scared!

At this point I thought for sure it was the end for us.  And then I sank back down to the floor, desperately looking at Diana and my 2 children.  ‘I fear this is it, there’s no one to help us,‘ my voice trailed off.  I took hold of my son and she held our daughter tighter still.

In my mind all I could see now was a dreadful scene of us dying together, as a family.  I really tried to shake it off … I just didn’t know what to do.

 

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47. Fiji, My Bittersweet Farewell to You.

Sunday morning it was.  Time to get crackin’ for it’s sailing day.  Turn by turn we got up and took our showers; as usual they were cool and quick!  

Busy emotional day ahead.  I got dressed, made my bed and placed my suitcase upon it.    The kitchen had been buzzing since before my eyes opened and breakfast smelled especially good this morning.  

We all sat down to enjoy our meal and I wanted to savor everyone’s face who was sitting at this table with me.  After breakfast Noori arrived and just after that my aunts, cousins and uncles arrived from Toorak.  

All the bodies in the house were busy doing one thing or another, the children were running around as they do.  I had gone off to my room to pack and Noori was right there with me.  

There was a little wardrobe where most of my clothing hung.  She immediately began to remove and fold them;  she was packing my suitcase for me.

I’d glance at her as I buzzed around the room for things to put in the case.  She’d watch me and I knew it.  I closed in on her near the suitcase and saw the tears just rolling down her cheeks.  She stopped adjusting my garments in the case and reached out for my hands,  

Noori held my hands in hers and then she embraced me with the most affectionate hug she had; naturally I responded to this with a tighter hug and there we stood, embraced for what seemed like an eternity yet too short.

She cast a look around the room mainly towards the open bedroom door just to be sure no one was looking our way and then she said to me, “I love you Gary and I will miss you so much.  I also promise you this, I will continue to come here and take care of umi as often as I can possibly manage it.”

I pulled her to me, again in a hug and then I kissed her.  ‘I love you very much Noori.  Please know I have to leave for now but also I feel you do know me well enough to understand why I must do this.  I promise you I will come back soon and we can finally be married. Then we’ll be with one another forever!’

A lite lunch was laid out and we all ate together.  Then we did whatever last minute preparations were remaining before leaving for the wharf.  The family bus came (out of my brother-in-law’s garage) and it was time to pile in.  

Better than taking many different cars wouldn’t you say?  There was roughly thirty of us, adults and children, climbing on board.  I was the last one to get on as I wanted to gaze upon my family home one last time and bid it farewell.  

The bus driven by my brother-in-law drove away down Mal Street and towards the wharf where the P&O Liner Orsova awaited me.

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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.