67. Amigos & Coo Coo Rachas

‘What do you think about getting married?’  Diana was really happy about this prospect and had no hesitation in starting a life of permanency with me.  I knew it would make my mother happy to hear that I wasn’t alone anymore.

I asked how we would accomplish this marriage.  I had told her father about my previous marriage in Fiji and that I hadn’t received official documentation of our divorce being finalized.  Whether or not it was Ralph who advised us or another, I cannot remember and really it doesn’t matter; it was suggested we take a trip south of the border and get married there.  

With her father’s blessing the two of us went to Mexicali.  It was a hot July, the weekend of the 4th to be exact.  We took the Greyhound Bus all the way. The further southeast the bus travelled the more arid we became.  

It was very late in the day as we arrived in town so the first thing we did was get ourselves a motel room.  We cleaned up, cooling off as best we could and then set out to find our evening’s meal and the justice of the peace.

We asked any and everyone who we thought might be of assistance, where the courthouse was located.  It actually wasn’t that easy getting someone to respond with a little English (besides taking our order for food in the restaurant).  

Finally someone did respond and we were thankful.  The next morning we made our way to the courthouse -it was already blazing saddles hot- and inquired with the clerk.  

He told us the judge couldn’t be located this morning and he very well may have taken the day off.  Wait, what?!  Then he told us that he’d go have another look around, maybe he’d find him.

He returned to tell us he found him … a few dollars later.  Yes it was a good thing we each changed up a $20 bill to single ones, it was just a hunch but nonetheless glad we acted on it.  The clerk told us the judge will be in the courtroom shortly. We just look at each other.

We did meet him in the courtroom.  The judge told us that we needed to have 3-5 witnesses; did we have them?  No. He told us there were always people just outside who may be convinced to come in. “You will have to pay them,” he told us dryly.   We just look at each other again.

Now I was thinking about the amigos Diana and I saw hanging around outside the building, would they really want to join us?  The judge sent a different clerk outside to gather some of them. He returned with 3 sun-stroked looking men.

Or was it simply siesta time already.  Either way they approached the magistrate and he looked at us with a simple finger rubbing thumb gesture.  We knew right away to dig up some dollar notes.

I set $6 into the clerk’s hand for the men.  He took it up to the judge. Each of the men signed a piece of paper, were handed their money and left the courtroom, one of them slightly smiling and acknowledging Diana and myself as they walked out.

The judge then called us forward to his bench and continued the process in pretty good English, the standard marriage vows (in Baja-California anyway).  After the ‘I do’s’ and his declaration of our marriage, we kissed, hugged and then had to sign the certificate.

He reached into his desk pulling out a stamp to which he then applied the ink from a pad on his bench quite deliberately, stamped the certificate firmly and applied his signature within the stamp.  Before handing it to us he did the ‘gesture’ once again.

I placed some bills onto his bench.  He handed us the one piece of paper and Diana immediately suggested we have a copy as well.  She asked him if we could get a copy and for a moment he didn’t answer.  Then he rubbed his index finger to his thumb and Diana handed him two dollars.

He went into the back and returned with a copy.  We stepped outside as Mr and Mrs Blue Masala. It was even hotter than a devil’s armpit now that the sun had pretty much reached its zenith.  

I remember being extremely thirsty, we both were to be sure.  Diana noticed a little market across the street and we made our way over.  Oh my goodness!  see the coo coo rachas scatter across the street everywhere.

I bought 2 bottles of ice cold 7-Up and stepping back outside with open bottles, we cheersed our green glass together and tipped up till we emptied them.  Gotta say, that felt really good!

We had planned to spend that night there as well and to call it a honeymoon?  I guess for now this would have to do.  We caught the bus the next morning back to Los Angeles and to a celebration with her dad and his ‘friend’ Doris.

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44. Mr. Masala is Free! sort of…

Since my first appearance before the judge, I paid my court ordered alimony payments and always on time.  

And not that I’m making any choices based on this; I also happened to discover that my hopefully soon-to-be ex-wife was actually in a relationship with the previously mentioned handyman.

How about that, my suspicions seemed to now been justified.  Or they just fell into place, either way.  I’ll do you one better, he’s living in the house with them.  

Oh, touché.  Looks like we both found plaster for a broken marriage.  

Feeling rather done for a few reasons, I flat out refused to pay November’s payment to Hemma or anymore for all that matters.

Prior to this decision I had made request for appointment to see Judge Sandy to appeal my case and it had now been granted.  I also made up my mind to represent myself; I felt I was my own best lawyer after having counsel with 2 other members of the bar.

On that day in court I declared I would no longer pay.  ‘Send me to jail if you have to but no more.’  I was brief in my statement and in that I made sure to mention Hemma moving that man into their family home.  ‘What is the point your honor in my financially supporting that?’

With a look on his face I loosely translated as him finding humor in my plea, he announced he’ll take his pause to review the case file.  After a few restless -on my part- moments, he asked me to rise for his decision.  

“Mr Masala, I‘ve decided to free you from the payments to Mrs. Masala.  However in order for that to happen you must first bring the payments up-to-date.”  

And there you go.  I ended up having to pay that November payment which I earlier defied to do.

Judge Sandy finished with  “And I’m granting you the legal separation.  Divorce is still not an option at this time.  As I mentioned before about the waiting period, that is still in effect.”  

I felt happy and sunk at the same time.  

“Other than that, now you can go, you are a free man Mr. Masala.  You can even leave Fiji if you so desire.”  Gavel banged on the judgement desk, I’m semi-free.

Okay yes, I felt a huge weight lift off my shoulders as I stepped out of the courthouse that morning.  It was as though I was 18 again and no longer a stressed out adult, at least not on that front.  

Hey, I’ll take it!

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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.