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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45. At Last I’ve Been Dealt the Perfect Hand – Monday

January 1959

The American Consulate’s office had arrived on Cumming Street in Suva, providing a green light at my crossroads.  It was a Monday morning when I headed towards their front door and there was only one thing on my mind, immigration to the United States.

I seem to recall a 3-story building housing a Chinese restaurant on the street level, the consulate’s office above taking the entire 2nd floor, with the 3rd floor being irrelevant to me.

A short hike up the stairs and I was inside the office, looking curiously around.  There was a woman sitting at a desk.  She looked up at me and asked in a kindly voice, “How can I help you?”  I responded, ‘This is the American consulate’s office?’  She smiled,  “Yes.”    

‘I would like to apply for a permanent resident visa so I can live in the United States,’ I stated eagerly.

She got up and excused herself going into one of the rooms somewhere behind the front office.  She returned with a stack of forms for me.  I met her back at the counter.  

“Read all the requirements, fill all these out and be sure to gather the necessary documents which are listed on this page..,” she was pointing to the list.  “…and when you’ve completed everything, bring the entire packet back here and we’ll move to the next step from there.”

I told her my name and asked for hers; Theresa, she told me.  I extended my hand to shake hers and left the office.  On my way down, at the last step before I exited the premises with my stack of forms, a thought hit me like a thunderclap.  ‘Wait a minute,’ it started.  ‘Didn’t I do this years before?’  

I turned right around and marched back up those steps with even more determination than before, feeling a whole lot closer to my goal.  Theresa was at her desk and she looked up at me again, just as before and this time she said, “What? You’re back again!”  

She was grinning at me.  “Did I forget something or maybe you’ve got something for me?”  I shook my head and with a return smile I stated, ‘Not really but I have a question.’

“Go ahead,” she said.  I asked her if the consulate kept old applications.  In an assured voice Theresa replied, “We keep everything.”  The look on her face told me she couldn’t wait to hear what I had to say.

I explained I had submitted a similar application years before; it was the spring of 1953.  I told her I had mailed it to the American Consulate in Noumea, New Caledonia.  She wrote my name and the year on a piece of paper.  She got up from her desk and said she’d go in the back and look for it.  

Theresa suggested, “Why not have a seat Mr. Masala. This might take a while.”  It may have been 15-20 minutes before she returned and with my file in hand -how about that!  She took it straight to her desk to spend a few moments reviewing the old application.  

Theresa asked me why I had not completed the application before.  I explained there were various particulars including timing and financial reasons.  She nodded, adding and subtracting pages, re-sorted them and restated what I needed now.  

It was the same as before really; the doctor’s bill of good health, no disease and such to include a chest x ray looking out mainly for TB, and financial letter of sponsorship.  Also needed would be a letter vouching a promise of accommodation when I arrive in the United States and lastly a police report clearing me as safe, respectable and without record person.

I knew I could take care of the list for I would be persistent in changing the direction of my life.  Theresa wished me success, “I wish you all the best Mr. Masala.  I think you are really ready for this and so we will see you soon, I expect.”

I smiled and thanked Theresa. This time I actually left the building and I went straight to work.  It took me all of 10 minutes on foot.

C - Sunset at the beach

At the end of the work day, I stopped to have my ice cold Guinness Stout with an excited feeling following me about.  I took the evening bus towards home.

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Theresa of course is a ficticious name for a truly helpful, sweet and kind person.