66. A Sense of Belonging …

From Summer Place forward, Diana and I went out and around with one another every weekend.  We were certainly entertained enough with what we were doing together yet we hadn’t committed to exclusivity.

Then the time had come in both our minds that I should meet her family.  Her parents were previously divorced and so it would be one at a time meetings.  Besides that her mother and sister had returned to the Midwest after the separation.   

I met her father and I felt he approved of me, at the very least, as his eldest daughter’s companion.  Now I said it this way because interracial relationships were still not easily accepted.

The only real prejudice I had previously encountered in my life was that over religious views.  California was certainly more relaxed than say, the Midwest states where her parents were raised and there was just a little concern that her relationship with me might’ve been frowned upon.  

We weren’t discussing marriage or anything and she assured me that her parents were well aware of her lifelong interest in all aspects of foreign cultures; this shouldn’t be too difficult for them.  

Well the fact is we got along quite well.  He really liked me as a human being and I felt him to be genuine.  One day he invited Diana and myself to dinner at a real nice restaurant in Westwood Village.  

Halfway through our time there at the table, Diana’s father gently placed his hand on our waitress’s hand when she stopped by, yet again with her very big smile and he said, “Doris I’d like you to meet someone.  You already know my daughter … and this is her wonderful friend, Parma.”

I knew it!  I had been pondering the obvious friendliness between Diana’s dad and our waitress.  Maybe they were just casually flirting? I thought.  Here it is, confirmed.  He had a real nice friend there who quite clearly was looking out for him and as a bonus, a nice 20% discount (he told us later) whenever he dined there.  As a single man that turned out to be quite often.

My days and nights moved along at a steady pace and that brings me around to the autumn.  🍁 One day a tenant called me to help her move something heavy in her place. I accidentally left my apartment door open when I went there.  In that time frame someone came into my residence and stole a few things.

Naturally I was alarmed and informed the owner of the building.  She in turn released me from my position and I found myself suddenly unemployed.  In fact she took me to court suing for I cannot even remember what but the judge dismissed the charges.  Apparently he had better things to do.

I say take that whole scenario any way you will because I know what I thought about it.  As might be expected I filled ‘mom’ in on what happened.  In her ever-luvin’ way she said to me, “Honey you never mind all that, I’ll fix things up for you.”  Mrs. Elson had another set of friends up Hollywood way and I found myself in a similar situation up there; resident caretaker of tenants.

As was anticipated Diana and I were still right on track even though we weren’t as close, geographically speaking.  She remained in Westwood and I now lived on Sherbourne Drive.

I was given a nice furnished studio apartment and also had a sort of guardian looking out for me.  This would be an older lady, a very dear friend of ‘mom’ – she’d call me over to her place for coffee or something to eat and ask me how I was getting on, a personal evaluation if you will.  

And Dave’s mom still called up regularly to check on me. We certainly didn’t want a repeat of the previous scene.  Speaking of Dave, we still found time to hang out together and we were both glad of it.  And whenever I could I’d give him advance notice of Diana’s visit, he’d happily make arrangements for the 4 of us to double date.

Out came the lite blue Ford Fairlane 500 again and off we’d go!  A favorite place of ours to dine at was up Malibu way. Just pick up your rotary dial telephone and place the call to GLENWOOD 7 2567 for your table!  We’d take the drive on Pacific Coast Highway to Trancas Restaurant at Zuma Beach for the best swordfish steaks ever.

Back up into Hollywood, the tenants of the building I looked after were nice people.  They all seemed to have everything they needed and most of the times, I was just called upon to help them bring up their groceries from their car.  

And though not in lifeguard capacity, I attended the swimming pool too.  I really felt comfortable here in Hollywood.  Yes the Hollywood of the late 50’s … hindsight, where are you?

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GLENWOOD 7 2567      love those phone numbers of the past.

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.