The necessity of heartbreak

Heartbreak is a curious thing.   It’s quite like childbirth; the size and shape of it unknowable until it happens, your experience uniquely your own.   The dull pain of it never quite gone, thrumming just below the surface.  The joy experienced before exponentially greater than any regret at the unending sorrow of the aftermath.

 

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A walk in the afternoon

Back to the country I adopted

Just like there is nothing that will prepare you for being an expat in another country. There’s no amount of ground work that will combat the six month adjustment/depression (same thing) that comes hand in hand with moving. There’s something pepole don’t really tell you about moving back.  It’s quite possibly, just as difficult.  If you’re unlucky to decide to do so at the onset of it; the dark of winter is relentless, the isolation complete even for someone who has grown up here.

There are things you forget about the States. The comforting but vapid friendliness. The soda cans feel huge and unwieldy. Winter never ends. How through out this season you will be the coldest in your own home, always dressed in double. Two socks, two shirts, sometimes a scarf, and a beanie, only to long for a warm cup of tea to warm your fingers.  You become hyper aware of how no one stares. If you are a woman in particular, the void is stark.  Sometimes,  one will miss the attention.

I returned to the US, with four bags of clothes, three and a half of those bags are filled with summer clothes, I’ll likely be able to wear a different outfit for each day this summer. Winter has but just begun, despite being covered in a near burka of layers the wardrobe planning for scant two months of warmth is forever playing in my head.

 

Thrift stores are amazing as they always were. I can’t believe people just give away these premium jeans! The restaurants are common. Starbucks looks rather shabby and lame. McDonald’s doesnt mind if you photograph their interiors. The grocery stores and wholesale stores are a gift, I could spend hours examining every thing they offer up. The potato chip and meat aisles?! Heaven.

I seem to have developed supersonic hearing for the Indian accent. A secret spark of joy trembles within me as I fight the urge to go ask every brown person if they’re from Bombay. I never approach them like I did that scared lady from Kansas at Oberoi Mall…so many years ago..

Oh. You know what else?
Bubble tea.
Mexican food.
Steak.

 

Tomorrow do thy worst.

I got this.

The time I was told by a man that I was a bad influence.

So there’s this coterie of friends I have, and they tend to reflect the mood I’m in.  The ones who know me fully and deeply, know the intuitive asshole and selfish jerk I can be hover around two.  That’s right, I have two close friends, and I have known them both more than 20 years each.  There was once a third horse in the race, I know I shouldn’t refer to my friends as animals, but really…. Yeah so the third horse told me a month and a half ago, rather abruptly that I was a bad influence on him and that he couldn’t hang out with me anymore.

He sent me this lovely missive over text.

Blink.

Blink.

Blink.

He is over 30.

Blink.

Then again, he (or so I thought) was going to shaft me over thanksgiving dinner.

He didn’t.

 

But I don’t know.  Can one consider a person that close if they are constantly wary of you and your saturnine influence?

 

Hey mac Guy, it’s rebel , like rebel yell, not ree-bell ok?

The make up counter people are known for their haughty, knowitallness.  To this day, a grown ass woman, I scurry into MAC, nervous and jumpy. Furtively check the goodies, make no eye contact, get my stuff and am off.  This process is perfectly civilized in the States,  order your foundation, studiofix, powder, lipstick what have you online, no people to suffer through.  It’s agony to go makeup shopping in India.  I skitter into the store and half yell,  “I’m just here for the Ruby Woo.”   It’s a stun technique I’ve perfected to stop the buzzing, can I help you store staff in EVERY SINGLE STORE IN INDIA. No I don’t want a makeover or make under.  If I have to suffer through a dude peddling that stuff, my annoyance ratchets up to full I need a glass of wine stat!!

Before anyone’s mind accuses me of some idiotic revserse sexism, that’s not the case.  I hate being pestered but by male make-up artists in particular, for invariably, this 25 some old-purple lipstick wearing-eyebrows carefully drawn in and filled like Liz Taylor will call me, “honey”, or “doll” or “sweetie”.  My eyes roll so far back into my eye sockets, I feel like I’m one of those little girls at Lourdes seeing angels and crap.

I have to give it up to them, while their “art” leans heavily to very drag,  male makeup artists are way better at make up application than the girls, they, at the very least start with a clean shaved face.  God knows how much spackle they must need to have such preternatural looking skin.    There are certain professions, in my seemingly narrow,  bigoted and anti women mind, when a hairy face are not the best.  Make up artist?  This is one of them.

I know we’re living in a time when hair, facial, pubic and armpit is celebrated but I grew up in the 80s where all except my closest friend Jessie were blond and marble skinned.  Well, that’s how I remember it.  While Jessie was simply a brunette,  I was unfortunately also blessed with copious black hair  and was horrified my mother wouldn’t let me wax off that fast becoming a full on moustache. So I did what any 13 year old growing up in Bloomfield, NJ would do, I stole some hair removal cream from Woolworths.   In the bathroom with a broken and always on high radiator ( a product of our landlord’s ire for complaining about low heat output) I slathered on the contraband cream. The radiator hissed and sputtered as the distinct chemical smell of depilatory cream eating my flesh filled the bathroom  Nearly burned my entire lip off..    I hate to say this, but that’s really one less thing we need, more men taking over any more real estate.   I’m sure some squirrely scientist is working on men being viable vessel for a child. So hey, lady make up artists at the MAC counter…please do me a favor?

God I just can’t complete that sentence.  I am an intolerant old lady. A pox is upon me for sure! What’s to become of me?  I know I’ll be cursed to live in hell with one giant goat hair growing from my chin and no tweezer to be seen. Like some bizarre Sisyphus ordeal..

It’s now time to go

Come August, our odyssey in Bombay was to draw to a close.  It was typically difficult for me to adjust to any new place.  The kids started school and their social lives were off with a bang.  I would sit for HOURS, as my ass got bigger and flatter, streaming show after show on the dongle I was not to use for downloading anything, under any circumstances, I swear I am not!    And of course, contrary to what they do say about themselves,  these are not a friendly lot, deeply suspicious anyone new and outraged at anyone who dares to be friendly in the morning.  These  are not ones to take you under their wing if they sense you’re floundering…that accent, the one that marked me here as [an]other, as surely as my name and skin color do in the USA.   I was rather astonished at first, and tried for I believe 2-3 months, and gave up.  Who needs them.

It was around that time when I stopped eating.  I started out innocuously enough, with a water fast, then when I broke that after five days, I didn’t slowly resume my normal food intake.  I allowed myself 1/4-1/2 a chappati everyday and a tiny baby bowl of chiwda.  This snowballed into an, if I can’t be happy I can at least be thin mentality, that unfortunately has stayed with me now that I too will be departing for the US in a month.  Body issues are par for the course, especially if you’ve grown up in the States.   I tend to run on the hedonist track…indulging in everything but the one thing I need to sustain my body.

So it’s happening again, a little by little.  There are no watchful little eyes asking when I would eat.  The dogs and cats are happy if they are fed and their water bowls are filled.  Since I am not cooking, it’s easier to just

not

eat

at all.

The weight loss, imperceptible at first, when my round moon face starts looking angular it has now,   I stare at the mirror with revulsion and pride.  If I could be more virtuous, drink more water….it wouldn’t have taken so long.

nameless little girl

Bombay, much like New York, is the city one seeks out when in search of fortune, or a future, or better luck, or money, or power or fame, or better economy, or for the the better part of India, poverty stricken India, it’s just a place to sell the daughters that they were too poor to abort, or were too kind hearted to starve to death after being born.  The unlucky daughters are sold, oh I’m sorry did I say sold, I meant married off and then sold by their husbands, into brothels, the lucky ones are made bonded servants  in “good” families who live in shiny gated communities like mine.  Gated communities where each leaf is groomed just so, workers like ants cleaning every day, all day just to maintain the sheen, the outward luster to camouflage what’s rotten inside.

 One such [un]lucky daughter did come into our gated community, she was all of 14.  Some say she was from a remote village in Assam, others claim she was sent by an agency from Kolkota.   All agree she was miserable and aching to leave and stopped time and again, once by her owner [let’s call a spade a spade] who beat her in front of the guards diligently screening visitors.  Two days ago, she lay dead, a crumpled heap, on the awning above the entrance to the F Tower.  After her body was found, the owners of the flat, the fine, moral and very upstanding HR people claimed she had already been missing for four days.  They’d assumed their property had slipped past the guards at the front gate  and Bombay had eaten her up.  Had transformed her into one of those unlucky girls, if she didn’t wind up in the diminishing red light district in South Bombay she would be lucky to be the transients who live in the makeshift shanties by the highway subspace.

Then the whole story had come out, some accused the husband of using the girl as his sex slave, the beating was known to everyone.  The women at the bus stop clucked and fussed because this had riled up all the maids who worked in each of the six towers.  The internet said the girl’s father had been called and told to get the girl that day.  These are poor people who were likely paid a lump sum for their 14 year old kid (not 16 as the news papers had reported) and she wasn’t the babysitter, she was the servant.  There was never going to come a time when the father would have traipsed all the way from wherever they were from to collect his daughter and more likely give back the money … 

But other than the maids going on strike to take advantage of the fracas was there any voice raised in the development?  We all held our heads down, complicit in our silence.  It’s so wrong [for women] to have premarital sex but it’s ok to keep a small child as a slave?  Where are your morals? 

I spoke with a neighbor of mine who has just returned to India from Canada she said to me, there are things I hate about India and this is up there, certainly I can’t help but think about my own little daughter working.   What is happening here in this ultra modern
city why does no one want to change things?  This little girl’s death served as an example to no one, all it did was show that it sucks if you’re born a girl and born poor in India because everyone is out to take advantage of you.  The hypocrisy that’s pervasive in the masses, the deliberate and delusional corrupting of what right and wrong are is so common that it seems like they’ve all bought into the lie from Animal Farm.  “All animals are equal.  Some animals are just more equal than others.”