The Immigrant Diaries – A Story on H4 Life – Edition 3
Friends, thanks for reading the first and second editions of this serialized story. It is encouraging to receive your comments and I appreciate your time. I would appreciate any feedback you have on this one – a work of fiction based on experiences of life on H4 visa. You can read the first and second editions here.
Life had become easier since Dolly came into it. There was a semblance of the normalcy and familiarity that she had craved. The Indian store allowed only visa and master card and that too only for purchases over twenty dollars; Shalia, her H4 beautician in the next apartment complex, used Shahnaz Hussain products for facials; you could get Bhindi and Lauki (neither of which she particularly liked) in the farmers market – such mundane facts made her feel more at home. Plus she could get waxed at a reasonable price and now comfortably try on her new Western outfits. Somehow she had never caught onto shaving and hair removers, and this discovery alone caused her secret delight.
Their home with its pristine carpet and bare rooms began to have a lived in and loved look. She hung up the few wall decoration items she had brought and photographs of the two of them. A wedding photo in a carved silver frame from Walmart received a place of honor above the new dining table. A photo of the two in Western clothes and a Western embrace stared back from their nightstand. Arjun, as it seemed to her, enjoyed and appreciated her little finds, making no mention of the money she spent with so much guilt.
Since she had come Arjun had been incredibly busy. They were finishing a phase of his project and deadlines were tough. But as the weather warmed, he proposed a honeymoon. A trip to Destin, Florida. He would take two days off.
She was beyond excited but feigned some concern. Was he sure it was OK? Wouldn’t he lose valuable office days? She was not going anywhere, she could wait. Such was their post marital courtship at that point – formal in feeling, eager to please in attitude (at least on her part), yet starkly intimate n the daily practicalities of living together.
He told her it would be OK, and that he had made reservations in a good hotel, and that she would need a swimsuit. And then he left for office.
So she did what you do when you have an uncluttered day before you, and an exciting trip ahead. She Googled. She read reviews for the hotel they would stay in, becoming intimate with its beautiful pools, its sometimes excellent, sometimes erratic service, the spacious rooms. She read about Destin, and what the city held. She researched water sports as she had never tried any before. She was flattered to learn that the beach had been rated one of the top ones in the US. She browsed the Victoria’s Secret site for swimsuits she wouldn’t buy.
Then she flung open their closet and examined her clothes. She would pick up a shorts and some sleeveless shirts along with her swim suit, she decided. On their late night trip to Target they picked up some colorful beach towels and a fluorescent Frisbee.
The next day they headed for Macy’s to buy her a swimsuit. The swim suit section had strobe lights and mannequins in flimsy two pieces. She went for a conservative black one piece and took it in to try. She didn’t dare to come out in front of Arjun and the Macy’s sales lady. She looked nothing like the models she had seen and even less like her image of herself in a swimsuit. Nevertheless, she wouldn’t dare yet to try the other pieces and went out her mind made up.
Arjun had not been idle while waiting. He held several hangers of swim suits, some brightly colored, some two pieces and all of them cut too low and too high in strategic areas.
‘Here, take these’ he said ‘They will go better with where we are going.’
‘But they are..they are too low. I don’t have the figure. They won’t look nice’
‘What you chose looks old and old fashioned. Out of place. Try these, or look around more’
‘I will feel very shy’
‘So what? This is America’ answered Arjun.
She was shocked and protested some more, but to humor in went in to try.
And as she tried them on one by one, the flattering colors and bold cuts added a sparkle to her eyes and pizzazz to her non model body to the extent that she walked out of Macy’s holding, in a small bag a brown beaded two piece halter tankini that she still couldn’t believe she would ever walk out it.
Arjun seemed happy at her choice. She half expected he would ask her to model it when back home but he didn’t.
That Friday, at five am, the loaded their packed suitcase into the car, along with the usual snacks and water. Ruchi had never before shared a suitcase with him and this was a new twist on their intimacy. The prospect of the All American weekend trip filled her with joy, flushing her cheeks with excitement.
‘So what would you like to listen to?’ Arjun asked after they had driven a while and their regular radio station was getting out of range.
‘Hindi songs – I put some CDs in’
‘I have some Kishore Kumar’ Arjun said and that’s what they listened to for a while.
Every aspect of that ride – their stop at a McDonalds for Egg McMuffins and Coffee, her introduction to the concept of ‘rest areas’ which offered clean bathrooms at no cost and shaded picnic areas, the fresh morning air, the occasional hand Arjun would put on her exposed knee (She was boldly wearing shorts) – enchanted and courted her.
It was as if America, after greeting her with overwhelming portions, malls, dizzying highways and empty suburbs was showing a bit of her heart and Arjun too, so cold in their first meeting in America and so wrapped up in work was a different man, flirtatious and romantic.
Soon they hit rural Alabama and she was startled to see ramshackle houses dotting the roadside. The old ill maintained neighborhoods seemed far from the gleaming, pruned and primped America she usually saw and she felt more like a stranger. Stories about racism in the deep South filled her thoughts. She felt she was unwanted, a sore thumb that didn’t belong, that she was invading a cultural bias as she drove through. She prayed their car wouldn’t break down, half fearing a lynch mob. As if to heighten her fear at regular intervals there were crosses by the road side. Sinister looking small white ones, sometimes with flowers. A warning for non Christians to stay out she thought. She voiced none of this fear to Arjun. She needed to go to the rest area but wouldn’t let him stop at the next two. Only after reaching Florida, which she considered more liberal, would she allow him to stop for a burrito.
When they reached Destin the sun was shining on miles and miles of white, clean sand. A sea straight out of Hollywood movies sparkled before her. They just dropped their bags off in their sea view room and ran out into the sand. She had never seen such clean beaches before.
She walked to the waters edge, letting the waves welcome her. She watched a couple or kids playing in the beach. She saw a few gulls and a blue, blue sky. She took in huge gulps of salty sea air. From behind Arjun wrapped his arms unexpectedly around her waist. She had married him and America and despite all their physical intimacy, this was her first real seduction.
(to be continued – Fourth edition here.)
I have a few other posts on H4 visa life as well – this is a new one on getting my first job after the H4 and this one has most links to others.
Last 5 posts by Amrita Bakshi
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