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Some afternoons we go shopping. Back home we hated shopping, but now it is a lovers’ project. My husband’s shopping list startles me. I feel I am just getting to know him. Maybe, like Imre, freed from the dignities of old-world culture, he too could get drunk and squirt Cheez Whiz on a guest. I watch him dart into stores in his gleaming leather shoes. Jockey shorts on sale in outdoor bins on Broadway entrance him. White tube socks with different bands of color delight him. He looks for microcassettes, for anything small and electronic and smuggleable. He needs a garment bag. He calls it a “wardrobe,” and I have to translate.

“All of New York is having sales, no?”

My heart speeds watching him this happy. It’s the third week in August, almost the end of summer, and the city smells ripe, it cannot bear more heat, more money, more energy.

“This is so smashing! The prices are so excellent!” Recklessly, my prudent husband signs away traveller’s checks. How he intends to smuggle it all back I don’t dare ask. With a microwave, he calculates, we could get rid of our cook.

This has to be love, I think. Charity, Eric, Phiclass="underline" they may be experts on sex. My husband doesn’t chase me around the sofa, but he pushes me down on Charity’s battered cushions, and the man who has never entered the kitchen of our Ahmadabad house now comes toward me with a dish tub of steamy water to massage away the pavement heat.

Ten days into his vacation my husband checks out brochures for sightseeing tours. Shortline, Grayline, Crossroads: his new vinyl briefcase is full of schedules and pamphlets. While I make pancakes out of a mix, he comparison-shops. Tour number one costs $10.95 and will give us the World Trade Center, Chinatown, and the United Nations. Tour number three would take us both uptown and downtown for $14.95, but my husband is absolutely sure he doesn’t want to see Harlem. We settle for tour number four: Downtown and the Dame. It’s offered by a new tour company with a small, dirty office at Eighth and Forty-eighth.

The sidewalk outside the office is colorful with tourists. My husband sends me in to buy the tickets because he has come to feel Americans don’t understand his accent.

The dark man, Lebanese probably, behind the counter comes on too friendly. “Come on, doll, make my day!” He won’t say which tour is his. “Number four? Honey, no! Look, you’ve wrecked me! Say you’ll change your mind.” He takes two twenties and gives back change. He holds the tickets, forcing me to pull. He leans closer. “I’m off after lunch.”

My husband must have been watching me from the sidewalk. “What was the chap saying?” he demands. “I told you not to wear pants. He thinks you are Puerto Rican. He thinks he can treat you with disrespect.”

The bus is crowded and we have to sit across the aisle from each other. The tour guide begins his patter on Forty-sixth. He looks like an actor, his hair bleached and blow-dried. Up close he must look middle-aged, but from where I sit his skin is smooth and his cheeks faintly red.

“Welcome to the Big Apple, folks.” The guide uses a microphone. “Big Apple. That’s what we native Manhattan degenerates call our city. Today we have guests from fifteen foreign countries and six states from this U.S. of A. That makes the Tourist Bureau real happy. And let me assure you that while we may be the richest city in the richest country in the world, it’s okay to tip your charming and talented attendant.” He laughs. Then he swings his hip out into the aisle and sings a song.

“And it’s mighty fancy on old Delancey Street, you know. …”

My husband looks irritable. The guide is, as expected, a good singer. “The bloody man should be giving us histories of buildings we are passing, no?” I pat his hand, the mood passes. He cranes his neck. Our window seats have both gone to Japanese. It’s the tour of his life. Next to this, the quick business trips to Manchester and Glasgow pale.

“And tell me what street compares to Mott Street, in July. …”

The guide wants applause. He manages a derisive laugh from the Americans up front. He’s working the aisles now. “I coulda been somebody, right? I coulda been a star!” Two or three of us smile, those of us who recognize the parody. He catches my smile. The sun is on his harsh, bleached hair. “Right, your highness? Look, we gotta maharani with us! Couldn’t I have been a star?”

“Right!” I say, my voice coming out a squeal. I’ve been trained to adapt; what else can I say?

We drive through traffic past landmark office buildings and churches. The guide flips his hands. “Art deco,” he keeps saying. I hear him confide to one of the Americans: “Beats me. I went to a cheap guide’s school.” My husband wants to know more about this Art Deco, but the guide sings another song.

“We made a foolish choice,” my husband grumbles. “We are sitting in the bus only. We’re not going into famous buildings.” He scrutinizes the pamphlets in his jacket pocket. I think, at least it’s air-conditioned in here. I could sit here in the cool shadows of the city forever.

Only five of us appear to have opted for the “Downtown and the Dame” tour. The others will ride back uptown past the United Nations after we’ve been dropped off at the pier for the ferry to the Statue of Liberty.

An elderly European pulls a camera out of his wife’s designer tote bag. He takes pictures of the boats in the harbor, the Japanese in kimonos eating popcorn, scavenging pigeons, me. Then, pushing his wife ahead of him, he climbs back on the bus and waves to us. For a second I feel terribly lost. I wish we were on the bus going back to the apartment. I know I’ll not be able to describe any of this to Charity, or to Imre. I’m too proud to admit I went on a guided tour.

The view of the city from the Circle Line ferry is seductive, unreal. The skyline wavers out of reach, but never quite vanishes. The summer sun pushes through fluffy clouds and dapples the glass of office towers. My husband looks thrilled, even more than he had on the shopping trips down Broadway. Tourists and dreamers, we have spent our life’s savings to see this skyline, this statue.

“Quick, take a picture of me!” my husband yells as he moves toward a gap of railings. A Japanese matron has given up her position in order to change film. “Before the Twin Towers disappear!”

I focus, I wait for a large Oriental family to walk out of my range. My husband holds his pose tight against the railing. He wants to look relaxed, an international businessman at home in all the financial markets.

A bearded man slides across the bench toward me. “Like this,” he says and helps me get my husband in focus. “You want me to take the photo for you?” His name, he says, is Goran. He is Goran from Yugoslavia, as though that were enough for tracking him down. Imre from Hungary. Panna from India. He pulls the old Leica out of my hand, signaling the Orientals to beat it, and clicks away. “I’m a photographer,” he says. He could have been a camera thief. That’s what my husband would have assumed. Somehow, I trusted. “Get you a beer?” he asks.

“I don’t. Drink, I mean. Thank you very much.” I say those last words very loud, for everyone’s benefit. The odd bottles of Soave with Imre don’t count.

“Too bad.” Goran gives back the camera.

“Take one more!” my husband shouts from the railing. “Just to be sure!”

The island itself disappoints. The Lady has brutal scaffolding holding her in. The museum is closed. The snack bar is dirty and expensive. My husband reads out the prices to me. He orders two french fries and two Cokes. We sit at picnic tables and wait for the ferry to take us back.

“What was that hippie chap saying?”

As if I could say. A day-care center has brought its kids, at least forty of them, to the island for the day. The kids, all wearing name tags, run around us. I can’t help noticing how many are Indian. Even a Patel, probably a Bhatt if I looked hard enough. They toss hamburger bits at pigeons. They kick styrofoam cups. The pigeons are slow, greedy, persistent. I have to shoo one off the table top. I don’t think my husband thinks about our son.