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“What hippie?”

“The one on the boat. With the beard and the hair.”

My husband doesn’t look at me. He shakes out his paper napkin and tries to protect his french fries from pigeon feathers.

“Oh, him. He said he was from Dubrovnik.” It isn’t true, but I don’t want trouble.

“What did he say about Dubrovnik?”

I know enough about Dubrovnik to get by. Imre’s told me about it. And about Mostar and Zagreb. In Mostar white Muslims sing the call to prayer. I would like to see that before I die: white Muslims. Whole peoples have moved before me; they’ve adapted. The night Imre told me about Mostar was also the night I saw my first snow in Manhattan. We’d walked down to Chelsea from Columbia. We’d walked and talked and I hadn’t felt tired at all.

“You’re too innocent,” my husband says. He reaches for my hand. “Panna,” he cries with pain in his voice, and I am brought back from perfect, floating memories of snow, “I’ve come to take you back. I have seen how men watch you.”


“Come back, now. I have tickets. We have all the things we will ever need. I can’t live without you.”

A little girl with wiry braids kicks a bottle cap at his shoes. The pigeons wheel and scuttle around us. My husband covers his fries with spread-out fingers. “No kicking,” he tells the girl. Her name, Beulah, is printed in green ink on a heart-shaped name tag. He forces a smile, and Beulah smiles back. Then she starts to flap her arms. She flaps, she hops. The pigeons go crazy for fries and scraps.

“Special ed. course is two years,” I remind him. “I can’t go back.”

My husband picks up our trays and throws them into the garbage before I can stop him. He’s carried disposability a little too far. “We’ve been taken,” he says, moving toward the dock, though the ferry will not arrive for another twenty minutes. “The ferry costs only two dollars round-trip per person. We should have chosen tour number one for $ 10.95 instead of tour number four for $14.95.”

With my Lebanese friend, I think. “But this way we don’t have to worry about cabs. The bus will pick us up at the pier and take us back to midtown. Then we can walk home.”

“New York is full of cheats and whatnot. Just like Bombay.” He is not accusing me of infidelity. I feel dread all the same.

That night, after we’ve gone to bed, the phone rings. My husband listens, then hands the phone to me. “What is this woman saying?” He turns on the pink Macy’s lamp by the bed. “I am not understanding these Negro people’s accents.”

The operator repeats the message. It’s a cable from one of the directors of Lakshmi Cotton Mills. “Massive violent labor confrontation anticipated. Stop. Return posthaste. Stop. Cable flight details. Signed Kantilal Shah.”

“It’s not your factory,” I say. “You’re supposed to be on vacation.”

“So, you are worrying about me? Yes? You reject my heartfelt wishes but you worry about me?” He pulls me close, slips the straps of my nightdress off my shoulder. “Wait a minute.”

I wait, unclothed, for my husband to come back to me. The water is running in the bathroom. In the ten days he has been here he has learned American rites: deodorants, fragrances. Tomorrow morning he’ll call Air India; tomorrow evening he’ll be on his way back to Bombay. Tonight I should make up to him for my years away, the gutted trucks, the degree I’ll never use in India. I want to pretend with him that nothing has changed.

In the mirror that hangs on the bathroom door, I watch my naked body turn, the breasts, the thighs glow. The body’s beauty amazes. I stand here shameless, in ways he has never seen me. I am free, afloat, watching somebody else.


SHE sends for this Goldilocks doll in April.

“See,” she says. The magazine is pressed tight to her T-shirt. “It’s porcelain.”

I look. The ad calls Goldilocks “the first doll in an enchanting new suite of fairy tale dolls.”

Bisque porcelain,” she says. She fills out the order form in purple ink. “Look at the pompoms on her shoes. Aren’t they darling?”

“You want to blow sixty bucks?” Okay, so I yell that at Jonda. “You have any idea how much I got to work for sixty dollars?”

“Only twenty now,” she says. Then she starts bitching. “What’s with you and Velásquez these days? You shouldn’t even be home in the afternoon.”

It’s between one and two and I have a right, don’t I, to be in my Manufactured Home — as they call it — in Laguna Vista Estates instead of in Mr. Vee’s pastel office in the mall? A man’s mobile home is his castle, at least in Florida. But I fix her her bourbon and ginger ale with the dash of ReaLemon just the way she likes it. She isn’t a mail-order junky; this Goldilocks thing is more complicated.

“It makes me nervous,” Jonda goes on. “To have you home, I mean.”

I haven’t been fired by Mr. Vee; the truth is I’ve been offered a raise, contingent, of course, on my delivering a forceful message to that greaser goon, Chavez. I don’t get into that with Jonda. Jonda doesn’t have much of a head for details.

“Learn to like it,” I say. “Your boyfriend better learn, too.”

She doesn’t have anyone but me, but she seems to like the jealousy bit. Her face goes soft and dreamy like the old days. We’ve seen a lot together.

“Jonda,” I start. I just don’t get it. What does she want?

“Forget it, Jeb.” She licks the stamp on the Goldilocks envelope so gooey it sticks on crooked. “There’s no point in us talking. We don’t communicate anymore.”

I make myself a cocktail. Milk, two ice cubes crushed with a hammer between two squares of paper towel, and Maalox. Got the recipe from a Nam Vets magazine.

“Look at you.” She turns on the TV and gets in bed. “I hate to see you like this, at loose ends.”

I get in bed with her. Usually afternoons are pure dynamite, when I can get them. I lie down with her for a while, but nothing happens. We’re like that until Oprah comes on.

“It’s okay,” Jonda says. “I’m going to the mall. The guy who opened the new boutique, you know, the little guy with the turban, he said he might be hiring.”

I drop a whole ice cube into my Maalox cocktail and watch her change. She shimmies out of khaki shorts — mementoes of my glory days — and pulls a flowery skirt over her head. I still don’t feel any urge.

“Who let these guys in?” I say. She doesn’t answer. He won’t hire her — they come in with half a dozen kids and pay them nothing. We’re coolie labor in our own country.

She pretends to look for her car keys which are hanging as usual from their nail. “Don’t wait up for me.”

“At least let me drive you.” I’m not begging, yet.

“No, it’s okay.” She fixes her wickedly green eyes on me. And suddenly bile pours out in torrents. “Nine years, for God’s sake! Nine years, and what do we have?”

“Don’t let’s get started.”

Hey, what we have sounds like the Constitution of the United States. We have freedom and no strings attached. We have no debts. We come and go as we like. She wants a kid but I don’t think I have the makings of a good father. That’s part of what the Goldilocks thing is.

But I know what she means. By the time Goldilocks arrives in the mail, she’ll have moved her stuff out of Laguna Vista Estates.

I like Miami. I like the heat. You can smell the fecund rot of the jungle in every headline. You can park your car in the shopping mall and watch the dope change hands, the Goldilockses and Peter Pans go off with new daddies, the dishwashers and short-order cooks haggle over fake passports, the Mr. Vees in limos huddle over arms-shopping lists, all the while gull guano drops on your car with the soothing steadiness of rain.