“Disgusting” she shook her head at the mess around her on the international flight. Blankets lay strewn over seat backs, ear phone wrappers savagely torn, half eaten sandwiches dotted the floor and untidy newspapers lay sprawled over armrests. The Air India flight coming in from Delhi had just landed at Newark and the passengers were alighting. Bitty juggled her emotions and the maximum weightage cabin baggage. This was her first time in the United States of America and her bridegroom of six months was expected at the airport to receive her. Her dry throat eased around the Sualin she had hastily popped. She took a deep breath, jostling along with the other impatient Indians to the exit door. There had barely been time after the wedding ceremony to get to know each other and she was unsure of what to expect.
The baggage collection took lesser time than she had anticipated. She had come prepared with a five dollar bill for the trolley. Her brand new, bridal red bags stood out against the browns and the blacks on the conveyor belt and she was soon out of the building into the American public space. Dragging deeply on the sharper air, Bitty scanned the emotional arrival scenes. A big, bobbing, bold placard caught her eye across the drop off lane, “Welcome to America my Bitty bride!”Angad was stabbing the air excitedly with the unabashed sign, his mother standing close besides him.
Everything seemed larger than life. And quiet. Bitty’s ears hummed with the silence and the hushed smoothness of the car. She stared at the desolate neatness they raced past on the wheels. Her groom sat with his mother in the backseat. She rode in the front, assailed with sudden loneliness next to the unfamiliar driver. It seemed like a long drive before they began to ease into a three car garage of a picture perfect house. “My Mom made you an Indian meal. She is an excellent cook. Just wait, you will love it here!” Angad jumped out of the car to help the driver with the travel cases as his mother hurried ahead into the sprawling house, leaving her alone by the front door, tentative and out of place.
It was inexplicable. The interiors were squeaky free of dust and done up beautifully. There was that air of plenty and yet she felt cold at the dinner table a lifetime away from home. She made an effort to pay attention to the conversation around her, “Life has been very unfair to my daughter. Did you know that her husband cheated on her with his colleague? Good men are very hard to come by these days. I hope you realize how lucky you and your parents are. Angad is a great son, a wonderful brother and I know, he is going to be a fantastic husband.” Bitty looked uncertainly in her groom’s direction only to be met with a benign smile of self-satisfaction.
Unknown to her, the jetlag was stealing up, “Why don’t you go upstairs and relax? It takes a couple of days for the body to fall into the new rhythm. Angad’s room is downstairs, next to mine. You can move in with him when recuperated,” the gratitude Bitty felt for the elder’s thoughtfulness dissolved when she entered her room. Plush on the inside, it was in one corner of the house. The view from the window was beautiful but dead. Unmoving trees stood sentinel in a perfect row, grave and watchful. The closest residence seemed far out when Bitty peered through the washroom blinds. She talked to herself aloud so as to curb the emotion of being shut out. “You are going across the oceans, to another time zone. And human beings are complex creatures. Should you ever feel alone, really and completely alone, open this envelope and use the contents but first use your judgement,” her mother had pushed it at her just as they were exiting home in India.
Unused to the deathly stillness and disoriented with the travel, she was tiptoeing down the creaking boards the next morning, letting the voices guide her. “Last night, she…oh God…she pressed me here so hard. I had heard Indian brides are coy but Bitty…,” her husband was bent over the dining table while his mother held a heat pad to his back.
“Bitty! Angad has a disc herniation. Please be extremely careful during relations!”
A rush of giddiness billowed over Bitty. She stumbled back up into her room, nearly tripping over the unfamiliar carpeting. Leaning momentarily against the door she had banged shut, she gave her head a good shake before unzipping the side pockets of her tourister to pull out her mother’s good bye gift. Tearing it open with an anguished hurry, she plucked out the folded paper.
It was an open return ticket.