“What’s for dinner?“
Gita raised her eyes from under her eyebrows telegraphing ‘You shouldn’t be saying such a thing’ message. I pretended I cared. Nothing wrong with wanting an occasional burger, or a pork roast. Instead, every single night Gita made something stewed, seared, mashed, and mixed; something reeking of curry and god knows what else, with occasional ‘surprises’ buried in your plate, like a boiled egg or a piece of potato in a rice dish.
“Don’t look at me like that. I like Indian, but to a point.”
Silence. Gita hand-washed the dishes in a tiny kitchen of our one-bedroom apartment.
“Maybe we should go out tonight, how about that?”
“We can’t afford it, and you know it.”, Gita cut it off.
We really could not afford eating out. Every spare dollar was saved. Discount toilet paper, coupons, yard sales, worn clothes… How much I hated all of it.
“I know, I know.” I dropped my head and slouched on a wooden kitchen stool, concentrating on my fingernails.
“I think you should just face it, that it is not the Indian food that you hate, it is me, your Indian wife.”
That line came to me as a surprise. Gita never openly confronted me before, but today probably her cup of patience overflown.
“Why would you say that?” I said in an even tone. I wanted it to come out more empathetic, but somehow it didn’t work.
“You think I don’t know that you’d rather be in your Dallas right now, drinking whiskey and playing poker with your friends? Oh, wait, you can’t go back.”
“Don’t you dare…”
“Or what? I can’t speak of your gambling debt? And about the fact, that you will never, ever go home?”
“You are so over your head right now!” I sat straight on the stool and motioned with my upper body towards Gita, who stopped washing the dishes, turned around and looked straight at me.
“Maybe so. But you are in my country, in my house, eating my food. Walter, I am sick of your attitude.”
Blood hummed in my ears. It was getting hard to breathe. I felt the walls of our tiny apartment pressing on me. To break off that sticky feeling, I jumped of the stool and whacked my fist on the counter top. Gita closed her eyes, but did not budge. ‘Where did she get all of that new strength of hers?’, a thought crossed my mind.
“Whatever. I am not hungry tonight.” I moved to the living room and hunkered down on an old futon in front of the TV. Soundless, I watched the sports channel and drank warm cheep beer from the can. Gita went in the bedroom, to cry it off.
I woke up sometime in the middle of the night, from Gita’s screams.
“Walter! Walter! She is not breathing!”
I immediately sobered up and rushed into the bedroom, where Gita leaned over the crib. I froze in the doorway unable to move forward.
“This is it, Walter.”, Said Gita very quietly and burst in sobs.
Just like that, my 10 months old daughter was gone. It was hereditary and lethal: a rare metabolic disorder that ran in the Jewish side of my family, that I passed onto the tiny soul, of no fault of her own.
My Indian daughter was gone. So was my Indian life.
By Ellie Maloney