She was dizzy
with the smoke. The traditional wedding had
lasted almost three hours, and the heat and oil fumes
ever-present lamps had combined to make Raji feel
And the chanting. It went on and on and on in Hindi
to a girl who'd grown up with a New England accent. She
homesick - for America, for Connecticut, for forests and
snow and people you didn't have to watch every word
around for fear of
treading on some custom you didn't understand. Despite
the cold and
pain that had driven her to this wedding in the baking
heat of New
Delhi, Connecticut was home. And it was much, much too
late to go
back. She was married. The wedding reception was ending
now, and it
would soon be time to leave with this kind-seeming
stranger, to go to
the house of his mother (whom Raji already despised), to
go to his
bed. And all her American casualness about sex, the
experience she had counted on to see her through this
was meaningless. She was scared. Why, oh why had she
agreed to this?
The answer to that was easy. Because she hadn't cared
anymore. After she'd found out about Jim and that other
all the broken promises and shattered dreams, it just
didn't seem to
matter. The heat and incense combined to bring on a wave
They'd just collapsed, Jim on top of her, as he always
insisted. He was crushing her with his weight...not fat
but muscle was even heavier. Raji managed to roll to the
then turned to gaze adoringly into his eyes, still
amazed that this
gorgeous man would really want her.
"You were wonderful."
"Uh huh." He was still panting, but in a very sexy way,
"I love you."
There was a disconcerting pause. Before he'd always
love you, too." Now, he said nothing, and looked
"Yes?" she asked, eagerly.
"I should probably tell you something. Now don't get too
And he proceeded to tell her about Sharmila. Also
Indian. Two years
older. Drop-dead gorgeous with unfairly huge breasts.
Who he'd been
sleeping with for three weeks. His conscience had
finally kicked in.
Or maybe he was just bored with Raji, and this was the
easiest way to
make her break up with him. Which she, of course, did.
Looking back, she knew it was the right decision...but
it had sunk her
into a black fit of depression where she had let
everyone else make
decisions for her. She'd decided that maybe her parents
after all. Maybe American men really were slime. Maybe
happiest with someone like herself. So she'd agreed to
Indian men, and the next thing she knew she was flying
to India to
meet this man Vivek. And he was gentle. And kind. Rich
generous; he'd bought her a pearl necklace the day after
And though she'd only known him for a few days her
parents thought he
was very suitable and his parents liked her and it was
arranged and they were asking her and she said yes.
And now she was suddenly remembering all the sweet guys
grown up with and wondering where they'd gone. She was
shaking off the depression that had lasted the four
months since Jim
and just knew that she'd have been happier with an
American she understood
rather than with this stranger from a strange land that
when she was three. And it was still too late. She was
though she could probably get a divorce, Raji wasn't the
sort to give
up on anything that easily. And it would break her
Her dear, scheming, conniving, thoroughly manipulative
Sometimes Raji couldn't figure out whether she loved or
Her silence was noted by Vivek, who asked her in
heavily accented English, if she felt all right. Raji
stood with him as the interminable reception finally
came to a close.
Her legs were trembling, she realized, as she wondered
almost certainly virgin man would think of a very
American. She'd find out soon enough.
The women took her to the bedroom and helped her
giving her fragments of advice in broken English as they
into a flowing white nightgown, incredibly demure and
opaque. Raji barely heard them, caught somewhere between
laughter. She waited patiently, allowing them to dress
her as they
chose and lead her toward the crimson-draped bed. One
Raji thought was her new sister-in-law and recently
touched Raji's shoulder before she left, pityingly. Then
Vivek appeared, ghost-like in the doorway, dressed in
white to match her. He walked toward her silently; a
hunter afraid of
startling some strange, wild creature he had never
before seen. Raji
was determined to try her best, and so smiled, slightly
Vivek returned her smile with a tentative smile of his
standing before her now, reached his hand up to touch
her cheek. His
hand was not damp and sweaty as she had somehow feared,
but warm and
dry, as if lit by some inner fire. He had not touched
this, in all the days of wedding preparations during the
since they had met. Even when placing the gold thali
around her neck, he had taken care not to touch her. She
grateful for his gentleness, and stepping boldly towards
stretched her slim brown arms to encircle his thick
neck, surprised to
find that he was shaking too. Vivek was not very
sturdily built, with hair thicker and richer than her
own and deep
brown eyes. Raji had thought them dull and calf-like
suddenly she was not so sure. There was a hint of
laughter in those
eyes, and a sparkle of what might possibly be
course, he was a doctor (nothing else would have
satisfied her mother)
and so couldn't be entirely stupid. Now, with her hands
his neck and her delicate body inches away from his,
herself bemused, not sure what to do next, or how fast
she should take
this. He solved that problem for her.
He placed his arms around her waist, gently. Tilting his
head, he kissed her. She was startled, not at being
kissed, but at
being kissed by him, and stiffened in his arms. He
raised his head
"Is this not customary in America?"
"Yes, yes it is. I didn't think it was here."
"We are not as ignorant as you Americans assume. We do
Now Raji was sure that he was laughing at her, as he
leaned down to
kiss her again. Despite his claims to knowledge she was
that kissing was new to him, and so responded gently to
pressure on her lips. They kissed chastely for long
Raji, greatly daring, opened her mouth and touched her
tongue to his
lips. He broke away for a moment, plainly startled, but
returned to kissing her with enthusiasm, opening his own
tasting her lips, her teeth, her tongue with his own.
She tilted her
head backwards, hoping he would get the hint, and he did
- kissing her
cheek, her nose, her ear, tracing a delicate line along
with his tongue. He went slowly, seemingly enchanted
with the wonder
of it all, and Raji stood still, eyes closed, feeling
him touch her so
gently. This was new to her - this gentleness, this
reverence. She had enjoyed sex with Jim, but it had
always been hard
and fast, a summer storm - quickly started, quickly
over. Vivek was
twenty-five, years older than Jim had been, but he
smiled with the
wonder of a child.
Continuing to explore her chocolate skin, he slid slowly
her neck, dropping kisses like raindrops to lie wetly,
her breath. Raji continued to hold still, starting to
wonder how long
she could act the trembling virgin...how long it would
be before her
impatience broke through. His kisses were abruptly
stopped by the
laces at the top of the gown, and he froze and locked
her eyes with
his. Raji slowly reached up, and almost teasingly,
pulled free the
tangled white ribbons and laces. Vivek undid them
the white fabric off her creamy brown shoulders,
continuing the slow
kisses that had fallen like cool rain but now began to
a ceiling fan, the room was stiflingly hot to a woman
bred to New
England winters, and Raji began suddenly to sway, dizzy
with heat and
unexpected passion. Vivek caught and held her, as the
gown slid from
her bare body to pool on the green-tiled floor. Cradling
him with one arm, he pulled aside mosquito netting and
drapes with the
other. Picking her up, he gently deposited Raji on the
pulled the sheet over her. All this happened so quickly
that Raji had
no moment in which to become frightened again in her
then he was undressing too, undoing the wrap of white
climbing in beside her, pulling the mosquito netting
closed so that
they might be undisturbed.
"Are you all right?" he asked.
"Yes, I think so. Are you?"
"Of course I am. I'm a man."
Laughter again, from both of them this time, which
away into silence. He looked suddenly, vulnerable, Raji
he sat there cross-legged on the wide bed. The silence
grew more and
more awkward until Raji finally raised herself a little
on her elbows,
letting the sheet fall down to bare her curving breasts
puckered her lips for a kiss. He laughed again, and
suddenly he was
swooping down on her in mid-laugh, slipping his broad
hands around her
fragile frame. Raji was startled again before she began
drowning in a
hail of fierce kisses and caresses. His hands explored
in the lamp lit
dimness what he could not see, curving to fit her small
of which fit into the palms of his hands. He fumbled a
sometimes touching her too softly, sometimes too
fiercely, but always
kissing so she was blinded by the rain and arching into
Vivek slid his hands down her stomach, across her hips,
pushing apart her trembling thighs. She stiffened
opening her eyes wildly searched for his, until he,
looking up, caught
her trapped gaze.
"Don't be afraid." he reassured her, though his voice
"I'm a doctor, it's all right."
"I'm not, it's just...there's something I need to tell
Vivek smiled at the confusion in her eyes, and leaned
down to kiss her.
At the moment he kissed her he entered her, and Raji was
hot, so wet and ready for him that she thought she might
remembering his despised mother in the next bedroom, she
sound in her throat and only moaned, softly, curving up
to meet him as
he began long, hesitant strokes, stretching through her
body, giving it the attention it so desperately wanted.
The world blurred for Raji to a haze of cloudy netting
her, lit by the lamp glow and measured by the rhythmic
this man, her husband, inside her. Some time during that
eternity it began to rain outside their window, but the
lightning couldn't begin to match the pleasure arcing
through her. He
began pounding faster and faster to match the storm, and
suddenly, and she was caught in a moment of purest
underneath him. She opened her eyes to see his concerned
"That didn't work very well, did it? I'm sorry."
"Shhh...it's fine. We have lots of time to practice. But
couple of things I don't understand."
"Well, for one, why is it still raining? I thought
storms in India
"Usually they are, but this one will last a while. It's
of monsoons, remember? It will be storming for the next
Raji had the distinct feeling that he was laughing at
Vivek smiled brightly at her, rolling her towards him to
rest in the
crook of his arm. The storm raged more fiercely outside,
dirt paths to mud, soaking the very air.
"Want to ask one of the harder question now?"
"There's just one more. You know I'm not a virgin now.
Do you mind?"
She closed her eyes and clenched her fists against the
wanting desperately to make this gentle man happy,
"I knew from the beginning. Your mother seemed to feel I
had a right
to know what I was bargaining for."
"She told you? How could she? She didn't even know..."
caught somewhere between anger and relief.
"You would be surprised what mothers know. Mine really
isn't so bad;
she's just not looking forward to my leaving with you."
"Leaving?" Raji was now completely confused.
"For America. Next week. Lots of work for doctors there,
The problem in India is that everyone who can becomes a
There aren't enough jobs. I've been hoping to live in
a long time, and I could hardly expect my beautiful
American wife to
be like the innocent girls of the villages here."
"You're sure you don't mind?"
And suddenly Raji was free to acknowledge to herself
just how much she
longed for apple trees and miniskirts and roller
its own strange beauty, its passion and mystery, but she
American at heart.
Vivek touched her cheek and said, "Shall we try that
My mother will be very upset with my if you continue to
be so quiet.
She will think that I have been too rough with you and
that you are
crying." Raji held herself still for a moment, looking
up at the face
of her new husband. He was such a mass of surprises.
Then suddenly she
rolled over so that she was lying on top of him. Raji
him wildly, ignoring his startled eyes. She stopped for
a moment to
tell him, "You're about to find out just how rough
American women can
be..." before she returned to teasing him unmercifully,
small breasts across his hairy chest. Vivek responded
passion, pulling her close, and Raji finally left behind
thoughts of mothers and matchmaking, allowing herself to
spiraling downward with her husband.
Any sounds they made were soon drowned in the pounding
August 11, 1993
(for Raji. i hope it was at least this good.)