There I was riding back into Shavar again. Damn did I hate this place. I promised myself five years ago to never set foot here again. And for a reason. Ruma. Sweet, sweet Ruma. Devilishly charming she’d been, and more poisonous than any snake this damn country had ever birthed too. How I’d fallen for her I can’t quite figure out yet, always been a sucker for broads, but…
But there I was, five years later on the back of a raggedy rickshaw, its driver smelling of rank sweat and a big mud stain on his back. Not a good sign when you know he spends most of his time riding a bike. I could have asked, but I wasn’t sure I really wanted to know.
Shavar! Finally, my destination. They had this movie that came out in the early millennium, The Matrix it was called. One rip-off a movie if you ask me but judging by my location at the moment I wasn’t even sure I could trust my own judgment… Anyway, they had this saying “some things never change, but some things do” or something along those lines. Well, Shavar sure wasn’t one of them. I always thought of it as the armpit of hell’s asshole, and if anything it had only gotten worse.
Overcrowded, smelly, muddy, back to back with rickshaws, buses, taxis, crying kids, muddy beggars and shady restaurants that weren’t quite that bad once you got over the flies that seem to permeate the place (Morpheus would have kicked himself in the ass, and Neo taken the blue pill). And that’s just where I was going.
“Bamdike! Tamun tamun!”
Stupid rickshawalla just smiles back at me with his orange teeth, and that twinkle in his eye like he just hooked the big fish. I ain’t givin’ him more than ten for this ride no matter how dirty he is. But sure enough there he goes.
“Na Bideshi! Na! Beshi, chollish taka deo, chollish!”
Has to make a scene. There is just no way out of this isn’t there? Well I wasn’t gonna give him more so I cocked my hand behind my head as if to backhand slap him, he coiled back, and I left.
I looked across the street and under the bridge where I drew some blood, and sweat, and tears. The New Star hotel. Good food once you get over the smell and the flies, and Ruma, sweet, sweet, poisonous Ruma….
“Bondoo! Aro ketchup thik ekhane!” The muglai was too hot and too bland, the weather too hot and too humid and I was in a pissy-ass mood. It had been a long week, period, and the electricity cuts made checking email impossible.
I started reading my notes when a sugary softly accented voice whispered at me:
“Morr katchup surr?”
I damn near choked on my fried bread, and could barely manage a thanks. She winked at me and waggled her plump behind away from my table. I went back to reading and eating but I saw her glance at me from the corner of her eye. I left without leaving a tip. First off don’t ever tip anybody in Bangladesh they’ll just expect it from there on, two I wasn’t gonna play the fool for that little hussy who was probably after my greeny green backs. Still she was fly though.
I didn’t see her for the next couple of weeks, and was starting to think that I had pushed my luck and spent too much money on kabobs when she hopped right next to me on my rickshaw. We didn’t say a word until Shavar was behind us, and then, word to my lungi we started kissing. It must have been the most unexpected and spontaneous thing I had done, and, considering where we were, probably the boldest. If the rickshaw turned around to stare during the ride I cannot honestly tell you, neither can I tell you by how much I overpaid him, nor did I care. I just followed her to her door, through her door and to her bed. I learned all about the Kama Sutra that night. Should have seen it coming.
I saw her first once a week, then twice, then thrice. Then I started calling her, taking her out, meeting her family. What the fuck was I thinking? She had me hooked alright.
Back to the New Star, me and her giggling like teenage sweethearts over a milk shake when I feel a vise like grip on my shoulder. Ruma had a husband. And he was pissed. Can’t blame him, I had been banging his wife silly, and her me, for the last few months. He challenged me outside. I turned to look at Ruma acting innocent as a puppy, and looking at him with adoration in her eyes.
“Two timing bitch.” I thought.
I followed him outside and out of sight. I was much taller and bigger than him, so I tried to talk him out of this nonsense until I saw the flash of a knife in the husband’s stumpy hand. I managed to dodge the first blow; he tripped and stabbed himself with his own knife.
Before I could react Ruma grabbed my hand and dragged me away. Fuck a rickshaw, I caught the first taxi to Dhaka and to the U. S embassy. I turned on Ruma.
“What the fuck was that about?!”
“I’m shorry, she sobbed, I’m shorry” that sweet, innocent look back in her eyes “I lav you and I didn wan you to leave me. But I got shcared when I shaw him!”
She didn’t honestly think I was gonna gobble that bullshit.
“Who the fuck do you think I am? I saw that look! Scared? You’re about to be scared when I throw you out this fucking car! Eight months! You couldn’t have figured that shit out?!”
I was angry but she had my sucker emotions tied up like she had my hands to the bedpost the other night, and she knew it.
“I am here wiz you! Not zere wiz him!”
I stayed silent. When we got to the embassy I stepped out of the car, gave her a bundle of money, my Bangladeshi credit card, and my code.
“Get lost.” I said and walked away as she stayed there balling.
I was tempted to turn around half a dozen times and go get her, but I wasn’t about to turn into a salt statue. Sodom and Gomorrah couldn’t have been freakier than we’d been, and I was more hurt than I thought.
Two days later I was on a plane back to the Apple. Apparently Americans had the knack for this kind of trouble and my case was a done deal. I had a whisky sour on board and cursed Bangladesh to the tenth generation, of course Bangladesh being Bangladesh what difference would one curse make…
She emailed me everyday. Everyday for five years. At first I tried to give her the cold shoulder, not reading what she wrote, deleting emails right off the bat, not answering. But everyday, as sure as I’m black, there was that new mail. I could have made more money that that Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan flick for sure, and let’s face it I was caught up worse than Clinton was.
Oh believe me, I got with other chicks before I started paying her virtual stalking any mind. Had been in at least two serious relationships that lasted about seven months each, but they just couldn’t quite cut it. They lacked flavor, they lacked inspiration and passion, exoticism and the magic there was with her. I was in a black and white silent movie about a retirement home compared to my few months with her. And I was starting to miss the color.
One day, after I broke up with Shanikwa’s ghetto, psycho ass, I read her email.
It hash beeen anozerr lonely day wizout yuu” I could just hear her sweet drawl over the world wide web “it ish raining heerr agin, I’m shurr yu shtill hate it. My gran mozerr pashed away and she ashked abut yuu. I told herr you werr fine though I have not hearr from yuu in long time. How yuu in Neyark? Mish yuu.
So I started writing back. A bit shyly at first, I was still shook from our episode, and had never really told anything about it to anyone. But as time went by I got into it more and more, still I couldn’t get to say the magic words. Maybe I had misread her look that day, maybe she was really scared, and why wouldn’t she have been? It is not always easy being a woman in Bangladesh and in eight months she had never, not once, mentioned getting married or a visa, or money. She had just seemed content to be with me despite my loud mouth foulness, and fondness for cursing. Or maybe it had just been my fondness for foreplay, but I didn’t want to flatter myself.
Still I was content not visiting or making any promises, just writing and keeping her posted. There is a security in long distance relationships that I couldn’t afford with these N.Y girls. I got the emotional support I needed from her there, and the dirty business from the girls here, but… they couldn’t quite cut it. I missed her smell before and after love, missed her moaning, missed her cooking, and even missed the few tantrums she’d throw when I acted like an ass to her.
Her last email was a one liner. A plea for help, as blatant a request or begging as she had ever made outside the bedroom:
“I am in trubl Mum pleaze cal mee? Pleaze?”
Followed by her number.
In all those years she had not once not started by a “dear something”, not once, even when she would inquire about my visit in a joking, teasing way had she pleaded twice.
No, something was up, and sure enough I was on the phone with her in no time. Well, at least an hour, because I had to check calldhaka.com first to figure out the international connection number to that rotten abyss; and then actually get a connection.
But there she was her voice so close to my ear I felt as if she were right here. I found myself hugging thin air as I spoke to her until I saw the neighbors looking at me shaking their heads at my ridiculous pantomime, and then stopped.
She was crying, she was crying and needed to see me. Lord knows I needed to see her. I booked a direct flight to Dhaka for the next morning.
And back on a taxi, to a rickshaw, to good ol’ blossoming Shavar, the cavity in the corpse’s mouth, and the New Star.
I was nervous, nervous as all hell, but excited, and quite frankly intrigued by what she wanted to tell me in person.
Ruma. Sitting at the table where I had first glimpsed the infinite wonder that was her, and the words New Star finally found their meaning. I couldn’t talk, she was, she was…gorgeous, ripened and in full bloom. I couldn’t even smell the rank oil, hear the noise, or feel the obnoxious stairs and whispers of “neegruu, neegruu”.
She stared back at me, as if unable to believe I was there. Well I was a man of my word and she needed me. But we couldn’t talk. We just got up, got on a rickshaw and back to bed and the Kama Sutra.
“My family hash dishown me” she said.
Apparently, the news of her husband had leaked. The corpse, it seems, had been cleaned off the streets by organ sellers who chose whatever pieces of the body they could profit from and burned the rest. She couldn’t tell for sure of course, but that seemed a very logical explanation.
A few days ago though, her parents had barged in her room. Her father was holding a knife, her mother an empty suitcase. They had thrown her out of her house along with a copy of a letter and the ring with her husband’s finger. Now, I didn’t ask to see the ring, nor finger for that matter, and anyway after chumping my way from New York all the way out here, I was in for the long ride, but she had kept them. She remembered my skepticism and I even felt a pang of regret. What a fool I was.
We got married a few days later and honey mooned it off in the plushest sweet at the Sheraton in Dhaka. I quit my job in New York, damn city has enough wannabe brokers to not miss me, and resided in Bangladesh long enough for her to get a visa.
Damn what an idiot I had been, I thought. That year had fulfilled the promises those fiery eight months now six years back had only hinted at. The honeymoon alone cost me five pounds as we were fully content to be feeding on each other.
A few days before we were due back to the States, (for all my loving and caring best believe I wasn’t about to stay a day longer than necessary in that damn flood zone), I decided to fancy my wife with a little treat from a nearby store. Night falls early in the Desh, and it gets dark, but what did I care I was off to Narnia right? When a flash blurred from my left and caught me in the gut.`
I fell to my knees, hopelessly trying to stop the flow of blood running through my fingers. I looked up to see a four fingered hand holding the knife while the other one jacked me for all I had , and what should have been a long dead, organ-free ghost grinning down at me.
When the police came, right before I exhaled my last stupid breath, I saw her sobbing over me like a broken mother. I tried to speak, but she winked at me and shut my eyes.
A sucker for broads alright, and sweet, sweet Ruma…