Evacuate Traditions E5

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EPISODE 5 – ACCLIMATION

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By Kevin RR Williams

New Dinner

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There is a long pause following the awkward conversation.

Laila asks, “What is your favorite American food?”

“Oh, are you hungry? Let’s eat in the hotel restaurant tonight. They have something called small bites, which are like sample plates.”

“That sounds fine,” Laila replies.

“Kosher foods have strict dietary laws that differ from halal. Before ordering, please explain your food prohibitions.”

“By Islamic law, all foods are considered halal, or lawful, except for pork and its by-products. Meat must be properly bled. Nutmeg, asafetida, vanilla extract, gelatin, and alcohol are prohibited.”

“I never heard of asafetida, but am glad you told me about the alcohol before ordering champagne.”

“Asafetida is a gelatin extracted from the roots of an herb in the parsley family. Given all the Islamic fighting in my country, I cannot say I am a strict adherent to Islamic law. However, I am not quite ready to begin eating pork marinated in wine.”

“That is actually, quite humorous. You’re beginning to relax. I’ll introduce you to some very common American foods.”

Mark orders hamburger sliders, french fries, a bowl of macaroni and cheese, and fried shrimp. To drink, he requests two Arnold Palmers. “Take small bites and tell me what you think.”

“I like all of it. You say these are common. So we do not need to return to this hotel to have them again?” Laila asks.

“Not only can you get these foods at virtually any restaurant, they’re available in markets to prepare at home.”

“I will learn how to prepare them for you. And what is Arnold Palmer?”

“It’s green tea and lemonade, named after an athlete. Would you like to try anything else?”

“No, this was fine. I am content.”

“We’ll go back to the military base tomorrow until our home is ready.

The newlyweds remain on base for a week before receiving notification of a home available in Virginia.

Visit In-Laws

“Before we say goodbye to sunny California, you should meet my parents.”

“Are they here?” Laila asks.

“Not here. We can drive to Northern California within six hours. Don’t expect a warm reception. But they should meet their daughter-in-law before we leave the state. Besides, I need to retrieve my clothes.”

“Okay, I am ready.”

“I’m not sure you are. They may say insulting things to you and tell me to leave you. Never mention to anyone your association with the Taliban. Just ignore any hurtful words and know that I’ll stick with you no matter what.”

“Thanks for the warning. Men often say hurtful things to women in my country. I am not easily offended.”

“Of course. Are you ready?” asks Mark.

“I came here with the clothes on my back. Now I have one suitcase and a wedding ring. Things are looking up,” Laila says cheerfully.

During the long drive northward, Mark points out many landmarks. Reaching their final destination, he parks his rental car in the driveway, grips Laila’s hand and kisses her on the cheek. After ringing the doorbell, Mark goes into a back room with his father while Laila remains in the living room.

Mark’s mother attempts to be cordial by serving Laila tea and cookies while displaying her son’s childhood photos. But they can hear Jacob shouting at Mark through the wall.

“If you wanted to marry, why didn’t you tell us? We could have found a nice Jewish virgin for you. This has to be the worse thing you could do to me as your father. You have no chance of ever stepping foot in the synagogue with this… this gentile!”

“I knew you’d be upset, but Laila and I are in love,” Mark tells his father.

“Love? How long have you known her? Did you bring this am ha’aret back from Afghanistan? Is she the enemy you were fighting?”

“I will not argue with you, I just came to get my clothes.”

“You have the audacity to offer me a ménage of uncircumcised gentile grandchildren! She is not staying here!”

“You’re right. We have our own place.” Mark leaves the room and kisses his mom.

“Phone me when you get settled,” his mother calls out while waving.

Mark smiles and leaves with Laila.

Ignoring the father’s tirade, Laila says, “Your mother seems nice.”

“I hope she didn’t spike the tea,” Mark replies.

“Would she do that?” Laila asks with concern.

“I’m exaggerating. Now it’s time to begin our new life together. I can’t wait to see our new home. We’ll catch a flight at the airport.”

New Community

Arriving in Virginia, the couple sees their beautiful three-bedroom home. It has small front and back yards that are maintained by an association. But they could reach out their kitchen window to turn off their neighbor’s tea kettle.

All but a few neighbors are military families. With this camaraderie, they delve into the personal lives of everyone. As newcomers, Mark and Laila are invited to barbecues and game nights. Most often, Mark accepts to widen their circle of friends. At each gathering, neighbors scavenge for more details about the couple.

The house is not fully furnished, but comes with necessary large kitchen appliances. They make full use of their master bed. From garage sales, they acquire a second-hand dining table and living room set. More items are trickling in, commensurate with Mark’s paychecks.

Most new couples go through an awkward stage of discovering how to live with someone new. They find that many expectations never materialized into actual conversations or decisions. So there can be disappointments and arguments. This is not the case with Mark and Laila. Though their courtship was non-existent, Mark becomes a provider and Laila does everything within her power to satisfy him at home.

One day Laila is excited to receive a smartphone. She begins snapping selfies, but as far as Mark knows, she has no one to share them with but him. However, she does not even do that.

The next morning, Mark goes in the front yard to turn on the water sprinklers. Stepping off the porch and walking towards the curb to pick up some debris, he sees that someone has spray painted “terrorist” on his garage door.

Looking around at neighbor’s homes, he notices curtains moving behind various windows but no one is outdoors. He phones the association to request graffiti removal. It is gone by evening without Laila’s notice.

First Separation

The next day, Mark receives orders to report to a military base. This is the first time he will leave Laila since he brought her back from Germany.

“I’ll be leaving for a few days.”

“I should please you before you leave me,” Laila says while undressing.

“Okay, now?” asks Mark while removing his shirt.

“Yes, it is customary during separation and should be memorable.”

Afterwards, Mark asks, “Can I take some sexy pictures of you to view while I’m gone?”

“Please, only one, and you cannot show it to others! That would violate Islam tradition.”

“You can approve the image. It’s some incentive for me to hurry home.”

“This will keep you from taking another woman while away. Okay, but don’t include my face,” Laila warns. After posing for some photos, she picks one and deletes the others.

“I like this one too,” Mark says. “Keep the door locked. I’ll phone you when I learn my assignment location.”

”That is fine. Have I been a good wife for you?”

“Yes, you’ve been the best! I love you.”

“Thank you. In case I do not see you again, I love you too.”

“Don’t worry. My mission is not dangerous. I’m just doing some computer programming.”

“Okay, I will try to make hamburger while you are away.”

“That sounds fun. Now, kiss me like you want me to return soon,” Mark says before walking out the door. Laila waves goodbye through the window as he drives away.

Return Flight

At the military base, Mark learns that he will be stationed in South Carolina for three to five days. He phones Laila to share the update but there is no response. So he leaves a voice message telling her to call him back.

After arriving in South Carolina that evening, he phones again without Laila answering. Becoming worried, he phones a neighbor named Douglas to check on her.

The next morning, Douglas tells him, “You better get back here right away!”

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