Monday, February 20, 2012

The Tenant - Bharati Mukherjee

When I did my time in the Peace Corps, there was always the knowledge that I could push the eject button and find myself on an airplane headed home to the ‘ol USA.

Now was this knowledge a safety net for me or a hindrance in my development?

I went to Romania by choice. I came back to America by choice.

Did M come back to America by choice, or was it an opportunity too great for her to pass up?

A future in America? A life outside of the crushing existence she could have faced in her hometown. I don’t think I’ll every truly know. The answers to those questions have been buried by our time together here and the life we have made.

I often wonder what life was like for her in those first few months. As open as we were with each other during that period of transition, I’ll never fully know what she went through. What did she think about each morning as she readied herself for work? What thoughts passed as she walked to work, when she had a few moments alone to think?

I believe that most of her time thinking is now dominated by concerns for the boy.

And concerns for our future. How to get me into a job that will propel our lives forward. We are, as most people nowadays, just treading water in our lives. Waiting for the country to get better… and in turn waiting for the chance to move on.

She shares plenty with me and I don’t feel the need to extract any more of her thoughts from her…she is entitled to her private thoughts…but I can’t help but wonder if she still feels like a stranger in this country. She has told me on more than one occasion that she no longer feels any sort of bond with Romania. She has left that country for good. The only tie she has to it is of course through her family.

Through Facebook, I am able to see how some of my former students have fared in their lives. A good number of them have also left Romania and have made their lives abroad. I have placed M’s face over their lives several times and wondered where she would have landed. I’m sure she would have graduated college…but then what? Life as an English teacher? A mother, a wife? Chances are it would have happened at an earlier point in her life than we decided upon. I can find myself building alternative lives for her…for me even. Whole worlds of “what ifs”.

As we have discussed our future recently, one thing that I find myself repeating is the simple thought that the decisions I have made in the past are in fact “in the past” and there isn’t much I can do about it now. We have to live and a opportunities for a simple “but’ and “yet” to slip into our world.

And we need that.

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