“You make a beautiful white wife,” declared the 22-year-old clerk behind the counter, as he rolled each of my purchases into rose-festooned tissue paper before placing them carefully into the bag.
Confused and simultaneously flustered, I felt my brain start to spin. Me? A white wife? In what sense? Was he commenting on my general pastiness and overall demeanor of good wifery? I was, after all, presenting skin less olive than most Turks’ and wearing all the plantation’s keys on a chatelaine around my waist.
Or, rather, did he mean, em, that I could be a beautiful white wife for him?
When I opted for a studiedly neutral response of, “Pardon? I don’t understand,” he repeated his statement–”I say you make a beautiful white wife”–and blushed from head to toe, casting an embarrassed gaze at the counter.
Before buying time with another “Pardon? I don’t understand,” I quickly took stock of the situation:
–a young man in a liquor store was very friendly, helping me find the wines I was after, offering to help me carry my armful to the counter
–the same young man then struck up a conversation about how he has been in tourism school and loves tourists
–said young man then went on to ask about my profession; when I replied with “I’m an English teacher, and I have to tell you your English is so much better than my Turkish. I’m impressed!”, he responded, “My English not good. You can help me sometimes?”
–I had showered that day
–Young Turks do not mind a foreign girlfriend, no matter how creaky her knees
–he was telling me, red-faced, alternately averting his eyes and then looking at me expectantly, that I’d make a spectacular white wife
The evidence all stacked up. Clearly, this was a proposal.
But how to extricate myself? I continued playing dumb–thereby further convincing him of my desirability as the female in his life–and repeated, “I’m so sorry. Pardon? I do not understand” while craning around to find my Groomeo. If only I could get him to come into the store and be Very Tall next to me, the entire scenario would be reframed, and the need for a response would fade.
Alas, Groom’s fine form was leaning against a wall out in the corridor of the mall, his posture indicating that he was well settled into the mental state known as I Am Dreamy And Zoney As I Stare At People Walking By.
Dang. He had no idea I was doing wild “hep me, hep me” body language a mere twenty feet from his blanked-out state. Fortunately, though, my white self and his spacey self were clever enough about eleven years ago to produce a very on-top-of-things Girl. Quickly noting my “hep me, hep me” body language, she hied into the liquor shop and sidled up to my right hip just in time to hear a repetition of the exchange between my fiance and me.
“I say you make beautiful white wife.”
“PARDON? I really don’t understand.”
Emitting a sigh that sounded only the tiniest bit like exasperation, she stage whispered, “Mom. He’s telling you that you’re buying a beautiful white wine. See the bottle he’s wrapping up in that weird flowery tissue paper? He’s saying it’s a good choice.”
So he had been looking embarrassed because he was trying out his tourism-school English on me, and I hadn’t understood?
Not because he was laying his heart and intentions out on the counter?
As he continued the laborious process of wrapping each item in tissue paper (the six cans of beer, each rolled up with the kind of care and love I’d been basking in mere moments before, took a lifetime–a lifetime of half-expressed wishes and arrested possibilities), I rustled around in my wallet. Now I was the embarrassed one.
How silly of me to have thought he’d want me for white wife
when it’s obvious I have such aptitude as bloodshot boozehound.
(Speaking of me and wine: we’re leaving tomorrow for ten days in Italy, so keep your eyes on the breaking news coming out of Europe. I’m pretty sure our antics will show Mubarak how one really goes about getting the attention of a crowd.)