Business is Business: Marriage-Making between East and West

Business is Business: Marriage-Making between East and West

Business is Business: Marriage Making.
From: „Buddha in the Attic“, by Julie Otsuka, 2011.
Some of us on the boat could not resist becoming friendly with the Japanese deckhands, who were constantly asking us to marry them. We already ARE married, we would explain, but a few of us fell in love them anyway. …
One of us on the boat became pregnant but did not know it, and when the baby was born nine months later the first thing she would notice was how much it resembled her new husband. “He’s got your eyes.” One of us jumped overboard after spending the night with a sailor and left behind a short note on her pillow: “After him, there can be no other.” Another of us fell in love with a returning Methodist missionary she had met on the deck, and even though he begged her to leave her promised husband for him when they got to America she told him that she could not. “I must remain true to my fate,” she said to him. But for the rest of her life she would wonder about the life that could have been. …

On the boat we sometimes crept into each other’s berths late at night and lay quietly side by side, talking about all the things we remembered from home. … We discussed…the first time we saw our husband’s photograph, what that was like. “He looked like an earnest person, so I figured he was good enough for me.”
A few of us on the boat never did get used to being with a man, and if there had been a way of going to America without marrying one, we would have figured it out.
On the boat we could not have known that when we first saw our husbands we would have no idea who they were. That the crowd of men in knit caps and shabby black coats waiting for us down below on the dock would bear no resemblance to the handsome young men in the photographs. That the photographs we had been sent were twenty years old. That the letters we had been written had been written to us by people other than our husbands, professional people with beautiful handwriting whose job it was to tell lies and win hearts. That when we first heard our names being called out across the water one of us would cover her eyes and turn away – “I want to go home” – but the rest of us would lower our heads and smooth down the skirts of our kimonos and walk down the gangplank and step out into the still warm day. “This is America,” we would say to ourselves, “there is no need to worry.” And we would be wrong.

 

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