He invited her to London. They’d met salsa dancing. She loved London; she’d studied abroad there. They drove to Scotland. They ate haggis and he got drunk and threw up in the street. I feel like a local, he said, but there were no locals throwing up in the street. At Heathrow he gave her a ticket back to Philadelphia. I’m going to India, he said, to get married. He kissed her on the cheek and left.
The last man she’d dated committed suicide. They’d met in AA; he’d been a heroin addict. She sat and waited for her plane. On the news a ten-year-old girl had been raped and murdered in India. He was from the south of India, in Goa. It’s beautiful there, he’d said. Beaches, delicious food. You should come sometime. He said that the first night in London. He worked in Boston. He was only in Philly for a temporary assignment. She tried to meditate. A man sat next to her. He smelled familiar: a smell from her childhood. Her father was an alcoholic. When she was drinking like he had, she knew she needed to stop.
Do I know you? the man next to her said.
She looked at him. No, I don’t think so, she said.
The news said one of the men accused of raping the girl had hung himself in jail. She put her headphones on and listened to white noise. She said her mantra. She saw the back of his hands as they drove to Scotland. There was a scar on his left hand. When she’d touched it he smiled and said, A tiger. He came into our house one night when everyone was sleeping. I found him. I was trying to find a Snickers bar my father brought back from the States. I fought the tiger.
Over a Snickers bar? she said.
I love Snickers, he said.
God, you’re so brave, she said.
Don’t come between me and a Snickers bar, he said.
The man sitting next to her put his hand on her thigh. I really do know you, he said.
No, I don’t think so, she said. Sorry, my plane’s leaving.
She got up and went to a bar. She ordered a Coke and sat next to a man wearing an Eagles football jersey. She looked at the TV: the girl had been trying to find a place to go to the bathroom when she’d been gang-raped.
It’s seriously fucked up over there, the man in the jersey said. What the hell is going on? This is like the fifth rape of a ten-year-old girl in India in the past month. My niece is ten, and Jesus Christ, if anything like this happened to her, there’d be some fucking consequences, some fucking hell to pay. I can’t watch this shit it’s too much. Hey bartender, another whiskey over here.
Only thing to do is drink, she said.
That’s the truth. I’m taking your advice here. You’re American, thank God. Can’t stand these Brits. Pardon me, Excuse me, Oh Sorry. Jesus Christ: get some balls. I’ve never apologized for anything in my entire life. That’s my secret to success. There’s a reason we kicked their asses. The Brits. How’d they take over the world? With their goddamn tea? And their Sorrys? Get me me some coffee. A real man drinks coffee.
Or whiskey, she said.
You said it, young lady.
He motioned at the television screen.
My brother goes over there all the time, he said. Business. He’s told me some crazy shit. I don’t have anything against the people themselves and I’m not racist or anything, but their culture is just fucked up over there. It’s just a whole different way of thinking. Women are property, that’s it. They take the husbands first and last name when they get married. They’re nothing. They have no identity of their own. You marry them off at ten, eleven, do anything you want with them. Rape them, murder them, doesn’t matter. No one gives a shit. They only give a shit now because of the international community reacting. I’m Tiger, by the way. What’s your name?
My sister tells me all this. Well, mostly. I had to fill in the rest. She has a kid now. She’s married to a registered sex offender. No joke. I like the guy, actually. His name is Henry.
He’s really good with Jason, she says. That’s their kid.
I’d make a joke if it wasn’t my sister. That’s good is all I can say.
They met in AA. Maybe try online dating, I want to say, to expand the pool of eligible gentleman. Not just a support group for alcoholics and addicts.
I have questions for her, but I’m wary. I don’t want to scare her off. She disappeared before, when I was still living at home. I just needed some distance, she said when she called me after five years. She still doesn’t talk to our parents.
I wanted to name him Tiger, she says, looking at Jason crawling on the carpet. I’ve always liked that name. I mean, the crazy guy in the airport almost ruined it for me, but still I like that name. Henry didn’t like it though.
What Henry wants he gets. That’s what I’m discovering.
My questions about Henry: What did he do? Abuse a child? An infant? A ten-year-old girl? Did he rape a woman? A man? Grab someone’s ass on the street? Can people change? Can sexuality change? Did he get my sister pregnant so he could have easy access to his next victim? Is my sister his victim? I say nothing.
Do you want more coffee? she says.
No, I say. Too much gives me heartburn.
Tea? she says.
Sure, some herbal tea, I say.
Real men drink coffee, she says and smiles.
In that case give me a whiskey, I say.
Not a chance, she says.
Time for someone’s nap, she says. She takes him to his room.
I get up and put my mug in the sink. On the fridge is a picture of the three: mom, dad, baby boy, all smiling in front of a fake backdrop of clouds and blue sky. Happy baby, happy family.
Are you happy? I say, when she comes into the kitchen.
I’ve never been happier, she says.