Elizabeth Enslin


“She needs something for special occasions,” my husband tells the shopkeeper in Hindi. I'm not sure yet what those will be.

I look out the large glass windows. Buses, cars and motor rickshaws rush along Mahatma Gandhi Boulevard.  That muffled, faraway sound could be my ticket out –  transport to the Bangalore airport, then home, thousands of miles away.

As though laying down a royal flush, the shopkeeper fans out plastic packets of folded silk saris.

Here it comes again. With one hand, I grip the counter.  With the other, I fumble through the fashion choices. I'd already hurled my breakfast — half a cup of digestive biscuits and coconut milk — into a hostel squat toilet.

The nausea passes. I smile and point to a turquoise sari with magenta flowers ferned by light green leaves. The shopkeeper rustles it out of the bag, leads me to a mirror and drapes the cloth over my shoulder.  I turn away from my reflection –  a pale bamboo pole marred by a growing gall – and survey the voluptuous mannekins. Even when my breasts fill with milk, I'll never flesh out a sari as well as those plastic curves. All we share is that glassy stare into the distance.

I shrug my shoulders. The shopkeeper pulls the cloth away and reaches for another packet.  Bile rises again. My legs wobble. I sit in a chair and focus on the window.

“We’ll take it,” my husband says.

Elizabeth Enslin recently learned to drive a tractor on her farm in northeastern Oregon. Most days, she'd rather wrangle a rattlesnake out from under an eggplant than wrap herself in a sari. Still, she keeps a few for special occasions.