I drove into a perfectly manicured lawn. Our Subaru Outback, with mud splashed generously on every side, stood out like a sore thumb.
"Rick," I asked, glaring at my husband, "I don't think we'll fit in here."
Rick waved his hand dismissively, "Oh, they're good folks, Lisa. Don't worry about it."
I sighed. Our baby was wearing the most inappropriate clothes on earth: Short denim shorts and a shirt that said, "Chakra Queen." I hoped they wouldn't think we were pagan worshipers...
As we walked further towards the door, I realized that these people had a garden where they only grew one type of flowers: Roses. Nothing else. Each rose was neatly planted in a line. The place was so manicured and organized you'd think a machine would have planted each rose incrementally...
Rick seemed completely unaware of my reaction. His arms were outstretched in joy as his three brothers came outside, each wearing a golden cross around their neck and collared plaid shirts tucked into high-waisted blue jeans. I sighed...
Rick had not told me his brothers were Christian. I didn't mind Christian, but, the obvious problem was that I was Buddhist myself. I wondered what they would think of me. They hadn't come to our wedding. They'd said they were simply to busy with work, but Rick hadn't told me what they actually did for work.
I sighed, thinking that maybe they had purposely skipped the wedding because they didn't want to celebrate their son marrying an unbeliever. I tried to breath inaudibly, telling myself that I was being overly judgmental. This was Rick's family and they had invited us. I had better get myself together and be accepting, for Rick's sake and mine.
We sat down to dinner. They passed identical plates around the table. The turkey was cooked perfectly. I was a vegetarian but I didn't dare tell them that. Not in the great state of Texas. I don't think they'd ever forgive me. The potatoes were mashed to within an inch of their lives, and there was just a little sprinkle of fresh rosemary present. We passed the plants around.
Being accustomed to eating when I was hungry, I stuck my fork in the potatoes right away, but, just as I was about to take the first bite, my husband's brother's wife, Meridith, put up your hand in defiance, "Are we not going to say grace?"
I sheepishly put my fork down, quickly putting my hands together. I didn't believe in God, but I wasn't about to tell them that. Not right now. We'd just met and I had married their son. I feared his father, Thomas, would not have approved.
Thomas, was a minister at the local church. Just my luck. I hoped that they would not call on me for the prayer. They didn't. Thomas put his hands together and humbly thanked the Lord for this family, for his son's beautiful new bride, and for the food. Then we ate.
There was a great silence. It lasted for what felt like a million years. Everyone's eyes bored into me. Then Meredith asked, "So, Lisa, what church do you go to?"
I chewed slowly, gesturing to her that I had taken a mouthful that was too large. Great. I already felt like enough of animal around Rick's family without this. Rick looked at me like a deer in the headlights of a fast-approaching Mercedes Benz.
"She went to the Methodist church with her father," He lied. My eyes widened. Despite myself, I nodded.
We were going to have a long discussion about this later, I thought to myself. Rick looked at me apologetically. The rest of the family seemed to collectively heave a sigh of relief. I was about to roll my eyes, but thought better of it.
Just get through the night in one piece, Lisa, I thought to myself.
"Well that's just wonderful, Lisa," Meredith said, "Ain't it, Bill," She looked at one of the brothers. She leaned in, as if she were telling us all some unknown secret, "Ya' know, Bill here works for the Methodist church down the street. He has himself quite a following," She was beaming, her perfectly aligned pearly white teeth shining relentlessly in the light. It was as if she was introducing the president of the United States of America, honestly. It was a bit much.
I nodded and smiled, trying to act less superficial than this felt. I tried to breath but couldn't.
"Why, dear, aren't ya eatin' your turkey?" Father Thomas pointed out, "Ya don't want it gettin' cold on ya', now do ya'?"
I shook my head, and tried to act like I ate turkey ever day of my life. I took a bite of the flesh, and tried not to grimace. Flashes of the turkey being killed, blood everywhere, and its last breath flashed through my mind, but I persisted.
Just get through this night, Lisa. It's one night. One night and then it's over and you can go back to normalcy. Just do it.
"It's delicious," I claimed, with as much authenticity as I could muster.
Rick was, I think, the only one who could see how disgusted I was by eating something that used to have a soul, until it was ruthlessly taken by some meat farmer. He was trying not to laugh desperately, and excused himself. Great...Now my one lifeline was gone.
"So, Lisa," Father Thomas began, "I wanted to congratulate you on marrying our boy. We're sorry we missed the wedding. Truly. I wish you and him the best of luck in the future."
"Thanks," I muttered.
"Of course," He paused, trying to think of a polite way to phrase what he was about to say, and then uttered the words, "You look like beautiful. What's your heritage?"
Everyone looked at me like I was a trinket in a low-end China shop, "Asian," I said.
Everyone's eyes looked down in disdain. Now they wanted to avoid looking at me. "I was wondering whether or not your eyes were stuck that way," He said, forcing a laugh. I forced a smile, "Excuse me. I have to go to the restroom." I couldn't believe a man as good as Rick had come from people who were this narrow-minded. I went to the bathroom, and I cried.