At 17, I was an exchange student to India
the only foreigner in that small town
my white skin odd enough
to be touched randomly by children
I wore pants, had short hair and a flat chest.
They thought I was a boy and called me
Johnny instead of Jenny.
I bought loud glass bangles
to wear on both arms
so they would know
I was a girl
Young, female and traveling alone,
i needed a cover.
I put vermillion red powder
down the part in my hair
and rings on my toes
pretending to be married.
How could I know then
that I would get sent back to the USA
9 months later
when the Exchange program found out
that I got married in a Hindu ceremony.
My family didn’t know I got married
when they picked me up at the airport.
I wore a cotton sari, smoked bidis,
and spoke with a funny accent.
On the way home
I sat in the middle of the front seat
between my parents
my three younger siblings
in the back.
I slipped off my sandal,
and showed them the rings
on my toes.