have to begin, Rabbi Dworkin solemnly said.
This was one show we had to get on the road. Jennifer had waited so
long for this, there was no way that I would disappoint her.
over to my future father-in-law. Howard, would you fill the breech
and stand in as best man? I asked him. This sweet kind man said,
Yes, of course I will. Id consider it an honor.
with Howard under the chupa, it was a Jewish wedding. The
music began and Jennifers maid of honor walked up the aisle followed
by the ringbearer, Joshua, Jennifers seven year old son and my
soon-to-be stepson. He looked real handsome in his black tuxedo, a replica
of mine, just smaller.
then the fanfare began and I let my mind go blank. The beginning of
Felix Mendelsohns melodic Wedding March drifted through
the air as Jennifer, radiant and beautiful Jennifer in her wedding gown,
slowly walked up the aisle. Accompanying her was her beaming mother,
Magalys, and her mothers older brother, Angel.
I gazed into Jennifers sparkling hazel eyes, the Rabbi began intoning
the age old marriage ceremony. Do you, Jennifer Rosales, take
Melvin Mendelsohn . . . It was repeated in Hebrew and Spanish
for the multicultural guests. The Rabbi came to the part of the ceremony
where he asked for the best man to come forward, take the wedding rings,
and hand them to him. Howard momentarily lost his way. The Rabbi, in
a loud irritated voice, said, Will the best man, whoever and wherever
he is, please step forward.
Howard began to move and that was when the door burst open and Mohammed
flew in shouting, The best man is here!
this very solemn occasion was disrupted by the uncontrollable laughter
of many while Mohammed took his place like nothing happened.
was my last fond memory of Mohammed Yousaf. I blamed him for the situation
I was now in, trapped on a plane with nowhere to go.
know it at this time, but one of the women had told the Customs agents
my name and all of my flight information. They reached my seat in minutes.
As I waited for them to put their hands on me my heart felt like a drum
in my chest, my lifes blood roared and pounded through my brain.
They had a full description of me: white male, five feet eight inches
tall, one hundred seventy-five pounds, distinguished looking gray hair,
gentle appearing hazel eyes, mature, refined, handsome face.
was no where to run, no where to hide. I was a tasty meal for defeat,
full of hot blood and righteous anger.
careless ones, the incompetent ones, had brought me down hard.
Mendelsohn, they began, please come with us. Wed like
to ask you a few questions. Dont worry, youll make the next
once told me, if youre going to lie, make it a big one.
Im thinking that the Customs agents lie is the biggest one
Ive heard. I am not an unintelligent man, I knew I was going down.
kept on talking to me. Where is your luggage?
my thumb up at the overhead rack. As usual I had no checked-in baggage,
only a small carry-on, along with it a shopping bag. The bag contained
a German made cuckoo clock. I purchased it in Frankfurt. Rising to accompany
the agents I said, Be careful with the shopping bag, it holds
a present for my wife.
youre wondering why a cuckoo clock would be so important to me
at this time. I dont really know. Perhaps I was trying to hold
onto something familiar. I knew right then and there my life was going
to change. Perhaps I was thinking that the cuckoo clock would provide
a small ray of sunshine to pierce the dark clouds of life that would
swirl in on Jennifers existence.
do we hurt the ones we love the most? Why do they let us?
to break away from these men and run to Jennifer. If I could have talked
to her at that time I would have said, Two and a half weeks ago,
February 3rd, you made me the happiest man alive by marrying me. How
proud I was when we pledged our love to each other. The Rabbis
words branded into my mind...for richer or poorer, in sickness
and in health, for better or worse . . .. In the very near future
we will experience the negativespoorer, sickness at heart, and
the worst situation. It may seem as if the fifth horseman of the Apocalypsefearis
trying to strip you and me of our honor and dignity. But, if we hang
in there and weather the storm, it will strengthen our character and
our marriage. You are a proud woman, Jennifer Mendelsohn, perhaps too
proud and too tough in battling to survive in this world as we know
it. You have to give vent to your emotions. Allow me to share your pain.
I know the woman you are, you are remarkable and decent, a woman who
feels, hurts, needs and yes, sometimes, even cries. Lets you and
I show our mettle and survive this whirlwind of tragedy.
the sweet memory of Jennifer to me. This was the only way I could get
off the plane in the company of the men who were destined to bring me
of Jennifer. I recalled the vacations we tookMiami Beach, Jamaica,
Puerto Plata, Saint Maarten, the Bahamas, Hawaiithe places where
the sun shone, our love blossomed, and wed been so happy. Lets
override the dark days coming. Soon we will hope, laugh, love and see
the sun once again, I thought.
not know where these men were taking me. I knew it would be a dark place.
on tight to my Jennifer. I wanted to say to her, There will be
danger, And hurt. But weve both come through things few people
ever face. I believe in you. I always have. We can triumph because I
love you far too much not to try.
were moving back toward the airport. I laughed to myself as I recalled
the Customs agent saying, Dont worry, youll make the
next flight. The flight to hell because that was surely where
they were leading me.
the last words Jennifer said to me when we said goodbye to each other
at Newark International: Mel, please be careful. I was careful,
but not quite careful enough.
Customs agents led me to an office and introduced me to Customs Inspectors
Tom Noss and Bob Major. Tom asked me if I wanted a cup of coffee.
from Tom to Bob, then said , No, thank you.
pointed to a chair. Make yourself comfortable. Id like to
ask you a few questions.
right ahead, I told him, acting nonchalant.
looked into me, his blue eyes like lasers. Did you travel from
Frankfurt accompanied by two women, Isabel Rosado and Maria Ayala?
learned from my previous life as an educator to answer direct questions
and nothing else in situations like this. And, when you do answer, you
only tell the part of the truth that helps you. Yes, I said,
knowing he wouldnt have asked me if he didnt already know.
he had already talked to Maria and Isabel Im sure he knew the
answer to that question. But, I wasnt about to give up any more
information than I had to. I am a partner in a New York travel
agency, I told him, then reached into my inside jacket pocket
and produced a business card.
took my card and handed it to Bob who read it quickly then stuffed it
into the inside pocket of his suit jacket.
came back at me with the questions.
were the women with you?
can handle this one, I told myself. My partners and I are
looking to expand our agency and are contemplating opening a small office
in Germany. In Frankfurt, Isabel and Maria were being screened as possible
employees and were brought to Frankfurt to observe German travel agencies
in operation. I smiled after that. I didnt know if either
Tom or Bob believed me, but that one went down pretty smoothly. I began
thinking that maybe there was some hope for Mel Mendelsohn.
that was when tom got tough, no more Mr. Nice Guy, it was hard ball
you have any knowledge that the two women were carrying drugs on their
persons? To be accurate, about three kilograms6.6 poundsof
for my Academy Award then, figuring what did I have to lose. I let my
mouth flop open like a man who had just been sandbagged by some surprising
news. I cant Believe it! I exclaimed, trying to look
like a man who was shocked and disappointed.
Bob,who had been silent, joined the party. Mel? he waded
toward him. I didnt like the tone of his voice. I was already
missing Mister Nice Guy Tom Noss.
Is it okay if I call you Mel? Bob asked. But I knew it didnt make any difference what I wanted.
goose was cooked and I knew it. But, even worse than that was the fact
that Tom Noss and Bob Major knew. From the moment Bob used my first
name I knew he didnt believe me.
the bullshit! Bob said, taking off the gloves, so to speak. One
girl screwed up at Immigration. We know the whole story.
surprised at Bobs revelation but I was still going for my Academy
Award, so I continued to look like a man in serious need of a reality
check. My impression read, This cant be happening to me!
I trusted those women! How could this happen!
Neither Tom nor Bob were convinced. They were a tough audience and I was acting my heart out. I wasnt prepared to stop until they beat me into submission with the truth they had got ten out of Isabel and Maria.