Down to the last dregs

Disclaimer: This is FICTION! 🙂 Really bad and rambling fiction, but fiction nonetheless.

It was a silly attraction and didn’t have much substance to it at first. She was another pretty face in the crowd, but we had a mutual friend, so why the hell not.

I approached her and asked if I could buy her a drink. I remembered that we were at an open bar party after that and felt like a bit of a dud. She was polite though and laughed, pretending that I was being sarcastic, and not stupid. She let me place her drink order for her anyway and we discovered that we liked the same one. That was the first thing we talked about. Our mutual love for Long Island Iced Tea.

I found out she didn’t live too far, so I thought we could hang out sometime and told her so. I probably rushed it and blew my chance, I was allowing myself to think, when she just smiled and said yes. Just like that, she said yes. I almost asked her if that was a date but wisely remembered to keep my mouth shut. To be honest, I was only saved by the arrival of our drinks.

The problem is, when you meet a girl at a bar and the only thing you know is that you both love Long Island Iced Tea, opening up a conversation is kind of hard. At first it wasn’t so bad because we had all of the getting to know each other ground to cover. Those were easy things like our favorite color, movie, actor, actress, book, song, genre, and band.

Then we moved on towards tougher ones and we were talking about the first time we had sex and our first kiss. Before I knew it, conversation became a series of erotic questions like when did you last masturbate and what’s your sexual fantasy and I realized we were already one whole week into our relationship.

I was shocked she stuck around for a loser like me but something must have been workingso I prayed really hard not to jynx it but then worried that I might have jynxed it anyway by praying.

Conversation wasn’t stale, but it became pretty routine after our first month. I couldn’t ask her about her favorite things because I was supposed to know them already, except I didn’t remember much except she liked the color green and The Green Mile. The reason I remembered those two specific bits were because they both had the word green in them.

She didn’t live too far like I said but it was hard to hang out consistently, and I felt like sometimes, we didn’t see each other enough to really be boyfriend and girlfriend. It’s like every time I saw her I just wanted to sleep with her and I could tell she resented that. But when we only saw each other once or twice a week and I had to satisfy my hormones, what was I supposed to do? Sit around and talk about her favorite color or how her day went again?

It’s not that she was boring, but I had no clue how to stop being boring when we were talking. Things got monotonous like How was work today and What did you have for dinner? In a moment of weakness, I wondered what the hell we’d talked about until 5am that first night we called each other on the phone. It wasn’t that long ago, but now we barely spoke much and I didn’t know properly why.

Complacency was killing our drive –  osex drive and our conversation drive both. I told her let’s do something exciting but we both signed because we both worked full time jobs and didn’t have the time for exciting things. The weather was still miserable and I felt like if I didn’t hold her in my arms often enough I would forget what it feels like.

She was bitchy to me at times and snappy over the phone, but I hoped that if we spoke to each other more, it would fix things. Why did things need fixing already when they were so brand new, relatively speaking?

I got to wondering about my friends in the long-term relationships and whether they had even encountered a post one month rut of relationship boredom or if we were the lucky ones. They seemed pretty comfortable in each other’s skins but I still hadn’t gotten a chance to indulge my eyes for an entire night because we were busy and because our lives wouldn’t let us.

Was it a natural progression of a relationship? I’d never had one before for context and she didn’t really know much about it either. I didn’t want to talk about it because it would get her to thinking and when she thought too hard, things didn’t really work out in my favor ever. I let her be and I let it be and I just went on working and talking to her and seeing her once or twice a week. I listened to her talk about her day on the phone and sighed in all the right places.

I just didn’t understand if the progression of my relationship with her was normal or not. I wanted to define it and label it and make a list of all our problems so I could figure out which ones we could fix. I was the one trying to iron kinks out of our relationship like it was a dress shirt and she was living with the flow of things. She was accepting that I needed order and adjusting herself for me and here I was thinking such unkind things about our future.

What right did I have, really, to question her?

Then it was two months and I noticed but she didn’t say anything and I didn’t say anything and in my heart I was confused because shouldn’t the date have mattered a little? Shouldn’t she have stayed awake until midnight and just mentioned something? Every time my thoughts strayed that way of course then I thought about how clingy I would come off and she would bolt seeing an uncool guy like me so I stopped thinking about these things and stopped acting desperate. She’s the one who taught me to play cool.

Complacency could be a good thing, I mused when I saw my long-term relationship friends with their significant others. They were content and relaxed and didn’t have grabby hands the way she and I did. Just because I couldn’g get enough of her was that enough of a reason for her to stay?

I don’t know, but I guess it was. They were interesting beginnings, and we do like to reminisce about them once in a while over the last dregs of our cups of coffee, hers made by me just the way she likes them.

NaNoWriMo Day 2

A quick note! The “—” breaks in the story symbolize separate blog entries. When the story is in its final format with dates/times, it’ll read much more easily but for now, I am lumping everything together into one manuscript so I can keep track of word count and post how much I write daily 🙂

Getting to know Jay has been even weirder than all of the mandatory icebreaker games I’ve played in the beginning of every semester at college.

The events of the past two weeks are swirling around in my head and everytime I try to write them down, I end up rambling. Like I’m doing right now.

My parents have been asking me to “find a nice Indian boy” since I graduated college. For two years, I put them off and romanced Dan. Loved him. Physically, mentally, and emotionally, I rebelled in every single way I could think of. I used my job as an excuse and went on dates with him. Movies, dinners, and “business trips” on weekends – I did what I could to steal away and live with him in our own little fantasy world.

Then it all just came crashing down so fast and one night when my parents were asking me, as usual, when I would find them a nice Indian guy, I just snapped.

He broke up with me. I cried and cried until all I had left was no willpower or desire. I told them to introduce me to one themselves if they were in such a hurry.

Clearly, they wasted no time and I found myself at Starbucks awkwardly drinking iced coffee with Jay that same week.

Damn, Indian parents move fast. It’s as if they’ve already planned shit out for you and just need you to trigger them so they can put their plan into motion. I was safe when my heart was enamored with Dan. I was strong and resisted and happy with my independence.

Then, I broke my own heart and gave them the push they were waiting for. I practically pranced right into this situation.

I’ve got nobody to blame but myself.

I’m coming to this blog now because if I don’t pen my thoughts I am probably going to spontaneously combust in rage. Suffocate in my own trapped fumes of anger. I don’t even know where to begin and what words to use that could possibly convey how I am shaking with rage as I write.
I have just walked away from overhearing my father discuss Jay and I as though we were a business distraction. Just fuckin great.

What an age-old story come to life. Jay’s father and mine planned our meeting for the future good of our families. Marriage is just some TOOL to them. What about our hearts? They don’t even give a shit about that.

“Marriage is compromise and adjustment. Look at your father and I. It’s been 25 years and we’re still together. These white people think they know all about love, until they get divorced. On top of that, they’re so besharam that they just go and get married again. What kind of love is that?”

I suppose if that’s how my mom rationalized it to herself all those years ago and it worked for her, she’s about as happy as she could be.

But I, for one, can’t imagine a life where we live together for so long without loving each other passionately, rather than just reproduction by copulation…

BUT ANYWAY back to why I am so angry – it’s nothing as drastic and ridiculous as dowry, because thankfully, our parents’ views have liberalized enough to the point of finding that idea antiquated.

I heard my dad ask somebody how soon we could expect to see the business merge. Then I hear him laugh about how “of course they’ll stay together and have kids, we’re giving them time to get to know each other right?” and guessed at who was on the other side.

THEN, they have the audacity to look me in the eyes like nothing is wrong and they aren’t ripping my heart apart and laugh as if I have told a very funny joke when I snap and yell that they might as well sell me off to the highest bidder.

I want to call Dan so badly and rant to him, but he will probably just shake his head sadly and wonder why I don’t have the strength to just say no.

I wonder all the time why I am talking to Jay at all but I remember how I can never be with Dan because in the end, my love for my family is tying me down to this arranged marriage.

See, if I say no to Jay, their family will play it off like there is something wrong with me. My father will be shamed and of course, as my mom constantly reminds me, “what will society think?”

Indian parents are all about that. What will society think?

What about your daughter’s heart?

—-

It’s been 4 weeks (and one day) since Dan broke up with me.

It’s been 3 weeks (and two days) since I first met Jay. After our first meeting at Starbucks, he took me out to dinner. It was something fancier and his sister tagged along, almost like a chaperone.

I complained to my mother and all she told me was, “People talk. You get married, then do whatever you want.”

So we endure the supervised dating for a little longer. I’m falling behind in blogging about all of this, so it’s time to play a little catch up.

I met Jay for coffee, and the conversation started out awkward. Then, like I just said, we took his sister out to dinner but after dropping her off at home, he asked me if I would like to go watch a movie the next day. I said yes but only because the way he suggested it was so cute – he told me to make up an excuse and meet him at the theater around noon.

It brought me back to the days when Dan and I used to do the same exact thing, and for some reason, the fact that he did the same thing as Dan had done, and that I had loved Dan just resonated with me. I don’t know if likening Dan and Jay or comparing them is the right thing to do, but I can’t help it. I wanted Dan. I wanted to marry him.

So if Jay is like him in these small little things, maybe that’ll make life a little more bearable?

3 weeks and 3 days since I met Jay now. Our parents are getting antsy. We have been talking to each other more and more. I don’t know whether it is from necessity or because he is genuinely interested in me.

He hasn’t rejected me yet. My father came up to my room last night, sat down at the edge of my bed, and just sighed.

Like he is disappointed or maybe even sad?

He asked me – “Is there somebody else, beta? You can tell us everything.”

But that’s always been the problem. I cannot tell them anything. I can’t tell them I have tasted alcohol, I have had a boyfriend, and I have lost my virginity. I cannot tell him that I have loved a man. And, because I don’t want to be ostracized, I definitely can’t tell him that the man I love is not Indian.

And you know what makes me cry isn’t that I can’t talk to him. It is that the reason I can’t tell him any of my reality is because I still love him and I know that telling him all of that would just break his heart. How can I tell my dad everything if I know he will forever feel that I have shamed him.

No matter how much they love me, Indian “society” is cruel. They judge and gossip and if I tell him anything, he will never hold his head up high like he should. It is ingrained in their minds that what I have done is shameful. So I can’t tell him anything.

There is never a choice. In anything. In their eyes, I have lived by the book, and that’s how it has to stay.

I caved. I gave in. I can’t hurt my parents so I’ll just hurt my dreams instead. No, I’ll just try to build new ones around my new reality.

I don’t know what I will do. My words from last night are still resonating in my head.

“Okay ma, I’ll do it.”

Jay is the reason I tipped over the edge. Last night he called me and I think you guys need to hear this. Maybe I just need to write it out so I can process. Explain myself to my readers.

“Hey, how are you?” he said as I called him last night. “It’s late, are you okay?”

It was only 11 at night, but I guess that’s the latest I’ve called him so far.

“Yeah, just wanted to talk to you.”

“Uh oh, you gonna break up with me? Over the phone? Ow.”

“Uhh no, not exactly. You would have had to ask me out first for that.”

A pause. “What’s wrong?”

“Why are you still talking to me Jay? It’s a setup. You and I both know that we aren’t the arranged marriage type but here we are. It’s been almost a month and neither of us have said no. We’re still talking. Why?”

Another pause. “You’re not crazy.”

“Excuse me?”

“You’re not crazy. I think we’ve got the same reasons. You love your family?”

“Yeah.”

“Me too.”

“Is it that simple? We barely know each other.”

He laughed at that before saying “Well that’s why it’s called an arranged marriage.”

Another pause. I briefly frowned at how long this guy took to get his thoughts out before he added “Besides, you’re the least crazy girl my parents have introduced me to yet.”

I hung up at that, annoyed that he hadn’t told me that he’d been introduced to other girls before.

A few things hit me that night. Aside from the fact that he was right, he wasn’t crazy, he didn’t get on my nerves yet, and I was jealous he had met other girls.

It’s like everything is accelerated because we are forced into a situation where we know where the end result isn’t just a boyfriend or girlfriend, it’s a life partner.

I thought I needed a lot more time to overcome my feelings for my ex-boyfriend. I guess that maybe if I talk to Jay about it, we can overcome that obstacle together?

So I’ve said yes. AHH. What am I getting myself into?

NaNoWriMo Day 1

I don’t know where else to turn, so I will rely on the anonymity of the internet and the chance of gaining an online support group of readers who will help me soldier through this really weird period of my life. You don’t really need to know me – only that I’m 23 and about to make the craziest decision of my life.

No, I’m not about to quit my job and backpack through Europe or streak around the block…twice.

What I’m doing is probably much crazier. I’m about to accept an arranged marriage. I’m about to marry Jay, the man my parents picked out for me, and I’m about to convince myself that somehow, we will find love at the end of all of this.

Arranged marriage is a weird concept and very scary as a girl who was born and raised in the United States. As somebody who went to a very liberal university in New York City, I still cannot believe that I am going to allow my parents to make the biggest decision in my life thus far rather than try to blunder about until I find my man by myself.

Part of me is excited by the challenge of an arranged marriage, and part of me is revolted that I am feeling this excitement at all.

Mostly, I am just trying to reason through why I am saying yes, and explain myself to my friends and family. I don’t want to become bitter and resentful before I even give marriage a chance, although I admit that I feel as though I am giving up on love by saying yes to Jay.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with him – that’s not the problem. The problem is just that we don’t love each other, and I don’t know if marrying a man I don’t love will ever work out.
I wish that I could live out our possible futures in a dream and then pick the best possible path to happiness. I think Sabrina was lucky enough to have that chance in one episode of Sabrina The Teenage Witch. I think I am rambling.

The first time I met Jay was sufficiently awkward enough to convince me that I was right in despising arranged marriage. I think I was skeptical because I have kept so much of my life hidden from my parents that I don’t expect them to know what kind of man I can see myself with. They’re sheltered, you see, and what they don’t know won’t really hurt them. I don’t kiss and tell. (Except on this blog, and I’m going to enjoy the anonymity and blog away)

—-

I’m going to try to remember as much of our first conversation as I can.

“Hey, it’s nice to meet you,” I said to the guy as he slid into the seat across from me. We were at a Starbucks in the city located geographically in between my office and his.

“I’m Jay.”

“Yeah, I know. Hi, what’s up?”

I could already tell it would be awkward. We’d spoken on the phone once before when setting up this meeting and then texted earlier today already to make sure we were going to the right Starbucks. Clearly, he was Jay.

“Trust me, this is weird for me too,” I said to him.

“Oh. Yeah, I don’t often meet prospective wives either. Talk about pressure”

“So you mean you’ve met other prospectives before? Should I be flattered I’m getting a chance?”

He smiled a little and then the silence stretched on uncomfortably.

“So what do you want to drink?”

“I’ll take an iced coffee. Love the smell, can’t stand the taste. Of hot coffee, I mean”

“I’m basically addicted to coffee so as long as you don’t mind the smell, we’re cool.”

Then we settled into another silence as we contemplated what it could possibly mean that our first conversation was about whether we liked the smell of coffee or not.

A minute later, he got up to go order our coffees and I sat there mentally running through my checklist. The fact that he didn’t have an Indian accent was the most relieving part of my day.
“I’m sorry, this is really weird for me,” he says to me when he returns with our coffees. I made a face and shrugged. It was a weird situation, period. We just had to make the most of it.

“So pretend that this is our first date then. We met at a party last week and exchanged numbers. And now here we are.”

That’s what broke the ice – it was something we could both relate to because we’d both grown up here and it was a more comfortable introduction than a contrived meeting to discuss if we were compatible for marriage.

I won’t bore you with all of the details, but I think the beginning of that conversation was worth blogging about. Something to look back on and laugh at? Maybe despair over. Not sure yet.
So yeah, coffee. He loves drinking it, and I love smelling it. So far, so good.

I have this list of questions I wrote in High School when my parents threatened to marry me off to a guy from India if I didn’t get into a good college. It had been a joke, but I wanted to be prepared.

1. How many kids do you want?
2. Do you smoke?
3. What’s your opinion on women who drink?
4. Are you a virgin? (Probably NOT a good idea to ask this one at our first meeting unless I really want to scare him away)
5. Do you like to dance?
6. Are you a morning person!?
7. Favorite food? Cuisine?
8. What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
9. Do you like to travel? (He had better answer yes to this one)
10. Pets?
11. Have you ever had a girlfriend?
12. Ass or titties? (Okay this one was mostly just for fun. Maybe a good test of his sense of humor?)
13. How religious are you
14. Do you like long drives?
15. How athletic or into sports are you?

When I was younger, I thought that list was a good rundown of the basics. The simple questions that I didn’t want to come later as a surprise, and the small things that I know I wanted in the perfect life partner that I fantasized about.

It’s strange because I made this list right after I went with my cousin to meet a girl our parents had picked out for him. “She comes from a good family, beta,” they told us both over and over. I was skeptical and I’m sure it showed on my face when I first met her. They had exchanged pictures before and were meeting in person for the first time today. With the whole family in tow.

I am so thankful that my first time meeting Jay wasn’t my first time meeting his whole family as well. I’d have blown it for sure.

See, I write things like that and wonder why I am trying to please them all. My parents, his parents, and him. Why should I care? Why didn’t part of me choose to rebel and dress in really repellant clothing and eat a lot of garlic before meeting him?

“I’m American,” I tell myself over and over. Growing up, that is how I have justified all of my unique thoughts. So now, when I could have easily worked myself out of an arranged marriage, why am I even contemplating marrying this man?

—-

I have thought some more about what I wrote earlier and tried to figure out why I am okay with arranged marriage.

I think it is time to introduce my readers to Dan. Dan is the ex-boyfriend. The first serious relationship I had with a man.

We broke up when I realized I loved him.

In a word, Dan was perfect. How can I go from loving perfection to loving anything else? He is my first everything, and no matter what happens, I cannot imagine a plane of existence where I will not be powerfully attracted to him.

But we broke up because he’s not Indian, and I realized that as fun and amazing and spectacular as our relationship was, I could never let it deepen into anything more because my parents didn’t even know he existed.

If you are wondering how one can possibly hide a five year relationship, just ask a brown girl.

There is no Hindi word for “boyfriend” or “girlfriend.” For too long, Indian society has gone on pretending that it’s still alright for the community to play matchmaker, and honestly, I am sick of it.

I used to wonder what reasons there could possibly exist that would allow an educated Indian girl in today’s society to accept that age-old destiny and enter an arranged marriage.

Whenever Dan and I spoke about it, I would tell him I would never be one of those dumb girls without any ambition or desires of their own.

I still don’t think I am one of those girls, but I have found a reason nonetheless. That’s why I’m here in this predicament, blogging about how I might possibly be marrying a guy I don’t know. Clearly.

The reason is family. It’s an extremely unfair reason, but if I had to show you how compelling it was, I’d say envision all of the emotional blackmail, peer pressure, guilt, persuasive arguments, and bribes you have ever seen, and add them all up. Then throw in a really cute puppy for good measure.

My family is something that I have grown into and am inseparable from. I have a large family with many cousins, nieces, nephews, uncles, aunts, and elders. They have been there to give me life, love, advice, friendship, gifts, and wisdom.

If marrying an Indian man is the only way to sustain that family, then that is a small sacrifice to pay. Who am I to be so picky and declare that I won’t marry an Indian man.

I think that when I began dating Dan, it was to rebel against them and try to declare my independence in some contrived way. My own personal secret. But our relationship didn’t just end in a few months, and now trying to imagine a life without him is really, really hard too.

The problem is that I can’t just forget him. He didn’t cheat on me, and we didn’t have a really big argument that brought out any irreconcilable differences.

I am the problem. My ethnicity and the family that raised me is the problem. I love them, and that’s a problem.

Because the way I see it, I can never tell them about him. I can’t keep my love at the expense of breaking all of their hearts. So I broke off my relationship with him before we would get hurt anymore and now I will weep and grieve and mend in time.

NaNoWriMo & Arranged

This is the last post that you will read in the voice of “Pryanka”, owner of Controlled Derangement, for the month of November!

Want to know why? You’re going to find out right under this line of text so I mean, just stop reading now if you don’t care haha.

~Yep. I am attempting NaNoWriMo 2012~

 

Novel November is what I always called it until I realized that this was a really super organized event that thousands of authors and wannabes like myself participate in, and that’s REALLY cool! I hope I’ll find a support group I can stress with and rant to and maybe even participate in a write-in with! I’m really excited to begin the whole affair actually.

I’ve scheduled this post to go live at 8AM and it will be followed thereafter by my story.

So here’s the “novel map” I envision in my head
It is based on the fact that many of my creative writing classmates felt that my story read like a blog post

  • My “novel” for this year will be a retake (and major extension) of Arranged. I will use the same people – Dan, Jay, and my unnamed female protagonist, and the story is the same. Arranged marriage is fascinating and I haven’t had my fill!
  • Each day’s update will be a blog post she writes unanimously, to be compiled at the end for a vignette effect to their story. I want to convey their arranged marriage in a more fractured sense to allow for time lapses as they build their relationship with one another.
  • I plan to really hone in on creating Dan’s character because I feel as though I merely name-dropped him into the original Arranged I submitted to the class
  • I will also focus on her dilemma and mixed emotions when she “chooses” to marry Jay, and how that choice was not really one where she could have chosen other options. A lot of people simply didn’t get why she ‘chose’ to marry him if she did have a choice. So some rewording and some more showing of how trapped she was is needed.
  • Hopefully the story will be cohesive enough at the end that I can still pass it off as a novel haha.

You guys will let me know if you think this is going nowhere right? I can always rewrite it more traditionally if you guys think it could benefit from that!

Thank you guyss, I hope you stick around to the end. I am sure that it’ll be tough going but I am determined to get there. 50,000 words by the end of the month. I got this.

At the end of the month, if I am able to complete the challenge and the story, I will make all of the edits I want and then publish this on its own blog  one post at a time (aka schedule them all) so that you guys can all just “live” through the story whenever you want to. I don’t want to actually publish this but letting it live out its own online life through the interwebz will be cool. I just have this awesome experimental idea in my head of this becoming some sort of viral online phenomenon sparking other writers to attempt this style of novelistic writing. Yeahhh, I know it sounds crazy. Blame it on the oodles of coffee I’ve had today.

Cheers to what this month will bring! I hope to keep everybody happily engaged with my story though, so your comments and wishes will really keep me going 😀

 

xoxo
Pryanka

Character Building

It’s that weird mid-semester slump where we’ve all finished our round 1 stories and are beginning to brainstorm ideas for our second (and hopefully a little longer, around 20 pages or so) round of stories.

To that effect, this week (for class on Wednesday) our Creative Writing teacher has asked us to pinpoint a weakness that we found in our workshops from our first stories and write a piece focusing on improving that one aspect of our writing.

To be more specific, one of my weaknesses was that I don’t follow the “Show, don’t tell” rule of writing and try to tell my readers what is happening rather than show them. So I’m going to try to write something that avoids that creative writing blunder.

How, I’m not sure, but let’s see how it goes. Nabila, you wanted me to keep you updated, so there you go. Find a specific aspect of your writing you want to improve on, and then write a piece where you try to improve on it. It’d be cool to later blog about how that whole process went for you if you’d like.

Odour of Chrysanthemums

Today, I bought a bar of Mulberry Leaf and Chrysanthemum Soap between class on a whim. Coincidentally, today we’re reading an exerpt from D.H. Lawrence’s Odour of Chrysanthemums in class! I want to share it with you – the scene is set so vividly!

ORIGINAL STORY SOURCE HERE – http://homepage.ntlworld.com/chris.thorns/resources/ShortStory/Odour_of_Chrysanthemums.pdf

Below’s the little excerpt from class, I really want to keep reading! Maybe tonight I’ll revisit the link myself and read the rest 🙂

The small locomotive engine, Number 4, came clanking, stumbling down from Selston with seven full waggons. It appeared round the corner with loud threats of speed, but the colt that it startled from among the gorse, which still flickered indistinctly in the raw afternoon, outdistanced it at a canter. A woman, walking up the railway line to Underwood, drew back into the hedge, held her basket aside, and watched the footplate of the engine advancing. The trucks thumped heavily past, one by one, with slow inevitable movement, as she stood insignificantly trapped between the jolting black waggons and the hedge; then they curved away towards the coppice where the withered oak leaves dropped noiselessly, while the birds, pulling at the scarlet hips beside the track, made off into the dusk that had already crept into the spinney. In the open, the smoke from the engine sank and cleaved to the rough grass. The fields were dreary and forsaken, and in the marshy strip that led to the whimsey, a reedy pit-pond, the fowls had already abandoned their run among the alders, to roost in the tarred fowl-house. The pit-bank loomed up beyond the pond, flames like red sores licking its ashy sides, in the afternoon’s stagnant light. Just beyond rose the tapering chimneys and the clumsy black head-stocks of Brinsley Colliery. The two wheels were spinning fast up against the sky, and the winding-engine rapped out its little spasms. The miners were being turned up.

The engine whistled as it came into the wide bay of railway lines beside the colliery, where rows of trucks stood in harbour.

Miners, single, trailing and in groups, passed like shadows diverging home. At the edge of the ribbed level of sidings squat a low cottage, three steps down from the cinder track. A large bony vine clutched at the house, as if to claw down the tiled roof. Round the bricked yard grew a few wintry primroses. Beyond, the long garden sloped down to a bush-covered brook course. There were some twiggy apple trees, winter-crack trees, and ragged cabbages. Beside the path hung dishevelled pink chrysanthemums, like pink cloths hung on bushes. A woman came stooping out of the felt-covered fowl-house, half-way down the garden. She closed and padlocked the door, then drew herself erect, having brushed some bits from her white apron.

Arranged

Arranged

I have found that there aren’t many easy ways to explain arranged marriage to my friends. When I first mentioned it, they looked at me sympathetically and told me things like “Oh, but you always have a choice” or “But you’re only 23” as if these thoughts hadn’t gone through my head already. Then, they gave me sympathetic looks and told me “We’re always here for you if you need to talk” and “I can’t believe you’re going through with this” as the date of my wedding to Jay got closer and closer.

I’m not alone, and my story is not too unique. Instead of being told who to marry, now our parents tell us who to meet. They tell us who to go out to dinner with, and who to talk to. They tell us who is eligible and around our age. They nudge us into similar social situations and hope that something will click. They call relatives in India and ask if they know of any nice, eligible boys for their daughter in hushed voices so they won’t be overheard. And while they are doing all of that, they tell us in simpering sweet tones that they are just doing what is best for us and would we please stop teaching them how to be parents.
July 23, 2011 –

“Hey, it’s nice to meet you.” I said to the guy as he sat across from me at the café.

“I’m Jay.”

“Yeah. Hi. What’s up?”

“Trust me, this is weird for me too.”

“Oh. Yeah, it’s nice to meet you anyways. So how do our parents know each other?”

“High School. I think. Doesn’t really matter I guess. What would you like to drink?”

“I’ll take an iced coffee. Love the smell, can’t stand the taste. Of hot coffee, I mean.”

“I’m basically addicted to coffee so as long as you don’t mind the smell, we’re cool.”

I smiled a little and felt some tension leaving my body. He didn’t have an Indian accent! But he was going to have to be pretty amazing to cheer me up, because my argument with Dan earlier today had been devastating. I had nothing to say to him when he ended our relationship because he was tired of waiting. I would have been tired of waiting too, if I had been in his place and had to keep everything a secret for so long. We couldn’t have a “proper” romance, he couldn’t meet my parents and promise my dad he wouldn’t bring me home too late. There were just too many pieces missing in our puzzle, and I understood that, but when we hung up the phone, I was crying anyway.

“I’m sorry, this is really weird for me,” Jay said.

“You said that already,” I said, and snapped out of my thoughts – they were leading me to unhappy places.

“Right,” he said.

The waiter came to our table and he ordered two coffees, one iced with milk and sugar. He looked over quickly at me while placing the order, but before he could affirm, I nodded and said, “Yeah, milk and sugar please.”

This wasn’t a date, because Indians don’t date. At least, the good ones don’t. There is no word for “boyfriend” in Hindi. I told my mother that Jay and I were going to talk to each other and get coffee, and she agreed enthusiastically. Probably because the plan to meet over coffee had been the combined idea of our mothers anyway. As I had been getting dressed, my mother had said, “Have a nice time with him. Try to get to know him. He’s a really nice boy, beta.” She only used terms of endearment when she knew I was going to hate what came after, and this was one thing that I was really and truly dreading.

They still never called it a date. It wasn’t a date. We were just getting to “understand” each other, as my dad told me before handing me the car keys.

The coffees came, and his mug of coffee had one of those pretty leafy designs swirled into the froth on top. Maybe it was a latte?

I spent the next hour getting to know him as I had been instructed. It was even more weird than all of the mandatory icebreaker games I had played at club meetings in the beginning of my Fall semesters at college.

August 12, 2011 –

“FINE Ma, I’ll do it”

And just like that, I sealed my fate. To Jay Chopra. There was silence around the table because my parents knew better than to act excited. Maybe they were relieved, and they were probably at least a little bit guilty. What could they possibly say to their daughter after she’s agreed to an arranged marriage? My mother got up to call his parents and invite them over for dinner. She had the decency to do that in the other room.

If Dan had been Indian, I think I could have loved him. I could have pretended to meet him for the first time and gone for coffee. I could have invited his family over to my house and cooked an amazing Indian dinner to impress them.

As it is, I cooked for Jay, his parents, his older sister and her husband tonight. My mother oversaw the whole affair and I kept my tears to myself the entire night. If Jay could tell I was upset, he kept it to himself and the two of us played at acting like we were happy.

Our tikka (tick-a) ceremony was completed that night. My mom procured gifts for the family out of thin air and just like that, I was off the market. I felt pathetic – I had only lasted three weeks.

August 20, 2011

The reality was sinking in, and the nights were getting chilly. Jay and I met each other for the first time exactly one month ago. I wasn’t happy, but my upbringing was forcing me to think optimistically. The rationalizations were killing me but they were better than the burning frustration the rebellious thoughts came with.

They wanted what was best for me. He was good. He grew up here, didn’t have an accent. We had both fucked somebody else already.

The mental list in my head was trying its best to expand. Reasons why Jay and I getting married might not be so bad.

I laughed as I thought about how it took me only 21 days to meet and agree to marry Jay. Just three weeks. My laughter was hollow as I contemplated just how defeated and desperate I must have felt to say yes to arranged marriage and give up a chance at love. “You’ll grow to love him. It’s better that way,” my mom told me, but growing up in America, I simply couldn’t believe that. There was just no way.

My parents’ marriage was arranged. All of their siblings entered arranged marriages too. Stepping down to my own generation, many of my older cousins had married the people they met through family. I had grown up thinking I would break that expectation, smash the tradition and meet the man of my dreams. He would sweep me away and family be damned, I’d marry somebody I loved with all of my heart.

But then, my parents asked me if I would marry Jay and I thought about life without any of my family. That’s why I said yes. It wasn’t because I thought we would make a good couple, but I knew that marrying Jay would mean that I would get to keep the rest of my family, and I loved them more than I loved my own heart’s desires.

Their timing was impeccable. I was vulnerable, bitter, and jaded. I felt like I could blame my parents if our marriage failed. It added a layer of defense, and I ensconced myself in thoughts like these and tried to tell myself that everything would be their fault.

September 3, 2011

Today was supposed to be a really exciting day – it was our engagement. Our mangni (mung-knee). I was dolled up in a new outfit, one of the twenty new ones we had picked out and had custom-tailored for my wedding. This one – a lengha – was an elaborate affair of teals and purples, my two favorite colors combined. There was gold needlework all along the blouse and the long, flowing skirt had splashes of gold-rimmed mirrors sewn onto an elaborate arrangement of flowing layers of teal and purple material.

The excitement of the wedding was getting to me – I had grown up enjoying so many of them, although this one was dampened by my perspective of being on the other side. I couldn’t help but think back to the engagements of my past, where I had dressed up, whirled around the dance floor all night, and enjoyed the buffet and Indian music. They really were joyous occasions, and as engagements go, this was supposed to be the ultimate one. It was my own engagement and I was surrounded by happy friends and overjoyed family and the pure joy on their faces overruled my heart’s doubts for tonight. I was glowing like a bride-to-be and swept away along with their visions of my perfect wedding.
I was starting to warm up to the idea and Jay and I were making the most of it. Having spent practically every single day since we met with him somehow, we were really getting to “understand” each other. We got along, and he helped me plan out all of the little details of our rushed wedding, which is more than I can say for some star-crossed lovers. We had a mutual understanding developing – I can see why my parents had phrased it that way now. He tolerated my friends, and I tolerated his, though the two circles hadn’t really meshed together yet. No matter, after our mangni, we had many more weeks of festivities before our wedding.

I hadn’t touched alcohol since we were promised to one another, because Jay didn’t like it. I also didn’t want to risk the entire house falling apart if he mentioned it to my parents or it came up in an argument. There are some things a lady must never tell, and there was no point stopping the inevitable now. We were getting married. And marriage was compromise.

If you had asked me when my next free weekend was, I would have had to ask you to come back to me next year.

December 17, 2011

Dance. Fireworks. Joy?

It was our shaadi! Jay and I sat next to each other in the wedding altar. I shifted uncomfortably and tried to stop my legs from falling asleep and he poked me playfully. Behind the sehra hiding his face from me, I could see him raise an eyebrow, a gesture I now knew meant he was asking me if I was alright while simultaneously implying that he found my discomfort amusing. I was surprised we knew each other so well already. It hadn’t even been six months but I could see us together.

I mean, I couldn’t see myself with anybody else. And that was a huge improvement in my condition when I first found out that I was going to be told who to marry. Briefly, my attention wandered as I thought about whether my parents had found out about Dan and I. Maybe that had fueled them into finding me an appropriate groom?
I was snapped out of my reverie with another poke on the side. Now he looked a little bit mad, but honestly, this part of the wedding is boring. I’d been sitting here for three hours now listening to the priest drone on and on, explaining my marital duties as a wife and as a woman. I couldn’t help but feel sleepy, and the thirty pounds of lengha, jewelry, and accessories I was bedazzled in weren’t helping my frame any.

These were the ugly realities that I had been oblivious to when I attended weddings growing up. I never really thought about being in the bride’s shoes. They were uncomfortable, and I caught myself before I sighed out loud and annoyed Jay even more. The mutual suffering was sure to create some memories we could bond over later. Most of my guests were wining, dining, and dancing. The only people who sat around the altar for this part were the immediate family; everybody else was happily eating and talking quietly amongst themselves. The older aunties were eying my friends, and I could see them mentally sizing everybody up and making more matches in their heads. Thinking things like “Oh she’s the perfect height for him” and “Look at her manners, bringing her parents food before getting any for herself.”

As much as I was enjoying the decor, the dress, and the food, the fact remains that I was about to marry a man who I barely knew. Of course, the past six months had helped and we were certain we wouldn’t kill each other, I didn’t know whether he snored at night, or if he was better at waking up in the morning than I was. The things that mattered were still a mystery, and although the little girl in me found a sadistic appeal in the uncertainty, the mature romantic in me was still trembling with trepidation. I was fighting my natural impulses with my inbred ones, and trying to sort out the inner turmoil.

The priest was still droning on, though it seemed as though he might be approaching the end of his speech – he was now gesturing at us with wild hand motions, and I looked sheepishly at Jay, afraid I had been caught again. He was still staring devoutly at the priest, but before I could poke him, his sister reached over for my hand and placed my left hand over his right. This would probably be the most prolonged physical contact we had ever had.

I tried better to pay attention to what was going on and I felt Jay swirling his thumb around my knuckles. I wasn’t sure if the gesture was absentminded, but I liked it.

February 14, 2012

“Jay, really? Pick up the damn dishes for once in your life,” I yelled.

“Sorry babe. I’ll get them, just leave em there,” he said.

“Fine.”

I turned away from the dining table toward the dishes in the kitchen and walked right into him. I stepped back and glared at him, mad that our first Valentine’s Day together as a couple was complete shit compared to the ones I had fantasized about. No breakfast in bed, no romantic movie, and no kisses. He was a complete bore. I guess that’s what growing up in business did to him.

“Well, it’s Valentine’s Day. So…so happy valentine’s day?” he said.

“Why do you say it like it’s a question?”

“It is though isn’t it? Are you happy? Are we?”

“I see a pile of dishes in the sink, I haven’t properly cleaned the house in a week, and there were no chocolates on my bed this morning. So yeah, I’m pretty unhappy.”

“Here, let’s stop arguing. Happy Valentine’s Day. I’ll do the dishes and make tea, you go sit on the couch and find a movie to watch or something”

“Kay, bring popcorn”

It was a different kind of Valentine’s day, but like two roommates faced with the knowledge that they couldn’t live apart, we really were trying to make the most of it. It wasn’t love, and I was still torn up about it, but he was beginning to be comfortable and dependent, which is what my parents might have wanted for me after all.

The mysteries were beginning to unravel at last. He only snored at night if he ate something right before bed, and I snored when I was really tired – an embarrassing fact that he still hadn’t quit teasing me about. And I knew he woke up early in the mornings because by the time I got out of bed, the shower was cold and he had coffee ready on the table for us both. So it was a good partnership. We had the teamwork thing down, now it was the relationship that we needed to build.

When he came into the living room, he brought the tea, but also brought me flowers, chocolates, and a note as well. A rare glimpse into his heart, it read:

I know our romance wasn’t ideal,
But our relationship and marriage is real.
Please keep believing that it will work –
You may not have fallen in love with me,
But I know that we can love each other.

March 15, 2012

I had just finished telling Jay how my best friend and I had mixed up The March of Ides with the Ides of March in high school, and how I had never been able to remember which one was right ever since when he leaned over and kissed me on my lips for the first time – it’s the kind of fact that you know you’ll never forget, and I filed it away in my mind right next to “almost falling asleep at my own wedding” and “accidentally pushing Jay off the bed on our first night as a couple.”

There were no fireworks, and I wasn’t tempted to kick up one of my stiletto’d feet like they do in the movies. But it was nice and it felt right. When I pulled away, I was blushing as though he’d kissed me goodbye at the front porch after our first date. I guess that’s the day our courtship really began.

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I’m copy and pasting this from my Google drive, I’ll fix formatting issues in a bit