Arranged Marriage: Stories

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Authors: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Tags: Fiction, Short Stories (Single Author)
repentant kisses on your pale palm? Will she fly across the ocean to wash your stiff eyelids with her tears?
    Or—what? what? Surely there’s another choice. But you can’t find the words to give it shape. When you look down the empty street, the bright leaves of the newly-washed maples hurt your eyes.
    So you continue to walk. Your shoes darken, grow heavy.Water swirls in the gutters, carrying away months of dust. Coming toward you is a young woman with an umbrella. Shoulders bunched, she tiptoes through puddles, trying hard to stay dry. But a gust snaps the umbrella back and soaks her. She is shocked for a moment, angry. Then she begins to laugh. And you are laughing too, because you know just how it feels. Short, hysterical laugh-bursts, then quieter, drawing the breath deep into yourself. You watch as she stops in the middle of the sidewalk and tosses her ruined umbrella into a garbage can. She spreads her arms and lets the rain take her: hair, paisley blouse, midnight-blue skirt. Thunder and lightning. It’s going to be quite a storm. You remember the monsoons of your childhood. There are no people in this memory, only the sky, rippling with exhilarating light.
    You know then that when you return to the apartment you will pack your belongings. A few clothes, some music, a favorite book, the hanging. No, not that. You will not need it in your new life, the one you’re going to live for yourself.
    And a word comes to you out of the opening sky. The word love . You see that you had never understood it before. It is like rain, and when you lift your face to it, like rain it washes away inessentials, leaving you hollow, clean, ready to begin.

    B EFORE THE BOY CAME , I HAD A GOOD LIFE . A BEAUTIFUL apartment in the foothills with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge, an interesting job at the bank with colleagues I mostly liked, and, of course, my boyfriend Richard.
    Richard was exactly the kind of man I’d dreamed about during my teenage years in Calcutta, all those moist, sticky evenings that I spent at the Empire Cinema House under a rickety ceiling fan that revolved tiredly, eating melted mango-pista ice cream and watching Gregory Peck and Warren Beatty and Clint Eastwood. Tall and lean and sophisticated, he was very different from the Indian men I’d known back home, and even the work he did as a marketing manager for a publishing company seemed unbelievably glamorous. When I was with Richard I felt like a true American. We’d go jogging every morning and hiking on the weekends, and in the evenings we’d take in an art film, or go out to a favorite restaurant.or discuss a recent novel as we sat out on my balcony and drank chilled wine and watched the sunset. And in bed we tried wild and wonderful things that would have left me speechless with shock in India had I been able to imagine them.
    What I liked most about Richard was that he gave me space . I’d been afraid that after we slept together he’d either lose interest in me or start pressuring me to marry him. Or else I’d get pregnant. That was what always happened in India. (My knowledge of such things, of course, was limited to the romantic Hindi movies I’d seen. At home, we never discussed such things, and though my girlfriends in college gossiped avidly about them, they were just as protected as I from what our parents considered sordid reality.) But Richard continued to be passionate without getting possessive. He didn’t mind if I went out with my other friends, or if work pressures kept us from seeing each other for days; when we met again, we slipped into our usual comfortable groove, as though we hadn’t been apart at all. Thanks to the Pill and his easygoing attitude (it was a Californian thing, he told me once), for the first time in my life I felt free. It was an exhilarating sensation, once I got used to it. It made me giddy and weightless, like I could float away at any moment.
    Eventually Richard and I planned to get married

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