My cousin and her husband, who looks like the desi Horatio Sanz, have invited Mom and me to lunch. The husband retrieves us from the Metro North station and is dutiful enough to touch Mom’s feet. A sign of respect young in-laws and young men show their elders. In return, Mom doles blessings upon him.
“You should spend the weekend with us,” the husband says after we are settled in the car. The maternal side of my family is overly involved in one another’s lives (we’re damn near on speed dial). So Mom and I know already know the husband (who is rumored to be a total phony) already complained about our visit. As if we want to spend $40 on tickets to watch their hot mess of a marriage melt down in front of our eyes. Since I am privy to the drama behind the drama I say, “Sorry, we can’t. We’re meeting friends for dinner.” “Do you need a ride back?” the husband asks.
Last year my uncle, his father-in-law, came from India and stayed for two months because the couple was fighting. The husband charged my uncle for room and board. Who does this? So I am already worried the husband will inventory what we eat and drink bill my uncle. Then again I don’t know. It was nice of him to offer the ride and I don’t know his side of the story. Just in case this marriage is an out of control bus on crystal meth, I am not chancing it and say. “Thank you, but we already bought the return tickets.”
We get to their townhouse and I am, again, surprised by the sparseness. The furniture is from the husband’s bachelor days. The walls are bare. There is no console stuffed with religious statues, photos, books, vases, trinkets or treasures. They out-earn me, yet I have silk throw pillows and my bookshelves burst from the overflow of knowledge and capitalism.
The husband disappears into the basement and my cousin instructs the cleaning woman who doubles as the cook to prepare lunch. “How was he in the car?” my cousin asks. “Fine,” I reply. “How are things?” Mom asks. My cousin shrugs, “He won’t replace the couches. He says my parents were supposed to give us new furniture and a new car upon marriage.” They have been married for three years. Long after the Indian government outlawed after-marriage dowry payments. Evidently his extortionist parents with village mentality didn’t get the memo.
When lunch is ready the four of us sit down. My cousin ladles food onto Mom’s plate. Overstuffing you is how Indians show affection. Mom covers her plate with her hands and says, “No more, please.” Funny, that never works for me.
Out of the corner of my eye I watch the husband. I know he makes snide comments about my age and single status and thinks I’m no catch. But newsflash either is he. And I’d rather be single than married and miserable.