Sequel to Losing A Cousin To Society.
She bends down low to serve the tea to me. Awkwardly, I grab a cup, some biscuits, and try to avoid eye contact. It’s not easy because she’s looking directly towards me.
The place is right out of a prime time K-serial. The family, seated around an implausibly elegant drawing-room. The outwardly smiling, “stern” Mother In Law. The aloof, unconcerned husband. The subservient parents of the bride. And, of course, the coyly gracious bride herself.
The mother in law goes on and on about how she saved the world with a matchstick. Polite smiles are exchanged. It’s all sickeningly sweet, just like the tea I’m trying to finish. I don’t even WANT to be here. My presence is merely a logistical necessity.
The husband gets out of his ostentatious aloofness and cracks a spouse war joke. More polite, rippling laughter. He’s allowed to crack these jokes now, to prove how hen-pecked he is. To prove how much he supposedly bends to his wife.
How gracious of him.
I clamp down on my annoyance. No point getting upset. There’s nothing I can do about this, and getting angry isn’t going to serve any purpose. Calm down.
There’s a clink of bangles and jewelry. The bride’s gotten up and she’s heading into the kitchen. I see my excuse to get out of the room and follow her. Awkwardness be damned, I’m going to talk to my favorite cousin.
As I enter the gleaming, surgically clean kitchen, I catch sight of her face. She’s looking radiant in the blood-red tones that the setting sun casts.
She looks at me. I look at her. I go first.
“So…how’s life?”, I ask her
“Oh! Good, good. Yours?”
“Just the usual.”
She gets some samosas out of the fridge and pops them in the microwave.
“How come you deleted your Facebook account?”, I say, by way of casual conversation. as we watch the lazy rotations of the turntable.
“Well, I’m married now, you know.”, she replies
“As is something like thirty percent of the Facebook population. As are my parents, for example. As is your husband.”
“Shut up, N.”
“Is it because ‘He’ doesn’t like it?”
She pulls the plate out of the microwave and begins to arrange the triangular delicacies on a tray. Her expression is inscrutable.
“Well, YES. Happy now?”
“Relax, I’m just asking!”
God. I REALLY need to calm down. Keep this friendly, I remind myself. She’s the victim here, not the culprit. Don’t chew her out.
“Okay, so now you know. Are you going to help me with serving this stuff?”
I pour out the chutney in the bowl and watch as the former corporate exec flits across the kitchen like a hapless, newly minted Domestic Goddess. God knows I’ve always been a better cook than her.
“S, just listen to me, okay?”
So this is it. I’m cutting to the chase. I know I’m going to be completely out of line. I know I’ll be going out on a limb here. But I will say what I have to say. Maybe I’m being stupid, but I think it’s important to say it.
She doesn’t respond. I know I have her attention, so I plod on.
“Look, S. If you ever feel you need help, if you need anything at all, I want you to call me. If you don’t want to call me, or if you think a woman might understand it better, call my mom or my sister. I think you’re too perceptive not to know how we feel about this whole thing. Still, we will respect your choices. I promise you that I will respect whatever you choose and I’m ready to fight for it. Just remember that we’re all here for you. That’s all, okay? Just don’t ever feel alone.”
She’s quiet for a second. Someone calls out her name from the drawing-room.
“It’s really not that b–”
“I’m not suggesting it is. Just remember, okay?”
A slow nod.
I turn around and walk back to the room, once again struggling to clamp down the anger and irritation. There’s nothing more to say.
I’m not even supposed to be here, like I said, much less get involved. But the heart does not listen to rationalizations of that sort. the heart does what the heart wants. And right now, it just wants to bro-fist its favorite cousin again and see that spunky confidence ONE more time. That’s all.