The Perfect Relationship

Vinamrata Singal

Ring on her hand after thirty minutes of chatter. It was the only thing that mattered 
Checking off that box 
Getting rid of the pox 
Of singledom. 

They share copious cups of chai and mithai Dripping in sugary syrup 
Wrapping her tongue in a saccharine embrace. The fan is whirring, 
He’s perspiring 
But he still asks her about 
The hot monsoon, 
The winter that they both hoped would come soon, Her anesthesia course load, 
Details about her humble abode. 
Her eyes always cast downwards, 
Not out of shyness but respect, 
He gifts her an Agatha Christie book, 
She is shook 
The first book from another man besides her father. 

She lets him put the ring 
Caught up in the bling 
Without understanding 
The situation completely. 

The demands of marriage take over her body, Her skin saggy, her eyes so drowsy, 
Silver growing in her hair, 
She feels constantly unprepared, 
An endless cycle of things, the load never shared. A rude awakening. 

Like a boat on the rough sea, 
Fighting against the current, 
She feels squeezed, 
Gasping for air, wheezing, 
Always alone. 
She calls home, 
Her face covered in phlegm, 
Her father just says, 
“This too will go well”
She wonders what love looks like. 
Is it love if he brings you food when you’re too busy to find time to eat? Is it love if he touches you like a piece of tender meat, 
Grubby hands, sweaty feet, 
Without asking for what you need? 
Is it love if he brews you a fresh cup of badaam dood 
And rubs your pregnant belly all smooth? 
Is it love if his anger suddenly becomes your problem, 
Despite the squabbles, 
The broken pieces of glass glittering on the ground, 
Your body covered in bruises and scars that tell the tale of his misdoings. Is it love if you support his decision to aim for America, 
Starting over with men and women much younger than both of you, Hoping that this time, it will be the last time you have to start over. Is it love if he helps you find a job, despite the color of your skin And the crows feet all over your chin? 
Is it love, is it love, is it love? 

Late at night she lies next to him, deep in sleep. 
His broad chest rising up and down, his mind deep 
In counting sheep. 
His face 
She breathes out a lion’s breath, 
She no longer has to predict his every move, 
Figuring out their groove. 
She moves her hand out of his grasp. 
Wondering if leaving him would be this easy. 
But he’s trying. 
He doesn’t hit you anymore. 
He doesn’t yell at you anymore. 
He tries to listen to you more. 
It only took twenty years, 
And so many tears, 
But there’s progress. 
She moves herself towards him, 
Her body brimming 
With warmth. 
Limbs intertwined, 
Smile kind, 
Maybe in love.