Saturday, September 24, 2022

#697 : Day 3 - The Perfect Date - A Short Story - Part 1

The Perfect Date - A short Story

“Sei la mia donna

La forza delle onde del mare

Cogli i miei sogni e i miei segreti molto di più

Spero che un giorno, l'amore che ci ha accompagnato

Diventi casa, la mia famiglia, diventi noi

E siamo sempre bambini ma

Nulla è impossibile

Stavolta non ti lascerò

Mi baci piano ed io torno ad esistere

E nel tuo sguardo crescerò”

Andrea Bocelli’s voice blared from the restaurant's audio system as I sat glued to my chair. A little stalk of cabbage hung from the corner of my mouth. A  layer of mayonnaise formed a thin mustache as I bit into my sub. Crumbs of bread from the Sub I was eating occupied my beautiful maroon and yellow striped Hogwarts scarf. 

“Hola! ¿Puedo sentarme aquí?” 

“Hola! Senora!” !Hola! Por favor! Señora”  


A deep voice addressed me. I peeled my eyes away from the screen to face a six foot something handsome man standing in front of me with a tray. He stood studying me with an amusing smile on his face. 


“Sorry! No hablo Espanol!” I replied, rubbing away the mayo and cabbage as embarrassment crept in the form of heat behind my ears. It was too late to dust off those crumbs. 


“Hello! Can I please sit here? All tables are occupied!” he replied. His accent was typically thick and sounded dreamy to my ears. 


“Si! Sure” I replied smiling. He had close cropped hair which was all salt and pepper. He wore stylish rimless glasses which gave him an air of sophistication.He face was all planes with a day old stubble.  He caught me openly staring at him and winked. Hiding my embarrassment at being caught gawking, I took a swing of my ice tea and turned my attention to the TV. Much to my disappointment I had failed to see the name of the song that Bocelli had sung. That wasn’t going to be hard to find. I mused as I resumed eating my sub. 


“So! Senora! You are from?” he asked as he sipped his drink.


“I’m from India,” I replied as I tried to eat my food without scattering more crumbs. I felt butterflies in my stomach. He was just too handsome to be alive, in blood and flesh. 


“Ah! That explains the curly hair and colorful outfit! You look so beautiful” he replied as he gracefully bit off a large portion of his sub. How does one do that with so much elegance?


Being the socially awkward person that I was, I was still processing a response to that! How does one respond to a situation which might escalate to full-fledged flirting? I wasn’t used to men flirting with me back home. I mean, look at me, curly hair, a chubby boring plain face with a curvy body - Just your average chubby plain jane who didn’t believe in fashion. My friend had called my outfit of the day - A multicolor long shiny skirt paired with a red shirt and black utility boots and some trinkets - a minor grade 2 disaster. 


“Okay! You clearly like what you see, enjoying the view uh?” he said again with a mischievous smile. I didn’t really realize that I was staring at him - particularly the small part of chest hair that peeped from his shirt whose first button was left open. Get a grip woman! I chided myself and lowered my face blushing as I continued attacking the food with much gusto. 


“So, tell me something, perdoname for being a bit blunt here - I’ve always wanted to understand this. How do Indian people marry complete strangers? Does that work these days?” he asked in a rather serious tone.


The question made me look up and think. Probably not the first time I was asked his question. My Spanish colleagues had found the whole construct of arranged marriage fascinating. They were quite perplexed that a woman, as educated and independent as I am, would abide by this very construct - They had noticed me going through pictures sent by my dad and overheard me talking about prospective grooms. However, it was a very odd question coming from a stranger!


“I don’t quite agree with the term “Strangers”. Most often, the partners are chosen from acquaintances or extended families. It's just not about two individuals being in a relationship, it's about their families and their friends too. It has worked for all these days, I guess it will work in the future too” I replied with a shrug. It wasn’t a very convincing reply but explaining Indian patriarchy and customs to a stranger felt like a daunting thing to do. 


“So you’ve not really dated? Do you even get a chance to choose your partner?” he asked. His tone went a couple of notches higher with the surprise from my response. 


“Kind of. I do go on supervised dates - Mostly my parents set it up and of course, they respect my choices” I responded. For some reason, I wasn’t convinced of my reply. I also felt a little embarrassed at my realization that as a fully grown “independent” adult, I never got to enjoy a date on my own terms. I always met men in temples or in hotels where both sets of parents stood a few meters away - They couldn’t hear us talking but they always had an eye on us.

His face turned all soft and a small sad smile creeped into his face. “Dios mio! My love. A beautiful woman like you should be taken on dates and showered with love! It’s sad that you are missing out so much” he said. The condescending tone and him calling me “love” got me all riled up. A handsome face did not give a person the leeway to be an absolute motormouth!

Anger bubbled up as I tried to respond calmly. “ Not sure I’m missing out on much. Men these days lack the finesse and are averse of commitments” I responded venom spewing. A stranger had no business feeling sorry for me. 

“Oh love, I agree! They are not men, they are just boys. Okay, I know you are probably already creeped out at being asked about marriage right away, but can I take you out for a proper date?” he asked, sounding super sincere. If not for his previous comment, I would have fallen face down to this thirst trap! I bristled at his audacity and clamped my mouth shut tightly. Or at least I thought I did. 

I’m a woman in my 20s and he is probably around 40, the whole thing felt very off.I didn’t notice a ring. I liked older men, but I wasn’t going to go out with unknown men in a faraway foreign land. That too certainly not with this one. 

“Ha ha! I am 40 and you are in a foregin land. Pero chica, you live only once! I promise, I’m not a murderer!” he said laughing out loud. I was shocked at his admission and wondered if I had spoken my mind or if he was a mind-reader!

“I spent all my 20s chasing numbers and never had the time to find a woman to marry. I crave for company these days but I end up courting gold diggers or glam plastic barbies. I’d rather go out with a woman who doesn’t bother about the crumbs soiling her scarf” he replied with his long fingers gesturing to my scarf. 

He just insulted a fraction of my gender and had the gall to point out my awkwardness all in one go. I was livid, would be an understatement. I opened my mouth several times to come up with a sharp response but anger shut down my thought process and tears threatened to spill. His comment triggered a feeling of me being a complete dork - something my relatives kept pointing out as a reason behind me being a failure in the marriage market. They kept commenting on my body and my general social behavior to no end as prospective grooms kept rejecting me without citing a reason. 


He smiled and raised both his hands apologetically “That was in poor taste. I’m sorry if I offended you chica. I would love to take you out on a proper date and get to know you more” he repeated his request sincerely. It was weird being asked out by a  handsome and confident man. 

 

NOTE : I dusted this story off from yet another bunch of drafts! I remember writing this sitting in my "too big for one" room in Dubai in the middle of the night after a long day, polishing off a bottle of ginger ale spilling it all over my laptop when my phone suddenly rang indicating a Spanish number. Neither did I pick the call nor did I finish the story. I will finish this tomorrow. This is my first attempt in writing a romance, that too in a first person narrative - I would truly appreciate any feedback! Based on the feedback I might turn this into a book, pulling it down from here. 




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