meeting the would-be-in-laws

Summer now and time to meet the would-be in-laws

All they know of me is that I am not brown, not Hindu

And of them I know:

The mother’s resentment of my foreignness,

The father’s reputation for docility

And the family altogether strict, orthodox in their religion.

From the heights of their supremacy

They esteem me – the bug.

To the matriarch, abhorrent! As if her son said to her that he fell in love with a cockroach

Sitting diagonal across the table I stare at her face in all my earnestness

She turns away and looks toward the far corner of the restaurant, into some imagined alternate now

The father takes a tender bite of yam and smiles gently, nodding his support

My dearest sits meekly fidgeting

I telepathically urge him to show resolve, yet realize his spine is pure jelly

Our future children are counting on us, damn you!

My smile gets up to 11

And I reach deep into the darkest depths of my being for those great special words

Those of power to draw sympathy, compassion, come on – at least respect!

I reach beneath the shallow platitudes for the words to end all words

They must arrive in time before the appetizers finish

For I must speak that, which will change the muck of entrenched racism into sweet multicultural liberalism, or at least peaceful acceptance

The mother winces under the heat of my radiant smiling face

It almost hurts to plead so loudly without uttering a single syllable

I envision her grandchildren among us

They play with the table cloth, and steal paati’s slippers

I pray her heart melts for them whom no one yet knows

I decide in that moment to keep silent

And to give her the space and time to surrender with dignity

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