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