You and your parents are late.
I tear a Kleenex to bits in my hands as I wait, my stomach a sea of unease, as sea monsters claw at my insides.
My dad paces by the door, mumbling under his breath. As far as first impressions go, it isn’t a good one.
Finally the doorbell rings, and I can hear my dad greeting you and your parents in muted voices. I clench my hands beside me, as I try to listen to the conversation and footsteps move into the living room, only two rooms away from the family room where I hide.
The awkward conversation begins as everyone introduces themselves, and my parents start to ask you and your parents the usual questions: age, education, job, interests, family background, life plans, and other inane questions which apparently decide whether you are a good life partner for me.
After a few more minutes of painful words, my mom calls for me, and I make my way, eyes downcast, slowly to the formal living, where my family sits opposite yours under the too-bright pot-lights.
I’m strategically seated right in front of you and your parents, and I keep my eyes on the swirly designs on the carpet, careful not to make eye contact with you, in case your parents think me too forward.
There’s a few beats of silence in which I want to burst out laughing. But inside, I press my lips together and smile at the quiet, the image of a perfect Pakistani potential wife.
Your mother asks me a question, and I raise my eyes to answer demurely. My eyes flick to you and I catch you looking at me.
In that brief second that our eyes meet, I am sold. You are much more handsome than the last guy who came to our house, slightly shorter than the one before that, and much better dressed than the one before that.
You’re wearing a blue shirt, one that’s freshly ironed (probably by your mother), and I imagine that blue is your favourite colour. It will be the colour of your tie on our wedding reception day, the colour of the flowers that’ll decorate the tables, the colour of the elaborate stage set up in the banquet hall.
My mother leaves to bring tea, and I join her in the kitchen, exactly as it is expected of a perfect Pakistani potential wife. I help her bring the tea tray out, which of course doesn’t just include tea, but enough samosas, spring-rolls, cake, cookies, and kabobs to feed a small country.
She asks you how you take your tea, and you say half a teaspoon sugar, a little bit of cream, and I imagine making tea for you myself, lovingly stirring the sugar into the teacup. As she passes you the teacup, you smile, the corners of your eyes crinkling, and I imagine our children inheriting such a beautiful smile.
My father asks you some questions about your job, and you shift your attention entirely to him, respectfully answering him in your (broken) Urdu, stumbling over words you can’t translate in your head. I can’t help but think of us learning to better our Urdu together, as we take lessons throughout our life together.
After the interview is over, your family takes their leave, and you set your teacup down on the glass table, thanking my mother profusely for the tea and snacks. My secret smile grows wider.
My parents trail after your family to the door, talking of useless things, as you and your parents put on your shoes, gather your belongings, promising that you’ll call soon, we’ll discuss things over the phone soon. I hover in the living room, trying to stay out of sight as the perfect Pakistani potential wife would.
But I can see you through the gap made between the white column and the wall, and I see you look at me and smile, before walking out the door.
And in that moment, I can see it all. The twinkling fairy lights in the ballroom, the scratchy, elaborately designed wedding dress I’ll wear, the way I’ll walk into the banquet hall, on shaky legs, the way your eyes will crinkle up on the sides as smile and watch me walk in, the delicate scent of jasmine flowers wrapped around my wrists, the speeches from my cousins and my parents and my siblings that’ll turn me into a puddle of tears, the flashes of cameras that’ll blind me to everything, but not to you sitting by my side on the stage, holding my hand, another shaky walk out of the hall to the car waiting outside in the humid, warm summer night, as I cry and clench my parents arms as they hand me to you, under the canopy of twinkling, exploding stars, and waving goodbye. I can see it, every last detail, so clearly.
But for reasons I’ll never know, I never hear from you again.