45 years had gone by since Karen and Vimal tied the knot. 42 years had gone by since the birth of their only child, David. 30 years had gone by since the birth of their granddaughter, Lucy. To the average bystander, they seem to have cherished every moment.
Karen met Vimal while touring India and the two fell hard for each other. They quickly bonded over smooth jazz, the local fruit drinks, and their initial loneliness before meeting. When the tour ended, Vimal followed Karen to the states against his parents’ wishes. They called her slut, whore, white she-beast. Now they call her “Vimal’s white spouse.” It was progress enough.
Now that David moved out and raised his own family, the pair had empty nest syndrome. What would they do now that David left? It had been years and they were still asking that question. They bought a tropical bird, but all it did was soil its cage and keep them up at night.
“Happy anniversary, honey,” Vimal kissed his wife. She returned it on the cheek. He felt isolated, but kept it to himself.
“So what did you do for our anniversary?” Karen asked.
“Nothing, really. Do you want to go somewhere?”
“I need to go to the supermarket to pick up ramen noodles in a cup.”
“That reminds me, I need a new watch.”
So the two headed out on a cold summer’s day for noodles and a watch, trying to ignore the fact that they had no drive to have relations, no appetite for an evening out, no interest in seeing David and his family today.
First, they stopped off at the watch store. The man behind the counter asked them how he could help.
“Um… I was wondering if you could fix my watch?”
Karen looked at him with wide eyes. “But I thought…”
“I changed my mind,” he waved her off.
“What’s so special about this old thing?” The watch looked battered but not dead.
“Yes, Vimal. What’s so special about it?”
Vimal scraped his foot along the floor. “It’s the watch my arranged bride bought for me.”
“He’d like a new watch,” Karen forcefully said, throwing the watch on the floor and stomping on it.
“Yes,” the man said. “Right this way.”
By the time Vimal chose a watch, it was getting darker.
“You never talk about your arranged marriage,” Karen huffed.
“I’m a fool, not an idiot,” Vimal winked.
“Was she prettier than me?”
Vimal stopped in his tracks.
“Was she? Well?”
“I don’t remember what she looked like,” he hushed.
The pair walked silently to the bus for a few minutes. They just missed one, but another would be going in that direction in ten minutes.
“Can I be honest about that broach you got me last year, Vimal?”
“You didn’t like it.”
“I fished the receipt out of the trash and exchanged it for a vi[censored].”
“Why do you need one of those?” Vimal cringed.
“You mean a [censored]tor? It’s called a [censored]bra[censored]. Why are men so afraid of them?”
“I don’t even like to write out the full word,” he said. “It makes me feel inadequate.”
“Well, you’ll be happy to know it does nothing for me. I’m still unsatisfied.”
“That doesn’t make me happy,” Vimal lied.
They watched a bus drive in the opposite direction.
“If we’re being honest, that wasn’t my arranged bride’s watch. It was from David.”
Karen put her hand over her mouth. “Why…?”
“I hated that watch AND I had no receipt. I tried breaking it, but I couldn’t destroy it. Now if he sees me without it, I can blame you.”
Karen rolled her eyes and turned away from him. “Such a great husband and father.”
The bus pulled up. They sat in different seats.
At the grocery store, Karen found some exotic fruit she had been looking for. A muscular young man with spiky black hair talked out loud and she told him to keep it down. He grinded his teeth at her.
A few minutes later, she went to the ramen noodles in a cup. Nothing. The usual pyramid of Cup O’ Noodle was gone.
“Oh, the ramen? I saw a man with spiky black hair taking it all for himself.” Vimal regretted telling her.
Karen spat on the floor. “He’s doing this to me! That little brat!”
“I can ask if he wants to share some,” he wimpishly tried.
“No, don’t give him the satisfaction. It’s what he wants.”
They left without buying anything.
On the bus ride home, neither lovebird spoke. Karen glared out the window and Vimal looked at his new watch, setting it to Indian time.
When they came home, Vimal packed his bag.
“I’m going home for a while. I’ll be back in a few weeks.”
“Happy anniversary,” she muttered.
“Yeah… say goodbye to David, Barb and Lucy for me.”
She suspected he wasn’t coming back to America. It hadn’t been that they had a bad fight or several small fights, but the spark was dead. It was the only thing keeping them together.
Four years later, Vimal returned with the woman he had been once arranged to marry. Karen was single but selling high-functioning vibr[censored]s for the elderly. They met once more.
“Ah, hello Karen.”
“Yes, Vimal. Happy anniversary.”
“Oh, is it that time again?”
“We’ve got no obligations. Want to grab a coffee before driving up to Lucy’s wedding?”
“Sounds like a plan,” he smiled.
His wife tapped her foot. “Ahem?”
“Oh, and Aishwarya comes with us. Is that okay?”
“Sure. Say, you’re an old woman now too. [censored]brator?”