We both smiled politely and nodded at each other. Between two people who meet for the first time while knowing that their lives from then on will be irrevocably changed, there’s nothing much to talk about and the silence that follows is welcomed.
Zero expectations. That was our unwritten pact. And useful too. I didn’t have to think about who we were, what I was supposed to be and of course, what was expected of me. Experiences had taught me to be wary of myself. And the lack of expectations meant I was shielding myself too. It was a two-way street.
We had met for breakfast. She was alone, tentative, visibly trying hard to overcome her reticence and scrutinizing me as closely as I was her. But I was definitely the more bruised and hardened of the two, and so I had to take the lead.
The breakfast hall was crowded, and a lone table with two empty high chairs sat in a far corner. She looked expectantly at me, unsure. I smiled lightly and steered her that way.
The buffet spread was simple. Remembering my manners, I allowed her to precede me. But every now and then she’d look behind to see what all I was piling on my plate. My hands were all clammy, and I was being clumsy. I knew the idea was going to backfire. It was going to be a disaster, and there was no choice but to go ahead and get burned.
And that was before her uncle came and joined us. I was too conscious and careful of her to be distracted by his presence. I extended a hurried greeting and returned to poking my food with refined but usually unused table-manners. He sat at another table. He wanted to talk to me as much as I did. Which should have made us great table partners for there’s no better meal than a silent on, but small talk was required. Especially between her and I. So, at least one person could eat in peace. While we decided on what we wanted done and when we wanted them.
But we didn’t get talking that much. That fault could have been mine, I had never been much of a talker. Though I felt embarrassed about my obtrusive silence, later I was glad that at least I had one peaceful meal before knowing how one simple arrangement could go drastically wrong.
And that was still before the similarities started gaining on me and had me doubting my brilliant plan for the first time. There have been arranged marriages. But it is not everyday that you arrange to live together.