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Authors: Romi Moondi

Year of the Chick (3 page)

BOOK: Year of the Chick
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I suddenly remembered I was kneeling at the toilet for a reason. There was no more avoiding this ugly deed, so I took a deep breath and scrubbed every corner with the toilet brush.

Once I was finished cleaning the toilet, I stretched back up to wipe the bathroom mirror. Before I could start, I inevitably stared at my reflection.

I still didn’t see a major problem with my face, but then again I was looking from a side view, with cheeks being held in by the tips of my teeth. I let them go and finally looked straight on. With that there was no mistaking it: my face was looking rounder than it had in the past.

My gaze traveled down to my waistline. Or if I even had a waistline, in these loose-fitting flannel pajamas. I lifted my shirt to check.

Hmm…

Maybe my stomach wasn’t flat, but it still had potential to achieve a flattened look.

So there was definitely an issue, but nothing I couldn’t fix with a little effort. I wiped down the mirror with a sense of relief, convinced that I wouldn’t be the family fatty for long.

***

With Christmas now over, the holiday haze and all of its relevant smells had lifted. The tandoori and roasted-garlic chicken dishes were gone (two options to appeal to east and west), and the homemade pies had all but disappeared. I was pretty sure I’d eaten most of the food, and at my mother’s urging too. She would always be offended if we didn’t eat multiple helpings of her food, and meanwhile she wanted me to lose twenty pounds! It was the perfect motherly plot: set me up to fail and retain the upper hand.

And it’s too damn delicious to resist.

Aside from the hearty meals, our Christmas had been filled with the usual family elements: new pajamas for all, shortbread cookies that my mother and I had baked, gifts that she didn’t like, and a whole lot of time spent on video games and movies.

It never seemed odd to celebrate Christmas in our home, because we’d done it for as long as I remembered. It might have had to do with the nature of the Sikh religion, whose fundamentals didn’t really clash with Christmas. But it’s not like we had mangers and baby Jesuses all around. In fact we limited our focus to a tree, store-bought presents, and treats; three good excuses for “family time.”

I’m sure Jesus would be fine with that.

Whether religion or commercialism, it was not about Christmas today. It was an average day at home and the tea was as lukewarm as ever.

I munched on the cinnamon toast feeling somewhat relieved. And how could I not be? The secret of my extra weight had been out for days, and no other drama had followed. This left me eating my breakfast calmly, with not a single worry of an ambush.

Or so I thought.

My father took a seat right across from me.
Hasn’t he already eaten?
As for my mother, her dark eyes came into focus from the kitchen sink. It was almost as if she was zeroing in for the kill.

This time it came like machine-gun fire:

Mother: “You’re getting older, and everyone your age is engaged or married.”

Father: “It’s true, we already waited too long for your sister and NOW look at her. But for you the time is right. If we act in the coming year, we might be able to find you a doctor.”

Mother: “AFTER she loses twenty pounds.”

Father: “That’s right. So you get healthy now, and your mother and I will put out your ad in October. Then by the end of the year you will have some serious prospects!”

Put out my ad? Like I’m a fucking used car?

My father could sense my disgust so he continued.

“Nobody’s forcing you to get engaged right away. These things take time! But in twelve months we should be almost there. We just have to find you a prince!”

He finished off his speech with a giant fatherly smile and the “bobblehead” Indian head nod.

I wasn’t going to cry this time, but there was certainly a chance of some projectile vomit. My stomach lurched from side to side as I envisioned a mysterious brown-skinned man. He would inch his way to my wedding sari, undressing me one pin at a time. Or maybe he was the aggressive type, who would rip off my Indian dress in a single tear. And would I even know him? Or would he simply be a stranger who I’d gotten to know through a bunch of online photos and a voice on the phone?
Or maybe a couple of chaperoned dates if I’m lucky.

I sighed at the thought of this arranged-marriage world. Online shopping for husbands and wives, in search of the perfect make and model. But you never could be sure if you were buying a lemon. Even though I’d known my time would come (since I’d already watched it envelop my sister’s life), the reality hadn’t hit me until this second.

So here I sat dumfounded, in my “Winnie-the-Pooh” pajamas.

An ARRANGED marriage? This is Canada, not Calcutta!

There wasn’t a lot I could say at that very moment, since love had never been an approved family topic of discussion. Not to mention I was once again crippled by the eastern-hemisphere-parent intimidation. This time it was that special South Asian kind, based on stories I’d heard of Indian girls in Canada who’d been drowned in honour killings by their uncles, for nothing more than shopping mall hangouts (with neighbourhood friendly white boys). I highly doubted that an honour killing was in my future, but the idea of it alone was associated fear enough.

With no defense, I sat in silence as my parents casually talked about the weather.

Another battle lost.

Meanwhile I focused hard on the cinnamon toast, though it could’ve been a pile of brown sawdust for all I cared. My taste buds were asleep and so was I...sleep-walking through the day.

***

The last few days of the holiday break were a blur of samosas, candy canes and emotional freak-outs. This couldn’t have come as a huge surprise, considering I grew up in an Indian home with a strangely opposing Canadian backdrop. Even so, I thought I would’ve had more time, and I’d convinced myself that my dating skills would find me the perfect mate.

Dream on.

I checked on the rice for that night’s dinner, with my thoughts running wild on a possible plan of escape.

Having always been a numbers girl, I started to do the math:

-My parents won’t pimp me out yet, since the extra twenty pounds is even too much for Photoshop. And it’ll take a good twelve months to lose the weight. As for meetings with potential suitors? Well Dad said himself I won’t have any serious prospects for another year.

So I basically had twelve months left.

But twelve months for what?

Besides avoiding Indian-Canadian men with hungry eyes I needed a plan.

There was always the dream of love, and the idea of finding someone who was willing to grow into a prince. This of course meant launching myself thick into the dating game. Wherever he was I had to find him. And I had to make sure he was local.
No more guys with expiring visas!

Though I felt a sudden burst of commitment to the plan, I was also very conscious of the weirdness of my thoughts. Just days ago I’d been assuring myself that sitting back and being patient was the way.

Well that had been Plan A, but now I’d moved along to Plan Desperado.

Twelve months, beginning in January. The year of living for my heart, and breaking every rule in my parents’ book.

The year of the chick.

I heard an anxious buzz and my thoughts disappeared.

The rice was done.

But me?

I was only getting started...

Chapter Three

Christmas with the family seemed a distant memory now, as early January brought with it a grudging return to the office life. My office life meant planning and analyzing print advertising, for a big-box Canadian retail store. Whenever I repeated that sentence to friends, their faces would glow and they would nod in approval. “
Your job sounds really interesting!
” they’d say. Maybe it’s because a sentence on its own couldn’t capture the extent of the boredom.

I stared at my log-in screen, half asleep from the absence of a latte (which was a no-no beverage on my weight-loss plan), and half stupid because I couldn’t remember my password. I knew it started with an uppercase and ended with a number for extra security, but beyond those details I was clueless.

A few more seconds passed before I noticed the silver picture frame on my desk, with my cat’s precious face staring back.

Suddenly the password returned: Kittylover27.

I typed it in with ease until I stumbled on an awkward thought:
my password is Kittylover27.

The twenty-seven-year-old cat-obsessed single girl?

I immediately changed it to Manlover27, with just the tiniest feeling that my life was about to change.

“Hey Romer, it’s almost nine-thirty. Are you coming to this meeting or not?”

I was too busy repeating the “Manlover” mantra in my head to produce a response.

“Maybe you’re too busy picturing David Beckham naked.”

That’s usually true.

I rolled my eyes at Todd, the lanky blond in the navy sweater. As Advertising Planning Manager, Todd held the title “boss” but rarely ever put it to the test. Instead he would just make fun of himself. Or us minions. Or the world. I was more than happy with this strange variation of a boss. Anything to help the time go by.

“Yeah I’m coming,” I said, as I rummaged under piles of paper for my favourite pen. “And YOU’RE the one obsessed with David Beckham! Does your wife even know about your ‘man-crush’ yet?”

“Hell ya she knows. He’s on my top-five list of dudes I’d do.”

I grabbed my favourite pen with the easy-flow ink, smirking to myself as I followed him down the corridor.

My married boss has a list of “dudes he’d do.” Yup, just a typical Monday.

When we entered the boardroom it was buzzing with bland post-holiday talk.

“Did you have a good Christmas?”

“Eat enough turkey?”

“Did your kids like their presents?”

“So how much were you dreading the alarm clock today?”

And blah, blah, blah, and shoot me in the face.

The answers were peppered with laughter. For my part I simply watched in horror.

Is this what it means to be social in the office? To pretend we give a damn about each other’s lives? And if we’re really as tired as we claim, then why not a pre-meeting nap?

I shuffled through the beige-coloured room, passing leather chairs and only stopping when I found one in the back, where I’d hopefully be spared of any human interaction.

Once seated I began a thorough scan of the men.
Well I AM on a twelve-month man-quest after all…

Cancelling out Todd who was my boss, married, and sometimes protective like a “work dad,” I started with the one to my right. He was Ron, a guy with an okay personality and an okay bod to match. He was also the guy who should’ve been chewing gum wads of gum. Unfortunately for all, he did not like gum and he did not like mints. But he did love tuna, coffee, and as of this morning’s breath (
ugh
), bacon and eggs.

Three other men were over fifty (
gross
), which only left Mike who was leading the presentation. I’d seen this twenty-something guy around the office before, but mostly in crowded elevators, where we were relegated to sampling each other’s aromas. Despite his pleasant scent, I could tell right now that something was a slight bit off. It was the creepy way he would stare so intensely at nothing. Or was it an imaginary friend? He wasn’t attractive enough to investigate any further.

Since there was nothing in the meeting to look at
(and since I don’t know shit about inventory work flow
), I used the extra time to look at myself instead.

I started with my hands. I’d never spent a lot of time examining my hands, but today I noticed that my left one was looking a bit ragged. It made sense since I was a lefty, but it didn’t make me any less sad. It was wrinkled, rougher, and a little more damaged by the sun.

Maybe I should moisturize more often.

My right hand however was much more fun to look at and noticeably smoother.
I should use this hand when I’m caressing a guy’s face.

I wrote a quick line about my “right hand hotness” in the corner of my notebook, while the meeting carried on at a stifling pace.

“So when you look at the peak of the graph over here, it shows how the inventory might surpass our target. And that would be a problem.”

Yeah, problems suck.

No one said a word for five whole seconds, as Mike stared deeply at the left-hand corner of the room. Or at his imaginary friend. I still wasn’t sure.

Once he resumed my eyes dropped down to my thighs. I was consumed by how they looked so expansive in the seated position. It was such a weird phenomenon, how the skin spread wide like a liquid mass in the polyester casing of my pants. I’m sure this was a disappointing moment in the dating process, to see a girl in her chair for the very first time.
Double the thighs, half the fun.

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