Dimple tucked her hands deep into her sweater pockets. (It had pockets because she refused to buy clothes without pockets; otherwise, she’d be pouring money into the system of hegemonic masculinity she abhorred with every fiber of her being). “I can’t believe it’s already winter break.”
“Our first winter break from college,” Rishi said, putting his arm around her shoulders. “Sometimes I still can’t believe we’re college students. How did that happen?”
They were walking around Union Square on a brisk December afternoon, navigating the bustling crowds, trying to get some last-minute holiday shopping done. Dimple stopped to regard the gigantic 83-foot-tall Macy’s Christmas tree. “Do you know this thing has more than a thousand ornaments on it?” she said, pushing her glasses up on her nose. “Pretty wild, huh?”
“You know what’s pretty wild?” Rishi said, in a strange voice, and Dimple turned to see he wasn’t looking at the tree at all, but at her. His face held the same awe she was sure hers had held as she looked up at all the ornaments and lights.
“What?” she asked quietly, a small smile on her face.
“How much I love you,” he said, leaning forward, touching his forehead to hers. “And how lucky I am to get to ring in the new year with you.”
Dimple laughed. “My mom might insist on tagging along wherever we go.”
Pulling back, Rishi shrugged. “So what? Bring it. I’ll show her a grand old time, too.”
“You probably would,” Dimple said, shaking her head as she took Rishi’s hand and pulled him toward Macy’s.
Mamma and Rishi had struck up quite the friendship these past few months. In fact, sometimes she called him on the weekend instead of Dimple when she and Dimple were having one of their spats. The idea both irritated Dimple and secretly pleased her. On the one hand, Mamma was clearly not very loyal to her only offspring. On the other, Dimple was glad Rishi was being accepted so readily into the Shah family.
Dimple navigated them to the Macy’s jewelry department. Every inch of the department store was crawling with frantic-eyed people, all trying to please husbands and wives and children and siblings with their offerings. Rishi had never understood that about the holidays. If someone didn’t like what you got them, they obviously didn’t deserve your time or attention. But now that he had Dimple, he realized he’d do anything to get her whatever she wanted, however demanding or obscure. He smiled at her as she browsed the jewelry cases, her eyebrows knitted together. Always so focused. His hands itched for his sketchbook, but he’d left it at his parents’ house, where he was staying for winter break.
“I want to get Jenny something she’ll actually wear, you know?” Dimple said, adjusting her glasses and looking at a display of bracelets. “She doesn’t wear too much jewelry, but she did tell me she likes simple bracelets.” She pointed to a thin gold one. “Do you think she’d like that?”
Rishi tore his eyes away from her and stepped closer so he could see the bracelet better. “I think so,” he said. Dimple always solicited his advice for Jenny-related gifts after Jenny had told her she thought Rishi had “exquisite taste” based on a webcomic he’d done for SFSU’s art department. “But maybe that one might be more her taste?” He pointed out a slender emerald bracelet. “I noticed she likes to wear a lot of green.”
“Awesome, and it’s within budget, too,” Dimple said, pulling out her wallet. “I’ve been saving like crazy.”
Rishi smiled and wandered off while she paid. Somehow, he found himself in the ring section. More specifically, the engagement ring section. He should get out of here. Anytime the M-word came up, even tangentially, Dimple was liable to go off on a rant about how marriage was a construct of the “hegemonic masculinity” (whatever that was) and how the government shouldn’t be able to regulate people’s love for each other, anyway.
Rishi would let the government regulate his love for Dimple in a heartbeat. Anywhere, anytime. He was fully prepared to wait until she was fifty or sixty, though. However long she needed. But what if she never wanted to get married? He thought about it as he looked at a princess-cut, 2-carat ring. He’d be okay with that, too, he decided. As long as he got to love Dimple and share his life with her, he’d be okay with anything.
Dimple found him before he was able to tell his feet to leave the section.
“What are you looking at?” she asked, and then stopped short as she took in the tray of sparkling rings, all ensconced in soft, plush white fabric. “Rishi…”
“Just looking!” he said, noting the slight defensiveness in his tone. He turned a sheepish smile on her, scanning her hands for an iced beverage she might be liable to throw at any moment. “They’re pretty, though, right?”
She shook her head and smiled, shifting the jewelry bag from one hand to the other. “Yes, they’re pretty. Can we go now?”
She turned to leave, but Rishi grasped her fingers with his. When she spun around to look at him, he gazed deep into her eyes, like the deepest, darkest velvet. “Dimple Shah, one day I will change your mind about marriage. I’m going to wear you down eventually. I’m the Colorado River, and you’re my Grand Canyon.”
She stilled, and then slowly put her hand on his chest, over his heart. The swarm of people around them slowed down and got quieter. His world was consumed by her. “Rishi Patel, I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
“Wait, what?” His heart thumped under her palm; his head spun so hard he got whiplash. “So…so now you’re on board for marriage? What about the-the domineering hegemony?”
Dimple smiled slyly. “To be continued.” Before he could say anything else, she turned and walked away, her curly black hair bouncing.
Rishi stood looking at her retreating form for a long moment. Then, grinning, he bounded after her.