Rahul looked at the clock on the wall that struck 9pm. It was time to shut the cash box, take the money, deposit the earning of the day into the bank and then head home and enjoy the bliss of meeting Karina online. His computer table was always cluttered with soft drinks, snacks and water bottles. The only time, he left the screen was when he got this urgent need to pee. She would giggle coyly into her webcam and ask him to hurry up. On the days when server was down, he was miserable. There was no cyber café closer to his house and on those days, all he would do was to fantasize and re-play the memories of their chat. And she had a way of turning him on. Her words jumped off the screen and strummed the chords of love into his heart and he was filled with ecstasy. They talked for hours, sharing links, photographs of their family, friends and their city’s favorite spots. She would show him the busy streets of Kowloon, the narrow street markets in the bye-lanes of Hong Kong, the pictures of the food markets that she visited regularly, she showed him the photographs of her room mate, the pictures of her family in India and also the pictures of her work place at her department store. He would share the pictures of cobbled streets of rural areas of Tenerife, those long, tree-lined promenades along the sea shore, the silver beaches and those exotic cultural festivals of the Canary Islands. He, too, like her, stayed alone in Tenerife, away from his family in India.
When he proposed to her, she was not surprised. Rahul called his parents in India and informed them about Karina and told them to meet her parents who lived in the same town.
“Are you sure, you have told her everything about you?” they asked repeatedly
“Yes Mom, we are very much in love, we really wish to get married.” He said
Rahul’s parents were still doubtful about their son’s honesty. They wanted to talk to Karina and tell her the truth that their son suffered from psoriasis, a skin disease which, although, not contagious, had made him suffer social exclusion and discrimination. They wanted to warn her that under stress, the skin burst into blisters that covered his whole body and his bed would be covered with white sand of dead cells.
“She wants to marry me against all odds, you don’t worry mom, everything is going to be fine.” He convinced them.
The wedding date was approved and arranged by their families. One week before the wedding, Rahul, from Tenerife, and Karina, from Hong Kong met for the first time on Indian soil. Their happiness brought smiles to strangers too. Both the families talked endlessly about the wedding plans and were happy that they had found a perfect match.
Many guests arrived on their wedding day. The couple stood smiling on the stage, greeting each guest, as their guests snaked through the queue to greet them with gifts, cash-envelops or flower bouquets. Rahul looked handsome in his branded suit that covered his flaky skin underneath his suit, only a small red patch on his face was visible. Karina would return her shy glance at him and smile when he whispered some funny comments. Suddenly, Rahul heard Karina mumble that she is feeling tired. The guest in the queue stared, aghast, as they saw Karina lose her balance and crumble down on the floor, with her eyes rolling and her body go stiff, then relax and go stiff again.
‘Oh no” whispered Karina’s mom as she watched her daughter getting her seizures. She quickly walked to the stage and rolled her over onto her side in the recovery position and let her sleep.
Rahul sat down on the floor next to her, shifting his gaze from Karina to the guests and back to Karina again.
Wiping the froth from the corner of her mouth, he wished Karina had warned him about her epilepsy fits.