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Long Distance (20 Years Apart) | Short Story

By Shruti Verma


Courtesy of Drazen Zigic on Freepik

My parents have been in a long-distance relationship for twenty years now. I can’t recall the last time we sat together and had a happy family dinner. Isn’t it ironic that I’m using the term family? In all honesty, we are just three dysfunctional people who live under the same roof and are completely oblivious to each other’s existence. My parents met in college and fell in love followed by the next most obvious step, the cause of all problems, ‘marriage’. I was eleven when I swore that I would never get married. Marriage changes people. I look at my parent’s pictures before they were married, and I see the spark. I remember looking at pictures of my mother with white jasmine garlands in her hair, I remember her telling me that my father had the habit of buying those for her every day. In most of their old pictures dad was often seen holding my mom’s hands. There was something peculiar about the way he held her hands, with an almost firm and reassuring manner, as if to let her know that he would never let go. My mother, on the other hand, used to hold onto his arms, making promises of her own. My parents looked inseparable in these pictures. With the passion and the love they had for each other, they seemed happy around each other. But now it appears to me that they are simply coexisting around each other. They live in the same house and share the same bedroom, yet I have not seen them look at each other. They take turns sleeping on the bed, while the other is confined to the couch.


At the dinner table, I struggle to strike up a conversation as the simplest of questions turns into a series of arguments between them. On days when there are no arguments, it’s the silence that kills me. They sit to eat together but you can tell that their hearts and minds are wandering off to other places. While my father eats with a newspaper in his other hand, my mother sits opposite my father swallowing the food just so she won’t have to be in the same room as him any longer. My father just sits there, choosing to ignore everything that is wrong in their relationship, while expressing grief about everything that’s wrong with the world. They may have loved each other once upon a time, but now even a simple conversation is a struggle. Sometimes, I look at them and wonder if there exists a couple more tedious, colourless, and dysfunctional than them. I wonder if they can even be considered a couple.


Both of them are editors who graduated from the same college and who work at the same company. They have known each other for twenty years, so how is it that they still don’t know each other? How is it that two people who were once inseparable now have nothing to talk about? I wonder if they fell out of love or if they found love outside their marriage. Is it some kind of a sham they’re keeping up for the sake of society? Are they too lazy to do anything about their situation? Looking at them makes me believe that love is a myth and those who are lucky enough to experience it don’t value it. I have made up my mind. I don’t want to get married. I forbid myself from living a life of pretence and tolerance in the name of marriage.

Last night as I was passing my parent’s room, through the small gap between the wall and their bedroom door, I saw my father standing in front of the couch. He stood there for a while, vacantly glaring at my mother, who was fast asleep on the couch. He then gently covered her with a blanket. He sat there for several minutes observing the intricate details of my mother’s face. He murmured something to her and rubbed his hands against her cheeks and softly kissed her on the forehead. I stood there in silence trying to understand what I just witnessed. I wondered if, despite the distance between them, there still was some left for each other. I thought to myself, “Isn’t caring for someone a way of showing affection? Isn’t affection a way of expressing love?

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