friends


There was silence. The sun was almost setting and was as bigger and orange as it can get.

Sunny got busy working on rose plants, plucking the leaves that had dark deposits from insects. Atul and I walked towards the rocks, actually four oddly shaped stone boulders the size of a bean bag that were scatterred under the canopys of pungai and parijatha trees.

It was Rex’s Idea to plant those trees, for the fragrance of their flowers and the cool breeze. The fact that the parijatha flowers bloom in the night had always fascinated him. And placing the boulders instead of an carved bench, gave it touch of being away from the tools of civilization. The pungai, when it bloomed, would transform the place into an little white and voilet flower bed..

We stood near the rocks, neigther inclinded to sit down…. my thoughts still pondering over the looming marriage. And Atul might also have been occupied by it, for it affected him at a more personal level than I. It was a topic, we hardly talked about.

“Isn’t there a law against adultery, that could penalize the gay guy cheating on his wife?” I said out loud, not particularly expecting an answer.

“There was! I think.” he stated calmly, adding “until we helped to revoke it”.

“What do you mean?”

“There is an adultery law, IPC 497  i think, that talks about punishing a man who has sex with another mans wife. But there is nothing that stops a married man from either having sex with another unmarried woman or a man.”, he added after a brief puase.  “Of course, the law doesn’t consider gays exist, even though they have decrimilaized sex between men.”

He continued. “As far as the wife filing a complaint about his man having sex with other man (usually it is men), what would she say.. now that 377 does not consider sex between men illegal. The divorce cases that have been filed talk about many other charges, except gay sex.”

I was just listening to him and did not want to interrupt.

“Initially when this girl finds out, she will be too ashamed to take the matter to anyone. She would blame herself. When she gets over that phase, and reaches out to family for help, she will be told to keep quite. Unfortunately, even after knowing the truth, she has to endure him.

There are gay guys who have absolutely no respect for their wife’s views. I know of one case, where the guy left the girl saying he was unhappy with their sexual life. Not letting her know that he was gay and making her think she was the cause of his unhappiness.

Can you imagine what he put her through?”

His eyes were becoming moist.

He finally said, “I feel guilty sometimes Aryan.”

I let him be.

I knew he was referring to that short but traumatic fling (or as he would call a relationship) he had with Madhan in pune. On their third date, Madhan revealed he was married. But it was too late for Atul who was becoming insanely attracted to him. He overlooked the fact, when Madhan said he was not happy in the marriage and is considering a divorce.

Things were going good, until Atul wanted to go hang out with Madhan in the city, movies, dinners. Just spending time at home on weekends wasn’t good enough. Madhan resisted the idea vehemently. And when Atul insisted, Madhan skipped meeting him the following weekend, and the following weekend. There was no response to his calls. Atul was completely shattered. He even messaged saying, he would never ask him to take out. Atul was 22 at that time, and Madhan 32. He begged him to come back in his messages and promised he would not be chlidish again and ask him to take out.

After three months, Madhan called back. He wanted to meet. It was like the old times.

That night, Madhan said. He was put in Jail. His wife had registered a complaint against him and his family saying that they were harassing her. Atul was furious on her, how can she file false charges?

The relationship continued, but on Madhan’s mercy. Atul was never to discuss about Madhan to anyone. He obilized.

Madhan would come to Atul on some weekends and when he din’t he spoke on the phone. As time passed, sex and the talk were not sufficient, an emptiness and strange kind of disgust was eating out the love he had for Madhan.

He started going online. He chatted. And in one such chat, he came across a guy who when talking about mutual friends talked about Madhan. Through him, he came to know that Madhan was meeting that other guy over the weekends, weekends that he did not meet Atul. Atul realized that he was being used only for sex.

He broke up with Madhan.

He was sorry he was furious on Madhan’s wife.

He realized that, he couldn’t bear the thought of Madhan seeing someone else, even though he was not married to him. But he expected Madhan’s wife to be ok with her husband’s affairs.

The sun had set. We three walked into the house.

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“Oh my god!!”, barged in Sandy through the open door. We all turned around to look at him. “What a hottie”, he was saying still looking out through the door, swaying and entering into the house, flaunting his Louis Vuitton brown leather bag.

“Rex, you got to set me up with him”, he declared and turning towards us he realized that Rex wasn’t the only one in the room. “Oops”, escaped him as he saw Sunny fiddling with his rubix cube.

“Don’t mind me”,  Sunny said and went out the door into the Garden.

Sunny always has a way of slipping through when he feels out of place. Even when we first met him at the orphanage, he already had learnt to keep out of grown up talk. We realized it one day Rex and I took him out for a movie.

On the way back in the auto, we both were busy talking about something from the movie, Sunny interrupted us and said. “Are you guys have big people talk?”

I asked him “why he feels like that?”.

He said “Because I want to ask a question?”

I told him to ask.

“What is da?” he said looking at us. Rex and I started laughing. Rex uses “da” a lot and we never could trace the orgin of it when we got curious about that word, and between us we would use da to mean “darling”.

The kid amazes me.

Atul followed Sunny in the garden, after saying a quick hello to Sandy and awkwardly avoiding the cheek to check kiss.

Sandy settled next to Rex on the sofa and continued his chatter. “Is he one? I am sure he is one. Have you done him? Do you talk to him”, he was pouring in his questions to Rex about the hot guy he spotted outside.

Rex was laughing at him, while I was perplexed. I know it is inevitable, that an eye candy triggers the hormones, but isn’t there anything like holding off thoughts?

I wanted to change the topic. “How have you been? Whatz latest?”.

“Oh yeah”, Sandy remembered something. Opening the bag, he pulled out an purple card with silver words, pink flower on the top right corner. He took out an silver inked pen. Wrote something and handed it to me.

A wedding card.

What? With a girl? I didn’t let it out. But held out the card to Rex.

“I am getting married next week in Dharmasthala. It was all so sudden and we don’t have any good date till August. So we decided to get married in Temple.”

Here is a man marrying a girl and leching at the boy next door. Are you sure? I didn’t question him.

“You won’t believe this”, he started off. “I met my fiance’s best friend yesterday and he is so hot. I couldn’t stop flirting with him. I am sure he is bendable. We are going shopping later today..”, he said winking.

“You bugger!”, Rex exclaimed. “Atleast leave her best friend out.”

“Why? If he is willing, why not?” was his reasoning and as if he guessed our next question, he offered. “If he is willing, he won’t tell her. If he is not, and tells her, I will say I was kidding”. He started laughing at his smart answer.

“Do you want coffee or tea?” I asked and hoping I would get away from listening more of this.

“Honey! Don’t bother. I am going to Cafe Reo later. They make exquisite Teas.” He was giving his expert opinion, stressing on ‘Reo’ and ‘T’. “You have got to have it there. Thats the best Tea you can get around here. Of course it is expensive” he never missed a chance at showing off how much he liked spending. And then he was divulging into one of his latest escapedes,  “That reminds me, last time i was there guess who I bumped into”.

I didn’t want to guess or be part of the discussion. I excused myself to go check on Sunny and Atul.

As I was walking out the door, I could hear him wishper to Rex, but loud enough for me to hear. “He still doesn’t like me that much. Does he?”

I was out of there.

Another Girl.

I could never figure out how to deal with such situations. After all these years, it still puzzles me when a gay friend decides to get married. Reason, usually one of Family pressure, want of a stable companion, i am bisexual, i only enjoy sex with men but there is no emotional connection..

There are working marriages too. As long as the man is getting what he wants when he is away from the wife, out of town or if wife has gone to deliver his baby or when he is on office trip..

And then there are divorces, some uglier than the other.

Does the girl have the right to know his guys past life or what he does after the marriage? Or is it ok as long as he can keep it out of her and is providing her with whatever she needs?

Should I be calling that girl and informing her?

Sunny and Atul were watering the remaing plants. I went and announced, “Sandy is getting married”. Atul kept quiet.

“To a girl?” Sunny looked surprised. “Is he not gay anymore?”

I had no answer to the kid.

“Party!!”

Sunny, my twelve year old son, startled us, by saying those words so loud that we both stopped what we were discussing and looked at him. He was coming out of his room after long nap, and must have overheard Atul insisting me to arrange for ‘party’ at home.

“That would be cool”, continued, full awake now. His eyes, gleaming with excitement.

“Hmmm. Lets check with dad”, I said.

“You and uncle can convince him.. Rite? Uncle?”, he was searching for an answer in our blank expressions. “Well, I will ask Dad!”, he said running out into the garden where Rex was watering plants like he does every weekend….

I was standing at the window, watching him leaping, in big steps towards Rex..

Atul, came up to me and staring out at them said..

“Aryan, ….”.

The words failed him…

But I could imagine what he wanted to say and why words failed him..

For, what words could describe the sight in front of us. Rex, all loving cheerful dad, listening to the excited child Sunny, walking hand in hand towards us..

For, what words could describe the joy that comes after overcoming the apprehensions of raising a child by a gay couple in India. Apprehensions that were vanquished mostly by the innocent and mature Sunny who turned out to be more than we ever hoped for in a child..

Sunny was seven, when we got him home. It is hard to believe, he is already twelve… It seems like, he has only been with us for a week and yet, we can’t imagine our life without him..

And those two years, spent in convincing everyone that we could adopt him, is like a nightmare that never happened..

“Whatz with the party?” Rex asked, smiling at us.

“Ask Atul, it is his idea.”, I pointed to Atul.

Atul was hesitating to say why he thought I should be arranging for a party, in front of Sunny..

I nodded, indicating him to repeat it..

“I was thinking” he started hesitatingly, “during the next months g… (he was careful to use the word) pride, after the parade, we could have a small party here, play one of the movies, have dinner and desserts, may be a potluck…”

Seeing that, neither I nor Rex were making any comment, he added.

“And more over, you guys are yet to treat us all for getting into a relationship. It is going to be 10 years this coming june.. isn’t it?”

We  hardly had any gatherings at home since Sunny arrived and we never went to any party. Sunny has accepted Us, but is he old enough to face the gay crowd? It will some day face it with or without us, but should we take the chance?

Would be be ok with the overly affectionate hugs and kisses that are inadvertantly exchanged between gay friends? Can we have him around gay friends whose type is young twinks? How would he react to the gay comments and jokes that might be passed at him or around him?

After that long pause, it was not I or Rex but Sunny that said. “Dads, please.. lets have the party. I want to invite my friends, I want them to come and see that gay people have decent parties too.”

Hmmm. Can we have a decent gay party?

I looked at the clock.. the two dots were blinking…. but the digits remained the same…. The station was still playing stuff from the Valley.. it has been only few minutes since i left him at the bus stop.. but it seemed very distant in time..

there was something cold and permanent about the way we said good bye.. a simple hand shake with only a momentary lock of eyes….. no hugs.. no exchange of smiles…. no turning around for that last look as I walked out of the exit….

It did not feel right.. By now, I was supposed to see some sign of inter state 89.. I noticed the signs, several of them.. one every sixth of a mile.. while I was going up to white river junction..

He was going to catch a Bus from there…. The bus that we missed earlier that afternoon and the bus we have been trying to catch up with, the bus which was supposed to be at white river by 5pm.  It was 6pm when we reached the junction, the bus was delayed just like our car….

May be I should have stayed back till the bus arrived.. May be not..

It was easier to leave the place while he was still there.. If not, I probably would have just sat there.. looking at the invisible impression that he would have made only visible in the space of my mind..

I hate saying good-byes…

May be the sign boards are only in one direction.. but that doesn’t make sense, nothing makes sense anymore..

There was no sign in the next minute or two.. or five….

I do not have GPS.. everyone has it these days.. I wish I did.. It has become like a mobile.. people are walking with GPS these days… may be I will just wait for GPS to be integrated into phone.. Google Phone probably has it.. What am I thinking… Why am I even thinking of GPS….. One of the things I am proud of is my driving is my sense of direction, I always get out of the unknown places after exploring them by accident..

Right now.. I had no sense.. whatsoever.. and that included the sense of direction..

I was so occupied by him or the lack of him….

i just wanted to be on the road..

just drive…without thinking..

after few miles and several minutes, i saw Christmas lights through the thick of the leafless trees..  I was certain now..I am going in the wrong direction.. If we had come this way.. i would have remembered..

I would have remembered the twinkle of his eyes from the sight of decorated lights…

I shared a few moments like this in the past few days with him.. the first time I observed that was when he first looked at the Boston skyline from the Mass Ave Bridge….. We were on our way to Club Cafe from Cambridge…

We were still yapping in that front bar, when Willy(william) and Andy(anand) decided it was time to go.  They were going to campaign for Obama the next day in New Hamshire..

“Do you want to come with me for a drive to drop them?” I asked Him.. and quickly added “I am coming back here after..” as if to clarify that I was not interested in taking him to my place.. It was only a casual request…

He took the seat next to me in the car.. We were driving down the New Bury street.. when Andy asked about our Weekend plans.

I had nothing planned….

He was planning on going to Salem…

“Salem! isn’t that where they executed witches?” I remembered reading about it in travel book.. 1000 places you must visit in US.  It had secured an place in my list of places to visit, but I wasn’t very particular about going there this year. But if he is going, why not…

“Yes, do you want to go?” he asked me.

And the plan was made. I broke the obvious rule.. “Never meet a guy two days in a row”.

They were now talking about the clubs in Boston and as if in a morbid way, the conversation turns into comparison..  They were comparing the clubs in Boston with those in New York.. And New York is decidedly more fun.. and who ever says otherwise is kind of looked as uncool.

The club conversation now took its logical turn.. what is your favorite club..

His was Stone Wall Inn.. I had never been there..though I had passed it several times from outside.. I have gone to Monster (Big B.. crossed my mind) which is right across from Stone Wall Inn.. and at the very instance, we were passing by Paradise in Cambridge..

“Thats my bar around here”, I said..

Willy let out a sigh! I think I heard Andy say “it is sleezy”.. and the Willy added.. “oh.. the older men”.. and conveniently added .. “Guy likes older men.”

Yes, It is sleezy.. I was thinking, but it is also true that crowd in Paradise is more diverse and friendlier.. And as far as my liking towards older men.. “Really?”

I probably did say I liked older men to Willy while playing that club game “who is your type?”.  I am amazed at how people can define their type, my type can’t be expressed completely in terms of physical attributes.. May be I was pointing at people who looked like Paul.. older than me.. confident demeanor.. that slight beard…

(Are older men my Type? or was I looking for Paul in other men…)

I looked at him.. He is nothing like Paul in his looks.. He is twenty something.. Has boyish looks.. not really the hunky-dorky-next-door types.. but more of an homely-innocent boyish looks with a pinch of subtle wickedness..

He is not my type….

“What is your type?” Willy was asking him that..

“I don’t really have a type”.. he said..

“What do you mean? what kind of guys do you date?”.. Willy wasn’t going to let it go. He can be very persistent..

“I don’t date”. It was clearly an well rehearsed response.. He was pretty sincere and he meant it. There was no emotion in it.. It came out as a matter of fact. That put Willy to silence for some time..

It was Andy’s turn, he asked him about his job.. He was working for an insurance company and was on an assignment for an year in US. He had spent the good part of it traveling and he had three more months before he was returning to India.

“Are you planning to come back?” Willy asked..

“No…..I guess…… I don’t know……… may be I will come later for another assignment.. I don’t know…”.. he was spacing out..

Did he want to come back and his Job wouldn’t let him? or if there was something else he wasn’t sure about. May be he has a boy friend in India. May be thats why he doesn’t date.. may be thats why he doesn’t want to come back.. I was making up some theories of my own..

We dropped Willy first and after a few blocks.. Andy.. and took the turn back to Club cafe.. and I poped it out….

“What did you mean.. when you said you don’t date?”..

He looked towards me.. “It is a long story…..”

I waited for a few minutes.. but he did offer anything..

“Tell me.. ” I pushed like old friends..

“Later.. ” he said..

I looked at him… to understand what that “Later” meant..

I saw .. a twinkle in his dark black eyes.. a slight curve on his lips.. almost a very subtle smile..an yearning for something….

I followed his eyes towards the left of  my window and there it was…

that mesmerizing sight.. I have spent many a summer evenings savoring…

Random and predictable glitter from Boston sky scrappers.. The stretched square of prudential with a square sandwich on top, with a thin elongated blue tower… the oval spiked crown of copley.. the dark tall flimsy hancock tower reflecting the lights around it.. the golden tomb of the state house..

the dim light at the esplande.. the distant stretch from the financial district.. the hanging bridge with violet illuminated  string.. white and red lights of the speeding vehicles through the storrow drive..

the reflection of it all  in the charles..

He was seeing it now.. just like the way I have been seeing it..

“I would like to photograph this view”.. he said.

“Can you?” I asked…

“I have an SLR, you can’t take with a normal digital”, he understood what I meant without having to say it. I have tried several times before but the lights always blur while I take the photograph..

The passion for an art has a way of bringing out the best in the person and at that moment, he was the most beautiful person for me. He was going on about photography, cameras and his interest of taking up a masters course in photography.. how he likes to travel.. how he prefers photographing objects than people..

his yearning… “I wish I had it with me right now.”

“We could come back here tomorrow night” I told him.. At that moment a private thoughts crossed my mind.. I wish he had more time in US.. I wish I had met him earlier.. It was just a wish!

So we agreed.. the next day we go to Salem and come back to boston for shooting the skyline…..

We headed back to Club cafe and we had about an hour to spend before the doors closed…..

Finally!! there was the sign.. I was driving on 91 instead of 89.. but I had no motivation to correct the course..

I did not want to stop…

I did not want to change…

I was going away from home……

The drive was going to be longer….

It was a long drive home… It is two states away from where I live, more than eight quarter miles..

I would have never imagined myself being there on the last night.. the last night of a long weekend and the last night of a short romance… It is, the only four day weekend, I have in the year. Thanksgiving. It is a tradition to spend time with family and friends.. and I choose to spend it with friends and Him.

I broke the first rule. “Never offer yourself for a guy who is out of town”. Oh, and when one rule is broken.. there is no point in maintaining other rules.. and so I found out, however painful it may be.. I can’t have rules! at least not when it comes to gravitating towards a Guy!

the drive was slow.. ten miles per hour on an seventy five mph inter-state highway, there was slush all over from the first snow of the season.. and the cars were following each other very religiously. they were following the tracks laid down by the vehicles in front of them.. and in turn reinforcing the track they just followed.. a slight diversion from the track, which was now marked clearly by the layer of snow and ice that was untouched by the brutal black tires.. will send the car off the road and possibly into the valley.. or will just make the car turn around and block the entire traffic following it…

on one side of the road was a mountain, the rocks frosted with ice and snow. On the other side.. the snow capped hazy blueish pines glowing in the misty moonless night.. i would have enjoyed the peace and gloominess of the sight.. but tonight, it was very painful…

painful to have an empty seat next to me.. i turned on the radio.. and quickly tuned it to a different channel.. i could not bear to hear the same songs that i heard with him moments ago…

I looked towards the empty seat…. as I reluctantly followed the tracks..

It all started a month ago..

He was sitting on a tall legged bar chair, right across the entrance of the dance room in Club Cafe..long slender legs.. one stretched out, surely touching the floor and the other folded in.. one hand on the round table and the other holding a glass. dressed in full sleeved, round neck blue sweater.. tight jeans..  white and yellow stripped shoe..

he stood out in the crowd… an east-indian face amidst caucasians, blacks, asian and hispanic…that was the first time I saw him..

It was boys night out.. we moved to friday instead of our usual saturday to watch the Halloween Costumes.. another colorful night, that brings out the creative best..

There was an angel with only feathers, an underwear, more like a thong and of course a fine chiseled body. I don’t remember how long we stood around him.. but when we finally made to the corner which was the only place with some space.. the extreme corner where there is a tiny dance floor..

There was something unusual about Club Cafe that night, it was as if Club cafe had put on new costume, it had shed its typical snobbish self.. there were exchange of pats.. flirts.. smiles.. and numbers..

we saw a guy dressed as Nurse, two guys in bath robes, navy men, police officer, a greek noble with a golden crown. and there was a monkey, an corrupt politician. and the best of all Ellen DeGeneres.. she was so Good she could fill in for the real Ellen.. (later I was told she got the best costume for the night…. )

I saw Him again.. he was going for another drink.. he wasn’t smiling.. neither was he not smiling.. there was a certain indifference in his presence..  it was as if he was there and also not there..

One of the boys.. decided to go into the front room and the rest of us followed.. we stood there watching people walk in.. I was still intrigued by the look on his face.. was he new to Boston? does he have friends? Should I go talk to him?

It started to itch..

So I set out to scratch it… back into the dance room.. squeezing my way through the crowded room.. I am sure I must have stopped to see the angel, but I don’t remember anymore….

He was sitting alone in the chair with his drink.. and I walked straight to him.. he looked up at me..

“Hi, I am Aryan”… I said…

“I know”.. he surprised me.

Surely, I don’t forget people.. I sat next to him, waiting to hear more..

“G Aryan.. I have seen you on my friends list on Facebook.”.. he offered as a way to bring me out of puzzlement.

“Which friend?” …. and so we got to talking…

The next thing I remember.. he was hanging out with me and the boys in the front bar room…. It would have been hard to tell that we all had just met him..  He still intrigued me, but he didn’t seem like a stranger or a like new face..

He felt like someone I have known for a while..

Have you ever met a guy for the first time and have felt that you have known him from a long time?

I can only blame that familiarity on the trust that gets attached to a person who gets introduced through a friend. OK.. he wasn’t literally introduced, but he and I had a common friend.. a friend that I trust….

i have a friend who can’t hear, so we communicate by typing in his hand held phone.

last nite, he was getting a drink and the waitress was not able to understand what he was saying.. he has trouble saying some words.. he typed what he wanted in his drink and gave it to her for reading.

she kept looking at it… for more than 40 seconds.. and she looked very puzzled..

it was just one line.. i saw him type it..

so.. my friend took the phone back.. and pointed to the line that he just wrote.

she said “ah!”, smiled and gave the drink.

he looked at the phone again to see why it was so difficult…below the line about the drink.. there was another line…

“my friend is straight but he thinks you are cute”. (imagine, a gay bar.. i was standing next to him smiling.. and looking at her….)

it was a line, we wrote earlier about a guy who was having dinner across our table..

being single on a saturday night in new york, without a plan means endless possibilities.. may be the plan is to get some decent plan. plan or no plan, it was an perfect night to vanish into the crowded night.

dinner with friends at nooch around 9pm was the vantage point.. while they were enjoying their leeche margaritas, i feasted my eyes with the evening delights.. nicely dressed cute guys.. some alone,  some with friends and some on dates..

nooch is this dimly lit pan-asian bar and restaurant. there is literally no space between tables, so it is hard avoid getting into each others way or to not eves drop.. probably that was designed by intent.

we finally settled in our table for six.. with me on one of the corner. the table next to me was for two, which was occupied by an cacuasian and an asian. there was a pillar between me and the asian, so i could only look at the cacuasian.

not sure how it happened, but it almost became an involuntary action to look at the cacuasian every few minutes. sometimes i would catch him talking, sometimes listening and sometimes looking at me. after a
few glances.. we were locking our eyes..

just the eyes.. he would not smile and i didn’t either… he continued his conversation with his friend or a date may be.. i ended up eaves dropping and listen to them talk about their families..

were they on a date?  if he was on a date, why were we locking eyes.. was he having a bad date? or is he just flirting around? oh well.. it is his problem!

or is it? how would i feel if i was sitting next to him on a date.. what would i do if he was flirting with the guy on the next table! may be i will also flirt with the guy on the next table..

so anyway.. it was that time when the asked for the bill. he excused himself to go to wash room.. and i was watching him as he did it.

he did not give me a glance.

i excused myself and was standing next to him in the queue.

we smiled. first time since we looked at each other about 30 mins ago..

“how is it going?” he asked.

“not bad”, i said.

“you look cute”, i added.

“are you in town?” he asked.

“for today..”, i said.

he took his mobile out, i typed my number on it. he rang the number. i silenced the ring.

it was his turn in. he went in, came out and nodded as he walked away.

when i came back to table, they were just walking out.. and for the first time i looked at the asian guy. he had this sweet smile.. but he wasn’t looking at me. as they walked out of the door.. asian went out
first and caucasian looked back as he closed the door..

we were all set, bill was being split and were making plans to head to therapy from there. i received a message from him telling he would be up for getting together a drink or something and he would be awake.. suggested i call him however late….

i let my friends take the cab to therapy, i called him…..

i skipped meeting my friends at therapy, but caught up with them at posh!

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