Can we please talk about things that matter?

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I know you’re gay and you know I am gay.

Correction: I don’t think I’m gay or that you’re gay or that jerking off (almost exclusively) to hairy dudes makes anyone one. You know the customary talk about having subtler straighter shades to your sexuality, I subscribe to those views too. I see ‘gay’ as a cultural identity that I don’t identify with or don’t want to identify with. I suppose you have similar concerns although we both know that our TV/Movie diet has always been rich in Vitamin-Gay. We’ve both talked obliquely about guys we’ve kinda-sorta fancied, and of course girls we’ve obviously fancied or who have fancied us back. I know you’ve gay friends whom you must have met through shady channels. You’ve introduced me to some of them, and so have I, but the-unspoken is a dark scary pool of void of questions like how-did-you-meet and when and where and for-what and is-that-all. Questions that enfeeble our crumbling moral stance, questions that don’t let us be who we ought to be. I know you play the gay-or-not game on every new guy you meet (or used to, I don’t know if marriage has changed that.) I know your life is a performance and that you’ve become your performance. I know you wouldn’t ever agree to being who you are because you’re always morphing into socially safer forms snuggling deep into warm nooks where there’s family and family dinners and sunny family getaways. Continue reading

Facial Hair

 

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I woke up with a full-fledged beard. Lush, unruly, reckless. I stood before the mirror, stroking it, trying to come to terms with the man I had ceased to be – the man with at best a week’s accrual of patchy stubble. I nudged the bathroom door shut to the studio apartment outside, muting its early morning smallness, containing myself to the confines of this room with its slick blue slippery tiles, steamy air and an indifferent white glow of the light bulb. With that beard, a smattering of hair on my chest and those idle pecs, I could pass for a married man. A young father.

Neighborhood women peek through the curtains at me, as I walk my daughter to the school, imagining, I’d like to believe, what I would be like in bed. We stay in a quiet locality with broad streets lined with tall trees. In the evening, the kids are often out on the streets to play. My daughter is five. I take her out for a walk except on Sundays when her mother takes her to the park near my in-laws’ place. On Sundays, I smoke. That Sunday, I was up on the terrace, smoking, and getting some fresh air. The sky was open and the air carried a certain chill. I ambled about, panning a dizzying vista of lit windows, watching families at dinner table, or in the living room watching TV. Continue reading

The Thirty-Year-Old Virgins

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Divya assured herself, despite a burning dubiety, that she’d reached a significant milestone in her relationship with Aditya when, on a late Saturday night, her antsy phone buzzed with a storm of messages from Aditya. A cold inexplicable fear gipped her heart as she clutched the phone and scrolled through the stream of messages. Aditya’s love for poetry, or rather what he believed to be poetry, was notorious in the posse of aspiring writers who met every Saturday in a derelict café in North Bangalore. Divya wouldn’t have taken to him if she could take to anyone else but being a year shy of turning into a thirty-year-old virgin, Divya knew all too well the seething urgency of falling in love. She had begun with mild doses of admiration weaved intricately into casual conversations – finding the most opportune moments to call his fiction Kafkaesque or finding his jarring asymmetric poetic compositions venomously post-modern. Every praise was a chuckle pickled and preserved and it spread a sourness in her heart every time he blushed. She would overcome with pity – for the poor boy but more so for herself, and guilt and sorrow and a cruel screaming gaiety and it’d leave her wiping her hands with the tissue-paper for a minute too long as if she’d been plunged into a deep undersea cavern by the impact of his work of ground-breaking ingenuity. She’d then make a quiet show of getting back to normality – by pretending, for instance, not to have heard the last sliver of conversation or visibly forcing a laugh – and appear briefly flustered as if she’d witnessed sharp inerasable visions of other-worldly love-making with the man himself. Continue reading

Earthquake in California

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You sleep late and wake up early. You see the sunrise after months. The sky is vast; thistle in the west and a piercing vermillion in the east. You wonder whether it’s always this beautiful out here when you’re asleep in your bed with the curtains snugly drawn.

You arrive early to work but not early enough to have breakfast. You head over to the secure zone. You key in your PIN and step inside. It’s cold because it’s a refrigerator for sensitive customer data. Terminals that hum solemnly in front of you are processing a million online transactions. You’re unpacking your bag while a million people are leisurely scrolling through items, drawn in a vortex of increasingly irresistible AI powered recommendations. You dial in to the conference and try to connect to your desktop operating sixteen floors above you. You can’t. After a moment of hesitation, it occurs to you that you don’t need your desktop right away. You’ve made assumptions you’re not aware of; that you wouldn’t be aware of until it’s time.

After a couple of hours, it is time. You realize you need your desktop. You have a had a rough couple of hours where the scripts that were supposed to work didn’t and it took someone from Dublin to fix those for you Continue reading

After Sunset

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The questions were as stale as their faces. Is it an art or a craft? How much does your fiction draw on your own life? Questions everyone knows answers to, if only vaguely, and all one hopes for, really, is a lucid confirmation from someone older and wiser. When he was younger, there was the charm but in its place had slipped in something far more sinister—a throbbing, almost proud, reverberation of age in his old eroded self.

Each time she met his eyes, she felt a tectonic shift in her being. It lent her movement the grace of a French actress and to her insides, a twisted frustration of a deep sea eel. Every tissue in her body softened, loosened and baked in his warm corporeal presence. The room, dense with perfume and hushed evening breaths, she was sure, was essentially empty but for the two of them. Him and her. Continue reading