by Vandana Singh (L&T ECC (TI-IC) – CTP-14)
Walking at a steady pace he reaches the nearest Starbucks and orders his regular; Cappuccino with an extra shot. Gratefully his regular spot is free, swiftly carrying his cuppa moves towards it. Dhruv starts browsing through his phone for a while, then shuts it off: Disappointed with his lack of interest. He stared to observe, feeling like an outsider in the crowd fighting his unconventional feelings.
He lights a cigarette to let that thought sink in, smoke filling his vision.
After a short while, a stranger asked if they could share his table, as the shop was full.
Dhruv shrugs, as a way of saying yes while forcing a smile but fails in the middle of it.
Having pretended seven years in a wretched relationship, he still can’t pretend a smile…
When he returned home, it was already getting dark. He closes the front door, leaned against, and stood like that for a couple of long minutes with his eyes shut, deciphering his emotions with every passing minute. Then slips down, sat on the checkered floor, buried his face in his palms, and listens to the silence of his empty apartment. Just a regular evening of another ordinary day. If only he could feel the same.
Through the open window, he could hear the city hum. Thousands of people were driving somewhere in their cars, shouting into their cell phones, walking around, buying stuff, meeting their friends, talking about this and that. An airplane high up in the sky crossed violet dusk; the smoke plume behind it hung there, glowing with pearl in the sunset. He found myself himself in the kitchen, drowning in the darkness of his own mind, propping his head by his hand, and gazed at the slightly crooked picture hung in front of him.
Dhruv felt exhausted; with every drop of energy squeezed out-, he felt cold, a bead of sweat runs down his forehead.
He glanced at his phone. After a momentary hesitation, he picked it up; reluctantly dials a number, realising he knew it by heart.; there was a long beep—infinitely plangent, as if somebody was pulling out a wire with pliers.
May be he shouldn’t, he hung up the phone and pulled out a cigarette: almost the last one in the pack. For a couple of lengthy seconds, he kept flicking the lighter trying to get a light. Finally, the grey smoke obscured his head, cleansing it from delirious thoughts. He pulled himself up to make some coffee, made a sandwich, to his surprise this simple sequence of ordinary actions calmed him down a bit. He groaned, sat back down again, and started to mumble a song (-You only know what I want you to, I know everything you don’t want me to… Poison & Wine- The Civil Wars).
A tiny piece of free space lit in Dhruv’s mind, he felt the emptiness of his apartment did not scare him anymore. He walked around it lighting all lamps, raising the window shades, and opening the widows; after a moment of hesitation, he turned the photograph on his desk face to the wall—He felt the time for probing into the past, trying to solve what couldn’t be solved, was over.
The freedom in his chest widened, and he abruptly felt a little cramped in his little room—but in a good way. He stood up to walk outside to inhale the remains of the violet dusk, but suddenly his phone rang.
This sound was rather alien for his world, Dhruv has not received a call since he moved from Delhi cutting his ties from the world that would not accept him, and for some time, he stood in the kitchen and stared at the black ringing box on his kitchen table. Then he timidly picked it up, and saw an unknown number on a display. Oh yes, it was the number he had dialled recently! A call for comfort that is what it was. Despite the impulse to press the red button, he accepted the call and brought the phone to his ear.
At the other end of the wire, impossibly far away from him and at the same time right there, in his kitchen, a woman’s tender voice sounded. It was so lonely, but with hope sounding in it. A voice so consonant with his. And the voice said:
“Hello?”… “Hello?” “Who is there?”
“Dhruv?” is this you?
Dhruv? How are you? Where have you been? What is happening to us?
Hey, are you there?
(Nothing, but silence on the other side.)
“Sigh”… “Deep breath”
I am Gay.