I meet him for a midnight food trail in the inner-city. He tells me how the city works, and I realize how he does. He writes scripts for plays, and musicals. I wrote the script for how we would meet. That’s One for you, and one for me.
His face had hinted at a baritone voice, but I am clearly wrong. Two looks at me nervously through his steel grey eyes as they dart back and forth in the coffee shop, as if we are being watched. He’s an entertainment journalist who writes a celebrity gossip blog under a pseudonym, so we probably are. I long to run my hand through his stubble, but he would probably shriek like a girl. This is object-word association at its worst.
I look at Three closely as he bites into his slice of pizza. He’s everything I could want. He’s an architect, he’s an old friend, he likes his beer, he likes his online presence, he likes his Harry Potter references, and most importantly, he likes me. Eight months later, through a text message, he tells me he also likes girls.
Over a home-cooked meal of red pasta, and accompanying glasses of coke; I realize that meme-crazy, MBA Graduate Four, with his flair to pick the right pop culture references, is not the stuff that boyfriends are made of, but what best friends are made of. He has stayed the same ever since, through trauma, and television shows.
Five, a freshly graduated architect from a rival college who came out on national television, shares hot fudge brownie sundaes in his car with me, and we find out that he’s my ex’s ex, my friend’s friend, my friend’s ex and my ex’s friend- it’s all so confusing. The only thing not confusing then is the fact that I don’t want him anymore.
He’s a self-proclaimed fashionista and a diva, number Six with his bow-tie and waist coat, and we flirt dangerously over unlimited sangria at a fancy restaurant in town. There’s only one thing I want at the table, and it’s not him. I still play footsie secretly; first, because I am drunk, and second, because that’s the least I can do to stop myself from running away.
We are at a dinghy watering hole somewhere in town, Seven and I. We bond over Instagram pictures and I simper over his east-Indian ancestry and his PhD in something I don’t remember. Between the fourth and fifth glass of Rum and Coke, he tells me he has royal blood. He has a thin lanky frame, and a sculpted Aryan face, and I believe him. We still split the bill two ways.
We decide to meet at the local art festival, one crispy February afternoon. Eight, a marketing executive from the city, is fresh-faced with gorgeous Greek god features, and a lean muscular build, like a piece of art. As we walk aimlessly down Rampart Row, I juxtapose him with the art behind him. It strikes me then, like a jilted lover – I always found art insanely, and ridiculously boring.
It’s a busy Thursday evening, and I rush with Nine, a busy costume stylist as he two-times between our date and a dress fitting. One hurried stop at a fashion store later, we are sipping cocktails at a deli, and then scampering to a musical gig at a pub. He’s like Mr. Rabbit from Lewis Carroll’s novel, I think back in retrospect. But I am no Alice, and this is no Wonderland.
I grate my fingers on the underside of the sun mica table, as Ten guffaws at his joke. He looks like a bloated version of my favourite Bollywood actor, which is his redeeming quality, albeit the only one. I yawn through one of his particularly gripping tales of working as an executive producer on one of Indian’s many reality shows, and he notices it. He says he is sick and has plans for dinner with friends, and needs to leave early, and I realize we both want the same thing. That’s the last we both hear from each other.
Over a second cup of cappuccino and a dry sandwich, well past midnight on a rainy Friday night, Eleven, who runs his own production house, tells me he wants to be an actor. I giggle and fawn over his half-realized dreams until he makes me read lines for an Indian adaptation of Oedipus. He plays the protagonist, I play everyone else.
Over a tantalizing game of Never-Have-I-Ever where we let loose the skeletons in our ever-expansive closets, I realize I might have a possibility of falling for Twelve .He looks like James Franco, and has a gorgeous set of dimples. I wander off, thinking about matching shoes and a pet, while he tells me of his life as a sales manager at a high-end suiting store. I think it’s evident, because he off-handedly tells me that he has a boyfriend. I laugh derisively, the way I usually do when I am lying, and tell him that I’d rather have him as a friend anyway. Two years on, that’s what he ends up being.
Number Thirteen, a writer with twinkling eyes, is younger, brighter and happier. Over a bustling blind date in the first class compartment of a northbound train, we bond over Blair Waldorf, baking and belligerent exes. After an offhand Mean Girls reference that catches my eye, he later tells me that he had me at hello. I never tell him that I had him at hello much later- precisely a year after.
I take a large drag from the joint Fourteen passes on to me. He’s an analyst who makes frequent soul-searching trips to the hills, either for spirit or substance or a bit of both. He has a supplier who stays close. I take down her number, and accidentally delete his.
It’s a sweaty Friday afternoon, but Fifteen and I are indoors, lazily drinking our beers and wolfing down second helpings of chicken schezwan fried rice. He’s a therapist, he warns me first, and I wonder whether he’d give me free therapy. He then tells me that he’s bicurious, so I tell him that I am just curious. I don’t get either.
As I gulp down my last glass of Old Monk, I realize that Sixteen is a text book romantic. It’s dark, and badly lit, but I can still see his cheeks redden as I compliment his clothes catching him off-guard. He seems easy, and not challenging enough and it’s a pity- because he’s a writer, and a photographer. We might be similar, but he sees his pictures in Black and White, while I see mine in colour.
On a crisp December afternoon, I show Seventeen, a wandering tourist with a wandering libido, the sights and sounds of the city. We meander down Mumbai, while he coos in a thick accent with traces of a south Indian background. He has a deadpan job in a chemical plant overseas, and wears quirky clothes, and stands out like a white in a sea of boring black. He secretly wants a vacation fling; I secretly want two glasses of beer.
I meet Eighteen after a whole year’s worth of online dillydallying. He’s a psychologist, and an anthropologist, and teaches at the local university. I expect to fall head over heels when I finally meet him for a drink at the neighborhood pub, but fall flat on my face instead- he’s different, but not in a good way. The boy looks, and smells funny, just like my plight at the end of this anecdote.
It takes me one meal of fish with Nineteen to realize that he is a mindless fog of foams, fumes and fantasies. He’s an artist who paints mythologies, and creates cultures. I want him. We break up months later because of artistic differences. He sees himself as alone, I see myself as alive.
The boy has a cherubic face hidden behind his thick spectacles, I notice between drinks at the local bar, followed by cheap moghlai food at an Afghani restaurant. He’s shuttling between ivy-league universities in the States, and is spending summer back home. As I say goodbye to Twenty, I realize I am happy with not seeing him again, just like I am happy with having unrealized dreams.
A reformed Delhi brat who runs his own production house, Twenty One calls himself, as we watch a screening of Star Trek at a plush central multiplex. We are holding hands, and I run my fingers through the fine creases of his palms when he tells me that he’s in the city for rehab; for cocaine. My mind slips away, but my hands don’t.
I pinch myself when I look at Twenty Two again over a coffee at the mall. He teaches middle school English and French, is a psych major and is also quarter Iranian. The boy is charming, and cute and a sinful combination of wit and brain. I feel like a Mr. Hyde to his Dr. Jekyll. Three months later, over a painful break-up he tells me he has Bipolar disorder. I end up feeling like an empty Dr. Jekyll now.
I find out over two glasses of Long island iced teas and chicken lasagna, that the general practitioner in front of me is a big movie-buff, and loves Madhuri Dixit. Twenty Three looks better in his pictures, but it’s something I can work around. As he deliberates whether he’d do better as a doctor, or a director, I deliberate whether I’d like him in a shirt, or out of one.
Twenty Four tells me that he is a musician. He plays the Piano for money and solves complex math equations for fun. He has a distinct tinkering laugh, the one that rings in your ears for moments after, in a pleasing way. Over coffee, and tenderloin steak sandwiches, we discuss history, of music, of architecture and of all our previous boys- the last of his, who he currently stays with. I switch off then and there.
I apologize profusely as I turn up 20 minutes late for a movie date with Twenty Five, but he seems unperturbed. Silver Linings Playbook doesn’t happen, and we shift to get dessert and coffee. The boy is gorgeous and smart, and I find out, in wide-eyed wonder, that he likes his guided yoga, and his volunteered teaching for underprivileged kids in Thailand. What he doesn’t like, is paying the bill, or even a part of it. My dreams die an early death, and there are no silver linings to this playbook.
To Be Continued… with 26, 27, 28…and 50.