It had rained heavily the night before and the roads were smattered with muddy puddles. I gingerly picked up my while salwar and held it around my ankles as I made my way out of the lane that housed our flat. Maybe wearing white today wasn’t such a good idea, I thought, but then I always looked better in white and today I wanted to look the best.
I hailed a rickshaw and it unsuccessfully navigated through the puddles to reach the metro station. Who will repair these roads? I asked myself umpteenth time. It was important I felt, to let my mind be occupied with banal thoughts like unmanageable roads and the climate. It would divert me from my anxious mind space.
Yesterday evening and last night were both dream-like? I couldn’t think of another word to add to my monologue. Will today be like yesterday? I didn’t want to show up to college with my nerves showing on my face. I had been asked a question yesterday, and today I had an answer. It wasn’t just an answer though. It was admittance of the most personal kind. A question mark turning into an exclamation point and then into a full stop, I was gay.
She had sipped her tea last evening and had said – “sexuality is a spectrum and most people are sexually fluid. Don’t label yourself asap. Just discover and see who you are and who you like”.
I had no idea how we came upon the topic of sexuality. Maybe it was after we had started talking about commitment and long-term relationships? But I remember she had asked me if I was straight and hadn’t waited for an answer before launching into one of her tirades on patriarchy and queer agenda, specifically her queer agenda, and soon she was looking elsewhere while Aamna and I spoke quietly sipping our tea. Her non-participation in our conversation didn’t bother me; I was much engrossed in answering her question in my head, to my own self. Was I straight? I hadn’t been for a while, and a last couple of years had been a fight, a complete rewriting of myself. At present, I had been struggling inside, with my anxiety spiralling out of bounds.
She wasn’t the first one to ask me this though. Many a friend had jokingly asked me – Are you gay or what? Sometimes I had casually commented how beautiful I thought girls were, and how men were nice too, but there was no comparison between the two. I would keep quiet when there questions became more pertinent.
I had been falling in love with Ashi over the past year and I had had numerous debates in my head about whether I was confused, whether I wanted to be like her, or whether I wanted her the way I think people want each other in romantic movies. We met through our dramatics society, where both of us were new. In the beginning the word love was thrown casually, the way everyone around me used to say- I love you yaar. However, one day she looped her arm around my shoulder and said – I love you yaar, you are so cute- and my heart skipped a beat. I wanted to look at her and say the words back – I love you too.. I love you too…Oh I love you.
After the tea and conversation, she walked me back to the metro station. She still seemed pensive, so I asked her if things were okay. She squeezed my hand and stopped in the middle of the pavement and said.
“Why haven’t you asked me out yet?”
“Why haven’t you asked me out yet?” I replied.
“Well….. I wasn’t sure….Do you like girls?” She asked.
I stepped off the stairs leading to the metro station and began walking towards the college gates. I knew she would be waiting for me where I had asked her to wait for me last night on text. I hadn’t answered her. I had never answered anyone before who had asked me if I was gay or what? I knew that in 20 years for the first time I would say it out loud to someone and that it will be okay. She was my friend first, and she also liked me more than just as a friend, I was hoping, not wanting to read too much, not wanting to dwell too much. I was scared, but I also knew that it would be okay. It had to be okay. Courage failed me last night as she stared at me expecting an answer and I had laughed and left. I didn’t want courage to fail me again now.
She was sitting on a bench near the cafeteria with earphones plugged in her ears and her phone in her hand, probably scrolling through her social media. She looked up and saw me and smiled.
“I am gay.” I blurted as soon as I sat down.
Ashi didn’t say much and her booming laughter filled the air.
“I am glad, I am very glad.”
She squeezed my hand again in that special way of hers.