[Editor’s Note : When we called for submissions for the third edition of Gaysi Zine we received a lot of short stories from writers all over the world – unfortunately, far more than we are able to feature in the zine. Therefore, we are delighted to be able to publish the best of those stories here on the blog.]
He wished me “Happy 11.12.13,” trying to find a topic to yet again start a conversation. His innocuous innocence had always appealed to me. Yet as I saw the message, I could not help but reply “We are criminals now, Happy that?!”
Seventeen hours later, as my anger subsided and cleared the way for activism to step in, and as some semblance of serenity kicked in, I decided to apologize. I called, his muffled “hello” told me he had been unsettled ever since. The verdict by the apex court broke a million hearts, shattered a million dreams; the verdict that simply signed me off as a miniscule minority – like I may cease to exist and it would not make a difference. I wondered how such bigoted, populist bullies would bring themselves to sleep peacefully at night.
“Don’t cry now. Rage! Rage against the callous insensitivity of the system, my friend.”
I knew he wouldn’t fight. Not as of yet, at least. And I knew I needed to be strong for him, and for all queer folk, who right now might be losing hope.
“Brace yourself, Supreme Khap. Here, I unleash myself unto you,” undeterred and determined I claimed, more for myself than for him.
I participated in the Global Day of Rage that followed 4 days later. For the first time I feared walking down the road with my own bare face, the pathos of a counterfeit freedom reverberating all around me. Had it not been for her, my best friend, a twin-flame rekindling hope in the abysmal darkness of my heart, I wouldn’t have showed up despite the resolute. Together we shouted “partners in crime!” For once, I fancied and pitched the thought to her – “Hey Jenny, is this how the revolutionists during the time of the Indian Freedom Struggle would have felt?” Exuberant, she held my hand, and we smokily puffed our fears away while walking down to the newfound fighting grounds, the Jantar Mantar.
Despite the euphoria of having the courage to show up and to challenge the colossally catastrophic verdict, my heart sank as I saw an old chum make his way to me. Had I not been well aware of the contours of his lean (sexy) frame, I would not have identified him; for the beauty of his face was now covered under a mask, plausibly ashamed of its existence. We had once danced together – with exhilaration and élan in the pride walk. Seeing him pull dead plastic over his handsome face was a stab at the meekly rekindling hope. He lifted the mask up just a little, so as to pass on a smile to me. The truth of that naked moment glared right back into my zealous eyes. I compassionately put my hand on his shoulder and whispered “Closets are no place for a human to be, my friend.” And yet in his glimmering smile, the truth remained. The damage was done. We, as a nation, had regressed.
She wore a flashy lipstick, her glares set high in between her voluptuous curls, cascading down to the lower back of her ravishingly svelte frame. It would have been love at first sight, had I operated that way. She held hands with a guy; my mind was conflicted – I didn’t know whether I adored her more or envied her. She smiled at my curious glance, congratulated me for having the pluck to go up on stage, even as the growing insecurity and phobia gnawed upon each one of us. I politely replied, “It was nothing brave, just something that needed to be done,” and asked what brought her here, trying and failing miserably to hide my coltish interest in her male companion. “Oh, I am a straight ally,” she declared enthusiastically but also empathetically, “I am here to support free choice.” I looked at her, with affection, adulation and kindness, “Honey, I really wish I had a choice. But thanks anyway for showing up.”
I let myself savor one last look at her, as I walked back to my friends. She smiled, with realization dawning up on her. She raised her hand, in a half twisted-half sexy salute. I smiled back, humbled and grateful, for as long as we had straight allies, I knew all was not lost.
“Okay Mr. Permanent Tenant of No Fixed Address, are you coming up, or would you rather wander around the deserted streets of Delhi?” Jenny quipped enthusiastically, holding the hand of a half trans-man awaiting dick, the latest obsession in her journey to self realization. No matter where she is, and what she does, she would never leave me, and I loved her for that. But this was time for me to have a little chat with myself.
“No, I am good. You text me when you reach home.” I had always been scared for her; especially since I woke up to a shocking reality of so-called Delhi straight men shoving iron rods up female insides.
“Sure will, my protective, patriarchal, pretty ass, best-gay!”
I bowed at being fostered with one title after another, and then followed an impromptu uncharacteristic map that my heart conjured up on-the-fly. As my footsteps traced one unknown dot after another, I was aware of this very familiar yet mysterious melancholy. All the fight and all the “acting-tough” had left me hollow. I longed for those strong arms to lift me up and fill the empty spaces in my life. Someone to take me home, to hush away my fears with a touch of his warmth, to stroke my hair as I sleep away my fears, submerged in him. “Criminal spotted!” my mind alerted me, and I laughed dejectedly at the sad realization. Why is giving people the freedom to love such a big challenge for the state machinery? Obviously, that would break down all the shackles of distinctive power play, and which power-starved bully-goon would like that?
I was unaware of where the unbidden steps were leading me, until I stumbled upon him. “Oh, so it’s you! Isn’t it always you? When all is said and done, you are still the last one standing.” I smiled a wry smile at being confronted abruptly with my love-hate paramour. He continued giving me his ethereal mystic smile as I went ahead to remove my shoes; for I was about to enter my happy place, my sanctuary, his home, my temple.
The fight had just begun and I already felt exhausted. As the unforced tears continued streaming down, a million questions ran through my mind, and as I silently voiced each of those, I slipped into a mild trance, continuing to glare at the mute idol of my paramour.
The more I glared, the more he appeared to be looking back at me. Have you ever noticed how these idols just look back? They, with their silent and divine equanimity simply stare back at us – without judgments or reservations. Like a conspicuous copious witness to all of our existence, our struggles, our battles, and our dances with the in-born potential creative talents. As I let the bottled up reservoir flow ever more freely, I felt a divine serene white energy filling up the hollowness of my being. As the reality around me shifted to an alternate universe, I found myself facing the formless. I stood meek and frail as I heard his voice. “I am watching you. Nothing ends. No deed goes unnoticed. Now that you have begun, keep on going. For there is always light, at the end of the tunnel.”
It might have been the voice of my own mind. I might have hallucinated myself from exhaustion to see and hear the eternal. But how does it matter if it was or wasn’t him talking? As long as it gave me strength! I got up that day, feeling a strange grit and strength in my bones.
I am the phoenix. I am the one who had existed much before time and will continue to exist. I will rise from the ashes, will find love, and fight the goddamn system. I will write stories that will inspire people. I will live now! And if the law stops me from being me, I’ll change the law! Because I am made of nature, and I am nature, and all the forces of nature rests within me. I will command them to get what I want. There is no stopping me now.