The Lost Leaf

They say the way to a man's heart is through their stomach, and I wanted to believe it. I wanted to make something I cooked for him. I was pretty good at making omelette and, sometimes, tomato chutney.

Love doesn’t remain in the four letters. It is limitless; it shows you a world you only imagined as a part of the fantasy.

This story started one fine morning. It was my first day at school. When I entered the premises, I was nervously excited. Between the walls of teenage boys blocking the classroom corridor, some waiting for their friends to arrive, some standing aloof unbothered with why they were there, I entered the chaotic room full of murmuring. Everyone was busy discussing something that sounded like gibberish to me.

I was confused; I looked for a vacant bench to sit on and a familiar face to smile at – someone to welcome me and recognize my lost presence among the crowded smell of manliness everywhere.

He was there; I approached him and asked him if I could sit beside him, but he declined it. I was lucky to get a seat behind him. That was the day the journey of a man on the road and a man who wanted to fly started.

From confused glances at me to directly asking questions, he was trying to solve me as if I was a mystery to him; he was diving deep into an ocean that was giving him nothing but muddy ground.

Days passed and the awkwardness in our friendship was left behind; we talked about the future, and he told me about his family as if I was a part of it.

A bud blossomed into a flower. Earlier, the bud was barely alive, but with him, it grew; I grew.

He included me in conversation with his friends. People asked me about myself for the first time, and they recognized me.

He became my strength.

And I wanted to be his strength.

I wanted him to look at me and feel happy, the way he would lighten up my mornings; I tried to make his days just as cheerful!

They say the way to a man’s heart is through their stomach, and I wanted to believe it. I wanted to make something I cooked for him. I was pretty good at making omelette and, sometimes, tomato chutney.

I cooked for him, and he would relish the deliciousness. His smile, the contentment on his face, and the gibberish he would talk with a mouth full were nothing but magic for me. I always looked forward to times like this to express what I felt for him. Even though I could conjure up the words, they would have been insufficient to help him understand my maddening love.

Yes, love; I loved him.

I fed him, but I starved. To have a bite of love, I ran after him, danced to his rhythm, spoke the language he spoke, and behaved the way he thought a teenager growing into a man should.

After school to get into college, he dreamt of being in one of the best ones, and I wanted it to happen.

He believed in God, and I wanted to believe in them for him.

I decided to walk with him to Siddhivinayak Temple for three Tuesdays barefoot for him to get admission. I wanted him to achieve his dream, and I want to achieve mine – to spend time with him.

We walked in silent nights to fulfill my promise to God; he walked with me without complaints but contentment. The distance to reach Mumbai Central on foot was three hours, but I walked slowly. I took every step cautiously; there wasn’t any dead end. But the urges roused in me on those quiet roads could have ended everything we had.

Just a human touch, nothing else, to feel the warmth of his body, to hold his hands, or to brush my fingers through his hair, I wanted to feel how love felt with lust dripping from the edge.

I couldn’t cross the boundary of our friendship, so while walking, I asked him to hold my hands. Or I would put my hands on his shoulders because it was normal for two boys to do that. Behind the masculine ideas of society, I hid my love for him.

And then, like in every love story, we parted; he left me because the world could have questioned my friendship with him. The world that included his family. He left me and ended our friendship because I had let go of the burden of my feelings in front of his family.

When he left me, I lost myself. My words stuttered; they failed to make sense and make sentences. I felt like I was thrown out among strange people who seemed to be waiting for me, the lost one, to tear me to pieces and eat me alive.

I was eaten alive in the burning rage of his family and my own. I questioned my place in this world, and so did my family at our home. They had never heard of a boy loving another boy, and I had never heard of love questioning genders.

For years, I waited for the day when we would cross paths again. Sometimes, slyly, I would ask our friends to call him and take the phone in the middle of the conversation to listen to his voice.

I would stalk his Facebook timeline to check how he was doing. I would go to our famous studying hub, hoping he would come there so that I  could look at him from a distance.

People may say it was naive, and I accept their judgment for the ideas I believed in. With Aftaab, I might not have had the most incredible love like Laila-Majnu or Heer-Ranjha, but it would have become the greatest of all, because only my life would have been sacrificed. And I was ready to die for love.

After years of being away from him and his presence, I realize our parting happened for a reason. We needed to part ways for me to find the self that got lost between the chaos of choosing him and living my life.

Did I find myself? Not yet, Aftaab, not yet. Like the sun’s shine, he came and shone on everything in my life; I felt alive and the happiness of life, living, loving.

When he left, he left with a reason for me to hold on to, to accept the love I deserve.

Everyone needs love to survive, but I realized I could be the one who lets love survive.

This story was about: Identities Sexuality

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