A warm March afternoon. We are somewhere in the dregs of 2011 - the world is sepia-hued and hazy, like a fading photograph from a long-forgotten album. It's what great stories with great beginnings are made of, ones that we could have saved on our Snapchat rolls, but sadly, that doesn't exist yet.
I am sitting with him, at on old-school drinking hole in the suburbs. It's full of screechy sixteen-year-olds with the weight of the world on their shoulders. The restaurant reeks of college gossip, and stories of what your best friend did behind your back in the Biology lab. But I am unconcerned. Three is tall, gangly and has a rather large set of ears (note to self: if this were a modern-day adaptation of Red Riding Hood, it would have been better for him to hear me with), but he has an expressive face, like a dancer's. He's a friend of a friend's, and I've had a crush on him the whole of 2010 (in gay years, that's a lifetime, but more on that some other time.) I don't notice the eyebrow-piercing, or the bottled up insecurities - it's too early, and I am too infatuated.
We are drinking draught beer out of cheap plastic glasses - large, unpretentious and filled to the brim, unlike the thimble-sized glass jars of 2015. I find the pizza appetising, just like my company.
He's interning as a junior architect at a firm in Lower Parel, designing swanky homes for clients who won't talk to him otherwise. Over a period of time, he will move on to other jobs. A product designer, a poet, a muse, a butcher, a baker, a candlestick-maker - I am confusing his life for a nursery rhyme. I can't blame myself, he's so lyrical. What does he really want to become in life?
A performance artist.
That's when I should have laughed out loud, held my head back in mirth, and walked away. But I don't. Instead I sit there, listening to him talk animatedly about his seemingly-bleak future. He would move to Dubai in three years, change his name and set up his own art space, but neither one of us knows that yet. For now, he's simply the architect with the eyebrow piercing and dubious life plans.
Doesn't the family mind the piercing? I simply have to ask. He laughs loudly. They are back in Kerala, but he doesn't miss home.
"It's the stereotypical gay man's tale (another side note: but not mine), a flip book in which the story remains the same, only the faces change."
Over a period of time, I find out that his relationships are strained, at home and otherwise. He has a father who doesn't acknowledge him, and a younger sister he doesn't acknowledge. The mother lies unnoticed, like most mothers do. It's the stereotypical gay man's tale (another side note: but not mine), a flip book in which the story remains the same, only the faces change. But for now, there is only an awkward pause, and an unfinished story.
'Has anyone ever told you that you have a beautiful smile?' He wonders aloud, and I blush on cue.
Flash dimple. Look away. Smile. Repeat.
Over a period of time, it's going to be my classic move, practiced and perfected over subsequent meetings. But for now, I am a beginner at best, and his words move me.
'Are you okay missing the World Cup?' I ask him, as he guzzles his third glass of beer - most of the country is glued to their television sets right now, as we are glued to our tumblers of beer. (Another side note: I am on my fourth, but it feels like my ninth. Side note: After the third, every glass feels like the ninth. Unless it's the tenth.) Everything aside, we are a week away from winning the cricket championship, but like most other things, we don't know it yet.
He tells me that he doesn't follow cricket - that's a gay stereotype he doesn't mind conforming to - and that he'd rather watch me, than watch a match. Ding Ding Ding. We've got ourselves a keeper.
We smile at each other, while our feet are engaged in a deep conversation under the table. I look at him 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, and most importantly, he likes me. Is he steps away from being the human rendition of Taylor Swift's highly dubious 'You Belong With Me'?
Over a period of time, I find out that he also likes girls.