A crisp November night. The by-lanes of Juhu smell of motor oil, imitation perfume and unbound opportunities for struggling actors.
I meet him for a coffee at a second-world swanky café in the suburbs. He arrives, all nervous and a thousand apologies. I shake them off like I shake him off as soon as I meet him - stubbing my cigarette and my smile. One, he is slightly shorter than I would like him to be, and slightly happier too. I don't have the heart to tell him I love my men broodier, sulking into their coffees one minute and writing dark sonnets the other. He has a free-spirited way of carrying himself and he moves around as he talks, like a trapeze artist at the circus, without the lithe seductive body. The aloofness unnerves me (the lack of said lithe, seductive body notwithstanding) and so does his choice of footwear. Crocs, dark brown, like the colour of my current mood.
"I don't have the heart to tell him I love my men broodier, sulking into their coffees one minute and writing dark sonnets the other."
In his late thirties, the man writes scripts for plays and musicals, like most gay men in their late-thirties do, and occasionally reviews theatrics for an upper crust news periodical. Wait. Is it only me, or is he reviewing me too?
We order our coffee with the barista, a thin man with a cute face and a forgettable name - or was it the other way around? A double espresso with a side of sleepless night for the playwright. A tall Americano with no substance for me. He's midway between penning a political thriller for the stage, and creating an adaption of the Lion King for a boys-only boarding school up in the north. It's all very difficult when he doesn't belong to the city, he says to me. I don't have the heart to tell him that I don't belong in this conversation. Where's home? I ask him, politely. My Americano is only half-empty.
He's from Shillong, but he's hasn't been home in the past three years. He likes to flit from city to city, like I flit from boy to boy, but I don't have the heart to tell him that either. Now he stays with an erstwhile theatre critic who doesn't question his preferences of coffee, or his preferences in bed. He likes the city though, and wouldn't mind calling it his base forever - it's got enough to be written about, and still not seem like you've read it before. I don't have the heart to tell him about the strong sense of déjà vu I feel that very moment. As we inhale our coffees, he tells me how the city works, and I realize how he does.
"Side note: never wear lime green shorts to a date. Side note to side note: never wear lime green shorts ever. Period."
He's talking about homosexual norms, and I coolly tell him I don't conform to them: I watch the occasional cricket match, and drink beer by the pitcher. His eyes slide over my lime green shorts. Side note: never wear lime green shorts to a date. Side note to side note: never wear lime green shorts ever. Period.
We don't even get to my leather satchel bag and before we know it, we are already outside on the curb. His eyes twinkle away in the deep velvety night, but they don't create constellations with mine. He reaches for my hand, and I reach for my walls. It's the moment of truth - when he leans in for a kiss, and I kiss him back even if I don't want to.
'Would you like to -' he hesitates, 'write something with me?'
That's an odd question. I push my walls slightly lower.
I smile in the affirmative, and tell him I have a story with him in my mind. I don't have the heart to tell him that I plan to write the script for how we met later that night.