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Tuesday, December 26, 2006



The key to good flirting is confidence. If you have that, even the corniest of pick up lines will not let you down. And of course, he knew it. He'd been doing this forever. He was a player. Keen and sharp, with a seductive smile on his lips that all the candidates who met him here for coffee would ache to reach over and kiss, but would hold themselves just back. He knew how he did it, even though they didn't. This was his place. He thought of himself as a decadent Austin Powers and this place as his mojo den.

For all intents and purposes - other than his - the place was a coffee shop.

Amber glow and warm liquids and friendly voices, and he would conduct his interviews here. One by one, day by day, evening by evening, over cups of coffee that ranged from lattes to mochas to the cheaper 'house specials' that the barista knew he would ask for. A grin, a wink, a polite "And what will you have? These guys make great coffee", and they would be hooked.

But of course, it would depend on him, whether he would reel them in or not.

He was finicky. Not in the sense that snooty people are. His detractors and friends always said that he slept with anything that walked. He would smile and agree. He was a player. If he played you right, and you responded to some degree, he would be equally hooked. After the three hours or so it took to satiate him, he would ask you ever so politely to leave his apartment, just a block away from the amber coloured coffee shop. And his chemistry was such that, you would probably call or sms him a couple of days later, asking for a rematch, even though you knew he was never the kind who repeated his tricks.

So he would make it a point to reach the coffee shop fifteen minutes before the appointed time, and settle into his chair, the table which overlooked the road outside, and grin at the barista for his usual - a cheaper 'special' to tide him over till his trick arrived. Sometimes, he would run his eyes over the rest of people in the store, and if he saw a specimen that turned him on, he would stare fixedly, till the object of his gaze would look up, and he would smile. Just like that. Sometimes it helped to fix another date for the next day. Sometimes, it would result in nothing at all. But that was ok. He was familiar with the rules of the game.

Rule One was that nobody wins all the time. There's no such thing as a perfect run, and he was game for that. He was game for the thrill of wondering whether he would win or not. And if he lost, he never took it to heart. Because he knew, in another day, week, month or year, he would be back in front of the game, he would smile in a new avatar, and the game might not be that resilient. Sometimes, he loved the fact that his friends thought he was terribly cold. For his part, he couldn't understand how they could be so... restrictive.

There was the first candidate, and his eyes would grin at him. He would make a mental note and approve of the open shirt, the speck of tanned skin at the neck that looked amazingly delicious. He would move his hand forward and touch a forearm in a pretense to get at the sugar packets. They would laugh, and he would move his chair in closer. The joke would be silly. Something about how dumb the hero of the latest Bollywood flick looked while performing his Spiderman moves, but there would be something terribly charming about how the player made his move that made the game laugh. And blush, when the player made his own pleasure boldly apparent.

Rule Two was that everyone likes being flattered on a date. That's the easiest way to get them to take off their clothes.


But then clothes are terribly over-rated, she thought, smiling at the prey sitting opposite her, trying not to look at the horrendous zebra print shirt. It's what I want underneath the clothes that’s important, she giggled to herself in a fit of girly sluttishness, and flushed a bit in a move that was calculated to get the prey feeling a tad hot in the air-conditioned coffee shop.

Clothes are terribly over-rated in the sense that she never bothered to dress up too much for her tricks. She was meeting them evening after evening, coffee after coffee, because she wanted to, and a girl can't get dressed up all the time, she reasoned. So she would walk over from her office which was a short walk away from the coffee shop, play with her hair, undo the jacket, apply some brief gloss, and she would be perfect. It was the way she handled herself. The confidence, the poise, the combination of good girl and bad girl that made men turn their heads when she walked by. The elan when she crossed her legs, when she arrived at the coffee shop fifteen minutes before the appointed time, at her favourite table that was closest to the barista's counter. That way, she could look clearly at everyone who entered the store, and she could amuse herself by flirting with the barista in the meantime. They played a game, she and the barista: he would pretend to know her name, and she would pretend to give it to him, but of course she would change it every day he asked her. She wondered briefly, when she saw the barista flush and dimple, whether she should get a trick with him sometime, but then abandoned the idea: it would unnecessarily complicate matters.

Rule Three was that a player's arena must be a neutral zone. The player cannot toy with any of the original elements therein, as that would lead to complications. The perfect playing ground is hard to find - it can't be too empty or too full or too remote or too prominent or too dim or too lit up or too open or too closed - and once a player finds his or her ground, the player tries not to fuck it up by messing around with the neutral elements.

So she would flirt with the barista, smile at him, touch his wrist when he would serve her coffee, but then never look at him afterwards, be suitably sweet when paying the bill but always leaving a tip and never giving him the opportunity to ask her out.

The flirting had additional advantages. If her Trick Of The Day was a good candidate - good shoes, great clothes, great smile, good build, no bad breath, with a car and a place where they could be uninterrupted for two hours - a brief flirting usually got them further intrigued. Men love slutty women. Men love to have sex with slutty women. And she used that to her advantage. The idea was to be a classy slut. The idea was to smile just so that her trick would think, she's going out of my hand right now, if I don't take her for a drive in my Merc right now, buy her flowers, and o god I want that ass! And the flirting was a great diversion in case the trick turned out to be disappointing and she had to ditch him: the server is my boyfriend, and I didn’t think he’d be working today but he is, so it's best that you leave right now or he'll smash your brain to a pulp.

Rule Four was that there is nothing like the hint of competition to get a man exceedingly horny or exceedingly scared.


But of course he had noticed her for a long time now. Sometimes, when he would come in early and survey the crowd, and there she would be sitting, legs crossed, flirting with the barista, and he would smirk to himself before looking out the window again to search out his game. Sometimes, while talking to his game, his eyes would linger on her, where she sat, and they would appreciate her long tanned legs, and the stilettos that seemed to make his heart beat faster. He would smile absentmindedly, especially if his game for the day was boring, demented or just ugly, and somehow, looking at her with her tricks, he would be inspired to come up with great excuses to dump his depressing game.

My boss just called, there's an important contract I have to prepare back at the office.

This coffee tastes like shit, I think I'm going to be sick now.

Do you mind if I visit the loo?

I'm feeling hungry. I think maybe I should ditch coffee and have lunch. You've already eaten, right?

My flatmate is locked out of the apartment and is waiting for me to go and let him in right now.

That was my mum on the phone - we have unexpected (but important) guests at home, and I have to rush right now.

Rule Five was that you never looked too closely at a dumped trick's face when you made your excuse: you flailed your arms, looked a bit lost and disappointed, gathered your bag, paid your half of the bill, and rushed out. Pronto.

Of course, other than the great inspiration she provided him with, he didn't fail to notice that she was with a new trick every day at the coffee shop, and he would grin to himself. She's a player, like me, he would think, and he would feel something that was a weird combination of the sexual and the non-sexual titillate him. It was difficult to put his finger on it. And he would look at her. And her loser tricks. And her hot tricks. And he would go to bed with his hot game. And dump the lame ones.

Rule Six was that Darwin had it abso-fuckin-lutely right, and the Creationists have lousy missionary style sex.


Rule Seven was to make the tricks and games of the world think they're this Someone Special for the player, who can get the player to perform strange and profound acts of tenderness. Licking chocolate out of a fork, while doing so, usually helps.

So now, while her trick gaped at her and declared that experimenting and free sex were definitely the order of the day, week, month and year, she leant back onto her chair, uncrossed and recrossed her legs and smiled gratefully. He... understood her. He would also understand if she wanted another expensive frappe, wouldn't he?

Rule Eight was to make your move fast, she suddenly thought, when she stumbled on her heels, but was caught by the grip of the man who was coming over to the counter to ask for the cheque, and distinctly felt the fingers squeeze her lower back where they touched her. She knew it was the player, even before she turned around to thank him for catching her. She knew because she'd been noticing him for the past god knows how many days and weeks, and she'd known that his grip and his squeezing fingers would feel like that. She smiled to herself, and to him, when she saw the flicker and spark in his teeth and eyes when she turned around, and the rest happened like clockwork.

"Thank you. I'm fine now."

"You're very fine."

"That was - "

"- an insane compliment."

"I wanted coffee."

"Maybe you wanted more than that."

"What could I want?"

"I live nearby."

"Let's go."'

"I've paid."

And while his game and her trick remained seated at their tables, bewildered at the brief conversation at the barista’s counter, the two players strode out the glass doors.


"We should have made love like animals," she smiled, stretching herself, poking her long legs out of the printed coverlet on his bed.

"I always make love like an animal," he replied, as her fingers traced an absurd pattern on his chest.

"You have such curly hair here," she giggled, her player mode kicking back in, "I feel like I'm in a Mills & Boons novel here. Maybe you'll turn out to be a big hairy knight or something!"

"You already met the big hairy knight," he grinned, taking her hand down to his groin.

"Hairy, at any rate," she teased, squeezing him, and he started laughing now, too, letting go of her hand.

"I should be going now, anyhow. My boss will start missing me," she sighed, stepping out naked from underneath the coverlet.

He looked at her lithe body, as she stepped into her panties, and grinned again, "Is that your favourite excuse? I usually go for the Urgent Family Call!"

She laughed again, and threw one of the Hare Ram printed satin cushions strewn on the floor at him, which he ducked. "Did I tell you how much I love your place?"

"No, you were much too busy ripping my clothes off," he retorted, pulling his drawstrings on now.

"That's because I wanted to make love like an animal today. I was so completely in the mood," she sighed wistfully.

He rearranged the thrown cushion on the divan below the bed, and his eyes twinkled when he spoke, "You knew who I was, right? I mean... How could you not know... ?"

"O, I knew, all right," she nodded, grinning, and plopped down on the bed to step into her stilettos now, "But I just didn't care. I thought - there are sparks, so let's light them. And you thought the same - otherwise, you wouldn't have brought me here!"

The player nodded in turn, and kneeled at her feet. "I like you. There's chemistry."

"There’s chemistry," she agreed, "We're both sluts."

His smile broadened, "I love the way I am."

She ruffled his hair, "I love the way I am, too. So it's just perfect."

She got up now, picked up her handbag, and turned back, "But I really have to go now, and since you have my number and I have yours, let's catch up this Friday for drinks. I'll introduce you to this bunch of friends I'm going dancing with."

He grinned broadly and nodded happily, and she headed for the door. Looked back at him in his drawstring pants and ruffled curly hair, surrounded by his satin printed cushions, and beamed, "I love gay men!

posted by livinghigh 11:07 PM... 5 comments

Monday, August 21, 2006

Oleander Faye

Oleander Faye

His name was Oleander Faye, and he hated it when people called him Ollie, as they invariably did, in college. The name 'Ollie' conjured up images of a fat man with thinning black hair, hurrying to keep up with a tall, slender carrot-haired man called 'Larry' - something from the cartoon strips of Laurel and Hardy.

And Oleander was anything but fat or hurrying. True, his head was framed by jet-black hair of so fine a countenance that it seemed to be thinning, but this was purely because it was soft like silk, not threadbare like common cotton. His nose was long and piercing, jagged like a mountain eagles, and his eyes were a terrible pale ice blue. He was fair to look at - white, almost. His lips were pale pink, not the healthy brown-rose that other young men of his age possessed to kiss beautiful women. His skin was translucent, something like bone china, something that you would expect in someone with melanoma or some other skin disease. But Oleander was healthy, perfectly so, if you ignored his perennially bored countenance. He was someone you'd think was supercilious, and you tried to keep out of his way. Yet, you couldn't.

Oleander Faye had his admirers. The women swooned over him. They imagined all sorts of fanciful stories about him. He could be a Nordic prince brought up by foster parents, at the centre of some great European scandal. He could be the illegitimate son of an American President, being groomed to take his rightful political place. He could be a God among lesser mortals. When Oleander spoke in his precise, clipped words, the women held their breath. Surely some great work of significance would soon be revealed now, even as he spoke, even as his pale eyebrows furrowed, and the satin hair tousled over his icy eyes... surely, surely...

And the men swooned over him too. The hardiest ones called him a 'pansy' to his face. Pansy Ollie would sit for hours in the library. Pansy Ollie would wake up every morning at the crack of dawn and walk the grounds, stopping to smell the roses, making such a deep contrast: the crimson petals in the colourless hands of the pale young man with raven-black hair. Pansy Ollie would take a bath in the tub, his room mate would report, and the boys sniggered at this. "Does he also use scented candles, Pete?" And Pete would oblige, "Green apple." So, sometimes, Pansy Ollie would be called Fruity Ollie. But despite the taunts and the sniggers, there were those incidents. When the star gymnast went over to Oleander sitting on the courtyard to ask him about the correct flight angle, and then rub his crotch against Oleander's palm. When Oleander would walk through the library and the Head Boy would instruct him to climb the ladder to fetch him a useless book, so that Oleander's shirt would rise, and as he would alight, the Head Boy's hands would squeeze his ass surreptitiously. When Oleander would walk through the tall arches, and two unknown footsteps followed him, asking him whether he wanted some hot black cock inside him, and Oleander would walk ahead faster, slightly flustered even though he would never admit to it. He would never admit to it, even now, five years later, lying as he was, naked in the bathtub, his fine head resting against the white marble, eyes half-closed, talking to his reflection in the mirror at the far end of the cavernous room.

"This is a medieval setting," his reflection spoke up, in tones as precise and clipped as Oleander's own. "Would you like to die here?"

"Not at all," Oleander murmured dreamily. Now that his reflection was doing the talking, he could be the elegant, sensible one, he reasoned: too much pressure to keep on the beautiful display at all times. "No, I'd like to make lover here, not die."

The reflection giggled. "With who? That Latino boy? He's not half as pretty as you would like to think he is."

Oleander Faye sighed again, a simple exhalation of breath. "Carlos doesn't need to be pretty. I love him. That's all he needs to be - Carlos."

All of it seemed so surreal, even though it had happened just the night before. They were out on a date, surreal Oleander Faye and earthy Carlos Santanna, a walk to the Indian restaurant around the corner. Takeaway didn't seem very romantic the day after, while lolling in the bath tub, but that time, it had. That time, all that mattered was Carlos' strength, the aggressive way he extended his hand to touch Oleander's, the disarming way he smiled (Oleander Faye never smiled, for all his perfection, never showed his teeth, for it would be too much beauty for the world to take), and Carlos talking, talking, talking, the movement of his lips, dark crimson lips that surged and that Oleander had been lusting after all night.

"He was a good kisser, wasn't he, you little tart?" the reflection squealed cheekily. Was that a blush on its pale face?

Oleander Faye allowed himself the cliched gesture of touching his own lips, in the memory of his past night's lover's kiss.

"Was he as good as the two boys on the football team?" The reflection squeaked again, saucily, mighty happy at the recollection of that event five years ago.

An usual event. Oleander Faye, the beautiful boy, walking home from the library, had been caught by the two husky boys. They teased him, told him to walk with them, pinched at his nipples, patted his arse, and Oleander gave only a token resistance. They pulled him below one of the darkest arches, behind one of the broadest columns, and there Oleander Faye shut his eyes tight, as they undressed him and then went back to their dormitory an hour later to brag that they had 'buggered Pansy Ollie'. Oleander had hurriedly dressed himself later and limped back to his own room, but was not able to deny to himself how excited he had been, how flushed, how aroused, as the huskies brought him down his knees.

"We shall not talk about that," Oleander said sharply now, to the dancing image in the mirror of the cavernous room which contained the bathtub.

The imp kept silent. He knew he had hit a raw nerve. But before he could say anything else, Oleander Faye remarked, "You're not being either very elegant or sensible, you twit. Tell me what they think when they come here."

And the mirror smiled in joy. This was how even Perfection needed to be sure of itself, he laughed. This was how even beautiful, beautiful Oleander Faye needed to know what his tricks thought of him, when he brought them home, when they washed up after the deed was done, or when they were cleaning up peremptorily before going into the next room to Oleander. The reflection held all the secrets, and Oleander wished he could know everything beforehand, but nevertheless, this would suffice: this ritual of floating in the tub and listening to the monster in the mirror talk.

So there was the married Wall Street lawyer who took his Armani off, thinking to himself that if he let it be, the faggot waiting to blow him outside would rip it to shreds. There was the needy charlatan from downtown, who pretended to hold the key to Oleander's sleeplessness with the white powder in his pockets, and who rubbed his palms in glee, not quite believing his luck at netting such a pretty boy customer. There was the bald bear from the pub around the corner who was wondering which ropes to use and how long to tie up his prey, before leaving the flat with all his money - not that there would be much of that, in this dump. There was the old man who wished that, as innocent as Oleander's face was, it would look younger so that he resembled his eleven year old grandson who he liked to fuck sometimes, dropping in to say 'good night'. There was the serial sleep-over who went about his task of washing his face in cold water with ice-cold precision, keeping his thoughts at bay, focused only on going out to fuck the pale raven-haired boy and never seeing his face ever again.

But then Oleander Faye knew all that and didn't want to hear about them. He said, instead -

"Tell me about Carlos."

The imp bowed his head.

"Does he care?"

The imp shrugged.

"Can he love?"

These were difficult questions, all of them, and the reflection in the far mirror was perplexed. Water splattered from the tub onto the earthy floor. Oleander Faye was getting impatient. Faye means 'fairy'. The golden fairy boy was getting impatient.

"Will he love?"

And the imp considered the demand. Carlos Santanna was the seventh son to Puorto Rican immigrants who had come over with not much more than the faded coats on their back. He had met Oleander Faye while coming back in the train. He had smiled at the pale beautiful boy, and Oleander her been surprised - who was this big, brawny Indian-looking guy smiling at? Me? And Carlos had walked over. With an open, inviting smile that Oleander Faye regarded supremely dangerous. But the more Oleander Faye moved away, the harder Carlos Santanna pushed forward. He would wait at the train station till Oleander would show up. He would come over to him to say 'hello'. He would never directly proposition him, no, he would wait to be propositioned. And that left Oleander Faye distraught. No one had ever counted on him pursuing the other party. Oleander Faye was always done to - approached, picked up, raped, fucked, dumped. This expectation of action from him was something new, that he was unsure of. But he was curious, despite himself. So, the day after the incident with the ice-cold serial sleep-over who'd wanted to inject him with HIV, Oleander Faye brushed his hair-to-be-swooned-at, slipped on his clean pair of jeans and a vest, zipped up his boots, and went to the train station, when Carlos Santanna stood, grinning at him. And he went over to Carlos, hugged him, and asked him to love him. Carlos was moved: he had not expected Oleander Faye to come to this. So he took him home from the Indian restaurant, undressed him till he was stark naked, put him to bed, and covered him with the moss-green blanket that Oleander never used. When Oleander pulled onto his hand and asked him to fuck him, Carlos ran his hand over Oleander's feverish forehead and told him to sleep.

Oleander Faye slept.

But when, the next day, Oleander Faye - who was the cause of swooning summer madness in girls when he was in college, who had been fucked by the entire football team, who was known in London's gay circles as one of the easiest lays of all, and who had narrowly escaped being injected with an HIV positive needle, - when he, Oleander Faye, dipped his tired body in a tubful of warm water that overflowed and splattered onto an ancient earth floor, and asked his mirror the question that held the key to his soul, the mirror's imp shook its head and vanished away into the depths of silent, secretive glass.

"Will he love?" Oleander Faye wept again.

And then he whispered, when he heard no answer - "I have so much to give. So much to give..."

posted by livinghigh 12:54 AM... 3 comments

Sunday, June 25, 2006

The Dancer in Paradise

The Dancer in Paradise

Dancing in the room, with the lights dimmed, and I feel happy. Your hands are holding onto me, holding me against you, and I can't help but sigh at the entire way this whole episode is turning out to be. We met yesterday, over a coffee shop, and tonight, we're dancing in my apartment. We spoke about Suketu Mehta yesterday, and his book, and today the conversation had nothing to do with books really. We hardly spoke today. Just looked into each other's eyes, and I knew you wanted to come home with me.

God knows I wanted to let you in.


"He's actually my uncle," you said, and I turned around at the comment. You were goodlooking, quite goodlooking, I thought, that was my first impression. Also, a smartass for venturing your opinion where none had been asked for, and I let you know that.

"I'm sorry, do I know you?" I replied, steely voice in tow.

Your divine smile did the trick. And you said, "No, no you don't. And I'm sorry for butting in. It's just that I'm awfully proud of the fact that he's my uncle. Believe me, no one gets more embarassed than him, when I act this way. Awfully sorry."

Of course I had to relent to that. The entire package was there. The grin, the elfen ears, that excessively long nose that I suddenly longed to reach out and squeeze, and I grinned back, "It's quite alright. I'm sorry if I appeared rude. He's really a great author. It's a great book. You should feel proud."

I loved the way you beamed. As if you'd earned a medal from me at that very instant. Was I being mad, I thought, but then you said - "Thanks a bunch. Let me make it up to you for the interruption. Can I get you a cup of coffee at the store here?"

And, I don't know what compelled me, I said 'yes'.


It all came out. You're the great author's nephew and live in the States with him. Here down for three weeks, and you'll be in Sri Lanka for a week in between. New to Bombay. "Well then, I must show you around," I jumped up to exclaim, and simultaneously rap myself sharply inside my head for doing so.

"That would be great," you beamed, and suddenly I couldn't resist. A date was set. A ferry ride to Elephanta. It helped that I've quit my job and on a break for some time. There's so much time to kill. Elephanta will be good. And dinner afterwards.

I decided to try my luck at dinner, because you're looking so delicious: "Do you dance?"

And that's when you grin, wink at me and reply: "I'm a dance teacher."


Salsa. The twist. The hustle. Lambada. The tango. Cheek to cheek, then. And finally, lip to lip. I'm hooked.

Hurried phone calls to friends follow the next day, and advice pours forth. "He's here only for another week. Then he's going away to Sri Lanka. He's not going to call you again after that. Just enjoy the passion now. Nothing more."

A scowl on my face. Why on earth won't I believe my friends? "What if it's more? What if...?"

"It's not more," chimes in friend no 2. "They come and they go. Non resident idiots are fun to screw. Screw him and get over it. Nothing more. Don't screw yourself like this now."

Reason shines through, and fights with the heartstrings. But... "He dances divinely."

"He'll dance right out of your life," comes the reply, fast as lightning, I'm not sure from which one.


A week goes by terribly fast. Terribly. Fast. And we find ourselves on the dance floor again, talking about everything but books and uncles. "What's Sri Lanka like?" I ask, in a whimper, not really wanting to know.

"Heaven." A pause, and then - "What's Bombay like?"

I'm puzzled, and don't reply, but then he does, for me - "It's paradise. Because it has you."

He'll dance right out of your life, I think, and grin at him through a steel heart. "You're glib."

"I'm honest," he replies, and I wish he would beam now. I want him to laugh and talk nonstop the way he usually does, about dance and books and travel and other things that don't matter, anything that won't make me look at him, like this, and wish I could reach up and squeeze his nose and stroke his ears, something which I don't trust myself at all to do... Ninny, I call myself, and wonder why it took so little time, such little effort. And then, I make up my mind, and tell him, "No, you're glib."

He looks slightly pained for an instant, but then the smile comes back on his face. He grins and kisses my ear, and I shudder at his hot breath. They're playing some delicious tango tune, and he holds my waist firmly, and pulls me closer to him. I'm grateful for that, grateful that he will take me to dance with him and then to bed later, so that we can forego this silly talk which drives me crazy, so that I can forget that he's leaving for his week-long trip to Sri Lanka tomorrow and that I will probably never see him again. Jumble of thoughts destroyed thankfully by the jumble of body movements as we twirl on the dance floor, but then he whispers into my ears as the final crescendo starts... "Hold on... you'll see..."


My friends have been angels. I've been thinking of you every day. Talking about you to them, and they've been patient enough to bear me prattle on. A week-long romance. I must be going mad. Or juvenile. But it seems so important to me, and I don't know why. A week full of dance and desire, a week full of absence and wondering whether you'll come back or not. And finally, it's over. "You're glib," I tell an imaginary him, whispering, while I fold the clothes fresh from the laundromat.

There was the episode when we went to Marine Drive together for a pizza, and got stuck in the rain. "I hate the rain!" you sputtered, hiding under the store awning, while I shrieked in glee. I'm a child in the rain.

"You're crazy!" I yelled back, nose dripping water, and hugged you, getting you wet. I think you were in two minds, whether to push my wet body away or hold on, but I didn't give you a chance. "And I'm demented!"

You started laughing now, and grabbed me in, away from the torrents now, "Are you always going to be this mad?"

I nodded my head vigorously: "Getting second thoughts?"

And you pecked my cheek, even as I tugged on your nose, "Not even if I tried!"

Bombay rains make me decidedly mad, I've decided, more than a week later, as I fold clothes on the bed. Friends are right, and lovers rarely are. Screw them, don't let them screw your head: the cardinal rule of a fling, and I.. and I flung it out of the window. I hate Sri Lanka now. I'm never going to go there, I decide, like a child.

The doorbell rings, and it must be friends 1 and 2 with the pizza. Pizza and sobby love stories for a rainy evening, that's my life. Thank god my new job begins from tomorrow.

And there you are. Dishevelled. Smiling. A big nose and elfen ears. Smiling. "I'm back... and it's Paradise again."

I stand there at the door, looking at you. Red bags and black jacket, dripping wet in the rain. I step back, and walk over to the stereo and switch on the CD which I haven't removed in a week's time. "Just in time for a dance," I smile, as your hands encircle my waist.

posted by livinghigh 10:33 PM... 1 comments

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Giving the boot

Giving the boot

"These boots were made for walking, and that's just what they'll do. One of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you," she crooned in the radio, and you had to grin, imagining that blonde temptress in her tiny denim shorts, frayed suitably so that strands of blue fabric strayed over her smooth cream skin.

"And what about the boots?" Sid asks, smiling at me. He's amused at something.

What about them? I ask back, a bit irritated at the grin in his voice. Sid has a way of standing up and saying something that makes you think you're being silly. The really irritating part is that nine times out of ten, he's right.

"Well," he says, the infernal idiot, stretching up to his feet, yawning and crisscrossing his legs, long long long legs, and settling back into the lazy couch, hugging the pillow closer, but that silly smile of his remains the same, "The song is about the boots after all. So maybe, after all that beautiful theorizing about the blonde's denim shorts and creamy thighs, you could spare a thought about what the boots are like."

Appy titters. "Moron," she coughs aloud, and I'm inclined to agree. Nancy Sinatra had weightier topics on her mind when she was singing Boots, I'm sure, than boots themselves. Appy's inclined to agree, mind reader that she is, and says so: "I’m sure that Nancy Sinatra had weightier topics on her mind when she was singing Boots, than boots themselves!..." The problem is, I often suspect Appy of sarcasm, and she often happily admits to the crime. So that's why I look at her askance now, not very thrilled at her backing, as I would be perhaps, if Archie had said the same thing.

But Archie says: "You guys are nuts. That's Jessica Simpson singing that stupid song, for god's sake, and not Nancy. Was Nancy even blonde? She was brunette, na?"

Archie's the practical one. The one who peers at the world from behind shades of grey and black and white, not too many colours like me, who's perpetually on the run after rainbows... and boots now, I suppose. Archie's not very impressed with either Jessica Simpson or Nancy Sinatra.

The other two, however, have vested interests, and I can't trust either. Sid has a crush on Nick Whatshisname, Jessica Simpson's ex, and that's why he can’t stand thoughts about the blonde or her frayed denim jeans. And Appy swoons every time she hears Frank Sinatra sing The Way You Look Tonight. She's seen the last scene of You've Got Mail only a gadzillion times, the rose garden where Meg Ryan sees Tom Hanks come through with his dog, and that's when you have the score in the background, love wrinkling noses and foolish hearts being touched in lovely ways. And Appy never fails to sigh in heartfelt angst when she sees that scene. It's enough to make Archie go 'O pleeeeeezzze!' in a most pitiful way.

"All of you are complete philistines, I swear. What's important is the tone. The boots are secondary. That's why you don't have to think of them all the time, Sid. It's the woman you're supposed to be looking at." And in cue to my words, Appy throws another pillow towards Sid. But that's when I decide to take Appy the Sap head-on, and charge at her next: "And honestly, Jessica's version is much better than Nancy's. Nancy was hardly as sexy! I mean, have you guys seen the video? There's this hot chick in an old Western saloon, in these tiny shorts and high knee length boots, hitting guys and dancing on table tops. It's a complete male fantasy come true. It’s all about kink and sex. Nancy doesn’t even come close!"

Appy's sputtering now so much that she can't respond to that one, and that's when Archie pushes her glasses back higher up the bridge of her nose, and says in her Sigmund Freud voice: "So, you never told us that you have S&M fantasies. Do you like rough sex?"

Sid hoots in laughter and I get a pillow thrown at my face. I'm not very amused. Before I can retaliate, however, Archie drones on: "The video has Jessica dancing in the saloon, causing all the guys to hit each other - a brawl, in fact. And then, in the middle of it all, Jessica and her dancers are gyrating and touching each other erotically and all the men pipe down after they see that. That kind of stuff actually perpetuates several myths about male heterosexuality - most importantly, the fact that heterosexual men get turned on by seeing women touch each other and themselves. It's remarkable how grown men will fight to compete for the affections of a woman, but will immediately be 'good' and sit down to watch if the woman in question starts making out with other women in leather and boots. So basically, heterosexual men are in love with the entire S&M fantasy, however much they go blue in the face denying it."

Appy, mutters to herself: "I like S&M. I like kinky."

Part of me is listening to what Appy said, and feels happy cuz she's really hot and sexy, but the other part of me is distracted by Sid the Fag’s sudden outburst: "Straight men are morons! They run after chicks canoodling themselves and can't stand it if gay men do it! Double standards! EFFing double standards!"

Archie sighs in heartfelt approval and I want to tell them both to go fuck themselves. The fag who doesn't go two days without getting laid and the dowdy hag who's not got laid in years. Talk about strange bedfellows! I'm about to say something mean which I would probably regret later, but am saved when Appy croons almost to herself, "I hope Frank Sinatra wasn't gay. Do you think he was, Sid?"

Sid sighs happily, and chirps in, his Homosexual Pride abated for sometime, "I have no idea. Dapper dude, though. I wouldn't be surprised. It would be so cool, if all those mafia guys in 1920s America were gay!"

Archie sighs again, pained at the misrepresentation of the Capones and says, "You have your decades severely mixed up, Sid. I suggest you stick to lusting after Nick Whatshisname and leave Frank for the Sap Bowl there."

And that's when Sid sticks his tongue out to Archie and me, and quotes from a very unlikely source: "These boots were made for walking, and that's just what they'll do. One of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you!"

posted by livinghigh 11:12 AM... 2 comments

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

When Harry met Sally and I

When Harry met Sally and I

I always thought it was a matter of common courtesy to not smoke in front of non-smokers, or at the least, to ask their permission before doing so. As it turns out, it was fallacy on my part to think so. So, I sit here, wedged between Harry and Sally on the park bench, as they puff away to glory and I crinkle my nose.

It's always been like this. For the five years that we've known each other, it's always been like this. Harry and Sally and me, the token Non-Chimney, to complete the pack.

Sally's real name is Sharmishta, and she's still in love with her old boyfriend, the one who dumped her to marry a Monica or a Kelly, or one of the other Makapao women who live and work in Bandra. Harry and I call her Sally, though, because of her penchant for falling in love with Christian boys. Glenn was her first love, the one she lost her virginity to, on his huge blue couch in his sea-facing apartment on Carter Road. Glenn was perfect, she used to tell us, young and dashing ad executive who made it big quite by chance, when the boss noticed his layout on the desk while passing by, and the climb came quickly after that. Sally and Glenn met at a bookstore, as they both reached for Love in the Time of Cholera, and were smitten.

But today, he's dumped her, and married Diana. Or was it Monica? Today, Sally's sitting on the park bench with me and Harry, smoking her Gold Flakes Light because she's thinking about the cute boy called Aaron whom she met in the yahoo chatroom at work. She's furrowing her brows and thinking hard because she's wondering why Aaron seems so interested even though she weighs 77 kilos. But maybe, he's a nice guy, she tells herself, maybe he's not as shallow as Harry.

Harry's parents named him Haresh. But he found his new name, Harry, in the course of a sojourn in a gay chatroom. In a gay chatroom, Harry would explain to us, no one ever uses his (very few hers) real name. There would be several Rahuls there, an umpteen number of Sameers, and quite a few Sahils as well. The trick, Harry explained, was to choose a name that sounded friendly enough, fake enough, and definitely not complicated. No one would ever want to sleep with a Haresh, but a Harry definitely gave the impression of a cute Anglo stud.

Of course, Harry had met Sally's Glenn briefly during the time they were still going strong, and he felt strangely vindicated now after the end of the affair in his initial assessment that Glenn was a 'fart-face'. Harry liked to tell himself (and others) that he could read people. I, he said, was a pushover. Sally, by the same mystic art, was a sucker for pain. And Harry, the two of us concluded, was a flake.

But the thing he said about me being a pushover is not completely untrue. I'm an ordinary guy, really, and I find myself in a very ordinary place. It's strange how those ideas of being this famous writer died down. Ashes to ashes, and all that jazz. My dad told me that a chartered accountancy was the best way forward, and since none of my stuff was getting published anywhere, I had no other viable alternative to show him. I spent five years and finally became a CA. That actually sounds pretty cool to say, but not when I see Harry, who stuck to his guns, stood up to his dad and is the lead guitar in a music band today, or when I see Sally, who's writing feature stories for one of the city's leading tabloids. O, yes, they bitch about their jobs same as I do, whenever we sit on the park bench, but that's just natural, or they're just being ingrates - you can look at it in whichever light you want.

The park lies in the centre of this little square patch of green grass, surrounded by the shining glass towers and concrete buildings where we work. All three of us. Sally's newspaper has its offices on the first and second floors of Highway Towers A Wing; Harry's band usually comes to the little studio behind Highway Towers D Wing, and my firm occupies half the fifth floor in Sunrise Towers II. The complex is called Sunrise Complex, by the way, which used to be the Sunrise Mills ten years ago, but none of us who come here every day, six days a week, really care about what the mill was like, what they made, or where the old workers have gone. That's just reality here in Lower Parel. Hell, people need crummy music bands, tabloids and chartered accountants more than they need parchy old cloth, right?

I hate sermonizing, by the way. That makes me wonder why I like Harry, actually. He's got issues. All gay men have issues, he tells me, and I must learn to deal with them. You're the only gay man I know, I tell him, and I actually wouldn't have minded if you'd never come out to me at all, you know. To which, he arches his eyebrows in what I call the diva queen mode, and sniffs. Of course, Sally has to take his side here, even though she bitches about him to me when he's not there. I get quite fed up with the two of them at times - it would be such sweet and divine vengeance if Harry decided he wasn't gay one day, and the two of them got married.

Haresh weds Sharmishta. Invite for one.

It's actually funny how similar the two of them are. Like the fact that they both ignore my glum face when they smoke right next to me. I'm dying of cancer here, but no, they need their stupid joints. And then, they're both drama queens. When Sally got her heart trampled upon by Steven from Hill Road, she told Harry first, and the two of them went to Cafe Mocha, within sight of Steven's house, and drank wine and ate chocolate fiesta, and tried to get over him. Harry falls for most of the guys Sally dates, and in a way, it's his heart that gets broken too, when she gets dumped. Me? I’m the one who has to drive down to pick up the two drunken sods from Mocha and drop them home.

But Sally's not exactly sure why she fell for Steven. Not after what Glenn from Carter Road did to her. Her parents are quite scandalized about their daughter's liaisons with Catholic boys, and have asked her not to have anything to do with them. Also Muslims. Parsis, definitely: they're sickly. Sikhs are very domineering, they tell Sally, and so a Sikh boy is out for her own good. Any nice Hindu boy is fine. Unfortunately for them, Sally is not as rigid as they would like her to be. She's a girl who likes the idea of love, is in love with that idea herself, and is quite willing to believe that there exists someone who will fall head over heels in love with her, just as she will do the same for him. She's not stupid in matters of love, mind you, just gullible, and in a way, that's much, much worse.

It had been beautiful with Glenn, of course. Glenn and the blue couch facing the ocean, on which they'd made love. When his face was lower, burrowed between her breasts, she would sigh, and look out at the blue-green expanse of sea and tell herself how lucky she was to have found the love of her life. When Glenn told her casually that he wasn't in love with her anymore, on that same blue couch facing the sea, she smiled back her bitter tears and told him to go to hell. She prays regularly, you know.

No one could ever accuse Harry of being in love with the idea of love anymore, though. Like all men who discover they're gay relatively early in life, Harry had had his heart broken a couple of times in quick succession by older men who needed a quick screw(driver). Harry was able and more than willing. And since then, he's come to the conclusion that love is what you make of it. He's not running after love anymore, but is willing to wait for it. He's built a reputation for himself in the gay circles of this world called Bombay, and is pretty much satisfied at the whole deal. Sally and I keep telling him to be safe and make sure to use a condom every time, and that's probably the only time Sermonising Diva Harry shuts up and listens to us.

He calls us his fairy godmothers, and I'm the chief in that line, by virtue of being his flat-mate. I'm the one witness to the succession of young men, old men, bald men, hairy men, swarthy men, boyish men, fat men, thin men that he brings in almost every other day, and I must confess that I'm quite jealous of his bloody-active sex life. Gay men have sex a lot, I told him one evening morosely, after a certain Dick or Tom had just departed, and he nodded, agreeing. You don't have to try hard at all, I observed again, quite sad at the extra effort I had to put in every time I needed to have sex. Harry nodded again, lighting an infernal cigarette now, and replied, That's true, but that's why we never have relationships. It's so much fun having just sex, no?

Try telling that to Sally, I replied, and he chuckled.

Perhaps, that's what Ritika tries, when she's ever here. It's so much fun just meeting and being there for each other and shagging sometimes (once in the month she's here), than actually getting into marriage or an engagement or something silly of that sort, Vishnu, and when she says or does things that seem to suggest this is what she’s thinking, I can't help but feel that maybe my life is an acute waste. Harry doesn't like Ritika (She's doing the quarterback, he proclaimed once, looking at a picture she'd sent me, of her with the Northwestern University football team) and it took all of my self control to not smash his head in when he says something like that. Sally's very sweet and all about Ritika, but I don't think she likes her much, either.

I get the feeling that both Harry and Sally think I'm being a pushover for Ritika. Again.

So here are the arguments against Ritika: 1) She's studying in the US, so I see her once a year, and that too only for three weeks or so before she goes to Delhi to be with her parents; 2) She's bossy. So bossy; 3) She doesn’t put out easily. I have to literally beg her for sex when I see her, and I hate doing that. 4) She hasn't been calling me of late, and when I call, she hangs up within five minutes, saying she has to go out with Michael or Todd or Jonas. 5) She may be doing the quarterback. (His name is Michael, I think.)

But on the other hand, dumping Ritika will basically mean admitting that my life sucks. I'm twenty seven and I've had three relationships, and none of them worked out. Ritika and I have been seeing each other (well, not literally seeing, since she left for the States) for three years now. So I'm loath to let go of it. Harry says, I'm just waiting to get dumped. I've seen via Sally how horrid it is to be dumped, and I don't want to end up like that.

"I have to head back now," Sally says, stubbing her used ciggie on the ground under her feet, "Don't you boys have to go, too?"

I look at her curiously and then at my watch. Sally hates her boss, and she's the one who deliberately lengthens these afternoon park sessions. Harry asks, offhand, still puffing on the last vestiges of his cigarette, "What's the rush?"

"New project," Sally says, getting up on her feet, and I follow. "Something quite cool on gay rights and all that jazz. You want to help me out on this one? How about doing an interview or something?"

I find that funny, as Harry may be out to the whole world here in Bombay, but his parents in small town Ferozepur still think their son is a sweet natured entrepreneur who will return home someday to marry the next door neighbour's daughter, and I chortle at the thought of that. "Yea, why don't you mail a copy of the interview to Ferozepur, na?"

Harry flashes me an evil look that suggests he's going to put too much pepper in my food when he cooks dinner tonight and sighs, getting his ass off the bench. "Nopes. Will give ya numbers of some other guys you can chat to, though. On condition of anonymity, of course."

Sally brightens, and says, "Of course. Scout's honour."

"Your cheesy newspaper has those too?" Harry quips, but it's a lame one, as he hands her his cellphone which has the number of a 'friend' of his.

"So, how should I talk to this guy? I mean, does he like you? Have you... you know, done him and dumped him or something?"

"Actually, it might help, if you don't give him my name at all."

"That bad, eh?" and Harry shrugs.

"He's immature. What can I say?"



A shared grin. "And what are you?"

A shrug. "I'm Harry."

posted by livinghigh 3:53 PM... 12 comments

Talk nineteen to the dozen?
Child's play, really...


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