Twinkling blue lights, a long walk, the mind running myriad thoughts, the froth of hazelnut coffee, the whiff of beer, a faint smell of perfume, the touch, melancholic music, debating over the colour of a house, cooking, a book in hand, staring into nothingness, pacing heartbeat, a smile, staring at him, the revelation, the end. Patrick opened his eyes to close them again. There he stood listening, at the corner of his terrace, to the same song, trying to gather the weekend, string them event by event but they remained scattered. It was June and a day like today he recollected, the air was heavy with moisture and the dust swirled over the pavements and the streets, making and erasing patterns, attuned to the wind, heralding the arrival of the late monsoons. The rains had been erratic then and predicted to be so this year too. He wished away those thoughts but it was not possible. If only I could erase a part of my memory just like the movie, would my mind then attain an eternal sunshine, devoid of the snatches of memory I recollect and smile and then cry, Patrick wondered. The song ended and abruptly the thoughts gained momentum, they grew louder and hastily he played another song stifling his thoughts into a mumble. The sky was adorned with the same orange pink clouds floating against the navy black sky and few stars sometimes revealed themselves and sometimes hid behind the flotilla of clouds. A small aircraft so flew close to the terrace that he could effortlessly discern the silhouettes of people inside and the red and green twinkling lights. Twinkling blue lights! No sooner did the sound of the aircraft fade than he heard two speeding trains separated by twenty minutes cutting through the struggle of silence and sound. He found himself at the terrace each night hopelessly with an attempt to pacify his thoughts but they only aggravated, an inner turmoil of silence and sound. A sudden wind howled and he could see ghostly forms of clothes fluttering upon the terraces of the neighbourhood buildings. Ominously shaped yet mysteriously pattered grey and darker grey hued clouds intermingled with the orange and pink. A drop; more followed and the smell of dust floated gently. It would disperse soon, nothing is permanent, he signed heavily. The droplets gained momentum ending his rendezvous with the solitude of the sky.
It was more than a year and those vivid memories had bled the sharpness that defined them. Now they were hazy but refused to fade into nothingness. He recollected the lonely evenings at work staring at the bluish glow of his computer when the fluorescent lights were switched off by the dutiful in-charge save the one that lingered above him like a sad mist swallowing him into the whitish numbness. Everything seemed meaningless then and he could not be certain if some meaning had intruded upon his lonesome self over the course of time. He would walk over to the huge panes of glass overlooking the rows of buildings. He would walk back to his chair, stare at the blankness of the walls, unlock his computer and stare again. It was here that the last text message was received, a cruel one, one that kept pounding inside his realms of his head, precariously threatening to explode, after the revelation message he had sent. He could read the anger with which the last message had arrived, beeping on his phone and silencing it all. It was a Monday evening, he remembered, and the blues stretched over him through morning and evening, encasing him, invisible shackles that tethered him. Remorse, guilt, trepidation flooded him, drowned him and he struggled with all his might gasping for air but the world remained oblivious to his perturbed soul.
Being gay was the least palatable of all facts; Patrick would be hounded, cast away, reduced to insignificance, yet it hounded him to live a life of lies. He was no tightrope artist but he balanced himself dangerously on the breakable thread that barely connected the social definition of world and the alternative world of his tribe. Will the two worlds ever superimpose upon each other and if they ever did would that open the floodgates of ruin and usher in a devastative collision, his mind often ran amok with such thoughts. There was yet another truth he had to live with, a darker streak in his already dark life. A life of deceit and pretence, it snagged him. The counsellor, every session he remembered, always mentioned, it is alright. Did he really need the counselling sessions, he found it amusing and saddening at the same time. Before the sessions, he had always imagined the counsellor’s room to be a large one with French windows overlooking an expansive garden or shaded by trees, grey curtains, an armchair where each hapless victim sought counsel, the counsellor himself in a black waist coat and a grey beard, greying sideburns, round glasses sliding away from the bridge of his nose, the overcoat hanging carelessly, table strewn with papers, a green lampshade, a green potted plant. It had been an antipodal reality, a petite room in the basement of the hospital, no windows, no overcoat, no armchair, no grey beard. He barely remembered the counsellor uttering much except ‘it is alright’ and ‘it will be alright’ and so he chose to rather filter his thoughts.
Patrick had kept away his dark side from him, intending to tell him at the right time but fear. He remembered the calls before he met him culminating into the rendezvous. A date! It was one of the many social networking sites, mushrooming on the web over the years, spinning his tribesmen into a secret web of their own, where Patrick had chanced upon him. The customary ‘hello’, the compliments, the telephone number, the messages, the calls, the date. He called a number of times before they met and it surprised Patrick pleasantly. Harmless flirting, the many names he gave him, laughter echoing in the quietness of his office when he called; a merry tune reverberated inside him and he danced to the happy tune. Patrick was happy, ignorant. Was it a week or two before they met, he was not sure. But he distinctly remembered his growing displeasure for every time he suggested a cup of tea, Patrick had a number of reasons to prevent. Little did he know about the turbulence that shackled Patrick. It was the Friday evening, before the weekend they met, that he, raging with annoyance, mentioned he had enough of cajoling him and it was also the same Friday that Patrick relented. The annoyance evaporated and he in his charming sarcastic ways became his former self, flirtatious, humorous, chuckling with every silly remark. Patrick did not know what grooming meant but he wanted to be presentable to somebody for the first time in his life. A hair-cut, the navy blue tee that lies neglected underneath heaps of clothes now, a pair of wheat hued cotton trousers were what he chose to wear. He was anxious, happy, thrilled and waited upon him at the book-store near the coffee place he suggested. He ran his fingers over the spines of the rows of books aimlessly, occasionally checking his phone. Am I early or is he late? Should I go back and send an apology later was what he had been wondering that he called? He was there. Trepidation, happiness, fear exploded inside. There he stood at the corner in an old pair of jeans, a blue shirt, chic shoes the colour of which he does not remember, lips curving into what was a smile and yet not a smile, the short hair shorter on the sides against Patricks wavy hair that had not changed since his school days, the shapely stubble joined at the sideburns. Patrick had always been careless about his unkempt beard. He found shaving a terrible chore that could be avoided for weeks and now he felt strangely conscious as his eyes rested upon him. He suggested some other place, Patrick just nodded and, as though in a trance, glided along. He kept looking at him from the corner of his eyes as he kept uttering something. A mesmerized and enthralled Patrick walked beside him before he stopped at a tiny kiosk for a cigarette. Do you smoke, he asked. Patrick shook his head and hypnotised he kept watching his nimble hands light the cigarette, the way he held the lighted cigarette between his fingers, puffing, swallowing, the veins of his neck, clouds of smoke. Smoking never impressed him but Patrick wasn’t sure what impressed him about watching him smoke, was it his nonchalance of not trying to impress or was it him altogether or was he trying to impress! He suggested walking to the place he had in mind unsure of the route while Patrick knew nothing of that part of the city. Long lonesome walks Patrick loved but not on unfamiliar roads. It was a shortcut cutting through the hurriedly painted houses, on either side of the road, packed so close to each other as though each family wanted to be privy to the affairs of his neighbour! They argued good humouredly. He was his amusingly sarcastic and cheeky self that Patrick had known on the phone and there they were. At the turn of the road the smaller houses gave way to bigger, expansive ones. Sighting a majestic and architecturally marvellous house, Patrick sighed, a beautiful pink house. He added a beautiful lavender house and Patrick disagreed, a beautiful mauve house. Peach, indigo, pale red, a laughter, pink, a silence, they stared into each other, at the house. Patrick could not distinctly remember what they talked about, was it their home-towns, books, the city he used to live in before shifting, comparisons? He always mentioned how heartless this city was and Patrick would take it quite sensitively. Furious and offended Patrick would argue while he would chuckle away at his successful banter. Debating, ruminating, conversing they reached the pub. It was one of the few places he liked about the city he mentioned. It was all new to Patrick. He looked bewildered when Patrick mentioned that he was teetotaller. Save me the embarrassment and have a mug of beer, he cajoled in his condescending ways. A cup of hazelnut coffee, Patrick pleaded. He lighted a cigarette while an empty mug was removed discreetly and a cup of frothy hazelnut coffee emerged. Nobody drinks coffee at a pub, he said after a long silence, and don’t say no to the spiced groundnuts. Then I am the exception, he added. A familiar tune, Patrick remarked, at the song that echoed through the smoky air of the pub. Dusk was approaching and the lights glowed like a swarm of fireflies in the settling darkness. Thunder rumbled across the monsoon sky while the leaves danced to the merry breeze and cigarette ash on the table top fluttered. It doesn’t rain, Patrick lamented, like it used to. He had lost count of the cigarettes he smoked and also the mugs of beer he guzzled. He was lost in the conversation. He showed him his copy of ‘The Brothers Karamazov’ and fervently glanced at the hard-bound ‘Behind The Beautiful Forevers’ that he had bought at the bookstore where Patrick had been anxiously waiting for him. It seems like a long time ago when it has been a couple of hours, Patrick reflected with amazement. He remembered mentioning that he was on his way to become a full time OCD patient upon which he laughed. I arrange everything in order, even my wallet, the tens, then fifties, then hundreds, the debit cards go here, the coins there, and he handed him his wallet. Arrange it for me, he laughed again. Patrick complimented at his watch upon which he took it off and handed it to him. He refused and requested. You aren’t that glum and serious that you pose to be, he said suddenly with his lips curving into a what was a smile and yet not a smile and added, you need to let yourself lose and live more. I do live my life, Patrick argued. He only smiled. A pseudo intellectual, that’s what you are, and he laughed again at his remark. No I am not, protested Patrick. About four hours-the water vapour that had condensed around the mug of beer was slowly trickling down patterning a ring, stubs of put-out cigarette in the ashtray, ash strewn upon the tabletop, crumpled paper napkins, emptied sugar packets, conversations, the greasy dish of spiced groundnuts, music floating in the air, intoxicated voices drowning the music, the din of the pub, laugher across tables, merriment, clinking of glasses, his lips curving into what was a smile and yet not a smile, silly remarks! Patrick knew he was happy, a subtle happiness settled over him, it glowed like faint distant lights on a lonesome street. It was almost nine when they rose to leave and he suddenly remarked, I really liked your company, lets head to my place. Taken aback, Patrick was unsure. He had to be back, it was late, there wouldn’t be any means of communication in some time, a litany followed. The frowned returned to his brows. Leave then, he suddenly shouted. Fine, Patrick rushed away, flushing with anger, embarrassed. He suddenly realised the might of a strong grip on his arm that swivelled him around. What do you mean by walking way, he gnashed his teeth, tightening his grip! Patrick stared through him surprised, shocked, cornered, helpless. Letting go of his arm, his frown melted. Please, his voice trailed off in the traffic. Half an hour, fifteen minutes, five minutes. I want to show you my collection of books. Patrick gave in. The vestige of a smile flickered across his face and he hugged him; the whiff of perfume, the smell of beer and lingering smell of cigarettes tingled him. The auto rickshaw ride seemed forever to him, his mind exploded with all possible thoughts, it seemed right yet wrong, it was unlike him, he felt delirious yet delighted, he avoided looking at him conscious of his stare, cars rushing past cast their glow and faded. The driver jumped the signals, Patrick complained. Rules are meant to be broken, he cut in and his lips curved into what was a smile and yet not a smile.
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