Reading Time: 14 minutes

Meenakshi’s story about a gay couple explores the subtleties and nuances of emotional relationship between them. It’s one of the six stories from her recently published book, ‘Love: Beautiful & Unrequited’. From this week, she will pen a regular column, featuring stories on the LGBTQIA+ communities, every Saturday. A Different Truths feature.

Slowly and deliberately, the brush went through his thick hair. It was getting longer and was now brushing his nape. He smiled at himself in the mirror and stroked his hair gently. This was exactly how he was loved. The long straight strands which were like a horse’s mane. He wondered if he must bunch them up and secure them in a ponytail. At least that way, they stayed secure and wouldn’t fall on his face or fly helter-skelter when he rode his bike. Debating whether he must tie it up or let them be, he glanced at his phone. Should he call for an opinion?

It was 10 past 9. Too early. Maybe once he reached his office, he will ask this question.

Smiling to himself, he slipped the phone into his pocket and stepped out into his room.

His bed was made. He was fastidious about these things. His single room had a bed, queen size, because, well you need space when things get hot. A couch thrown in front of the TV and a simple table with two chairs that served as his dining table. A small kitchen counter on the side gave him the space to cook his favourite dishes. He was proud of his cooking. He had learnt this by watching his maid at his mom’s place. The smell in the pot would tell him if the salt was low or the spice was high. He had a knack for this. He always knew!

Quickly surveying his little home, he grabbed his keys and helmet and stepped out. Whistling a tune, he locked his place and left the key under the mat for the cleaning lady. She barely had any cleaning to do considering the fact that he cleaned up after every meal and made his own bed, changed his sheets and did his laundry all by himself.

“Saab, leave something for me to do.” She would wail every weekend when she caught him in his room.

And every weekend, he would assure her, “Sure Shanthi! You will do double this work when I get married!” And he bit his lip knowing he lied.

Marriage! He hoped that would happen to him someday but before that there were lots of other things that had to change. The divorce had to come through fully, the willingness to move into this humble room had to be taken care of and of course, before all this Luke had to agree.

Luke! The Greek god everyone envied in the office. His body was firm like an athlete. His boyish smile could melt the polar ice fields. His voice… Ohhh! The voice would send all the hearts fluttering. He could sing like Bryan Adams and mouth Amitabh Bachchans dialogues with such ease that all the women would quite literally swoon. Luke was a charmer and he knew it well. Yet there was a shy and timid man inside that hated this adulation.

Lenny got on his bike and thirty minutes later entered his office basement. Luke’s car wasn’t there yet.

That’s odd. He should’ve been here at least 10 minutes ago. They usually did this together. They would try and beat each to the office within a 15 minute frame. But today, Lenny was late and so was Luke.

Sitting at his desk, Lenny turned on his laptop nervously glancing around to check if Luke had come in yet.

Half an hour passed, and Lenny was now getting worried. Should he call and check? What if he is at home? And his wife picks up the phone? What would he say? Sound casual and ask for Luke or will she read the near panic in his voice? She was getting nervous around Lenny these days. He could sense that. And it was becoming increasingly difficult to keep things straight in front of the office staff and Luke’s wife.

Slowly and with great deliberation, he finally picked up the phone and checked on WhatsApp. Luke was last seen at 10 to 9. Exactly the time when Lenny wanted his opinion!

Lenny slowly and deliberately typed, “Good morning, Luke! How are you? I needed a quick reference for a candidate. Call me when you can.”

And stared at the message as it showed a single tick first, then the second tick. Hurray! It was delivered!

Agonisingly he waited holding the screen open hoping to see his message getting the blue tick! Nothing happened for 10 minutes and now Lenny was quite literally drumming his fingers on the table impatiently, walked up to the coffee machine, not once letting the phone down, staring at the screen while he absently made his coffee and came back to his cabin. Nothing. No blue tick and no sign of Luke. What could have happened? All kinds of crazy thoughts started to fill his head. Was he in an accident? Was he in some crisis? Did he fight with his wife again? Was his mother sick? Did she die? Did his wife find out about him? Nah! That might not be possible. They were very careful about it. They had kept this secret from everyone for over 3 years now. No one would guess and no one would know. Then what the hell happened to Luke? Why hadn’t he come in yet? With these crazy thoughts running wild, he checked the phone again. It was already over half an hour and no sign of Luke! Almost in a panic, Lenny started to dial his number when the door opened and Luke walked in!

Finally!

Keeping a very calm, composed look about him, Lenny stepped up and walked up to Luke and barely whispered, “Where were you? I was so worried!”

“Calm down Lenny, I am fine! Just had a flat tyre on the way here and had to get it fixed.” Luke said as he walked into his cabin.

“Come in Lenny, I want to talk to you.”

Lenny sighed and was now cramping up for another stress. What did Luke want now?

Lenny walked into the cabin and immediately shut the door fast and locked it from the inside.

“What happened hon?” Lenny asked

“Come here and please hug me. Tightly. I missed you so badly!” Luke said and came around to hold Lenny close.

They hugged each other closely and kissed each other. What a relief to be in each other’s arms and to be comforted by your loved one.

What started as a gentle kiss now started to get feverish and rushed. Reaching for each other’s necks and backs and arching their bodies close to each other, they hugged, kissed and hugged more and nibbled their necks and reached for each other’s tongues with a passion that knew no boundaries, no barriers. They kissed like they would die without breathing in each other’s breath.

Slowly, they came around and paused. Hugging each other tightly, Lenny whispered, “I missed you so much! I was so afraid! Don’t ever do this to me… please message when you are late!”

“I’m sorry hon! Didn’t realise it would stress you out so much! I’m truly sorry!” Luke whispered back.

Stepping back, Lenny looked at him and said, “I wanted to ask you if I can tie up my hair in a ponytail! It’s getting long and unruly.”

“Oh baby! You look so gorgeous with the hair falling on your face when you work! I love that look of yours! But if it’s being cumbersome, please tie it up but when we are together, I want that flowing loose!”

“Will do!! And now let’s get to work! We have a client meeting at 3 but before that let’s go over this candidate’s resume first and then decide how we talk to the client. Also, I messaged you on WhatsApp and you didn’t see the message!”

“Oh! I hadn’t seen the messages at all. Rita was very angry with me in the morning when I was leaving and had kicked up a huge fight! She is getting more and more difficult to handle… the slightest things piss her off and she is always nagging and complaining. This time she was fighting that I didn’t help her choose the bedcovers and that she is the single person in the whole home store buying things for the house! How can I go with her? We have client meetings and work that’s important to run this business. She will never understand and she will never care!” He bursted, exasperated.

“Then why don’t you leave her? I love you so much and I’ll take care of you, you know that… and yet you go back to that bitch!” Lenny cried.

“Give me sometime baby! I have this worked out and I’ll come away. I just need a little time. Please!” Luke answered, stroking Lenny’s face.

“Alright, have it your way… just know that I am always there for you baby! I need you with me always!” Lenny whispered.

“Yes, my love! I too need you so badly… But first, let me sort this and let’s get back to work. I will treat you to a lovely lunch today! Let’s go out.” Luke said.

“The client meeting is at 3! So, yeah, let’s quickly eat before we head there.” Saying this Lenny straightened up and stepped out of the cabin.

The day progressed slowly and by 12 Luke poked his head out of his cabin and declared to the rest of the office that Lenny and he were stepping out for lunch and that they would be meeting the client afterwards.

Lunch was a simple affair. Although they loved eating out, they weren’t fussed about the food as much as they preferred their time together. The last three years have been a roller coaster ride of sorts. When they first met, it was like any other awkward meeting. They met through a friend who was to invest in the new business but the guy just up and went away at literally the last moment. That left Lenny and Luke to figure the next steps, changing their course and resetting the business. In the initial days when they would meet to discuss the plans, the two got along famously. Very quickly they were spending longer hours chatting about each other and the business and as time flowed, they started talking less about business and more about themselves. They both discovered a common hobby of watching movies, going to plays, discussing books and most of all, they discovered a friendship that was very deep. They enjoyed each other’s company so much that they would meet every day even on weekends on some pretext or the other. Always planning things together, right from renting the office space to buying staple pins, they had to do it together. One could not do without the other and they would always end up being seen as one.

During the initial office setting up days, they would work long hours on signing clients, setting up the infrastructure and closing legal formalities. This would mean spending an entire day together and slowly they were spending evenings together too. From simple coffees before they headed home to pubs and restaurants for dinner.

One evening, it had been pouring pretty heavily and they were in the middle of yet another tiring day with client meetings and office cleaning when they realised to their horror that one part of the window pane had broken during their shifting and water had been pouring into the office the entire evening. With no housekeeping help, the two rolled up their sleeves and fetched buckets and mops from the utility and got on their knees cleaning up the water. Lenny being the fastidious one was cleaning with such deliberate effort that just watching him sent Luke into a laughing spell. Between giggling and cleaning up they ended up bumping into each other and in the process landing on the wet floor on their backs.

Trying to steady themselves, they reached for each other’s hands and ended up on top of one another. And to date, they debate about who made the first move, Lenny who was on top or Luke who was on the floor below Lenny. But coming back to this situation, suddenly they found themselves lying on top of one another and they kissed. A small slight, hurried, brush of their lips at first. And before they knew it, they were kissing deeply and passionately. Tongues probing, hands swiftly feeling each other, they made glorious love to each other, right there, on the wet floor, in the office.

Tired and exhilarated, they spread themselves on the floor spent the next 40 minutes cuddled on the damp floor, holding each other close, with their eyes shut…. In a heaven they had opened up for themselves. For now, the office didn’t matter, the fact that Luke was married didn’t matter, the fact that the office floor was still flooded didn’t matter, the fact that they were naked didn’t matter and the fact that the sun had set and the rain had also slowed to a rhythmic drum didn’t matter. What mattered most was the fact that the two of them had found love in the unlikeliest place and in the least likely person. They had found a deep sense of being home in each other’s arms. They had finally found the love they had longed for all these years.

Closeted all these years, they had burst open a dam and let the light flood their lives, everything that seemed dark and scary and was now out in the open and welcoming them. They had opened their lives, their hearts and their bodies to each other and there was no awkwardness, no fear and no worry. They had found each other and that’s all that mattered.

Things continued as usual at the office, they had built a robust business and funds were flowing in every quarter. They managed to grow from a 5 member team to 20 people by quarter three and by the end of year, were also slowly inching their way into a profitable situation.

Their relationship was passionate than ever. They were spending more nights together and they were also travelling to Europe together. The investors were there, was the excuse always. The investor meetings lasted just two days and the rest of the week would be spent idling away at museums, coffee shops, shopping, sight-seeing and enjoying their time together.

And they would come back refreshed enough to accelerate the business some more. Here, let’s take a pause and muse about their relationship. The strange part about our country is that when a girl and a guy get close as business partners, there is always tons of suspicion and plenty of gossip. But even today, in India, two men can be lovers and no one bats an eyelid. So, in essence, when two men are in a relationship, they don’t get societal safety net, so to speak. When they face abuse in the relationship, no one reaches out to help the victim, when they face heartbreak, no one understands their point of view. Get over it man! Is the only advice they will hear all their lives, no matter how deeply invested they are in this relationship. And that hurts any human more than anything else in this world. To not be taken as a human just because he has a different sexual preference.

So when Rita found out, it shattered all three of them! Rita was confused for a long time. How can he? Why did he? Didn’t he say he was a man? Why did he stoop so low? How can someone have sexual feelings for a man and yet be married to a woman? Was this marriage a lie? Didn’t he love me? Did he love him because he wanted some kinky fun in his marriage? Did he love a man just for experimenting how it feels? No, the messages were loaded with tenderness. So no, he can’t be just having fun. It sounded very serious. He hasn’t written messages to me in my life! How dare that Lenny seduce my husband? What did he have that Luke sought him over me? Looks? Body? Oh God! What am I doing to myself? Why am I comparing myself to a man? It’s crazy and God knows how its driving me mad every single time I think about them. It makes me want to throw up! How do I bring my Luke back? How do I seduce him back to me? What do I do to save him and my marriage? Did he do this for money? Maybe Lenny gave Luke money and has trapped my poor husband! That must be it! He is being blackmailed into this relationship! But then the messages sounded so tender. It didn’t seem like they were forced. Coming to think of it, his messages to me were cryptic and forced. He uses so many Hon’s, sweetheart and baby in his messages to Lenny and not once has he called me any of these! Oh God! What do I do? Do I cling on to this relationship or do I go? Let him go back to Lenny and let him die there. I don’t need him anymore! He was a liar and he was a cheat! He cheated on me! With another man! How do I tell this to anyone? What a laughing stock I have become!

When Luke heard from Rita that she saw his messages to Lenny, his world spiralled out of control. How stupid to leave the phone unlocked! How crazy to not have deleted the messages. He knew he was foolish but this foolish to think that Rita wouldn’t spy on him? How will he explain himself? He loved Lenny and was afraid to leave Rita. Rita gave him social acceptance. Rita made him look like a perfect man, earning a perfect living and living a perfect world. But Rita didn’t love him and he didn’t love her too. She claimed she loved him but tell me, when you love someone, won’t you know when your love isn’t being reciprocated? Wouldn’t you know that the man you love, carries a certain sadness? Wouldn’t you know when your spouse isn’t invested in the relationship? Doesn’t it bother you that your spouse doesn’t stay at home for long periods of time? How do I tell this to Lenny? He will be so heartbroken! I have hurt him so much by being selfish. I shouldn’t have encouraged him in the first place! But I have loved him so deeply! How will I explain that what I feel for Lenny is far from the love stories you read in these silly books and watch on the screen? Ours is a love that sees beyond each other’s gender! I love Lenny and that’s the truth! But how do I manage my marriage? What do I do? How do I settle this? Whom do I choose? What will the future look like if I pick any one?

Lenny felt his blood run cold when he saw the ominous text from Rita – “I know all about you and Luke”. He felt like someone had just kicked him square on his stomach! He collapsed on his chair and felt the world swim around him. How did she find out? What did she know? How far did Luke talk about what happened between them? I always knew Luke would get us into trouble. But this way? Oh God! I wonder what kind of a hell she’s putting him through! I hope he is okay! I love him so much and would hate to see anything happen to him. He is very hard on the outside but he’s extremely sensitive on the inside. I hope he can handle the mess with Rita well. I wish I could talk to him. Just once. Just to hear his voice. I hope he is not angry with me. I gave him a hard time with the last budget figures. I hope he knows that that was professional! Oh God! What did I do? Why did I fall for a married man? Of all the men in the world, why a married man! I should’ve known better than this! Who has ever had a great relationship with a married man? All the movies and shows show how badly these extra-marital relationships turn out! Why did we fall into this crazy trap? Why did we love each other so much? How are we going to deal with the social gossip this will turn out to become? Who will take the blame? How will we deal with the mess in future? The business will collapse if this mess gets out. We have to clear this fast. Otherwise there will be consequences. The loss is going to kill me for sure! How will I live without Luke? I have loved him so deeply that I can’t imagine a day without him. He has been like a skin on me. I can’t imagine life without him. I wish people would understand that our love for each other was pure. It didn’t have any expectations, it had no filters, it was fluidic and most of all, it was empowering. Our love brought out the best in us. Our love made us better humans, made us love everything about ourselves. Made us fall in love with everyone around us. We felt invincible when we were together. We literally owned the world when we were together. This loss is like losing a vital organ. We may continue to live, but we will never really live! We will get over the heartache in a few months but the void left behind will never get filled. The love that is never yours, leaves you devoid of feeling for anyone or anything else in this world and I know I cannot live a lie. I cannot wake up every morning and not think about Luke. His face, his body, his laughter, his anger, his hugs, his kisses, his scent and him! How can I ever live knowing he is not mine? How can I pretend to live a life when I know one half of me is gone? I cannot live another minute dreading what will happen to him and to us! This must end. I am hurt and this hurt is choking me.

When the pills started to take effect, Lenny had started to drift into an abyss of screams, laughter and Luke’s distorted face. He tried desperately to hold his face once more in his hands and kiss him one last time, but death is also a bitch. It snatches you away at the exact moment when you want to fulfil the last one deep desire you have carried in your hearts all along.

(Reproduced with the author’s consent from the book, Love: Beautiful & Unrequited, published by notionpress.com)

©Meenakshi

Photos from the Internet

#BookExtract #LoveBeautifulandUnrequited #LGBTQ #LoveAndRelationship #DifferentLove #DifferentTruths

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