It’s a balmy day. The kind of day when your shirt sticks to you back, but not in the way it does in perfume advertisements. I can think of a hundred reasons why I shouldn’t be stepping outside, but I have a date that I can’t push any further unless I want to be pushed out of the boy’s contact list. And why would that be a bad thing? Any suitable boy that you let go is a boy wasted. Instead, I do the most practical thing I can think of.
A stormy July night. The clouds are heavier than a Naipaul novel. It’s almost 11 pm. And he’s almost here.
I am sitting at my favourite coffee shop; only this time, we are living another day, another boy. Another boy who is late, another boy who loses a crucial brownie point. Just when I feel like I’ve been stood up, someone taps me on my shoulder. It’s him.
The man is impishly cute, with short hair and shorter stubble. ‘Did I keep you waiting?’ he smiles like they do in the movies. It’s shy but unsettling. Maybe it’s the light? It’s always the light. I smile back at him. Who cares about brownie points anyway?
It’s a busy Thursday evening, and I am waiting at a busy intersection. I am not very busy, and I dawdle on my phone as I wait. He’s two minutes late;I was told a place, and a time, nothing else. A car pulls over, and a man pulls me in. It’s Eight, a busy celebrity-stylist who, as he assures me, seldom kidnaps his dates to whisk them off to mysterious faraway places.
He studied at a textile school in Canada and lived there for five years, but ultimately left behind a dozen acquaintances, a start-up job and a live-in girlfriend to move back home. I nod away, without batting an eyelid. I could ask him why he came back. I could ask him what happened to the girlfriend. I could ask him whether he’s sure about his sexuality.
‘Where are we off to?’ I ask him instead. You can’t blame me for being suspicious. He had been strangely cryptic on the phone. He laughs, and tells me he’s got a fun evening planned. His favourite band is performing at one of the more upscale mills in town, and he’s been dying to watch them ever since he got back from the Great North. Would I like to get a drink before?
‘Where do I sign up?’, I ask him.
He laughs again. But first, we have to take a slight detour.
My phone buzzes rudely one sweaty afternoon. ‘Hi,’ texts Seven, a Final Year Architectural undergrad who stays only a suburb away. I reply similarly. We’ve been at this for weeks, monosyllabic conversations that end before they begin. I am bored, and it’s time to finally take the plunge. I ask him whether he wants to meet. He’s busy with his dissertation thesis, and can’t step out. Can I come over?
I think about it. I’ve never met him, and this could be a really bad idea, like the time I decided to fry an egg in the microwave. Exchanging sweet nothings through text messages is one thing, but meeting someone new in the confines of their house for the very first time? Hello, How-do-I-get-out-of-this-hot-mess? What if he turns out to be an axe murderer? What if he robs me off all my money? What if he’s an imposter? Or worse, what if he’s not as pretty as his pictures?
We are outside a dingy watering hole somewhere in town, Six and I. We bond over Instagram pictures and I simper over his Bengali ancestry and his upcoming PhD in something I don’t remember. He looks around and tells me he’s never been to a place like this. I think of saying something clichéd, like ‘There’s-a-first-time-for-everything’, but I don’t want to sound clichéd.
‘Well, there’s a first time for everything.’ I usher him inside.
We make a plan to flirt dangerously over unlimited wine at a fancy wine bar somewhere in town, him and I – Five, a self-proclaimed diva and a fashion intern who dresses to kill. The boy seems to take that bit very seriously – he’s wearing something you would see on a model at a fashion show. Suspenders and a broach over a crisp button-down navy blue shirt. Paired well with refined wing cap brogues, a shade of dark chestnut, with tan shoelaces- wait, is he wearing a bow tie?
We decide to meet at the local art festival, one fresh February afternoon. The festival is being held at an unused car park in the city’s heritage precinct, because art festivals usually happen in unused car parks on fresh February afternoons. It’s the usual scene: Trapeze artists and exotic dancers from the interiors of India boxed and exported to a makeshift stage by the driveway, compartmentalized art that no one understands but still wants a picture with, a motley crew of artists staring listlessly in space while their art stares right back. There are always pretentious people doing pretentious things – I unknowingly tug at my plush argyle sweater and brush at my vintage Ray Bans.
Four, a marketing executive from the city, is fresh-faced (quite like the February afternoon we find ourselves in) – lean and muscular, with gorgeous Greek god features. The sun is out, and his two day stubble looks like an airbrushed 5’o clock shadow, tugging lusciously at his well-defined cheekbones. He’s wearing smart chinos and a crisp shirt that would he would look better without. When you are next to him, you lose about three inches of height and gain fifty pounds instantaneously.