The phone beeped again.

No, it won’t be her. She hadn’t pinged me after that night two months ago!

She had messaged me a few times. She would be traveling to Sweden for some official work and would like to meet me, she’d said.

We were not really friends. Had not spoken in two years. But news floated in from common friends. This time she seemed rather insistent upon meeting me. Why, I had wondered initially. But her last message…did I find a hint of flirtation in her words? To be honest, I wasn’t really flattered, only curious to know if she really meant it.

I had moved abroad two years ago.

Things at home were no longer cordial. The day I came out to my family, Dad stopped talking to me. Mom spoke to me only when absolutely necessary. And sisters were ashamed of me. Nobody understood the core of my being. The constitution also branded me a criminal.

Getting an overseas job was the best option in such a situation, because I knew what I wanted.

So here I was, in Sweden – one of the world’s most liberal and non-judgmental countries.

We met at a pub. Shaina hugged me and kissed me briefly. It’s common here. In India it would have caused a furore – two women kissing each other.

No, one and a half women actually. I wasn’t yet a full woman.

The process of sex reassignment is taxing – on the pocket, body and soul. Painful and prolonged too. You lose yourself in order to gain yourself. Lose the family, the name and your very identity.

But then I had never identified myself as a man; my family did. They wanted a son. I was the quintessential ghar ka chirag* that God had blessed them with after two daughters and innumerable fervent prayers and offerings to Gods of all kinds. They couldn’t permit him to become a female; they couldn’t be burdened with a third daughter.

I was no longer a blessing. I was a curse.

She looked ravishing in a black lace top. Mahogany tresses framed her chiseled face and lent her a mysterious aura. Shaina and I were not exactly pals in college so what had made her travel so far to Malmo – five hours drive from Stockholm – to meet me, I wondered even as we ordered drinks. The initial hesitation and unease wore off gradually.

‘’I always found you a bit different from us, you know. There was always this unusual softness around you that drew me towards you but you were always so distant’’, she blurted, clutching my hand.

I caught her squinting at my cleavage through those kohl-rimmed eyes. Her manicured fingers traced a line along my palm.

Was she ‘different’ too? No, was she one of ‘us’- the LGBTQ+ as we identify ourselves? Queer it was that I had never felt her attraction in college despite my newly awakened sexual orientation.

It was obvious. She desired me. Was I ready for her? I wasn’t yet what she desired, lusted for – a woman.

Why are you so enamored by me, I asked her bluntly.

You are an enigma who I want to unravel since our college days, she whispered huskily, her eyes devouring my lips from across the table.

I hadn’t dated anyone in a long time. I couldn’t, in my present state. But I was lonely and vulnerable. Longed for a healing touch.

Suddenly a volcano began to simmer inside me. I desired her desire. Her eyes exuded a hunger I hadn’t seen in a long time. How could I disappoint her?

I like to please people, take away their pain. I had hoped my leaving home would ease the pain of my family. And mine too. It saddened me to have been a disappointment, a disgrace for them. To have been rejected.

We walked home. And kissed again. She had her hands all over me as I unlocked the door. Her lace top and my gown were discarded frantically. As we fell on the bed, she slid down my body, showering sloppy kisses all over. After a long time I had let anyone take the lead in my life. I moaned in eager anticipation. She lingered around my navel.

Midway through, she froze. And turned away.

‘I’m sorry Josh, I can’t do it’, she mumbled almost inaudibly, ‘You’re not what I had imagined you to be, it can’t work!’’

I peered at her through the semi-darkness. I have been rejected once again, the realization hit hard. I had been forthright about my body then why this disillusionment? Was it my freshly minted femininity that enticed her? Or was it the remaining shreds of manliness in me that repulsed her?

Forgotten fears began to snarl once again. Self-pity and desolation swirled around me crazily. I began to sob silently.

Shaina picked up her clothes from the floor where they lay entangled with mine and began to get dressed.

‘I’m going, Josh. Good bye!’

‘No, wait! I’ll walk you to the Central Station’.

She was new here. With the new immigrants swarming all over the town I couldn’t have let her walk alone. Wasn’t safe.

We walked briskly this time. A thick fog of uncomfortable silence enveloped us. Even the magnificent sight of St. Petri**- a beacon of hope – didn’t bring any solace.

A volcano of sobs raged inside me after she left without a backward glance.

It’s like being trapped within the wild woods. Unruly desires crawled through my incomplete body when I lay on my lonely bed. Unruly fears spread their fangs through the harrowing darkness of my existence.

But then the therapists’ words reverberated in my ears.You’ll be fine, they keep assuring me.

The volcano subsided.

Not sure how that one incident triggered the rise and release of pent up emotions and fears but I’ve stopped caring about anyone, anything. It’s a happy space I’m in now.

The rainbow will rise again. I will find love. Soon.

***

*ghar ka chirag – son of the family

**St Petri – St Peter’s Church

***

This is an entry for UniK-4, a 1000-word writing event at ArtoonsInn.

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