He said he still loved me, but the irony of those words seared through my heart. The enormity of the agonising moment grew heavier in the stillness of the night even as we tried to pick up the shards of our relationship that lay shattered like a delicate vase fallen out of our hands.

Earlier in the evening, Animesh returned home after his training session ahead of the Davis Cup. He looked exhausted and hugged me somewhat perfunctorily. The upcoming fixture against Israel had been on his mind. Having faced criticism for his failures in recent games he had been practising hard. He had to win this time.

“The No.1 player of India certainly knows how to deal with pressure.” I said trying to cheer him up. He responded with a wry smile.

“Did you miss me?” I asked as we got into bed.

“Yeah. I felt very lonely.”

I ruffled his hair tenderly and stroked her bare chest. After a long day of photoshoot at the studios I craved for some physical love. I pulled him into my arms and kissed him rousingly. It didn’t take long before we embraced in our nakedness. Just when I thought that we had rekindled our bodily passion for each other, he turned over to the other side.

“Let us sleep.” He mumbled.

Once again, he left me confused and distraught like most other nights of rejection. Why wouldn’t a man want to have sex with a beautiful woman like me? The most loving and kind-hearted man I had ever known, who always kept by my side, never once acknowledged our need for intimacy. Our love making had either been hurried and unimaginative or nothing at all. It wasn’t any different tonight.

I tossed and turned restlessly for a long time before I woke up to the muffled sounds of a sob. Animesh was sitting at the edge of the bed with his face buried in his hands.

“What’s the matter?” I asked moving closer to him.

“Mousami, I have a confession to make.” He said after a long pause.

He pulled out his phone and navigated to an album in Google Photos.

I was shaken by what I saw – snazzy pictures of Animesh and Harish holding and hugging each other in intimate poses, uninhibitedly, couple-like. Harish Chowdhury, the most successful Indian coach, was in an intense relationship with my husband. And Animesh looked his happiest self too.

“We have been together for a long time.”

“How can this possibly be true?” I was devasted beyond words.

“It all started during our month-long trip to Spain two years ago. We spent lot of time together – partying, biking and sightseeing. We spoke for long hours sitting on the beach sands at nights; talking about our likes and dislikes, interests and fears, joys and pains. I was charmed by him. Things just happened later when we travelled on several circuit tours.”

“Tell me how far this has gone.”

“He took me home every evening after our practice sessions at the court. And cooked my favourite mutton curry. And then we made love. Each time my body responded to his touch like I had always desired a man.””

“Were you clear about this?”

“He made me very happy.”

Despite my best efforts to get him to talk to me openly about sex and mutual expectations, Animesh had always remained diffident. I had even thought of consulting a sex therapist or a doctor for possible erectile dysfunction. But here he was, talking lovingly about another man with an unmistakable conviction in his voice.

“We have been the best of friends since college. Why couldn’t you tell me before we got married?” I cried out in exasperation.

“I wasn’t sure of myself then. Believe me, I have been confused about my sexual identity for a very long time.”

“I feel very miserable about this,” I heard myself saying and winced in frustration. Animesh put his arms around me to comfort me but I pushed him away.

‘I am so sorry. I hurt you.”

“Why did you choose to tell me now?”

“Mousami, you are the only person I have ever loved and confided in. I have gone through lot of emotional distress over my sexual preference. It is now wearing me down. I trusted someone who used me for his depraved needs.”

“What do you mean?”

He broke down as he described the traumatic experiences with Harish who had forced him to indulge in violent and morbid sexual acts in the guise of experimentation.

“He is a pervert.”

As much as I had felt wronged by him, I felt a great deal of compassion for him.  It seemed, for five long years, Animesh had been trapped in a marriage with a woman whom he really loved and cared for, but he had fooled himself by being somebody he couldn’t really be. And the man whom he wanted sexually had abused him.

“We had a heated argument yesterday and he threatened he would reveal my gay identity and slur your image – Former Miss India married to a gay man. Can you imagine her shame? He said vindictively. I punched his face and walked out on him.”

He clutched at my hands and wept inconsolably. I tried to balance reason and emotion in order to comprehend our labyrinthine situation. Where did this leave me in the marriage. Would he still crave for another man in future? The easiest option was to break up, but perhaps I had to look beyond the rigid definitions of marriage and togetherness. Animesh was vulnerable and I had to care for him.

“Listen to me. The world is quite understanding out there. Go and declare your sexual identity in the open. It will liberate you as a man and a sportsperson. I will be there for you.”

His hug tightened around me while I reflected upon how our lives were enmeshed by emotional and physical moorings.

***

Cover photo by Mag Pole.

Author’s Note:

Mixed-orientation marriage is a marriage between partners of differing sexual orientations e.g. a homosexual male and a heterosexual female. Studies have revealed that most men identified themselves as gay years after being in a mixed-orientation marriage. Such men genuinely loved their wives and children either because it ‘seemed natural’ or due to pressures of social expectancy and concerns over homosexuality.

***

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