It was one of those rainy nights during the Mumbai monsoon, the sky outside seemed angry with the city… thunder, lightning, trees falling, random politico-religious songs playing in the background — you get the picture, right? Somewhere in some part of this large metropolis a road was flooding, somewhere else, a couple was in sweaty embrace.
This would have been a regular night. I would have watched some erotically-themed homosexual liaison on my laptop… thought about gushing waterfalls, blossoming flowers, furtive glances and then from the exhaustion of all that mental imagery, I would have passed out.
Pass out I did. Only to be woken up a while later, by an enveloping coldness around my waist. What was I feeling? Had a thick snake managed to slide under my quilt and wrap itself over my enchanting waistline (I’ve been told), or was I just imagining things. I lay still. Waiting. Breathing softly. And then it began. The warm breathing. Slow, wisps of warm breath ran down my neck and spine. There was someone’s face right behind my neck. What was happening? Was this a ghost? Are there ghosts? I was obviously frightened. It took a whole lot of courage for me to turn around and face this unwelcome invader. I turned around, slowly, hoping not to wake this ‘thing’ and my heart skipped a beat — it was my roommate.
Now, my roommate is straight and I am gay. We’re both super comfortable about our sexuality and at no point of time have we even felt the slightest need to explain our respective tendencies. He brings his girls to his room and plays the game of the eel and the cave, while I bring my boys home and play the game of the snake and the burrow. We’re happy men. Intensely happy with our choices and at peace with the world and with each other!
So why was his, now slowly-warming-up, hand around my waist? Was I supposed to make something of this? It felt nice to have someone hold me there, especially since we were now practically spooning. Hot rushes. Focus, Romal. Don’t embarrass yourself. I didn’t dare wake him up. I didn’t want to be the one to ask the awkward question. I didn’t want his arm to discover anymore territory. I decided to just let the moment take over and was very comforted by the fact that his arm was around my waist and not half an inch lower. I could sleep. I slept.
“Morning,” he said… looking directly into my eyes. Groggy and super confused, I woke up and stared. This had happened. I quickly diverted attention to where men divert their attention every morning. It didn’t seem like anything had happened. I sighed (you know, in style, not letting him know how wrung up I was) and smiled… “good morning”, I replied.
“Yeah, so we’re cool with this,” he asked me casually? “Yeah, I guess,” I replied trying to keep the coolness quotient going. “Good,” he said. “I felt like cuddling up with someone last night, you know, the rains… needed something warm…” “yeah, I get that,” I replied. He smiled at me again, stood up, adjusted his boxers and left my room to brush his teeth.
I lay there reeling in this experience. Yes, he was as cute as hell. Yes, it felt awesome to have him spoon me all night. And yes, a hundred times yes, I could get used to this every night. What really got me smiling, however, was that realization that there was nothing sexual about this experience. My amazingly awesome straight roommate just felt like hugging someone last night, and I was the one he chose. The smile lasted all day.
We spooned several times after that and our hugs became more intense. A month later I mustered the courage to ask him what he thought of the whole affair. His reply baffled me and reassured me that there was hope in the world. “I like being straight, and I like you. I love the warmth you show and give to people, Romal,” he said, adding, “it would get to me someday, no? And so I decided that instead of hugging a pillow when I sleep and crave something to hug, I’d rather hug a warm human being I enjoy being with… you! I hope you don’t feel uncomfortable?”
I just smiled and he smiled back… we understood each other. Deep down, my selfish soul, however, cried out, “you sane sorted straight man with a heart of gold — why aren’t you gay again?”
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