True Blue

It was at Carlton's in Kashmiri Gate

that we made out

without actually intending to.

Looking for a big tip,

the waiter led us to one of those partitioned cubicles

designed precisely for such shady encounters.

And before we knew it,

we were playing footsie.

As you picked at your pineapple pastry,

you said, “Don’t be embarrassed,

I’ve been with boys since I was thirteen.”

It was I who had to look away.

Then you leaned over, we kissed.

The icing, lipstick, and sweat,

all mingled, tasting funny--

but I had been taught to believe

that this was the best thing

that could happen to a seventeen-year-old boy.

 

Remember how I'd visit you after my workout,

jogging down the ridge to your college,

sweat-soaked, in my blue tracksuit?

I had to wait in the visitor’s room

after signing my name in the register.

On Fridays, the girls who had no dates

looked so forlorn that I was haunted

by the longing in their eyes as we left.

We'd go to the Mother Dairy booth

in front of your college

and guzzle down a litre of cold milk,

to the astonishment of the attendant.

That would be followed by a Chinese dinner

at the newly opened Moet's or at the outdoor

restaurant behind Ludlow castle.

 

When you found out that I was “seeing” other girls.

you called me a two-timing creep,

forgetting that it was I who'd told you

about them in the first place.

We went to Badkal lake

to sort things out,

but the urchins hounded us,

denying us a minute's peace or respite.

I breathed a sigh of relief

when we finally got on the bus to Delhi

relatively safe, you still unmolested--

every male on the way to the bus stand

seemed to strip you naked with his eyes.

 

Finally, you wrote asking to meet me

at your aunt's in Mayfair Gardens.

There, near the old tomb we sat.

You announced solemnly,

"I wish to talk to you."

"Of course," I replied.

You had trouble making a beginning:

"I hope what I'm going to say doesn't hurt you..."

I knew the script so quickly preempted you:

“Yes, let’s remain friends…” You smiled,

the relief on your face unmistakable.

The termination turned into an extension.

 

The last we met was at the Art Institute

in Chicago.  You were studying cinema;

we’d come to see the paintings.  The conversation

was strained, as you politely showed us around.

There was no way of reviving old intimacies.

We had one of those excellent lunches

in the cafeteria; I found out later that

people paid the entrance just to eat there.

I had trouble finding a vegetarian entree;

those days I was off even onions and garlic.

My wife looked at you, grimaced.  We talked

about my fads for a while.  When the waitress

took the order, you asked for separate tabs,

though I protested.  When I tried to look at you

but my eyes found an unresponsive stranger

instead.  As we parted, I thrust a box

of chocolate-coated cherries in your hand:

"Oh, you shouldn't have," you said,

but, for the first time that afternoon,

your face broke out into a smile.

Back to Selected Poems from Partial Disclosure

 
  Copyright © 2005 - Makarand Paranjape