“Dude, aren’t you trying too hard?” I quipped as Daga (as we fondly call him) came back from what seemed to be a conversation forced on to some random girl we had just met. He looked into my eyes, perhaps contemplating a response.
Now Daga, as I knew him, was a suave and charming young man. He never seemed desperate or needy when it came to seeking attention of the opposite (or even the same) sex.
What was even weirder about seeing him behave like this was the fact that he was married and was blessed with a beautiful daughter a few months ago. We were meeting after a gap of three years, but if I were to commit the error of assessing one’s life from the social media feed – his seemed to be a happy marriage.
“You think so?” He replied and quickly added “You know what man? You are right! I need to get my act together. I am in such a mess.” He sighed, took his drink, and gulped the whole thing down. I could see pain show up in his eyes. A pain perhaps soothed a little by the burning sensation of the alcohol trickling down his throat.
“What’s wrong man, you know you can speak to me” I placed my hand on his shoulder. Daga and I had been the best pals through our college years. We had been through thick and thin together, and no matter what, we knew we had each other’s back. In this moment however, it seemed we had drifted apart and I knew nothing about this man sitting in front of me, a man who had a storm raging in his head and heart, with barely any words to express his agony.
“I am living a lie, my whole life is a farce.” he said. His shoulders drooped for a second, but he recomposed himself. “Can you please repeat the order?’, he called out to the waiter passing by.
I realized something was seriously amiss. I wanted to ask him several questions, but felt it was wise to just stay quiet at this moment. In my mind, I was kicking myself for not being in touch with him frequently over the last few years, kicking him for not telling me about whatever the problem was early on and hoping it is something which can be mended.
When the second set of drinks arrived, he raised his glass, “To a life fake as f**k” and he downed it in one shot. “Repeat the order please” he said even before the waiter could leave.
“So what exactly is it buddy?” I probed. He responded “Where do I start man? Did I tell you, my life is a sham?”
I got a little agitated, “Who are you and what have you done to my friend?” I went on, “Daga would never go down like this! Daga is a fighter. Who can be tougher than Daga?” I knew he needed a self-esteem booster shot. Just to be reminded that he was strong, had always been!
Daga gave me a smile. “You are right, but you underestimate the world. It beat me buddy”. I could see he was distancing himself from his situation and evaluating it like an onlooker. “What is it though?” I probed again.
He dropped a bomb on me as a response. “Ila”, he paused, “Ila is a lesbian.”
I was numbed – his wife of 2 years and mother of his daughter, was this even real. I did not know what to say. All I could muster was a “But” and then, I withdrew from the conversation just to digest what I heard.
“But”, he repeated – looked around and signaled another round of drinks for us and repeated “But” a few more times. We took our drinks, and let silence prevail for some time. “When did she come out?” I asked. “Three months into her pregnancy” he responded. Still trying to come to terms with the reality I dug deeper “And you never felt anything wrong all this while?” He pondered over it “The sex life was a bit off – a lot off, but we were great friends!” and added with a sad smile “We still are great friends and she is a loving mom and a great daughter in law.”
He did not have to tell me why he hasn’t discussed this with his family. I knew his family like the back of my hand, and it would need a lot of preparation to disclose something like this to them.
This time around, I ordered a round of drinks. I guess I needed some to numb my senses. I realized there was no immediate solution to this. But there needs to be one eventually. All I could do is to be there for him – with no idea how to actually do even just that.
“Hmmm, so you are truly f**ked this time around” I said. We both broke into a smile.
“Tell me about it man” he said. And added with a grin “I sometimes wish we were both gay, end of all problems you see”
I laughed at the thought, the drinks had arrived and I raised a toast “To the lesbian that is and gays that aren’t”
We finished our drinks for the evening.
That evening, I walked home just content that Daga seemed determined to address the situation in its due course and was not bogged down or vulnerable anymore (perhaps!).