Hours grew into days, days into weeks, weeks into months, and yet time gives me the illusion that it was just a few days ago when my illness began. Ah! Time had ceased to exist then, as thoughts of my ill health entirely consumed my mind. But I realize now, when I am regaining my health, that my illness was just a clever ploy by time to secretly make a fool of me, quietly ticking, laughing away all the while, tricking me behind my back to hand me back to my parents for the second time in my life.
“Eighteen months of medications, physical therapy, and rest,” is what the doc said. Foolish doc. He didn’t know what he was saying. It meant giving up my job and having to be babysat. It meant a complete wreck of a semblance of the normalcy a closeted gay tried creating far away from expectations. It meant running back crying to mama, just like when I was a kid, forcing me again to be a part of her dream plans for me — just like old times. “Don’t worry, you’ll make a full recovery,” the doc added with a smile. Foolish, foolish doc. How could he smile when he was giving me such a grim prognosis? I was back to where I had started without a cure and he was smiling. This doc was mad. I wanted to run away, but I was in a wheelchair and even standing up was difficult. Mama was maneuvering the wheelchair from behind, and I knew she knew only one way to go — toward home, family, a wife for her only son, grandkids, heaven. She didn’t know that she was taking home a devil from hell who wanted to spoil her carefully manicured Garden of Eden.
Home. I never really moved out of my parents’ home, but I made sure that I was never there. Work was my excuse. Earning money, which I never really cared about, became the perfect pretext to attain some sense of freedom. Traveling the whole year round gave me the normalcy away from customary life. Small hotel rooms and cramped company quarters gave me the breathing spaces I needed. I have always chosen the discomfort of a seat on a bus or an airplane over my bed at home, suspicious of any expectations my bed might have in exchange for the comfort it gives me. Often, selfish goals have led one to unintended greater heights, a bigger name. My narrow intentions let me become an employer’s dream, a selfless hardworking employee willing to sacrifice home for the company’s sake. Ha! Selfish is altruistic, and “home sweet home” is a scary home.
Mama. She once had another son, and I once had an elder brother. I was just another son then, until my brother died of an overdose. After going through rehabilitations and relapses with my brother for many years, his death killed something inside Mama. Her only consolation was me, her other seedling. Suddenly, I was under the spotlight. Ha! Invisible became visible — a gay was left to carry on the family name.
Closeted gays are visible, yet invisible. They are, but they are not. They are plants that hide their fruits deep underneath the ground. The green leaves above are just pretenses, false promises of flowers and fruits on their stems, lest it breaks the gardener’s heart. It is not easy to forget the nurturing, the love, the care, and the hope of the gardener toward that sapling; a spurious existence is much better than truth, shame, disappointments, tears, and pain.
It was a frustrating first few weeks coming back after hospitalization. I shouted at night in exasperation after trying for many hours to get up. Mama would come running, her reassuring hands wiping away my frustrated tears, skillfully hiding her own compassionate tears. But the situation improved dramatically within a few weeks. Though weak, I was soon walking again. More recently, I got a call from A.K., a gay friend (read: secret lover). He came from Delhi and wanted to see me over dinner. I told Mama that I was going out to meet a friend. When I came out of my room, Mama was knitting in the living room, her eyes proudly looking at me all dressed up. When I worked the car out of the garage, she was attending some flowers on the porch, but her eyes were still on me. When I was on the road, those eyes were there in the rear-view mirror, telling me that she, her hope, and her expectations will be waiting for me. I stepped up the gas and speeded toward my gay lover. Mama, I am not home yet.