Dinner Table Stories, As Told By The Queer Community

June 30, 2021

I’m barely awake when I grope under my pillow. I force my sleepy eyes open to devour the notification bar.

Good morning 🙂

A message from Divisha. I don’t bother suppressing a smile. It’s going to be a good day. It gets better as I leave my room only to be welcomed by the smell of olive oil and garlic. 

“How do you feel now?” asked Aadi.

“Better, but I think I’ll stay home.” I reply. “What are you guys doing?”

Shaila smiles broadly “We’re making pasta.”

I bury my face in my phone.

What’s your day looking like? I type

Looooong 🙁

“Look at you, blushing!” comments Shaila. “Is that the famous Divisha? When are you going to finally meet her?”

“I don’t know.” I bury my toes in the plush sofa. “She works crazy hours. And I like what we have. I don’t want to go hang out at some bar where we can’t hear each other talk.”

I had moved to Delhi four months ago, but it already felt like a lifetime since I first knocked on Shaila’s painted door, asking about the room for rent. Shaila, my landlady, was in her late thirties. Aadi, who rented the other room, looked about my age. There was a prominently displayed pride flag in the living room. I was surprised by how relieved the rainbow colours made me feel.

Our discussion about the room happened over chai from Shaila’s quirky yellow kettle. The afternoon flew by as my landlady turned into just a lady listening to a young adult vent “It’s complicated being bi.” I found myself confiding in two complete strangers. “I’ve had boyfriends, I can pass for straight. I know it’s like a weird privilege, but I’m not sure I like having it.”

They both nod, and it’s from understanding, not sympathy.

“I’m a queer divorcee and Aadi is a gay man.” said Shaila “We don’t want to have just anybody come stay in our space.”

Before I knew it the second bedroom became mine. It was the most natural thing in the world to settle in. I rushed home from dates to share the experience over the yellow kettle. I had two romantic veterans to trade stories with. In the midst of this idyllic setup, I swiped right on Divisha. 

Divisha was funny and smart. From the first time we spoke, she felt familiar. Like someone I knew. In a matter of weeks she went from a profile on my phone to the ongoing conversation that strung together fragments of my day.  

A bank notification on my phone pauses my nostalgia. I move to our chat instead like it’s muscle memory.  

How’s work going? I ask

There’s no reply. As the afternoon sun shines in, Aadi sets a pot to boil. 

“How long does it take to make pasta?” I ask, scornfully. 

Shaila and Aadi are scandalised.

“It’s not just any pasta.” says Shaila, wounded. “I found this old recipe book of my Mom’s.”

I glance at my phone. Still no word.

“Can I help?” I ask.

“Come chop up these tomatoes.”

I drop the knife in excitement, as my phone pings. I struggle to unlock it with damp fingers.

Good news, I can actually leave work early!

My heart speeds up. I have an inkling of what’s coming.

How do you feel about finally having our first date? Where do you want to go?

As I watch Aadi and Shaila squabble, inspiration strikes.

Come to my place.

I wait anxiously for her response. I’d often pictured meeting for the first time.Presumably, so had she. The picture in our minds however didn’t quite include two roommates.

I’d love to, she says I can be there in an hour.

Breathless, I ask, “How do you feel about sharing your pasta? Divisha is coming over tonight.”

Aadi lifts the lid off the pot, a puff of steam slightly stings his eyes. The contents look enough to feed an army. I take up a post by the door. It’s an hour before I hear footsteps on the landing, but I’m still not prepared.

“Mahima?”. Her voice sounds different in person. 

“Divisha, come in!”

Aadi and Shaila are lighting candles on the gas stove. It looks like something out of  a painting.

“Divisha, nice to finally meet you!” Shaila brandishes her yellow kettle, “Chai?

Like a scene from a feel-good family special, we crowd around the table. Divisha looks at home almost immediately. When Aadi finally serves us mountains of garlicky pasta, it’s worth the hours of preparation. 

It was a happy ever after night. But Divisha didn’t end up being my happily ever after. I sometimes wonder if I should have done something different, maybe tried harder. I liked her, of course, but what my heart went after was the feeling of sitting as a family in domestic bliss.

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