Suddenly Afraid

Suddenly Afraid

A Story by Tionge Rosalie Johnson

I saw the most beautiful person in the world. A man who watched me drop my niece off at boarding school, just as she ran towards her classmates.

He worked at a small family owned coffee shop nearby. Nothing too fancy compared to the boarding school, which towered over the other compacted buildings. He waved at me with his bronzed skin that gleamed against the New Delhi rays, and showed me his clear white teeth when he smiled. I was surprised he had such good dentistry, since his loose clothing and thin sandals were the mark of his poorer upbringing.

            Something inside me felt warm and I could feel my cheeks turn a deep pink. I had to say hi to him. To pass this off as an excuse for why I was staring.

            “Hello, how are you this morning,” I said.

            “Would you like some coffee?” was his only reply. I swallowed and looked at my shoes. I didn’t know what to say, so I just accepted his offer. I didn’t even ask to sit with him. It was too shameful in my eyes.

            In New Delhi it was acceptable for us to sit and drink coffee together, so I didn’t understand at the time why I felt so ashamed. Two men drinking coffee and discussing the weather or politics was as usual as witnessing cattle on the street. It was about time I’d find someone to talk politics with anyways. But instead, I’d decided to sit alone at a small table at an angle near the small entrance door.

My gaze was towards the juxtaposed buildings of our city, yet I could feel his eyes on me. I swallowed again and this time it was loud.

            “Is everything alright?” I’d heard him say near me. To ignore his concern would have been rude, so I looked at him and said I was fine.

            “You’re sitting here all by yourself. Would you like some company?”

            My body tensed and my throat grew tight. When I replied my voice cracked a bit,

            “I’ll be alright, thank you.”

            He nodded and stood behind the counter, laying his hands on it.

A sudden breeze blew through the window curtains, startling me enough to force my eyes to wander. I noticed I was the only one in the shop and it seemed odd since it was early morning. Though the shop was pretty small, so a lot of people would not have known about it.

I had noticed though, and I had made it obvious that it was not just coffee I had come for. I watched his hands flip through a magazine placed on the counter. Observed the way his right tooth bit into his lower lip and his brows furrow in deep concentration. When another breeze blew through the curtains his fingers glided through his curled black hair and his eyes shut tight like a cats. Everywhere from his head to his sandals I looked. I wasn’t able to stop myself.

            It has been a year now since I’ve visited the man at the coffee shop in New Delhi. I am still in the city but have since moved, my new promotion as vice president of communications at my job the culprit.

            In my mind I tried to grasp what I had felt, since growing up being homosexual was so out of the question it didn’t seem possible. I hadn’t even heard of Gay India pageants until my cousin, now a lesbian in London with her lover, told me about it over the phone.

They were huge fans, and I’d watch a season or two with them when I’d visit. I never told my mother about it, let alone my father, or my whole family for that matter. My cousin wasn’t even aware of my interest in the male bodies plastered on the screen. I’d pretend I was an ally and not actually a part of the movement each time we’d watch together. Heck, even claiming to be an ally almost convinced me I was straight. But being an ally was so much more different then actually being homosexual. Being an ally was easier.

At least if you were an ally, you could be homosexual during a pride festival, but still be straight for the rest of your life. You could take off the mask and clothing, but when you were actually homosexual the mask and clothing stick to you until your six feet under.

            The thought made me sweat, even being this far out of the city didn’t stop the feelings I’d tried to suppress. I’d have these dreams. See visions of him gliding his hands through his hair, and the right tooth that bit into his lower lip. Those eyes that shut like a cats when the summer breeze blew through the curtains.

When a male coworker of mine walked by my office, their thin frame and broad shoulders reminded me of him. I’d walk the streets on lunch break and see men in loose clothing, feeling my cheeks turn into a deep pink again.

            I tried so hard to ignore the feeling of emptiness that plagued my mind when I was left with my own thoughts. But the visions, senses, and sights did more to remind me of how I felt about the man at the coffee shop.

            My conscious told me to ignore it, accept the woman my parents offered for me to marry. But my heart made me remain a homosexual bachelor.

***

            When I went back to try and find him, what stood before me was an empty, shattered space with a large “For Lease” sign on the door.  I went into the building in some manic attempt at finding him behind the counter with his magazine. I must have looked like a stray dog.

Though, without a coffee shop to support him how would he get on? I’d hoped he’d at least have family to stay with, a warm bed to sleep on and plenty of food to sustain him. I had to find him and make sure, how could I return to my own comfortable bed knowing he may be lying on the street.

I went to the farmers market near by and asked the gentleman selling tomatoes if he’d seen a man who used to work at the coffee shop. He looked at me inquisitively and shook his head.

I continued to ask more employers if they’d seen him, and still nothing. Surely, the police would know.  

I walked up to the nearest police station and asked the first officer I saw if he’d seen a man at a coffee shop nearby. He informed me that it went bankrupt and the owner left.

I should have known it was bound to go bankrupt soon, since the first time I had gone it was practically almost empty.  My eyes grew wet with moisture at remembering how cheerful he was despite it all.

I knew I could have helped him. I had a master’s degree in business administration; therefore it was my duty to aid someone else within the same field. Yet, I was only thinking about how my attraction would stifle my image.

In my mind it would be the most unselfish thing I’d ever done and only good karma would come from it. So, I took leave from work and decided to search for him. It wasn’t difficult to go on leave since I had such a high position now, it also helped that I came up with the perfect lie.

I told my boss that he was my brother and that he had gone missing about a week ago, and that I barely slept or ate because I kept worrying that he might be dead.

The first thing I did when I got off leave was ask the police if they knew what his name was. If I could get his full name and a few bits and pieces of information, I could check the yellow pages. They somehow weren’t surprised when I showed up the next day.

“Do you have any relations to this man?” one officer with a moustache asked. My perfect lie I’d told my boss earlier appeared into my thoughts. But if he were my brother I would for sure know his name, so that was no good within this situation.

“Um, my sister has quite the attraction to him and she was going to ask him to lunch, so I wanted to know what his name was so I could look up his information.”

That was the stupidest excuse I’d ever made, but by some luck my voice sounded so convincing that they believed this acquisition.

 “He was quite close with an old women who makes dresses across the way. I heard her say his name was Shahid. But, that’s all the information we have.”

Shahid, like Shahid the Bollywood actor.

The man did resemble him slightly but I knew it wasn’t really him. Bollywood actors didn’t just hang around inner city New Delhi, unless it was for charity work once a year. I had to admit to myself that the namesake suited him. They both had soft, youthful faces with curled black hair up to the shoulders.

            I shifted my legs to try and suppress my sudden arousal.

“I’ll go and ask the women some more information, thank you.”

“You’re welcome, and I hope she finds him soon,” the two cops said in unison. I could have sworn I heard one them snicker as I walked away.

 

It was two days before my leave was over…and still nothing. I had searched all the shops, restaurants, businesses, alleyways, and even the slums. Each time there was no sign of him. The more I searched, the more intense the heavy sensation grew inside me. It ate at my chest and made me feel like I was going to vomit and consumed every ounce of my body like a virus.

I just needed to find him.

After leaving yet another convenience store without any luck, my foot knocked into a pile of blankets. It shifted a bit and a bronze hand covered in dust peeked out. Immediately I reached for it out of shear hope.

Black curled hair fell into his face and I immediately assumed it was Shahid. It’s not like he was the only one with curled black hair, but I was fed up with searching and my brain just wanted to assume it was him so I could calm my fear and anxiety.  

“I recognize you,” the man said, clear white teeth appearing in rows as he smiled.

Shahid.

No matter that he smelt of wet rain and was covered in soiled blankets. He was there, in front of me…and alive.

The relief felt like cool air seeping into my lungs, and not my job, my parents, or even my niece could make me feel this kind of comfort.  

 “Are you going to join me down here, or are you going to head on your way?” He asked quite frankly.

“I-I’m sorry. I’m just glad I found you!” I blurted, my voice sounding a bit eager then I’d liked. It made him giggle.

“You only spoke a few words to me. Yet, you address me as if we were lovers.”

I couldn’t have heard that right, had he said lovers?

“E-Excuse me?”

“You heard me.”

 “Well, when I went to your shop, you were gone so I wanted to make sure you had a place to stay. Until, you get back on your feet that is.”

Shahid laughed, “Oh, so you feel charitable. That is why you wanted to find me.”

“No, that’s not it all. I just, I wanted to make sure you were ok.”

Shahid removed the blankets and stood before me. I’d forgotten how tall he was, towering over my head by at least two inches. I was 5’8 and he was at least 6’1.

“I am ok.”

His eyes grew wet and he swallowed. I immediately spoke in an excited tone to try and catch his tears.

“Why don’t you come over to my place!? I have some clothes you could wear and you could dry off. You don’t have to stay long if you don’t want to.”

His wide smile remained.

“I would like that.” My cheeks flushed.

I wanted so badly to remove the loose clothing from his damp skin. Hold his thin frame against me and smell all that he was, all that he’d experienced. Rub my hands through his hair to hear him sigh and feel his weight letting go of all that he’s been forced to give into.

Shahid must have known. For his body leaned into me, wrapping an arm around my waist, as he placed his lips on my forehead and my eyes shut tight. My breath began to settle.

Suddenly, I was not so afraid.  

 

 


© 2016 Tionge Rosalie Johnson



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Absolutely loved it. I would love to read more of your great work.

Posted 2 Years Ago


2 of 2 people found this review constructive.

Tionge Rosalie Johnson

2 Years Ago

awww, thank you! Your comment means a lot! Feel free to read more of my work on here :)
lilliterate

1 Year Ago

I definitely agree

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Added on March 14, 2015
Last Updated on June 28, 2016
Tags: short story

Author

Tionge Rosalie Johnson
Tionge Rosalie Johnson

Syracuse , NY



About
I'm a graduate student at the S.I Newhouse School of Public Communications studying Arts Journalism where I am specializing in theatre. I have a great passion for writing and editing written work and .. more..

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