Surya ponders dating in the LGBT+ community.
|Surya eyed the young man waiting for him at the restaurant table. He was handsome enough: a little shorter than Surya’s father with glossy black hair in a tidy cut, black eyes that watched the room with alert curiosity, smooth, dark skin and an easy, flashingly white smile. Slowly, Surya took in a deep breath and let it out again. His father had promised that he would stop after this date. Just one more, little one. Maybe this one will change your mind.
Never mind that none of them had changed his mind before. Never mind that it wasn’t his mind that needed changing. Surya strode out across the small diner’s main seating area and paused just within the young man’s vision, put his hand on his chest and inclined his head. “Good afternoon. You must be Hari. I’m Surya.”
Hari stood utterly still, watching Surya with a puzzled smile on his face before answering the greeting. “Good afternoon. I… uh, was waiting for someone. How did you know my name?”
Surya smiled, aware that it was more drawn and pinched than was probably polite. “My father, Dinesh Jain, contacted you to arrange a meeting with his daughter?” When Hari nodded slowly, Surya bit back the bitterness in his throat. “I’m his son, Surya.”
“I don’t…” Like so many others, Surya could watch the realization dawning on Hari’s face. “Oh. I… I’m sorry. I didn’t… I mean, your father…”
“I know,” Surya said. He tried to make his smile reassuring. It wasn’t any of these men’s faults that his father refused to acknowledge his gender. “Baba and I have gone around and around on this for years. He still holds out hope that the perfect person will appear and change everything.” He gestured to the table. “Will you sit? Reservations are hard to come by here and I’m not opposed to conversation.”
Hari took a long moment, then smiled and sat down. “Certainly. I hoped to come away with a potential wife but I can deal with a potential friend, instead.”
* * *
Two hours later, the server brought the checks and Hari sighed, almost sounding disappointed. “You’re an incredible person, Surya,” he said as he pulled out his credit card. “I would say it’s a shame you’re a man but then you wouldn’t be nearly as fascinating as you are.”
Surya chuckled as he signed for his own check and tucked a ten under the plate for the server. “I could say the same for you, Hari. Thank you for staying and keeping an open mind, at least.”
“My pleasure.” Hari paused to study Surya’s face. “Have you considered joining a dating site? Just to assure your parents that you are actually looking for someone? It might give them enough to make them back off.”
Surya ran his tongue slowly around his bottom teeth, checking for anything trapped. “I’m thirty-two, Hari. If I’m not married by now, I’m not interested and I don’t even want to think about trying to bring someone home to my parents who they didn’t approve beforehand.”
“Point taken,” sighed Hari.
“Besides. Baba promised you’d be the last one.” Surya stood up and tucked his cell phone into his back pocket. “I’ll have probably two years’ grace before he changes his mind again.”
“Promises have a shelf life?” chuckled Hari and Surya gave him an ironic glare.
“You know they do.”
“I keep hoping my family is unusual in that,” he replied with a sad smile. He extended his hand and Surya shook it. “If I decide I want a tattoo, you’re the first one I’ll call.”
“You’ll be calling baba anyway,” Surya chuckled. “He owns the shop. But thank you.” He watched as Hari made is way out of the dining room and then followed, his hands in his pockets and his shoulders shrugged against the brisk New York wind. His apartment was only a few blocks from the restaurant, probably why his father had suggested it to Hari in the first place. The joys of living in Manhattan. If you could afford the rent and stand the noise, it was a great place to live.
The dating site idea wasn’t a bad one, Surya acknowledged to himself as he rode the elevator up to his floor. At least it would look to his parents like he wasn’t set on living his life alone. “If they would just set me up with a girl for a change,” he muttered and draped his jacket over the back of the kitchenette chair. But that would require that they publicly acknowledge they had a son instead of a daughter. Sometimes he thought his father was almost to that point, especially since they had been working together in the tattoo shop for the last ten years. His mother, though…
Surya sighed and collapsed onto the unmade daybed that doubled as a couch in his tiny apartment. Something thumped under his head and he grunted before pulling his laptop out from under the pillow where he had left it this morning. The battery was almost dead, so he fished out the cord and plugged it into the dilapidated outlet in the wall, retrofitted to be grounded sometime back in the early 80s. Everything about this place was a fire hazard, but it did explain why Surya could afford to live there. He signed into the computer and scrolled through his emails idly before pausing with his mouth hanging open.
“Join Real Hearts, the LGBT+ community for lovers of all kinds.” The email was dated a few hours ago and appeared to be one of the millions of emails that wandered through his box in the course of a year. It was hard to call it coincidence so close together with Hari’s suggestion, though. Surya opened the email and chuckled when he saw that it was a referral from Steve Petit, his friend in Poughkeepsie. “No pressure,” the personal note read and Surya grinned.
“No pressure my ass.” Surya texted the words to Steve and stuffed his phone back under the pillow. Steve was gay and had been in love with his best friend since grade school. Surya supposed that if Steve had a profile on the dating site, it was an ode to the unattainable.
Under the pillow, the phone rattled with a reply and Surya pulled it out again. “I want a wing-man,” Steve had texted. “It’s weird asking Marek.”
“Since you can’t stop watching his ass if he’s there?”
Surya considered for a moment, then shrugged. “Sure, why not. If it means you’ll come into the city more often, I’ll keep an eye on you.”
Chuckling and shaking his head, Surya clicked the invitation link Steve had sent him and started filling out his profile. When he got to the dreaded gender question, he glared in frustration. It had three options: male, female, and other. “I am not a fucking other,” he growled. He clicked it anyway. Transphobia was hardly a straight community exclusive. He felt something roll over in his stomach when he came to the orientation options: interested in men, interested in women, and interested in trans. Only one option was selectable at a time. “So, it’s a gay and lesbian site with room for kinky stuff,” grumbled Surya and picked up his phone to text Steve. “I’m really not sure about this site, Steve.”
“Did you see the orientation options?”
“Not exactly bisexual friendly. And trans is a gender all on its own? Fetishizing much?”
“Oh, come on, it’s not that bad.”
“No wonder you don’t want Marek to join. He’s not even represented in the default options.” Surya ground his teeth together, then added, “You know I’d probably get beaten if I tried to join here, right? It’d be worse if I was male-to-female but dude. This is not a website that includes people like me. I’m other. Listed right in the gender question.”
“I’m sorry,” Steve finally texted back. “I guess I didn’t see it that way.”
“Dating sites just seem like a recipe for trouble,” Surya texted, worrying his bottom lip with his teeth. “If I’m honest in my profile, I get people who are either obsessed with the trans fetish or I have people slamming me for being trans. If I’m not honest, it has to come out later and then I get accused of lying.” He closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the wall with a sigh. “Nobody’s actually interested in dating me,” he muttered. “They’re just interested in seeing the circus freak. They’re interested in my sexuality. Not me.”
The cell phone in his hand rattled again and he looked down to see another text from Steve: “Come to Keepsie. It’s karaoke night at Zan’s and we can get a beer.”
“Isn’t it always karaoke night at Zan’s?”
“She takes Wednesdays and Sundays off.” After a second, Steve added, “Please? You know Marek would love to see you.”
Surya smiled and sighed. “I’ll see you in a few hours.” He rolled onto his side on the bed and glared at the still-open dating website. He snapped the lid of the laptop closed harder than necessary and rolled over, putting his back to the apartment and the digital world with it.