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~Of blonde hair, blue eyes and a sparkling smile~
Dec 13, 2007 09:51 AM 6688 Views

[Caution: Maybe it's not what you expect, maybe it's not the right category either- but it was a'date' of sorts.]

It was my first day at Grady High school, my second day in Atlanta, and my fourth day of being in the US on my exchange program. During my first three periods, I had already been overwhelmed by the number of new people I was meeting, and was aghast at how nobody seemed to have even noticed my presence(despite me getting there in time to catch a front seat!). As I walked into US History, my fourth period class, I had learnt my lesson, and went and grabbed the corner-most desk. I was done with'taking initiative' for the day(as they never tired of telling us at the exchange orientations), and wanted to wallow in self-pity for a while. Just as the class was about to start, in walked Peter*- or, to me then, my angel. His eyes searched the room, and he chose the desk right in front of me- in that same corner. He came, slung his bag under the chair, and sat down. I noticed he had the most adorable curly blonde hair, before he quickly spun around and introduced himself.

"I'm Peter. Peter Fleming" He held out his hand as he spoke.

"I'm Arundhati." I said, then noticing the horror written all over his face, I added, "Yeah, you can call me Aru. I'm an exchange student from India"

His kindly blue eyes suddenly shone with excitement, "Wow! That's SO cool! I've always wanted to go to India! You know, I even tried reading the Bh. bhaag."

"Bhagawat Gita?" I volunteered, a genuine smile appearing on my face for the first time in the day.

"So is that really how you say it? I always wanted to know!"

And our conversation went on throughout the period, as the history teacher, Mr. Sartor, tried in vain attract our attention. But, for once, I didn't care. I had finally made a friend in this unknown land!

And from then on, I always looked forward to US History, not so much for the story of the gory history of America, but to meet my friend. My only friend.

Peter and I, we talked about everything under the Sun. He asked questions about India, but also about my life back there. These were genuine queries. A sharp contrast to the questions people asked me just because I introduced myself as an exchange student. With Peter, I almost forgot that I was from an alien country, and had a'weird' accent(as the others would always remind me). With him, I was myself- a teenager- with my very own set of quirks and fancies. He woud always know when I was down, and know exactly what to say and do to make me happier. In turn, I gave him a big bear hug everytime he walked into class. We were inseperable in that class.

And this continued for almost six months. And then came a day that looked as normal as it could, little was I to know how different it was going to be.

I walked into class a little late, and Mr. Sartor had already started passing out the tests. I quickly gave Peter a hug and buckled down to start writing the test. As usual, Peter leaned over and wispered a'best of luck'. I smiled and nodded. I looked at my test, and got into the whole which-president-was-elected-when-and-against-whom mode. Everything was fine.

.for a few minutes. Then, out of the blue, Peter tapped on my shoulders, "Aru?"

Being used to Peter's random outbursts, I wasn't too surprised, but wondered what it was this time.

I turned around. Half-expecting him to say something completely and unnecessarily random. I already had a half-smile on my face.

"Did I ever tell you I was gay?"

One little question. And the insides of me wanted to scream "WHAT?! YOU NEVER TOLD ME! I DIDN'T KNOW!". Instead, I managed a meek shake of the head.

"Well yeah, I'm gay" He said matter-of-factly, completely oblivious to the effect his statement had had on his listener. And he smiled(as always!) and continued with his test- unaware of how the world had come to a standstill for the person in the desk in front.

For a while, I tried to look back at the test, and suddenly nothing made sense. I tried to act like I was testing, but finally gave up. Thankfully, the bell rang at the same time.

As I managed a smile at Peter, I ran out of the class, his words still ringing in my ear. I wasn't quite sure why I was so upset. Was it because he was the first gay guy I had ever known? Or was it because I hadn't known it for six long months? Or was it because it was a situation I had never faced before, and was not quite ready to react to?

As I went through the day, and finally went home, I looked back on it. I realised one of my main frustrations was that I never knew Peter was gay, despite knowing him so well! And then I asked myself, how could I?! He was so. normal! I mean, weren't homosexuals supposed to be all flambouyant and effeminate and stuff? Every gay character I'd seen in movies was quite'weird', and I had a reason to believe so! But I hadn't known, had I?!

I was also quite frustrated he didn't tell me earlier. But then, I asked myself whether I ever introduced myself with my sexual orientation. If I didn't have to say I was straight, why would Peter have to introduce himself as gay? The more I thought about it, the more I realised how unfair my anger was. I had always thought of myself as very open-minded, but this made me check my own beliefs. And, though it took a while, I understood.

It was one of those moments of my life that I can confidently point to and say, "I grew as a person there"

Ultimately, Peter and I shared an even stronger bond than ever. I loved and respected him more than I ever had, and I even mustered the courage to tell him about my feelings after he'came out' to me. With remarkable maturity, much beyond his years, he smiled his kindly smile, and said, "I understand. I should have introduced the idea more gradually. And your reaction was nothing compared to the usual ones. But I'm not ashamed to tell now. How can I be ashamed of myself?" Thankfully, he never noticed the little tear falling down my cheek.

Peter and I went on to bigger things, greater things. We came to the point where he regularly talked to me about all the gay couples drama, and I did not feel, in the least emarrased. I had accepted Peter for who he was: a wonderful human being- funny, curious, enthusiastic, loving, empathatic, and yes, gay. My first ever friend at Grady.

A'date' to remember.

I thought I would share this story in the wake of the whole Manvendra Singh episode. The world is moving on, and how long will we insist on being stuck in ancient mindsets(in the name of'maintaining traditions'), and deny such natural feelings? How long will it take us to realise that homosexuals are every bit as'normal' as anyone who falls for their opposite sex? In the times when a'normal' boy-girl relationship comes under utmost scrutiny in society, I wonder just how long it'll take for people to accept that even two guys can'go out'. The world is moving fast, and, let's accept it, we are far behind in a lot of ways. And until we actually accept ourselves- and are comfortable in our own skins- how will we move on?

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