That’s all he said as he came up to me. Rather that’s all he needed to say, to calm my storming, nervous wreck of a mind. You might ask why I was nervous; you see it was the first time I was meeting someone through an online dating app.
I was raised to be the perfect Muslim boy. Raised to think that homosexuality was a sin.
So as expected out of any good Muslim, I hid my feelings. I hid, even from myself that I was attracted to men. Shame and homophobia settled in me even before I realised I was gay. I prayed to God to ‘make me right’. But no one answered. No one heard my cries for help. I had no one to talk to and life felt meaningless. So I did what was in my powers, I tried to end it, but failed . My parents took me to psychiatrists after psychiatrists, and they couldn’t help either. Nobody could.
So I turned to the next best thing. Hook-ups, online dating, the perfect escape.
I tried to justify it the first time as, if I didn’t like sex with a man, maybe I wasn’t gay. But what do you know? I loved it, and that’s when the denial set in. I wasn’t gay, I repeated to myself a million times. As I flipped profile after profile, becoming a savant at online dating I told myself I was just enjoying sex, I won’t ever be in a relationship with a guy, because I’m not gay. And like the millions of gay men in this country, I spent most of my young years, wanting desperately to be myself, but hating my reality.
“Hey.” I replied. A smile taking over my face.
“Sameer , right?”
“Yeah.” I smiled like idiots do when they fall in love.
“It’s nice to finally meet.” He said with a smile . He smiled naturally, with ease and not a trace of pretense.
Suddenly, a beautiful alien feeling embraced me.
I felt myself, complete and whole probably for the first time in my life.
None of this would’ve happened had I not decided to reply to him that fateful day. Online dating, my ‘perfect escape’ led me to the man who freed me. The shame that won’t let me put my thoughts to words, was vanishing, my massive doubts were reduced to receding specks.
“You don’t have to turn to sex to know who you really are.” He said one night, while I talked to him about my fears.
And I didn’t have to, once you meet the right person, they can bring out the real you, and that’s what he did for me. My fears, my anxiety, everything seemed so minuscule compared to the glow that his presence filled my life with.
“Lost in thoughts?” he asked me and I snapped out of my trance.
“Sorry, I was just thinking about you.”
“What about me?” he asked with a playfully curious smile.
“Everything.” I smiled awkwardly.
He sat next to me on the bench grazing his fingers over my hand ever so lightly, and as the sun welcomed dusk, he took my hand. As the sky bloomed orange , I was his.
“I love you.” he whispered.
“Me too.” My words betrayed my feelings. And for the first time in my life, I admitted to myself, ‘I’m gay and I’m proud.’
Who knew the millennial plague called ‘online dating’ would give me what I was seeking all my life- myself.