That morning, I went out and bought a camera instead of a gun…
After my car broke down last night just outside the city, I walked into this strange lone building looking for some help. The building was empty, only a big room painted red was filled with men, only men—they were beautiful, their hands stilled in graceful positions, their bodies stuck in a slanted rhyme, their eyes at times fearful, expectant at other times. They were on an open stage.
I almost went up to feel their elegant shapes but they started moving in circles, dancing so exquisitely to sudden music that I stopped and kept watching their sensual and sorrowful movement. My eyes, for some time, blurred other men and focused on a single figure translating itself into soft geometry: the arabesque of his body left me almost without speech.
I still remember the sound of my own pulse which, with each beat, kept rising, until the moving void of his eyes left me with a sense of vertigo. I balanced myself by holding on to the old steel railings and my sight paused at another young man’s melancholy stillness, his head bowed in fear, and the back of his neck shimmering helplessly violet-green like a pigeon’s, as if ready to be twisted.
I still remember the sound of my own pulse which, with each beat, kept rising, until the moving void of his eyes left me with a sense of vertigo.
His hidden face and static body reminded me of a photograph I had taken last year, while waiting to buy tickets to the Louvre, where light softens itself in the summer evenings, or so it seems. This photo was of four men perhaps unknown to each other, none of whose faces were visible: a man in a pale lavender t-shirt and grey crop pants with what seemed like white socks walking almost out of the frame; the man in the centre, in a black t-shirt with a monochrome image of a woman, whose pale arms, peppered with hair, cuts between two beautifully toned legs of who could only have been a boy wearing a green t-shirt with something red.
Behind him is another man in dark indigo and denim colours, forever about to walk into the frame with his Burberry jacket resting on a bag. Faces of the last three men are hidden behind a signboard that does not reveal its message in the photograph.
Some nights, I dream about that evening, about the scene after the photograph, about an unstill time where the men’s faces are revealed and they are free to go anywhere outside the image. I have a fantasy about which I had written to an old boyfriend: one night I will delete all my photographs and let free all the moments I have caught, all the men I have captured.
One night I will delete all my photographs and let free all the moments I have caught, all the men I have captured.
Right after I thought I should leave, I noticed that the music had changed while I was thinking about another evening, and the men were now clothed in feathers. Many feathered men were dancing, changing forms, and running around so defenselessly, on the stage that now looked like a forest.
I wondered what I was doing there watching all of them from a distance, when I saw a small, semi-automatic pistol with a mother-of-pearl grip resting on a corner chair. I thought about all the times I had wanted to shoot men—which were too many to remember—and that one unbearable morning when again an auto driver in Delhi didn’t take a road I had asked him to, leaving me feeling powerless and almost humiliated. That morning, I went out and bought a camera instead of a gun.
I looked at all the beautiful men from the rear sight of the pistol that was now in my hand, and settled on a boy perhaps my own age, about 25 or 26. I caressed his dancing nightingale like body by just watching from a distance. I kept looking at him, for who knows how long, until my own hunting stance disgusted me and the old Hindi song started playing, in my mind, on loop: “The hunter has fallen in love with the bulbul. The hunter has fallen in love with the bulbul.”
I looked at all the beautiful men from the rear sight of the pistol that was now in my hand, and settled on a boy perhaps my own age, about 25 or 26.
In the morning today, I woke up with the same heart that was beating so loudly last night. I don’t remember what happened after that, or how I got home without my car, or whether I finally pulled the trigger or not.