Published in The Nepali Man on 28 February 2015
They say the city of Kathmandu shifted almost two meters on April 25, 2015. High resolution satellite maps demonstrated slight rises and falls in central Nepal’s topography. The giant waves and their subsequent ripples altered the shape of our land. We all know how this physical shift caused irrevocable damage. But people are still taking stock of the mental and emotional legacies left behind by the earthquakes.
It’s difficult to pinpoint what happens to sex and romance in times of crisis. Some couples find solace in togetherness, whereas some find themselves alienated from each other. Single men and women may have reached out to friends, as I did, eating and sleeping together. For the first couple of weeks, it seemed improper to think about boys. I was a bit numb, still scared. But natural desires are hard to deflect.
Grindr was empty. So was Thamel. The travellers left, causing eerie voids in Kathmandu’s real and virtual worlds. As days passed, as weeks turned into months, I tried to bring a semblance of normalcy in my life. I revisited pre-quake projects. I reached out to editors. I sat down to write.
TNM seemed indefinitely suspended. I did not know what to do with myself. The earthquake marked an end to my year of frivolity. Disaster or not, I had also evolved. Now what?
I started noticing holes on a weekday evening. Some Saturday afternoons were too long. The online chats were getting boring. But life always has surprises in store. I developed a friendship with a boy who was home from a Melbourne college, but we never managed to meet in person. A rainy night threw a surprise threesome my way. It was rejuvenating. Platonic hangouts with gay boys continued: afternoon tea breaks, Wednesdays at Jazz Upstairs, dinners in Jhamel.
Then one night, I resumed a conversation with a Russian who was staying in Pokhara. He had arrived in Kathmandu shortly before the quake and after a week or so, moved to the laketown. He was trying to figure out his plans: when to return to Kathmandu, when to fly back to Russia, minor logistics like that. I offered my guest room to him, just in case, if he needed a place for a few days. Also, I could use the company.
He said he would like that and, in return, offered to conduct a long-distance healing.
“What does that involve?” I sent a message on Viber.
“I can remove blocks from your life. If you have a bad relation with someone - say friends or family - I can focus the energies and clear it,” he explained. “And if you let me stay with you, I can do it for free.”
I considered the offer for two days but politely refused. I had once gotten entangled with a psychic in New York, losing hundreds of dollars in the process. I did not want to repeat the mistake.
The Russian was due to arrive in Kathmandu in a few days, but later in the week, changed his plans, saying he needed to look after a sick friend. Then I stopped paying attention to him. He was cute, friendly, reasonable enough, but he seemed flakey, constantly changing plans. I ignored messages, took my time with responses. But one day in July, he wrote again, saying he was taking the bus the day after.
I did not rearrange my plans. I went to meetings and then to the gym. “I’ll be home only around eight,” I typed.
“That’s perfect,” he responded. “See you on Monday evening.”
The timing worked out well. He arrived in my neighborhood right after I got home. The night was dry but I was covered in sweat due to running and cycling. I showed him the extra room, set the rice on the stove and took a shower.
The leftover curry and dal was more than enough for two. After dinner, we shared a cigarette. Then I turned to him and asked, “Do you want to lie down?”
Sex with the Russian was long and deep. We fit together like pieces from a jigsaw puzzle. He spent the night in my room. The following morning, I made coffee while he blended bananas and managos with yoghurt. It was a nice and thick breakfast shake.
I had the day off so I took him for a walk around old Patan. The sky was a lovely shade of blue, dotted by small, wispy clouds. The sun was bright and strong. We returned to the apartment, where I left him, saying I needed to catch up with friends. But I wanted some distance from him, not quite used to such sudden intimacy.
That evening, he was eager to get close but I made an excuse. I wanted to unwind and sleep by myself. Wednesday was busy with work and errands and writing. He seemed a bit disappointed but I couldn’t help it.
He was set to fly to Moscow on Thursday night. That morning, we both had hours to kill so we hopped back into bed. This time, it was equally good but short. “So do you want to hear about the Mayan calendar?” he asked. He had inquired about my birthday the day before. “I did the calculations yesterday,” he said, turning his naked body towards me.
“So tell me,” I looked at his scruffy face, eager for explanation.
“It’s based on the year of your birth, the day, the exact time,” he started. “You have just completed a 13-year cycle and started a new one. You are at a balanced stage now, having gathered all the learning from the previous cycle.”
I listened. We had already figured out coincidences in our mutual lives. He had first arrived in Nepal in 2013, the same month I returned from the United States. He had also visited New York in 2004, the same month I had moved to the city from college.
“You are made of fire. You are a warrior,” he continued. “You charge ahead, cutting off negativity from your life. Like, any toxic relationships, etc.”
“Its all good,” he reassured me. “The previous cycle was a difficult one, confusing. But you are composed now. You know what to do. Your throat chakra is the strongest. You communicate well.”
What to make of all this, I did not exactly know. In any case, we showered and started the day. I went to work and then to the gym. We said goodbye in the afternoon, not quite certain whether I would see him in the evening. But I caught him on his way out, right as I cycled into the compound. It was already dark, drizzling, close to eight. My glasses were covered with raindrops, blurring my vision. He was carrying a big backpack.
“Did you leave the key?” I hollered a last reminder as I walked upstairs.
“In the kitchen,” his voice trailed after me.
I thought about the Russian briefly as I showered. The healing and the Mayan calendar.
The coincidences. The kisses and caresses. He had arrived on a dry monsoon evening and left on a rainy one. He was nervous about returning to Moscow after a long stint of traveling. He liked Nepal, he said. “It’s such a free country. But Russia is different. Everyone is miserable in Russia,” he had sighed, taking a slow drag on a Surya Light.