EXCERPT #3

Lovers, Rahul learned, create an orbit around themselves. 

Within this sphere, they could come together with a kind of desperate hunger and the outside world and everything that didn’t begin or end with their colliding bodies was erased or committed to pure oblivion.  It was like that when Rahul sprinted up the stairs and entered the apartment.

The first thing that changed about his world was the smell.  Wisps of perfume, like the anchal of an elusive Apsara that had just left the room danced around him.  It was always the same intoxicating scent, of ripe, effusive tuberoses.  Tapering candles stood guard over an immaculate feast, illuminating the dinner table directly across the entry. Atif stood next to it with a look of such yearning on his face that his breathing had become labored and it seemed that any moment his legs would buckle.  A week had passed since they last met and his resolve was finally draining out of him like blood from a punctured heart.

"Sorry I'm late," said Rahul.  "I can't stay too long."

Atif managed an unconvincing shrug, expecting as much. Such was the nature of their relationship.  An apology expressed regret but could never serve as reassurance that it wouldn’t happen again.  Atif’s knuckles were white from gripping the chair.  "How much time do you have?"

Rahul approached Atif, looking down at him.  Atif winced as if from a sharp punch.  Rahul touched the scar on his lip and leaned forward to kiss his forehead, feeling the breath escape Atif in a sigh.  Atif’s bare feet climbed onto Rahul's polished shoes and he buried his face in Rahul's chest, his arms encircling the strong girth of Rahul's waist.  At that moment, if Rahul had been able to hear Atif’s heart, he would have heard: thank you God for bringing him to me. Now I can feel the air in my lungs.  Now the merciless counting of time can stop.  He’s mine, every bit of him.  She doesn’t exist here.

They began to kiss and Atif began his ascent on Rahul, twining onto him like a vine.  Rahul lifted him completely off the ground, against gravity and the commitments that had kept them bound to the heavy earth.