Eternal Flame

Close your eyes, give me your hand, darling
Do you feel my heart beating, do you understand?
Do you feel the same, am I only dreaming?
Is this burning an eternal flame?

Rumi is a short man, with a bit of a stomach and a lively expressive face, broad eyes and full lips.

Our meeting in Delhi, with about 15 others from South Asia, is going well: constructive conversation and positive outcomes. But he’s the one having the most fun.

Flamboyant behaviour is somewhat out of fashion in Sydney. Many gay men strive to be hypermasculine. A number of straight men are going for the stylish but strong metrosexual. Drag is on the wane. I have friends who play at being camp, and have much less contact with those who are camp all the time.

But Rumi is pretty much the real thing. Pluma, they say in Spanish. Feather. What a brightly coloured bird.

He dashed out at coffee break and came back ten minutes late. Another friend at the meeting tells me he suspects he’s gone up to his room for a quickie. I’ve learned to not act surprised.

He’s already had two so far at the hotel, you should have seen the last one. Thin, but strong. Siddarth curves his hand over the bicep of his other arm to indicate the shape.

And we’ve only been here two nights, I note.

Rumi rushes back into the room, and takes his seat. Siddharth calls out, Rumi, why do you look so energetic? Rumi scowls, and Rajan, who’s facilitating, picks up the queue.

Why do you look so energetic?

The meeting continues but Rumi can’t resist sidling up to Siddarth, whispering in Hindi, before returning to his seat.

Twenty minutes, two different men, Siddahrth relays to me, impressed.

How does he do it? I try to keep judgement and jealousy out of my voice, but I’m not sure I succeed.

Oh, you should have seen him at lunch. He tried to pick up one of the waiters there, but he didn’t seem interested. He just turns it on. As flamboyant as possible, the boys go wild.

The cultural context is beyond me. I don’t know if the men that he’s having sex with are gay or straight or unlabeled, whether women are unavailable to them so an easy gay offering is appealing, whether gay sex is difficult to access, whether the hotel trade is mostly made of gay staff, or whether Rumi is appealing in this culture, flaming or not, in a way that I can’t recognize from mine.

Whatever the case: good for him. Flame on, Rumi. Flame on.

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