It felt like after all…

It felt like after all the time you've patiently spent reading *about* the novel, you should see at least a little of what it actually looks like. So below (space down) is the excerpt from the novel that I read at my birthday reading last Wednesday. Mild spoilers, so skip entry if you feel strongly about them. This scene takes place about a quarter of the way through the book.


Gabriel lay in bed, watching Roshan at his laptop, plugged into the phone line, dialed up to the net. Gabriel still hadn't used his hospital account, though he knew he should; all the young doctors, fresh out of medical school, seemed to be online all the time, downloading recent journal articles, sending each other e-mail. Gabriel didn't often notice the five-year difference in their ages, but right now, Roshan seemed impossibly young, his fresh, unlined face lit by the screen. He was buying plane tickets, astonishingly. Kids these days! If Gabriel told his father that he was buying airplane tickets through a computer, he knew what his father's reaction would be. But his mother would have loved it. His mother would have loved Roshan. He was almost sure.

"Come to bed," Gabriel said.

"I'm almost done -- just waiting for it to confirm." Roshan's face was distant, abstracted, staring at the screen.

"How long will you be gone?" Gabriel hated the plaintive note that had crept into his voice.

"Just three days. You won't have time to miss me." Roshan closed the laptop and came over to the bed, bending down to kiss Gabriel's forehead.

"I always miss you. I miss you right now." Silly, but true. Gabriel wanted Roshan naked beside him, skin pressed to skin, bonded through their sweat. At least that was easy to arrange. He reached up, started unbuttoning Roshan's shirt. One button, two -- then Roshan was putting a hand over his, gentle but immovable.

"Hold on just a few minutes longer. I want to call Shefali, let her know the details."

Gabriel knew he should let Roshan go, but he couldn't. "Don't."


"Don't call her. Come to bed." Gabriel released Roshan's shirt, his hand falling limply to the bedspread. It was a patchwork quilt; his grandmother had made it, and his mother had mended it. Soft with the years of tradition.

"It's late already; I'll just be a few minutes." Roshan explained patiently, "She doesn't sleep well, you know that -- I don't want to disturb her once she's actually fallen asleep."

Gabriel did know that, knew that he was being unreasonable, that the appropriate, sensible, safe thing to do would be to just shrug as if it didn't matter, shake it off, let Roshan go. Instead, he found himself saying, "You care more about her than you do about me!" He snapped his mouth shut.

Roshan looked bewildered. "What are you talking about?"

The words kept coming, sharp, snarky. "It's natural, I suppose -- Shefali is your wife. And she's smart, nice, pretty...a regular Sri Lankan princess."

"What is that to me?" Roshan's voice had risen higher, incredulous. "Gabriel -- you are being ridiculous. You must know that. What difference does it make to me whether she is pretty?" He stood stiff by the side of the bed, just a few inches away. So far.

"Okay, fine, but looks aren't everything. You have so much in common..."

Roshan sighed. "Shefali reads science fiction. She likes to go dancing. She cannot cook and she thinks Friends is funny. What exactly do we have in common?"

"There's all the ethnic stuff" Gabriel offered it weakly, knowing that it was true, and that it was also not enough. It wasn't that they were both Sri Lankan, that they were both brown-skinned, and he wasn't. It wasn't that they were married, either. It wasn't any of those things -- and it was all of them, and more besides.

"Gabriel." Roshan sat down on the side of the bed, opened his arms for Gabriel to lean into them. Gabriel rested his forehead against his boyfriend's shoulder, grateful for the darkness it provided. Roshan's voice was soft as he asked, "What is really going on?"

Gabriel said, "Tell me you love me." Roshan had said it before -- they had exchanged whispered I love you's in the dark, in the heat of sex and afterwards. That wasn't enough.

"Now?" Roshan's voice was pained. "Like this, when you have just asked me to? Will that really reassure you?"

Maybe not -- but Roshan's resistance made it all worse. "Tell me why you like me, at least." Safer to step back, to ask for something smaller. But that wasn't to be granted either.

"I cannot do that." Roshan's arms tightened around him. "I cannot just list things. It does not work that way."

"I can do it." Gabriel's voice was insistent. "I like the way you bite your lip when you're thinking. I like the shape of your chest -- it's broader than it looks in clothes. I like the food you cook, and the way you never believe that I actually like it spicier than you do." Gabriel's spoke quickly, unrelenting. "I like the way you say fuck! in bed, out of nowhere, as if I've surprised you, as if we haven't been fucking for hours." He paused, then went on, softer, to say, "I could list the things I like about you for days."

Roshan released him, pulled back, eyes intent on his face. "Well, I cannot. But it does not mean that I do not care."

Gabriel didn't know what to say to that. Roshan apparently didn't either, because after a few moments of silence, he simply bent forward and kissed him, soft lips intent on his, hands coming up to cradle Gabriel's face. Roshan kissed his nose, his closed eyelids, little butterfly kisses across his forehead, before coming back to his lips again, this time more insistent, until Gabriel was finally kissing him back too, his hands pressed flat against Roshan's chest, then starting to unbutton buttons.

Shefali would be woken up after all, it seemed. It was a reassurance, but somehow not quite enough. But it would have to do for now.

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