Aarav went around the restaurant, trying to find the familiar face he was looking for until finally, outside sitting with the same group as before, he saw the Hindu priest.
The Aarav from a week ago would say no way to this, but this Aarav knew he had to talk to him. Something about this just felt like it needed to happen.
The group was soon dismissed and the priest caught Aarav's eyes. "Do you need anything, young man?" He asked kindly.
"Uh, yes... See, I need your help." Aarav says.
"With?" The priest asks.
"Well, I don't want to talk about it here but... There are many things going on in my life and... It just feels like everything is falling apart and I've been too horrible of a person to talk to my parents about it plus I barely even know them like that because I never once talk to them about anything and I've just been such an asshole-"
"Woah, language there, young one." The priest smiled. "Listen, how about we go to the temple together? No one is there right now except workers because it's under maintenance, but I'm sure they'll let me and you in for a little chat. How's that sound?"
Aarav gives a nod and the priest smiles. "Come on, then! No time like the present!"
Aarav felt odd and stupid about getting into a strangers car, but he needed this and he wasn't going to let it slip away. They drove a short way until finally, they got to the temple. The outside was a simple rectangular white building but then, the door opened to reveal great big statues and vibrant colors.
Aarav had been there before, but it looked much different now. He looked over to his right to see the statue of Shiva himself. He seemed to stare at him in disappointment, making Aarav quickly look away in shame.
The only sound was the sounds of drills and a hammer beating into whatever it might be beating into.
"Sorry for the noise!" The priest shouts over the drill and hammer, "We will go to my office and talk! It's much quieter there!" Aarav follows him through the temple until they finally come to a hallway with no sound of drills or hammers. They enter the door right at the end of the hallway. "If you need to use the bathroom, it's right beside my office at the right." The priest explained. "Now, talk to me."
"Ok... Where should I start? Uh, well my parents want me to marry this girl for my grandmother, but I don't want to. I don't even know her and I think I actually like someone else..." Aarav says the last part quietly.
"Ah, you're in love." says the priest.
"No! Well, I don't think so... But then there's another problem. Four more actually. The other day I said some very mean and bad words to my father and mother and they are still very upset with me... Then I keep having these strange feelings around this person that I can't explain and I love it but I also hate it. Then... That person's friend was murdered..." Aarav stops for a second, "The other thing... I don't know if I can tell you..."
The priest looks at him with sympathy. "Well, let's start with those feelings you feel. What are they?"
"I don't know. I mean, I think it's nervousness but also something else I can't figure out. Then I get this weird rush in my stomach and fuzzy feelings... I sound like a girl don't I?" Aarav asks.
The priest chuckles, "That is simply a stereotype. Men and women are as one, just like everything else. The illusion is that we are all separate, which causes us, humans, to react the way you had with your family or when others seem to think they're better than other organisms or humans. We are not, we are all as one."
"So that's a no?" Aarav asks.
The priest chuckles again, "Yes, it's a no."
"Well, what are those feelings?" Aarav asks.
"Let's see... What do you think of this person? Do you think they're very beautiful or admirable? Perhaps you try to impress them a lot?"
"I wouldn't say impress... I mean, once he said- oh no." Aarav stops, knowing his mistake.
"Ah, now I understand. Listen here, if you are feeling these feelings for another boy know this right now, it is normal. Wanna know why? You're looking at a man who loves another man. It is completely normal to feel these things. You aren't strange or gross. If anyone says so, they are wrong! God made you the way you are and that makes you unique. God makes no mistakes. You were meant to meet that boy and have these feelings." The priest explains.
"But what if my parents think it's wrong?" He asks.
"Then they aren't good parents." The priest says with a smile, "They, in fact, shouldn't have been parents. However, if they do accept you, you have nothing to fear."
"I..." Aarav stops. The priest raises his eyebrow, waiting for a continuation. "I think I'm gay." Aarav begins to sob.
"It's alright. No need to be upset." The priest says.
"But my whole life I've been called a faggot and a fairy! I've tried so hard to not be any of those things! Now there's this girl that... Oh nevermind." Aarav rests his chin in his hand.
"It's ok... Take your time. The first time I found out, I had a hard time much like you. I even tried some juice this woman sold to me to try and get rid of it. It wasn't the smartest decision. I had to go to the hospital afterward." The priest said, making Aarav giggle softly. The priest gives him a smile back. "I know, sometimes I laugh at it too."
"I... This girl she... She did something I didn't want nor did I like... But I'm afraid to tell anyone because I'm supposed to like it... But it made me feel dirty and... Nevermind." Aarav says.
The priest gives him a look of knowing. "I understand what you're trying to say and let me tell you... It was not your fault! That woman will get the worst karma the world has ever seen, I am sure of that! So don't you worry. Whatever she did to you, she will get it back even worse from God. You must remember that God always has your back and will protect you until the end of your days. He will fix this and you will recover."
"But I didn't even care about this until this week! I haven't prayed and I've said some very hurtful things about Shiva..." Aarav confesses.
"Oh yeah, he must be very upset. I have a miniature statue of Shiva... How about you talk to him? I'll leave the room too if you want." The priest suggested. Aarav weighed the pros and cons of talking to the statue, but he finally gave the priest a nod.
The priest smiled and left the room. Aarav sighed, "Hey Shiva..." He said, feeling slightly silly. "I know I haven't talked to you since I was maybe thirteen... But I'm back. I hope you aren't too angry with me. I know I've said some horrible things, but I think I'm ready to turn it all around. I think I might even agree to marry Chandra. I mean, I know we both don't like each other, but I could at least cooperate for nannamma. She is dying after all... I shouldn't be selfish. Others have it worse... I just wish I knew why I have to, you know? It just makes no sense. Then there's Breeanna... I just feel so disgusting but also like I'm overreacting... Then there's Deion... He's just so amazing. We had a great time yesterday, but I doubt he likes me. He's dated girls before, there's no way he's gay. And Quincy... He's dead. Murdered to be exact. It just all feels so wrong. Nothing is right at the moment and I just wish it could be. I sometimes wonder if this is all my doing. That I've been such a horrible person that karma has come back and now everything is falling apart. I'm sorry, I really am. I've ruined everything and I've disappointed not only you but God in general and my parents. I've disappointed everyone. Shiva, please help me, please fix this. I'll be better, I just need everything to be ok." Tears spill from his eyes and he begins to sit in silence, crying out all his frustrations and worries until all he could feel was tired.
The priest came back in with a cup of tea and they talked about Deion and the priest's husband. Afterward, Aarav went back home, too embarrassed about what he has been doing to speak to his parents.