I have written about him in the past. Something he said became the title of my book. This is about Mr ‘Beauty Needs Space’, a Viennese guy I met off Tinder. The story is still frightfully special to me and here it is: story 9 in #100IndianTinderTales
In my first few days in Vienna, my Russian flatmate said, “You MUST HAVE a European lover ” and pushed me to try Tinder.
I was jet lagged, woke up at 4 am every morning, had nothing to do and so I installed the app and decided to check it out. Like a noob I’d check everything before I swiped right, I imagined the men I right swiped would be at my doorstep asking for sex and that was a scary thought.
The criteria was the same – face, age, bio. Guy without a bio had little chance of getting right swiped.
He didn’t have a bio but he reminded me of a Dutch-Punjabi guy I knew back home and was curious if he had followed me to Vienna. We had a match and he couldn’t stop gushing over having this exotic person as a match. After the regular set of questions, he asked:
“What would you like to see in Vienna?”
” Gustav Klimt’s Kiss, I have loved it from the time I was 17.”
“Did you know he lived in our neighbourhood?”
We were both in the 7th district in Vienna. I was elated to be living in the same neighbourhood as my hero.
I also mentioned my love for Rilke and he quickly wrote out a few lines by Rilke in German.
“For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror
which we are barely able to endure, and it amazes us so,
because it serenely disdains to destroy us.
Every angel is terrible.”
(Now he tells me those are the only lines he knows.)
Looks-wise he was okay… a lot paler than the person I knew back home but with Klimt and Rilke, he had scored.
“What are you doing this Sunday?”
“Hmm.. nothing much as of now.”
“Would you like to come walking with me?”
Wow! This was the first person who had asked me to go walking. They all wanted to meet for drinks (which for me was scary, I didn’t know German or anyone in Austria) or drink coffee (which I don’t drink).
On Sunday, I dressed casually (actually layered up) to meet the date. We met near an old church near our house.
I was late, he was nervous, he blurted out – “You are so gorgeous, am so nervous, can I smoke to relax?” He smoked and then we walked to Klimt’s house.
I had known many Germans and met a few Austrians before I met him. My perception was – people from cold countries take longer to warm up. But this guy was making sure I leave all that behind.
He kept telling me stories as we walked to Klimt’s house. He had an art history major and gave me nuggets about Klimt which I could completely do without – Klimt was a whore who took 12-year-olds as lovers.
He was warm, open and very engaging. It almost felt like we were old friends and I was visiting his city for the first time and he had to show me all of it, especially his favourite parts. His house, where he worked, where he first smoked a cigarette, favourite park, favourite restaurant, etc. And tell me all the stories about life, country, romance, working on his first novel, inbreeding among the Hasburgs, Mozart’s whore-ness, Viennese waltz, Viennese plague, gothic architecture, etc. Everything one can share with a dear friend that one may never see again.
I had not seen ‘Before Sunrise’ then but now that I have, I feel our meeting was much like the film. He drew me out and threw open his world and invited me in. I happily walked in and took my seat.
When we set the date, I was only looking to spend an hour or two with this man but he had other plans. And I decided to go along. He was funny, treating me to local delicacies and was totally charming the pants off me, while keeping a 10-inch distance from me. In his words, he didn’t want to “upset my culture”.
After walking for about 5 hours, we decided to get cake at a local coffee shop. I refused to eat any saying Europe was making me fat. He quickly quipped, “But beauty needs space.”
I smiled and ate my cake and his, sighing, oohing, aahing…, much to his amusement.
While he shared a lot about himself, he was curious about me and my country. For a change the questions were not about Kama Sutra, food or why we don’t kiss on screen. He just wanted to pet cows in India and was happy to see India on my iPad. While he looked at pictures, we talked about our previous relationship, it almost felt like both of us were seeing the same person, around the same time and our relationship had started and ended at the same time.
After an hour in the coffee shop, he walked me home. We stood outside the apartment door and talked for a long time. It was awkward to say bye, I couldn’t bring myself to kiss him, so we shook hands.
When I reached home, my flatmate was worried for me. While she talked to me, I thought maybe we should have kissed. So I sent a message.
“I felt a little awkward about kissing.”
“I am on your street, come down.”
“Nah! I am already in my night clothes.”
We exchanged numbers.
I had about 1000 free text messages and no one to message. Texting began. It almost felt like young romance… we picked another date to meet. He wanted to come over for butter chicken.
So I did the tiring job of grocery shopping in German and cooked a big meal, while texting and replying. When I was about to go for a shower, my phone rang. It was him. I was gushing this time. He said he’d have to cancel the date as his ex girlfriend had found out about him using Tinder and they had spoken and he was confused and he didn’t want me to be part of his confusion. I didn’t say anything, all I thought – who is going to eat all the butter chicken.
The flatmate was away in Amsterdam. Over the next two days, I felt cheated, very angry and wanted to cry. I wasn’t looking for love but this guy came my way, drew me out and then when I was interested, he wanted to vanish with a phone call leaving me to eat butter chicken for a whole week! Life was bloody unfair!
After two days, the flatmate came home, she said, “He was falling for you and he is protecting himself by shutting you out.” That didn’t make me happy at all… I hoped someday we’d meet.
But this was Europe and I had many things to do, work, friends, cooking, traveling, many people to meet and I was more than just popular. And to paraphrase Arundhati Roy, I was like a egg yolk in a sea of egg whites. I met other men but every time I passed the church, I’d look for him.
Then one afternoon, I was meeting a friend who wanted to show my work at an art gallery. I opened one of those fortune cookies after our Chinese lunch, it read: Be patient, small blockades will go away.
After the meal, I walked home, took the wrong lane and found myself in front of Gustav Klimt’s house. I knew I was close to mine and kept walking till I reached the church. This time I wasn’t looking for him but he was sitting there, smoking. I looked away and ran home. Once I reached home I felt stupid about not approaching him.
Our time in Vienna was coming to an end. One day, we went drinking with colleagues from work. One guy asked me about the best thing that happened to me while in Vienna. I mentioned this guy, I had told myself I am too old and love will never happen again and meeting him changed that.
This person was a die-hard romantic and I was fairly drunk. When I got home, he messaged me, “You have to tell him what you feel.” He pushed and persuaded me and a text message was fired.
In the morning when I went back to work, he asked, “Did he reply?” I had forgotten about the text message and he hadn’t replied. But it didn’t hurt anymore.
On my last night in Vienna, my phone buzzed at around 3:30 am. I thought it was my alarm. I had an early morning flight back home but instead woke up to a very warm message from him. As I left I kept looking at the church hoping he’d be there but he wasn’t.
I came back and life went on. One day, I was looking for someone on my Whats App contact list and saw he was on it. And now in his shirtless summer avatar, he looked incredibly sexy. I messaged:
“I couldn’t have scrolled past without saying you look incredibly delish!”
He replied. We got talking. We still do from time to time and it is always deep, scary, very personal things or silly, stupid things. Things we wouldn’t discuss with our closest friends. Us being 6,000 kilometres away, helps.
Once, I asked him why he didn’t come that evening. He said, ” You were so happy to be here, I didn’t want to screw it up with my confusion.”
When I self-published the book – Beauty Needs Space, I sent him pictures. He bragged about it to all his friends in Vienna and came back and gave me feedback. I was terribly nervous and all the feedback made me feel good.
I send him all messages I get from women who love his body positive message – Beauty Needs Space. He never forgets to adjust his hallo.
There are other days when he casually mentions that he won a benchpress competition.
And there have been times when I have felt lonely and scared and he has appeared out of nowhere to share a picture of a rainbow on a tree near my house in Vienna. And when I have ordered butter chicken in a hotel room in Bangalore late in the night and looked at my phone, to see a message that reads –
“I just ate butter chicken with my colleagues at an exorbitant Indian restaurant in Vienna and thought of you. Merry Christmas.”
“<del>Serves you right.</del> Merry Christmas.”
This strange and incredible connection with a lot of synchronicity makes me feel that love is in these fleeting moments and in several places and people and it finds us when we are open to it!