When I got into the cab the driver was on the phone, which suited me perfectly since I’m not a fan of small talk.
We were halfway to my destination before he hung up, tossed me a glance through the rearview mirror and exclaimed, “You love Vancouver, don’t you?” I nodded. “Me too. I love this city. I love people,” he said.
We exchanged a few sentences about climate, cultural diversity, greenery and all around beauty. Then he held up a copy of Xtra West and asked if I knew the paper. I said yes.
Clutching the wheel with his elbows as he wove his way through the downtown traffic, he flipped a few pages to reveal a candid cocksucking moment. “Have you seen this?”
“This is too much,” he said. “They’ve gone too far. It’s a good paper but nobody needs to see that much.”
“I guess,” I said, aware that my own relationship with nudity and public displays of sexuality might be different from most. After working at Little Sister’s for four years, helping customers select dildos or gay porn in the backroom, I’d become completely disengaged with the phallus. I saw his point — that the image was that of a private moment — but this blowjob wasn’t something I’d get upset about. I found it mundane (I’m also a lesbian).
“Don’t get me wrong,” he said. “I don’t care if people are gay. Sex is fun and everyone should be allowed to have fun.”
Then his voice became quiet and he said, “You know, people think there are no gays in Punjab, where I’m from. Let me tell you. There are many gays in Punjab.”
The difference, he told me, is that there is no cultural equivalent of Xtra West; if there were, the gay content itself would be risky enough.
“Some guys I know go to Punjab all the time because they get more sex then they know what to do with. But there’s always the same catch. Every Indian guy will tell you afterwards, ‘You can’t tell anyone about this.’”
I imagined trying to navigate these conflicting senses of home: one in which things aren’t talked about, another in which explicitly sexual photos appear next to articles about news and politics. This is Vancouver’s true beauty: that we are a city of sometimes vastly different experiences and opinions and that we share them with each other.
“You know, gays should have the same rights as you and me,” he said. “People don’t like talking about gays. They think if they’re nice to gays, it makes them gay, you know?”
I nodded again, thanked him and told him I am a lesbian. He laughed. “Now that makes even more sense to me than being gay.”