Many things have happened since that day in June 2000, the day I came out. I’ve done everything I ever wanted to and more. I am leaving soon – leaving life as I’ve known it. I’ve crossed the path that was destined for me to cross. I met those whom I was supposed to meet. Several dates marked my life, and the one that marks my departure came sooner than I expected. My departure is a direct consequence of all the choices I made throughout the years. The many small meaningless decisions were continuously marking an end without me knowing it.
Looking at the positive side of things, I don’t feel guilty anymore when I light my fifth cigarette every morning with my small cup of Lebanese coffee before I go to work. And this bad cough that wakes me up is no longer an issue.
I packed my red backpack with little clothes and many books. I locked the empty apartment where I lived for three years. I hoped I would meet none of my neighbors on my way to get a taxi to the airport. I didn’t. Although I had taken this trip from what had been my home until the moment I locked its door, to the airport, many times in the past 3 years, this time was different. I was not as elated as I would usually be when flying to a different country. The habitual meaningless conversation that I used to start with the Pakistani taxi driver to demolish my anxiety seemed so ridiculous on that day.
Looking at the positive side of things, I was happy that I would not see any of those arrogant-faced Saudis checking my passport. They are stamping me out of the KSA for the last time in my life.
I’ve seated myself in a corner of the coffee shop on the lower floor of the duty free, where I can smoke. It was not before the announcement of my flight that I realized the amount of hair I’d collected on the only page I’ve read of my book (I The Divine) over the past 2 hours. 53 hairs of different lengths I pulled from my head. Yes, I counted. I blew them on the table in front of me where they mixed with ashes of 13 Gitanes Blondes that I’d smoked.
Looking at the positive side of things, 13 cigarettes were more than enough to keep me going for seven hours on the plane; or that’s what I thought.
There was a cute Australian guy sitting next to me in 17G. He was mad for chatting. It’s too late for me to listen to the old stories of light, yoga, aromatherapy, and vegetarianism. I started a Bollywood movie (less sugar) and then saw another. I walked once to the back of the plane to check out the British steward: a desperate attempt to grab seconds of futile joy.
I covered the red backpack with a 100% red nylon cover. I put on my 100% nylon navy blue rain coat. I crossed O’ Connell Bridge where the bus from Dublin airport dropped me. I was sure that there was a shorter way to his house, but the path I was about to take was the only one I knew. Never in my life had I felt so cold. The city looked deserted compared to the last time I was here in the summer. I passed Trinity College on to Dame Street. I passed The George and the adult shop on the right walking towards St. James’ Hospital, but no, I was not going there, at least not that evening. Before reaching Saint James’, I turned left and then took the third right. Using the key that was posted to me before he had left to the Grand Canaries, I opened the building’s front door. Crossing the five locked doors leading to apartment 37 on the first floor. I wondered how the victim can empathize with his slayer, how the wounded can be in love with its hunter.
Looking at the positive side of things, I had a place to stay.
Locking the apartment door behind me, I stood still in the narrow dim hall with my rucksack at my side dripping into a water pool under my feet. Nothing seemed to bother me, not the water pool in the hall, the apartment that smelled like a hospital, nor the cold inside that was more razor-sharp than the cold outside. I stripped. I was nude. Never in my life had I felt as naked. Extending my left arm a few centimeters I pushed the bathroom door open, the toiletries were all still there, just as I’d remembered them. Walking the couple of steps to the bedroom I saw the book The Sea, the Sea still laying there, on the nightstand next to the bed. The picture of that topless muscular wrestler on the front page of an American newspaper dated back to the 9th of November 1966 is still framed on the wall. The same blue and white bed covers were still on the bed. I opened the drawer of the nightstand. The 2 pill jars were not there. It all suddenly came back to me; I had to leave the bedroom. In the living room everything was in place: the black leather couch, the CD stand between the stereo and the TV, the HP laptop on the wooden table, and the stack of books, hundreds of books on psychology, philosophy, and gay literature. The only one that was missing was Wuthering Heights. A white lighter and a note he had written snatched my attention: “Smoke away”.
Stretching on his bed, I pulled the covers with both hands to my neck and looked outside. Dimness was swarming over Dublin city with the humming noise of the wind and hail quaking the window. It was all coming back to me as I dozed off.
- “What are these for?” I asked with a light fear crawling over my naked body.
- “For nothing,” he answered in his Dublin accent.
- “What do you mean, for nothing?” I asked yearning for an answer different than the one I had in mind. I took the leaflet out and started reading. He tried to snatch the paper out of my hand. I pulled away.
- “I am a low viral load HIV positive,” he stated quickly as if he did not want me to read it off the Truvada leaflet in my hand.
I met him last summer in Dublin. I went back to his place. We fucked.
Tomorrow, I will get tested.
Looking at the positive side of things, I am positive.
- Contributed by Gitanes Blondes