Chapter 5: Serendipity

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Previously, Chapter 4: Birds of a Feather

The taste of hot whiskey, cloves and lemon in my mouth was getting more bitter. I could not but swallow; swallow my bitter whiskey-soaked spit. “An old traditional Irish remedy for toothache,” Geraldine had told me before.

The light from my laptop lit the darkness of my room. It was like a scaffold, as it crept on the walls, preventing the room from collapsing on my chest. And my laptop turned into a white hole; the only escape tunnel from that unbearable dimness of my life into a world where dreams were still possible.

My clothes were all over the place; hanging on the clothes-horse in the middle of the room; half wet, half dusty, piled in the wardrobe or behind the door. My used underwear, smelly socks and dried-semen soaked tissues were on the floor, on my night stand and under my pillows. Come to think of it now; I hadn’t had a shower in days. But all this chaos surrounding me was obliterated when on my Facebook it read: “You have one new message”.

Omar Qasim
10:45 am September 26th

 Well, I hope you are planning on telling me more about yourself. I read back through our messages just to realize that I am the one who is doing all the talking.  I don’t want to be only narrating my life so that you can write your first novel. Ha-ha. I’m glad I can put a smile on your face. I can feel that you are passing through a rough patch as well but you haven’t opened up yet. I am here for you, you know. So whenever you are ready, spit it out. I cannot but be thankful to you for being there for me; seriously.

The man that I was with is Irish and he is seven years older than me. His name is Kieran. Even though I don’t usually exchange sexual details with people I barely know on Facebook, ha-ha, I can tell you as much, we had sex and yes it was my first time ever with a man.

I have a question for you, to which I prefer you not giving an answer at all if your answer is going to be half a story.  In an earlier message you said that you were involved in spreading awareness concerning HIV when you were still in Lebanon, What made you think of getting involved with those people? And what do you think of them?

Little did we know, at that stage, the danger of the game of necessity that we were indulging ourselves in; an unsensed danger just around the corner. The absolute exposure of no half stories and no little white lies was to strip us nude. We could never have appreciated the virtue of ignorance until we were smacked on the face by knowledge.

The urge to spit was more overwhelming than that to retain; spitting out the bitter wet cotton, spitting out my tooth and my life. I opened up the curtains. The desert light leaked in. I turned the AC on. A fresh breeze hit my face. I had a shower and came back to my laptop. My toothache was miraculously gone. Was it the whiskey or was it the adrenaline itch I was feeling to open up to him? Where to start?

I started typing.

What to tell him? Every story had a story behind it, behind which there was another. Where did my life start? Was it the day I was born into the inferno of the Lebanese Civil War? Was it the day I contracted Polio when I was two, leaving me with an atrophied triceps and a missing chest muscle? Was it the day I had my first sexual contact with a man when I was eight that left me with countless insecurities? Was it living with a violent father that left me with a couple of bruises and a sense of eternal helplessness?

Did it all start on that day; the 3rd of June 2000 when I carried a copy of Saadallah Wannous’ book “The Rituals of Signs and Transformations” and walked the whole length of Hamra Street, to meet the first man from the #gaylebanon channel on mIRC?

Did my life take off with the founding of HELEM when I made my way to the mystic underground circles of gay activism in Lebanon? Or was it when I became involved in the HIV campaign spreading awareness about the virus among male sex workers? I wanted to be a hero. The desire to save lives was a validation of my existence.

I arrived in KSA and met Geraldine on my second day in the Mall of Arabia on Madina Road. I was sitting on the yellow benches on the ground floor next to the indoor planted trees when she sat facing me.

“Oh, let me guess,” I said, starting a conversation. “You are British.”

“Oh God no, I am Irish,” she giggled.

“Sure, it is the same thing” I said arrogantly.

As her face narrowed, she said “Maybe you should have paid more attention to history and geography classes and less to your appearance before opening your mouth,” then she left.

Two weeks after that incident out of nowhere, loud music was blaring in my flat; a captivating music that I wouldn’t have associated with my dull Lebanese flat mate. Out of curiosity I went to check it out. And there she was, the Irish girl; my flat mate’s guest, listening to The Wolfe Tones. A couple of hot whiskeys later, a brush dance and a “Michael Collins” movie, we became best buddies.

Where did my story start? I know; this story started the day I called him. The day Omar cancelled. I would tell him my Truvada story. I would tell him how now I will have to go back to Ireland after the window period is over to do the tests again. I would tell him how excruciating waiting was and how infeasible the simplest necessities had become; a visit to the dentist was a threat as any blood test might result in my deportation. I would tell him how I was on the Post-exposure prophylaxis  pills for a month. How these pills displaced the fat from my face to my waist, disfiguring me. How now I would catch myself crying for no reason, waking up at night screaming people’s names, scared all the time, indifferent and cold. How I couldn’t laugh anymore. How this waiting was poisoning my being.

My next appointment at St. James’s Hospital would be on the 22nd of December. That is why I would fly to Dublin on the 18th of December. I could not but wait, and  I really wasn’t feeling good.

“Omar, I’m so scared.” I whispered it out loud to myself.

Omar Qasim
5:11pm September 26th

Do you remember when I told you that Kieran, the guy I was with, said something to me as he was leaving? Well, he said that he was HIV positive. That is why his wife kicked him out when she knew. That is when he came knocking on my door and moved in with me. It’s sickening to remember that he knew that he was positive all along but never told me. This answered all my questions about why he was so upset and all his mood swings and abusive drinking. Now I know what the problem was. So believe me, whatever you have been through is not strange to me.

I went to a private clinic here in Rathmines three months after Kieran had left to do the tests. They didn’t give me any medication or PEP, I have never heard of that before. Maybe I should have gone to Saint James Hospital. All results came back negative. I had nobody to talk to at all. I am sure you know exactly how I feel. Although we always used protection, I was still terrified. I wanted to kill myself after he left; the only friend I had was gone, leaving me with this big burden.

You said that James had slipped into you without a condom but you pushed him away instantly; is this risky? I mean, if there were no cuts or any fluid exchange would you still get it? I don’t get it. How is this virus transmitted? I read a lot about it. Books said it could be transmitted by a kiss or a blow job. Is this true? If James’ virus count was low, as he said, why is he on medication? Kieran had a very low count as well and he said that this is why he is not taking any pills. I am so confused.

I have to do the tests again. I was supposed to do one back in May but my brother died so I could not do it. I’m scared to do these tests again, I’m so scared.

I’m at work now trying to hide from my colleagues behind my screen as I cry. What we are going through is so hard but I’m glad you told me. We have each other now. So don’t worry. I don’t understand the twisted game life is indulging us in. Why are two strangers opening up to each other the way we are? Why have we gone through the same circumstances? Well, I’ve been through much more, so I win. Ha-ha.
I’m so glad we are able to share this. At least, I don’t feel alone anymore and you have to know that you are not alone as well. You can depend on me for anything and anytime mate. I wish you were here; I would have given you a big hug and a kiss; not on the lips though or maybe not. Ha-ha.
I want you to know that you have a house here and you have me, so don’t worry about where to stay if worse comes to worse. Everything happens for a reason. Maybe in December we can do the tests together. I’ll be waiting for you. I’m so scared to do it alone. I am scared of waiting for the results. I don’t want to be alone if the results were to be positive. So you’d better get your ass over here; not for anything kinky though. Ha-ha.


Omar Qasim

6:31pm September 26th

I still try to joke and laugh. I know it’s not a thing to laugh about but if I don’t, I’ll have a heart attack tomorrow. Ha-ha


Omar Qasim
6:49pm September 26th

Well I have all those worries with no pills taken. But it’s there in my head all the time. It’s just driving me mad. That’s why I go out and drink and laugh but when I come home I cry myself to sleep. Are you still in contact with that guy, James?


Omar Qasim
6:50pm September 26th

And did you tell anybody other than me about this? Have you told Geraldine?

Gitanes Blondes
Today at 7:02pm


Omar Qasim
7:05pm September 26th



Omar Qasim
8:08pm September 26th



Omar Qasim
9:20pm September 26th



Omar Qasim
11:33pm September 26th


Omar Qasim
12:49pm September 27th


- Contributed by Gitanes Blondes

Guest Contributor

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