Kareem (part 9 of 10)

Continued from Part 8

kareem 9

She instantly recognizes my voice.

“Kareem… Kareem…”, she turns around and sees me.

I walk towards her and hug her. I missed her smell.

“Happy birthday, mama”.

“Today’s my birthday?”, she asks.

“Yes. Didn’t you know? That’s why it’s such a nice weather outside. Because you hate the rain so much, don’t you?”

“Kifak? I missed you”, she tells me.

“I missed you too. Ana mnee7 mama. Meshta2lik ktir ktir”.

“How’s university? Kif AUB? You’re number one in the class, eh?”.

The nurse laughs. “Typical mother, isn’t she?”, she says.

“Sure is…”, I reply.

“It’s all great mama. Bisi misses you.”

“Bisi…”.

It takes her a second to remember her.

“Bisi…Bisi…habibti. Are you taking care of her?”.

“Yes, mama. Don’t worry about her”, I assure her.

I love how she’s remembering stuff. How she’s lucid.

Then she asks: “How’s your dad?”.

I look at the nurse. We’re both thinking the same thing. We lost her.

“Mama… dad’s gone. He’s been gone for ten years. Remember?”

She looks away… at the window. Confused. Then she remembers what she did when he died. To herself. To us.

“He’s gone. You’re right. I shot myself…but I didn’t die…”.

She looks at me. It all came back to her.

“I’m sorry”, she holds my hand.

“It’s okay. I’m alright”. I wipe the tears off her face and smile at her. “Now let’s eat some cake”.

On my way back home, I think of how my life would have been different.

What if my dad didn’t die when I was so young? What if my mother had coped with his death? What if I wasn’t forced to look after myself since I was a teenager? Would things have been different? But isn’t it such a waste of time wondering “what if”?

I feel empowered after the visit to my mother. People might not like my choices but they’re my choices. I did what I have to do to survive and I have no shame about it. I owe Joe the truth. But if he can’t understand why I am who I am… it’s not on me.

I call him for the 15th time. No reply.

I send him a message. “Please answer your phone. We need to talk. I’ll tell you everything”.

I call after 5 minutes. He picks up.

“Hi…”, I say.

He doesn’t answer.

“Kifak?”.

No answer. But I know he’s listening.

“Can you meet me at my place in an hour?”, I ask him.

I can hear him breathing on the phone.

He hangs up. I take his silence as a sign of confirmation.

I go and get ready for him to come.

I wait for three hours. He’s not showing up. Was I a fool to expect him to come?

Then I hear knocking on the door.

My heart drops… I run to the door and open it.

“Thank you for coming”, I say.

“I’ve been walking around the block for two hours. Trying to decide whether to go up or not”, he says.

“I’m glad you did”.

He enters and sits on the chair. The chair means I’m not off the hook yet.

I grab a chair and sit next to him.

I start off by saying: “There’s a reason why you haven’t met my mom and dad. When my dad died when I was a kid, my mom couldn’t take it. She tried to commit suicide. She didn’t die but in many ways she did”.

Joe leans closer to me.

I continue: “She wasn’t able to take care of me so I lived with my aunt for a couple of years. I was left with nothing. I was all I got. Well, I had Bisi, but she couldn’t exactly pay for med school”.

I point at things around the house. “This… my house… AUB… my bed… what I’m wearing… it was all possible because I do what I do. This is how I survive”.

“But…”, he says. “You lied to me this entire time”.

“I couldn’t let you in. Because if I let you in, I might have to change. And Joe… I can’t change. I’m working hard to be a doctor. That’s my dream”.

“But we can’t be together if you don’t quit this”, he asks.

“I can’t quit it now.”

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Kareem (part 8 of 10)

Continued from Part 7

kareem 8

“What?”, Joe is in disbelief.

“He… He paid me for sex”, I repeat. And I start crying.

“I don’t understand… When did that happen?”.

“I don’t remember. Maybe two or three years ago”.

“Well, is he the only one you’ve fucked for money?”, he asks.

My crying intensifies.

“Kareem, are you still fucking guys for money?”, he screams.

I don’t reply.

“Oh my God…”, he says. “Oh my God… Kareem, you’re a fucking whore?”.

“I didn’t want you to know… I’m sorry I kept this from you for so long”, I tell him.

I come closer to him and try to touch him but he walks away.

“Please don’t go. Please. Lemme explain”, I beg him.

“You’ve been cheating on me this whole time. Fucking guys and getting paid for it. How can you explain yourself? You heartless son of a fucking bitch. Leave me alone”.

He whistles to a taxi and it pulls over. He grabs his wallet, takes out a $20 bill, and throws it in my face. “Here’s for tonight”, he says with tears in his eyes.

There it was. The truth was out there. The truth I’ve been trying for four years to hide. And this is why I’ve been hiding it for so long. I know people won’t understand. They don’t get that you have to do what you have to do. That it’s just sex. That it’s a means for survival.

I walk home and as soon as I open the door, Bisi runs into my lap. I cry all over that furry little thing.

“I still have you, don’t I?”.

I grab Bisi and lay on the bed with her.

He definitely won’t be calling me ever. The only guy I’ve ever loved. I fucked it up.

He’s right. Why would he want to be with someone who allows other men to fuck him for cash. It’s my prerogative to do what I have to do, but it’s also his not to want anything to do with me. I just feel bad I dragged him into this mess to begin with.

I look at the pic he held in his hand yesterday. That day on the snow. I wish we can have that back.

Right next to the pic is a calendar. Yep, March 2013. Officially one of the worst months of my life.

Then it hits me.

“Wait… March 16? Bisi…It’s her birthday tomorrow”.

I totally forgot!

“I have to see her”.

It’s always a hassle to do so. I have to wake up really early if I wanna make it on time with all the traffic. But it’s worth it. I feel better when I see her. And the nurses always tell me she lights up for at least a week after I’m gone.

I arrive there and the people who work there recognize me.

“I’m here to see Youmna”.

“Come with me”.

“Is it okay if I bring those with me? It’s her birthday.”

The nurse at the psychiatric facility looks at the cake and the balloon and smiles.

“Akid, no problem”.

I enter the room and she’s looking out the window.

“Mama… habibte”.

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Kareem (part 7 of 10)

Continued from Part 6

kareem 7

“Babe, where do you put the sugar?”, Joe yells from inside.

“In the cabinet next to the fridge”.

I’m sitting on my bed wondering what to do. Should I go meet Charbel at 3 pm…or shouldn’t I?

I promised Joe to stop acting shady. I don’t know what to do.

Joe enters the room. “Hey. come inside, I made you cornflakes”.

There we are. Eating cornflakes like a real couple living together. I just hope it lasts this time.

“Kareem, we should do something tonight. Let’s go out to Bardo”, he says.

“Umm… I don’t know…”.

I hate that place. All the gays gathered under one roof. I, especially, should not go there.

“Come on, we never go out together. Me and you. Bardo. 10 pm. We have some wine. It’ll be a nice change”.

“Babe, you know I’m not comfortable with places like these”.

“You told me you used to go to gay places a long time ago. What changed?”

“Okay, you know what? Let’s”.

“Fuck yeahhh!”. He gives me a kiss, then stands up and says: “I gotta go. I’m late for uni”.

We walk over to the door and kiss.

“See you tonight!”, he says.

“See you habibi”.

After I shut the door, I realize this is the guy I love. I have to stop what I’ve been doing…at least for now.

I send ‘3pm Charbel’ a text message: “I’m sorry, I can’t make it today. Maybe some other time. Take Care”.

What a relief. I’ll just spend the afternoon catching up on my studies.

When the clock hits 10 pm, I head to Bardo.

Joe’s already inside. My taxi drops me off and I start to panic.

What if someone sees me? Someone who knows me. But I have to try to get over it and move on with my life.

I’m already getting weird looks and whispers from people outside of the pub. I don’t know if they recognize me, if I’ve fucked them, or if I’m just being paranoid.

I see Joe sitting on a table. I come up from behind him and kiss the top of his head.

He turns around: “Habibi…”. He stands up and kisses me.

“You okay? It’s not that bad, is it?”, he asks.

“I’m okay. Don’t worry”, I assure him.

We spend around an hour drinking wine, talking about us, laughing. It felt good. For a second I thought I could leave it all behind me.

As he smiled and laughed, I was thinking…should I confess to him what I’ve been doing behind his back? Will it hurt him? Will he appreciate me being honest? Or should I just shut up and let it go?

Then someone bumps into me. A 40-something year old blond man.

“Oh, I’m sorry”, he says.

“It’s alright”, I smile back.

Then it seems like he remembers me.

“Hey! Omar.”

“Shit”, I think to myself. I don’t remember this guy. But he clearly remembers me.

“No… I’m not Omar”, I reply.

He looks at Joe, then looks back at me.

“Oh, sorry. My bad”, he says, and goes and sits at a nearby table.

I am embarrassed. I can’t believe I thought this night would go without a hitch. He’s probably talking to his friends about me . About what we’ve done together.

I get up out of my seat.

“Babe, I’m not feeling well…I gotta go”, I tell Joe.

“Wait, what? But…”, he says.

I just head straight out. I can’t take it anymore. I need to breathe. I walk as fast as I can to grab a taxi.

Joe runs after me yelling: “Babe, come here. What happened? Was it that guy? It’s okay. He thought you were someone else”.

“I do know him”, I reply.

“What do you mean?”, he asks.

I don’t say anything.

“Kareem, did you fuck that guy?”, he asks.

“Yes… a long time ago”, I reply.

“Then why does he think your name is Omar?”, he asks.

“Because he paid for it”.

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Kareem (part 6 of 10)

Continued from Part 5

kareem 6

“Hi”.

I’m shocked. I don’t know what else to say.

He doesn’t say anything back. He looks at the floor for a while.

Then he looks up at me. “Hey”.

“Come in.”

“I…I don’t know if I should”.

“Just come in. We’ll talk inside”.

“We’ve done this a million times. I don’t know”.

“Then why are you here?”, I ask.

Silence.

“Get inside. Please”.

He enters. Reluctantly. Slowly. Dead man walking. He sits on the sofa.

“I’ll get you something to drink. One sec.”

I go into the kitchen, lean against the wall and breathe a sigh of relief.

He’s here. He’s here! I thought he didn’t want anything to do with me but… he’s here.

That means something. I better not fuck this up.

I go back inside.

“Here’s some ice tea. Your favorite”.

“Fun day, wasn’t it?”

I look at him. He’s holding one of the frames I’ve put on the table.

A picture of us acting goofy during a trip to the snow.

“I didn’t know you had this”, he continues.

“I do”. I nod.

“Why?”, he puts it back on the table.

“What do you mean why?”.

He answers: “You know in the year and a half that we’ve been together, I’ve only been to your place four times? This included. I’ve never met your mom or dad. So yeah… why? Why do you have that picture? Why do you do this to me? I feel like I know you but not really.”

I go sit next to him. “You do know me.”

He looks away. I put my hand on his shoulders which he’s trying to move away.

“You know me better than anyone I know”, I continue.

“How? You never let me in. I feel like you’re hiding a part of your life from me. I’ve waited so long for you to open up. I’m sick of trying.”

“Babe, if this is about me not seeing you enough, I’m sorry. I have my…”

“Studies”, he interrupts me.

“Yes, studies. University is very important to me”.

“Right… Don’t lie to me. Remember last time when I asked you where you were… you told me you were studying for a “big ass” exam. Ten minutes later I see you on the fucking street. Why would you lie to me. Why would you do that?”

“I’m sorry…”

“No, I don’t wanna hear your sorries, Kareem. Seriously… I hate that I give you second chances and third chances. And still, you keep doing the same shit.”

“Listen. I know… I know how you feel. You just have to understand… I fucking swear… I never meant to hurt you. You’ll probably never understand but you have to believe me… there are some things you shouldn’t know.”

“Why? What are you hiding? I wanna know. I’m your fucking boyfriend!”. He tears up. So immediately I start tearing up. I hate seeing him cry.

“Joe…You’ll know what I mean someday. Please. Just believe in me. When I keep stuff away from you and when I lie, and I know it’s bad and it’s unfair… but I do it for your own sake. You just have to believe me”.

I start crying. He comes closer and hugs me. We’re both sobbing.

“I’m sorry… I really wanna change… I do…You have to believe me”, I beg him.

I can feel his tears dropping on my back as we hug. I move back and hold his face with my hands and say “I love you”.

“Of course you do”.

We both smile with tears glimmering on our faces. I wipe his tears away.

“So…what now?”, I ask.

“Just try harder this time, okay?”, he says.

“I will”.

I hope this time, I can keep my promise.

“Listen… you should sleep here tonight. You’ve never slept over before…”

“No…it’s fine.”

“No… you should. I want you to”.

“Okay…”.

That night, Joe takes a shower at my house for the first time. We cuddle in my bed for the first time. We make love on my sheets for the first time. And he sleeps in my bed for the first time. And for the first time in months… I sleep like a baby.

I’m woken up by an alarm at 7 am.

A phone reminder that reads: “Charbel Sodeco 3 pm”.

I have 8 hours to decide if I wanna do this.

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Kareem (part 5 of 10)

Continued from Part 4

kareem 5

You know that feeling when you’re really asleep, but you feel awake? Halfway between sleeping and waking? You feel paralyzed. And you’re begging for someone to kick you so you wake up cause you don’t have the strength to do it on your own. You try moving your mouth. Your lips. You scream on the inside. You want to wake up. But nothing you do seems to work.

That’s what’s happening to me right now.

I can feel it coming. It’s right on time. The nightmare I have every other week.

Blood on the kitchen floor. A gun in her hand. My 13 year old self screaming at the top of my lungs. Calling for help. Knocking on the neighbors’ doors so they can do something to help me. Leaving bloody footsteps behind me. Grabbing the phone with my shaky hands and calling dad. Only to realize that he’s dead.

That was the day I lost all my innocence. I went from 13 to 20 in a gunshot. Taking care of her. Being the parent. Until I could it no more. Until it was just too much.

It’s weird. This nightmare I’m having is actually better than the crippling feeling I have right before it. It’s actually soothing. I’ve seen this nightmare so many times before that it feels normal. I know exactly what’s gonna happen. I’ve seen it all before. How can it be a nightmare if I’ve lived it before?

I can feel something on my leg. Must be Bisi. She can probably hear my meaningless mumblings and is trying to wake me up. It works. I wake up all sweaty, with my right leg cramped, and I look at her. She knows I’m in pain.

“Yep. Her again”.

Bisi was there that day. She probably saw more of it than I did. I wonder if she has nightmares about it too. Do animals dream anyway?

I take a sip of water from the cup I always keep next to my bed and realize it’s only 7 pm. Weird, it’s so dark outside. I was so tired after I came home from the HIV test that I slept all afternoon. Now I have to study and get some homework out of the way. That is if I can focus; Joe is still not replying to my messages and isn’t pickin up the phone. But I have to.

I take a hot long shower to refocus my energy.

As I dry myself, the door rings. It’s the electricity man coming to collect his bill.

“67,000 Liras”.

“Yalla, one second”.

I get my wallet and start lookin for money. Then my wallet falls on the floor. Also flying to the floor are three 500 lira coins and two condoms. The poor 60 year old bends over and helps me pick up my shit, only to realize they’re condoms.

I grab my wallet. “Here’s 70,000”.

“So you need 3,000 from me”, he replies.

“No need”. The man’s been through enough already. “Thank you”, I say.

He calls the elevator, wait for him to get in, then go back inside and wear some socks.

Then the door knocks again. Who could it be? Is it the electricity man wanting to borrow a condom?

I walk to the door and open it.

I wasn’t expecting him.

Joe.

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Kareem (part 3 of 10)

Continued from Part 2

kareem 3

He grabs me by my hair and pushes my head on his face. A passionate kiss. As close as you can get to passionate anyway.

His dick is so hard I can feel it throbbing between my legs. Fuck, this is gonna hurt like hell tomorrow.

He comes up for air. “Let’s go inside”, he says.

“Sure… let’s”.

We leave Marylin and the other queens and go to his bedroom. Clean. Neat. Unlike my boyfriend’s room. But let’s face it, he is 45 and he has two maids.

He lights up a joint. “You smoke up?”, he asks.

“What do you think?”.

He hands me the joint and with one puff, I get even more loosened up. Now, if only my ass can loosen up.

He kisses my neck.

“Mmm…yeah…I like that”, I tell him while caressing his hair.

He touches my hand that’s on his head. Then he grabs it and looks at it.

“You wore it?”, he asks with such delight.

“Of course I did. You told me gym gloves are your fetish. I take your pleasures very seriously”.

He kisses me.

“Go over there”, he says.

“Go where?”, I ask.

“There. The wall”.

I know what he wants. A show.

I move slowly and take off my shirt and my jeans…revealing my black Calvins.

“Yeah…like that”, he says as he pulls out his dick and strokes it. “Now turn around. Show me that ass”.

I slowly turn around and pull my boxer shorts down.

“Fuckkk yeah”. Guess he’s lovin it.

Then I hear him get off the bed and take off his clothes. His jeans. He gets closer and grabs me from behind.

“Put your hands on the wall”.

He kisses my shoulders and licks my back. When his tongue reaches my ass, he pulls my underwear down. He moves my thighs further apart so he could rim me.

For about 5 minutes, he rims my asshole…moaning while he does it.

Then he stops and goes away for a second. I know what he’s getting.

He comes back, stands up behind me and I feel this wet thing touch my ass.

He forces it in me.

“Ahh yeah… take that dick”, he says.

“Ahhh fuck…”, I play along.

I’ve become quite good at overcoming the pain. Getting past the sex. As he fucks me, I close my eyes and think about Joe. About that time when we were in bed staring at each other in the morning.

“Do I have morning breath?”, he asked.

“Haha…yeah you do. And it’s so bad”, I laughed at him.

“Oh yeah? Well so do you”, he said while he tickled my stomach.

Tickling! I can’t take it.

“Stop…stop…”, I told him while I laughed hysterically.

Then it happened.

“Oh my God. Did you just”, he started laughing.

I was so embarrassed. He was laughing so hard.

“Shut up…shut up!”, I panicked. I stood up on the bed, removed the sheets off of him and started jumping on the bed like a crazy person trying to make the smell go away. Then I gave up and fell laughing next to him.

“You like that, huh?”, Hussein says as he fucks me.

I occasionally have to come back to reality. “Fuck yeah…I do…keep doing that…fuck…”, I scream.

Time for a good memory.

“You know when I knew that I loved you?”, Joe asked me.

I shake my head.

“That morning in bed. I knew it. I loved you”.

I’m not used to love confessions. So I had to say something stupid.

“If I wasn’t dark-skinned, I would be blushing right now”, I joked.

Then he hit my arm with his hand.

I looked at him for a second. “I love you too”, I told him.

“I’m close”, Hussein screams. “Ahhh I’m gonna cum”.

I open my eyes, stare at the wall in front of me as he grabs me by the shoulders, then close them again.

I feel something warm on my right cheek.

“Fuck…Fuck…”, he says, trying to catch his breath.

I put a smile on my face and turn around.

I kiss him, grab him by the hand and take him to bed.

We’re cuddling.

“That was good”, I say while stroking his hair. He looks up at me.

“You’re just sayin that because you have to”.

“What? No. I really enjoyed that”, I reply.

He stares into my eyes for two seconds, smiles, then goes back to laying his head on my chest. I continue playing with his hair.

“Sleep Hussein. It’s 4 in the morning. You have work tomorrow”

“And you?”, he asks. “What do you do?”

I hate it when they go there.

“Tonight? You”.

He doesn’t seem bothered that I didn’t answer his question. He’s sleepy anyway.

My mind is running. Like it always does when I’m in bed with someone other than my boyfriend.

Will I be like him when I’m 45? Will I do those kinds of hook ups? Will I be in a relationship by then?

I can’t sleep. I think about Joe. About what I’m doing to us. He would never understand it.

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