Unshackling Freedom

Name: Hasan

Age: 24

Country: Saudi Arabia

My mind can’t forget 7 years ago when my mother was talking to my worried cousin who was freaking out over her son who failed to project any interest towards the type of toys that other boys fancied. My mother with her inert ability to tranquilize, told her I possessed the same trait when I was little, befriending dolls of my sister as my childhood companions.

“The right thing to do is to let your son be and he will get over it when he gets old,” my mother reassured my cousin. As if that was not enough she added, “look at my son, he is now all grown up and normal; he is totally fine.”

Though now I am inclined to believe that I am nothing but normal, back then I was everything but fine.

7 years ago my life was a cocktail of being scared, tired and ashamed of who I was. I believed that my feelings were haram and that God would smite me if I didn’t invest my energy into countering my deviant urges. I had to hide it. I tried to hide it. I knew that if someone ever found out about the nature that boiled through my bloodstream, my life would come to an end. I would lose friends, family and everyone I cared for. I knew no one would accept me for who I was. Not here. Not where I come from.

I was 17 years old when I left Saudi Arabia for Malaysia to pursue my studies. Excitement should describe my state. I was going to be on my own and I could do whatever I wanted. In the plane, a part of me was already replaying the porn scenes in my head. I wondered if life would be kind enough to bestow these opportunities onto me.

But deep inside I was still scared and I set out to control my feelings, not letting myself be carried away. The fountain of my fear was nothing else but the knowledge that being what I was, was a grave and abominable sin. As I tussled with the issue, I realized I will never have the opportunity of getting married and having children. It crushed me.

Though I was 4,000 miles away from home and everyone I knew, it seemed the shackles that tormented me had followed me. I still had to hide who I was. As I made friends, I laughed with them over jokes they made about people like me. When they made fun of some suspected prey, I partook in the ritual. But in the enclosure of my room I prayed and poured promises to God with the hope that my secret would never become public knowledge.

What would change my life, happened one night in a local supermarket. I met him. He asked me if I was attending the university and I told him that I was still studying English before I could start my degree. He asked me where I was living and the following night, unexpectedly when I had forgotten about the encounter at the store, he appeared at my door. I was surprised at first. I guess I wasn’t used to such an unexpected friendliness as I was sort of a loner. That day we talked about everything: music; movies; celebrities; God; countries; race; religion and countless other things. And then out of the blue he asked me what I thought about it. My head swarmed with thoughts of fear.

Why is he asking me this? Does he know?

I can’t remember what I answered him but it must have been something vague as I steered the topic away. After he left, I wondered if my hidden secret was not anymore. But we hung out a lot after that and he became one of my closest friends. I liked him a lot. We listened to music and indulged ourselves in movies. We went out for dinners at the malls and talked about everything.

Well, except for that one thing. He brought up the topic numerous times and I started to suspect that he knew. It was at this moment that I decided to cut him off.

Soon enough I had devised ways of keeping him at bay. I claimed to be busy whenever he wanted to hang out. I only saw him when our paths crossed by the pure chance rather than pre-meditated effort. By this time I had come to a conclusion that he knew what I was. It was imperative that I hid this from him while trying to prove him wrong. I started dating a girl from the university.

Dating a girl wasn’t easy. One night during the relationship I realized that a zebra can never disguise its stripes. That night she told me of an embarrassing situation of walking in on her sister’s boyfriend to find him with nothing on but his briefs. All I could ask was,

“What color were they?”

At this time, the relationship with my friend was dying off – I had pushed him so far away. A year later he left after deciding to go to a different college in a different state. Our goodbyes weren’t the goodbyes of friends and I could say with much certainty that it was over. I regretted it.

Soon I broke up with the girl I was dating. I was lonely and at times sadness took me over in a wave that left me restless and dispirited. At times tears became my companion. I tried everything but I could not stop the feeling. I hated myself for being weak. Every day I was exhausted and powerless to the cocktail of feelings that I had come to know each by name. At times I thought of ending my life but what saved me was nothing else but my cowardice. I wished he were there. I knew he was the only one who could help, who could listen. The only one who could tell me it was okay.

I still remember that night. It was dark and I was all alone in the apartment. I went outside to the balcony. There were very few people downstairs hanging by the pool. I picked up the phone and called him. It was the first time that I had contacted him in over a year.

Tears started to drown my eyes. My hands with the mind of their own generated tremors. I have never been this nervous in my life. 1,000 kilometers away, he answered. He sounded happy. As we talked, he detected something. He asked what was wrong.

“Why didn’t you tell me that you knew?”  I asked him.

“Knew what?” he replied with a question.

“That I am gay,” There was a pause between us.

That was the first time that I had uttered this sentence out loud.

“That makes two of us,” he said.

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