HELLO FROM THE OTHER SIDE
Excerpts from a series of online chats with Zayed, a gay Muslim man, living in Saudi Arabia.
BY MARK ARIEL
I wake up every morning and think to myself today will be my last day on this earth. I think to myself there is absolutely no way I can live another day, with this burden, this heartache, this guilt, and I beg for God’s forgiveness. But Allah, blessed be His name, ignores me. And I realize I must go on. Even though this life is so unbearable I pray for death.
• • •
At work there is this guy. He came to the office a few months ago. He is average height, skinny, like me, with beautiful eyes and lips. And a beautiful smile. When he smiles I feel like my whole world lights up. I can’t stop staring at him. I try not to be obvious. One day he looked up and saw me staring and I quickly turned away, my heart beating like a hammer. I felt myself burning up, my face must have been very red. I got up and went to the bathroom, my hands holding onto the sink, my whole body trembling…
In my fantasy mind he follows me to the bathroom and tells me it is okay, do not be afraid and he holds me until the shaking stops. But in real life that doesn’t happen. I wash my face and go back to my desk. He is not there—he went out for a meeting and I feel relieved.
• • •
I chatted online with this American guy. He told me about his boyfriend and his family and how his parents realized he was gay at a young age and how they totally accepted him and his boyfriend. I told him how lucky he was—but inside—I am ashamed now to tell you—I was angry. I was angry that I do not have his life. You cannot choose your life or where you are born—I know that. It just seems so unfair that some people have everything and can live openly and love openly and be happy—while others have to stay in the shadows, living in a society that looks down upon you, spits upon you, makes jokes about you and maybe get you arrested if you are not careful.
• • •
I was maybe 4 or 5 years old and Ricky Martin was on the television singing La Vida Loca. I was so excited to see him and I told my mother that I love him and that he is so handsome. And she laughed and said yes he is handsome but you do not love him. Men do not love men. Men love women. And I said if I was a woman I would want to marry him and love him forever. She gave me a funny look and then she hugged me and whispered in my ear to never to say that again… I think she understood me and wanted to protect me.
• • •
My only way to live my real life is in this online chat—but even that is becoming dangerous because they say now that the police are monitoring the internet. So I never meet anyone because I don’t know if they are real or just trying to get me arrested…
Nobody knows the real me. I have never been with a man. Not in real life. But in my dreams my husband and I live in a small house close to the ocean. Every morning we walk on the beach, holding hands. Sometimes we go into the sea, splashing water on each other, laughing. Like couples do.
• • •
I tried getting a visa to Germany to study engineering and get a better life but I wasn’t approved and I didn’t have enough money anyway. I thought about USA because my English is good from all the television I used to watch—but right now—even if I saved up the money—I don’t think it is possible for a Muslim to get visa…
Sometimes, when I think about my future, having to live a lie for the rest of my life, I get so depressed I want to die…
When I feel this way there is a poem I read that makes me happy. It is by Kahlil Gibran. One moment and I will find translation for you… here it is:
“For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun? And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.”