The Ghosts in Your city

I’m on top of the world, ‘ay! Waiting on this for a while now, paying my dues to the dirt.
I’ve been waiting to smile, ‘ay! Been holding it in for a while, ‘ay! Take you with me if I can, been dreaming of this since a child. I’m on top of the world!

Top of the World – Imagine Dragons

The beat would start appearing in your unconscious mind way before it would be heard by your ears, suddenly you might realize that it has been there for a while, growing around you, gathering momentum, while you’re unaware of its presence. Suddenly, it would take note in your head, and you would start to wonder: How long have I been hearing this beat, yet, I wasn’t “registering” it?

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Then, the wind would follow, some call it the usual cliche: the wind of change, but this is a different wind: it’s the wind of balance, coming from the far East, gathering tree leafs and blowing whistles in the long pipes of the bamboo, producing a uplifting giggle.

And you’ll laugh, we will all laugh, the whole world would laugh.

That’s how it would feel, as the happiness of equality would wash upon us, the LGBTIQ people around the world, when this balance is restored to the world.

This magical feeling will take over 100s of millions of people across the world, as they celebrate yet another milestone for humanity to be closer to Gods, and less like demons.

For now, however, we will continue our fight, we will continue our struggle, we will continue to be the ghosts in your city, until your city welcomes us with open arms, and we become part of you all.

Join the Equalathon: The marathon to Equality here      

Ashamed of my Body

All so convinced that you’re following your heart, cause your mind don’t control what it does sometimes. We all have our nights though, don’t be so ashamed, I’ve had mine, you’ve had yours, we both know, we know.

You hate being alone, you ain’t the only one. you hate the fact that you bought the dream, and they sold you one. 

Darake Ft. Rihanna – Take Care 

His body is the body of an underwear model, his teeth are bright like the guy on TV trying to convince you that buying this tooth paste or that teeth brush will get you laid, his face is structured like the statues of Greek gods. He is a perfection in every physical aspect. His tattoos are designed perfectly to showcase his physic, his heart is shrinking under the pressure of all these muscles he is building layers above layers on his chest. 

And he added me on Facebook. 

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It was puzzling for me, honestly, as I sat there trying to understand the reason why someone like him add me to Facebook: I wasn’t going to accept his friend’s request, as I never add people I don’t know to Facebook, but I was puzzled with the reason of why someone like this guy would add me to Facebook: It wasn’t the smart comments I made on a mutual friend’s post which made him add me, as his comments assured me that he has the brains of a woodpecker, so, it wasn’t for the pleasure of deep and intelligent chats that would explore the universe and its mysteries. It wasn’t for my good looks either, I’m, at most, cute, and I have been abusing my own body with fatty food and stressful smoking for years now. If it wasn’t for my eyes, which everyone claims to be pretty, and my well studied demeanor, I don’t think I’d ever get laid in the first place. 

I deleted his friend’s request, finally, after I came to a conclusion that I was satisfied with: I noticed that every single picture of him, posing in a way that always shows his humanly impossible biceps or his perfect six abs, got 100s of likes from his friends; he has 100s of friends who are all sexual charged, just like him, and he has been collecting more gay men to left his low self-esteem up high with every like they click under his topless photos. 

I tried to put this story behind me, but I was still puzzled with it for another hour or two, I wasn’t puzzled by the reasoning (if any) behind this guy’s friend’s request. I was puzzled now with the reason why I was extremely surprised for getting the friend’s request in the first place. 

I am ashamed of my own body, that’s for sure. I hate the gym, I just can’t stand the gym, and I’d rather be online surfing Wikipedia for some historical event that no one else in the world cares about other than me and the guy who wrote the Wikipedia page, than to go to the gym, work out for hours, and be happy my biceps are bigger by an inch, which will disappear anyways if I did not work out tomorrow, and the day after and the day after that, and the day after that. 

I should be satisfied with my body, I mean, I’m slim in a healthy way, I have a belly, but it’s more of a pump on the road rather than a gigantic tummy that people we’d think I’m hosting an alien baby in there. I’m tall, but not too tall, and my body hair is strategically located in the right areas to make me look fabulous. 

Yet, I feel horrible whenever I get naked, alone in the shower, in bed with my boyfriend, as I’m changing my clothes to go out in the morning and walk the dog. I feel horrible when I’m walking in a gay bar here in Beirut to find that everyone has a body that, in my head, looks better than mine, that every t-shirt they wear would fit right around their biceps, and hug their six abs perfectly, while my t-shirts are loose around my body. I blame myself for not working out, not spending a lot of money on a gym that I’d force myself to go to, and I’d still have the same anxieties regardless of how many cardio classes I attend or how much weight I can carry with one arm. 

In my head, I blame the media, every single aspect of the media is imprinting expectations on the images of male and female bodies. Magazines, TV shows, advertisements, porn movies, even waiters in high class cafes, even the people who are indirectly pressuring me to conform to this image when they conform to it themselves, making me the odd one out. 

I know, logically, that I’m fine, I’m a good looking man in his late 20s who still has the world ahead of him, but in my heart, I feel bad, horrible even, every time I see a man who conformed to these expectations and managed to “get there”. Why is it too hard to accept all kinds of people, of all colors and shapes and sexual preference? 

Everyone is selling and I’m buying it regardless of how my brains are trying to force me not to: Underwear models are perfect, porn stars are perfect, guys in the street are perfect, I don’t look at them anymore to enjoy a glance of the male body beauty, but rather to feel bad about my own body. I am ashamed of my body, and I want to change it, but I don’t want to spend my money on a gym I’ll feel forced to attended, I want to look like that guy on Facebook, but I don’t want to be him. I don’t know what to do, I honestly don’t. 

Reinventing

I’m gonna break the cycle; I’m gonna shake up the system. I’m gonna destroy my ego. I’m gonna close my body now. I think I’ll find another way: There’s so much more to know. I guess I’ll die another day: It’s not my time to go.

Madonna – Die Another Day

 As our bodies shatter, we reassemble ourselves in all sorts of acts to recreate the glory that once was our souls. These souls, now hiding in the shadows, are waiting for the right person to put our body parts together. We recreate, we rekindle, we remove parts, we reinstall others, we redesign our faces, our feet, or big bellies, our fat thighs, our body image, and we reinvent ourselves, over, and over, and over, and over.

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I’m sitting inside the bus, getting myself together for a trip that would last around 40 hours, not knowing that the seat I got is broken, and it can never incline, which meant that I’ll be sitting like a rock statue for the next 40 hours, resulting in a back pain that I would ignore while I enjoy my first hours in Egypt, a country I visit for the first time. I was 21 at the time, I was naive and heartbroken.

I pick up the phone, and I call Hussam, a short and tearful goodbye with promises to meet merely months after this departure, a meeting that never took place ever since. As I head to Egypt, I start to think to myself, maybe it is a new beginning, maybe I will be accepted, maybe I would stand against the stream and open my arms wide, and maybe, for the first time in my life, I won’t drawn.

For a year or two, as I go through life in Egypt, I struggle, as you do, in finding my place among people, and I struggle some more with finding myself among all the places Cairo can provide you: What am I? Am I the young romantic writer destined to become a columnist one day in one of the Egyptian newspapers? Am I the new hot dude in the gay community in Cairo? Am I a journalist with a thirst to the unknown? Or am I the Syrian who is missing his country and family and wants to go back? I needed around 5 years to find out the answer to that question: That was about the time that I left Cairo.

I’m sitting inside the airplane, getting myself together for a trip I did not expect, less than 24 hours ago I was standing in the middle of Tahrir square, reporting about what is happening there, and  now I’m on a plane I did not plan to evacuate Egypt to Jordan, I thought, from my whole heart, that I will be back in Egypt in couple of weeks, which never actually happened. I call Jimmy, and we have one more goodbye, we were dating for a couple of months by then, we were getting ready to move to the next phase of our relationship, when I went out the door and I never returned.

As I sit there, in my father’s living room, with my grandmother crying and asking me to stay in Syria and never leave again, I think to myself, maybe I will be able to find my place here once more, maybe I can have friends and family and become who I really want to become, maybe I will plan my life around Syria again, and maybe this time it would work.

For six months, I went through life in Syria, I struggled to find a good home and a good life and a good job; as I’m settling into this new life, getting to know real people, and having the best relationships I had in my life, I was offered to come to Beirut for work. Was it needed? Did I really need the change in my life? Did I have to? I cannot tell, what I know is that I couldn’t say no to this job offer. I packed my back, and in less than a month, I was out of the door.

I’m sitting inside the car getting ready for the three hours trip to Beirut, worrying that the police at the borders might not like me that much and I might end up in some unknown prison, I make a final phone call to my boyfriend, who will follow me in couple of months; I couldn’t handle anymore reinventing, I couldn’t handle reimagining my life, I wanted him and  no one else, and I did not say goodbye, I did not reinvented the world around me, I decided to put my life back together.

Now, as I plan to go to Canada, I know that I’m facing the struggles of settling in yet another new country, Beirut is expensive, heartless, yet beautiful and welcoming. I’m facing the struggles I’m going to face once more when I move to Canada, but at least, for once, I’m facing it with someone I love.

Aside

Wedding Bell Blues

You should marry me, I know you don’t agree. There’s no two ways about it. 

I should marry you, but I haven’t a clue, of just what to do about it. 

I know I’m tired of sleeping all alone, oh, you and I should really make a home... for two. For three. For four!! For more!!

Nina Simon – Marry Me

Late night Monday, two gay guys, and two lesbian girls sitting around the white plastic table. A dog, the color of Champagne, is sleeping on the dark brown leather sofa behind us, with her ears standing, monitoring the world, making sure we’re not going to run away. In our hands, we are holding playing cards; bored to tears with playing the same games over and over again; discussing the possibility of buying ourselves a “Clue” or “Monopoly” or something. 

What was it that brought marriage to the table?! I honestly can’t remember. We were listening to Adele on repeat; until we managed to phase it out into a whispering back noise while we play, so, I’m sure it wasn’t one of my collection of sappy songs. Oh, yes, the dress. We were talking about how the girls wear make-up and dresses to weddings; and how one of them really refuse to put any make-up on her face. I searched my memory, and the only memory of a wedding was so far deep in my past, I can’t remember anything other than me being so little, I was allowed to join in the women’s wedding side. I was maybe ten, and I was wearing a red bow tie that made me look charming.

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“I would like to have my own wedding.” I tell my two lesbian friends visiting, aiming the hint indirectly to my boyfriend, half joking, “I have it all planned in my mind.” 

One of the girls laugh, and she ask me to “tell us” about this perfect wedding of mine.

I want it to start in the late morning hours, I want it to be on a shinny Spring day, I want it to fall on a day when the weather is sweet and inviting. 

I want it to be on the river, a shiny bluish river where little boats goes around waving to us. On the other side of the river, I’d like to see an old building; to be the backdrop of photos to be taken on that day. A beautiful church, maybe, or an old historical building. 

I want to wear white, “but no dress for me, girls,” I want to wear a white suit with a bow tie that will make me look charming; I want it to be this sweet cute little suit, that will allow me to move freely, yet I’d look elegant in it. 

My best man is going to be my best friend in the whole wide world; Nadia. My girl is going to be my best man, she is the one for the job. 

I want the centerpiece on the tables to be a small rock bowl, with clear water in it, and on the face of the water, I want Lotus, tons and tons of Lotus just swimming in that clear water. 

For the tables; I want them all to be big and welcoming; with no nametags on them, you can sit anywhere you like, no one invited will clash with anyone else. No seating plans ahead.

DJ or band? I really can’t decide. Maybe both? as long as it’s cheerful songs to fill the air and for people to dance. 

“I know my vows,” I smile as I tell my friends, “I know them by heart, and honestly,” I look to my lover, sitting across the table from me, making silly jokes one after the other while I’m describing my wedding blues, “I got them all inspired by you.” 

I’d like to have my wedding sometimes in my 30s. I’d like to have it in a place where my friends, from across the globe, can come and visit. I want to marry my lover, my man. It’s crazy for me to think about it, while living in the Arab world where the tiniest of gay rights are ignored. 

But here is hoping ….

The Enigma of Sex

But swimming in your world is something spiritual. I’m born again every time you spend the night.

‘Cause your sex takes me to paradise. And it shows, yeah, yeah, yeah. Cause you make feel like, I’ve been locked out of heaven for too long, for too long

Locked Out of Heaven – Bruno Mars

Sex, or at least the way I’d like sex to be, is something brutally honest; something that is overwhelmingly powerful, yet sweetly performed; it’s something that ranges between prehistorical needs and futuristic values; it’s the stream that divide the world apart, yet the chain that holds the oceans together. Sex, however, is only merely something; no matter how perfect it can be, it’s only a part of a much bigger dynamic in a relationship where sex plays the role of a physical connection, yet it does not replace or even measure up to the emotional, spiritual, mental and social connections that a relationship requires.

Yet, gay people in Lebanon, and in the Arab world, pay too much attention to it; and not just “it”, but the minimum requirements of it: the most important aspect of an Arab gay man maturity is knowing the “role” he wants to play in sex: am I a top? a bottom? versatile?

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What brought me to this topic is couple of things:

Firstly, my friend Pierre is visiting from Syria, and has been living with me and my boyfriend for the past week or so. Pierre, bless his soul, is a traditional gay man from the Arabia, he is trying his best to educate himself about his sexual identity, and he has developed a good sense of that. Yet, he still result to labeling others, especially gay men, according to his perspective of their sexual preference in bed; I will admit that I am guilty of doing the same thing personally multiple times before; mostly jokingly; yet sometimes, I find myself even doing it in my own mind; this guy is a bottom for sure, this guy might be versatile and so on. I don’t like labels, and I train myself not to fall for labeling anyone; as stereotyping is the main concern of an LGBT activist in the Arab world; yet you find yourself labeling certain people with certain personal and physical trends with certain labels regarding their sexuality; while I’m educated enough to understand how fluid the sexuality of any person can be; and how changeable it is. The smartest thing I learned to do is to adapt to change; especially in our world of constant changes; so why am I not giving the same doubt to the sexuality of other people?

That brings me to the second point I have, which came from an Egyptian friend of mine, she was visiting Beirut couple of months ago when I introduced her to a lesbian friend of mine; saying exactly that to her: “This is so-and-so, she is a lesbian”. The question, which turned out to be both logical and valid in my Egyptian friend’s mind, is simple: “Why did I need to know that? Why did you tell me?” Knowing my friend, she won’t change the way she treats so-and-so based on sexuality, so, why would it matter to my Egyptian friend if so-and-so is lesbian, bisexual, straight or trans? I tried to logically explain to myself why was I labeling my own friend; and while I managed to come up with an excuse about coming out of the closet and normalizing and all that nonsense; I still felt weird about this trend in my own personality. I do point out sometimes to my friends that this actor or that singer are LGBT. Some based on true knowledge, others on pure rumors. Why do I do that? I’m not sure.

One of the main jokes of my friends is  to try to subtly, but fail miserably, find out who is the top and who is the bottom in my own relationship. I heard jokes about the matter, friends even made assumptions of their own and ran with it; which I kinda found both weird and somehow rude. I made a speech once, half drunk, how firstly, my sexual relationship with my partner is fluid and changes according to desires and needs of both parties; and secondly that my private life is called private for a reason.

Let me quote Homos Libnani on this one:

No one can be purely bottom or top. And no one can stay in a relationship where they are only perceived as far as their categories. Human sexuality is much more fluid than that, and it takes a lot of courage and commitment to accept it’s just a part of you, but not you. There are other parts to look for besides spending your life proving to yourself and around you that you’re the best bottom or the best top.

Finally, it seems to me that this problem is not limited to the Arab world alone, here is an example, of a funny, yet somehow wrong, video parody of the beautiful “Girl on Fire” song by Alicia Keys.

Be careful, this song is surely not suitable for work environmental. 

Love, entitled!

I dare you to let me be your, your one and only. Promise I’m worthy to hold in your arms.
So come on and give me a chance, to prove I am the one who can walk that mile… until the end starts. 

Adele – The One and Only

How do you really describe love? I mean, if you are sitting in your darkened room, listening to Adele and wondering about love, how would you put that wonderment into words? How do you describe an emotion that have effects on you that spread across both your personality and your mentality. A feeling that has power to change you both emotionally and physically. How do you really describe a feeling that has the capability to temper with your inner soul itself and play around with you; an emotion that has the power to lift you up high in the sky or drown you down the seventh sea! A sense that really can make you cry with burning tears, jump to catch a bullet for that you hold most dear and fly with spiritual, almost religious feelings, to the heavens above.

Love, my darling, is a homemade cake, made by you for me on Valentine’s day; as you fall for yet another cliche; and you make it to be heart-shaped; and you wrote “I love you” with chocolate creme on it.

Love is a game of cards, we play on opposite sides of the table; I always get the Knight of Hearts at every deal of cards; and you always gets my heart with every single silly joke you crack on the table.

ImageLove is the delightful kiss you print on my lips before you leave the house in the early mornings, heading to your work, it’s the touch you leave on our sleepy dog’s ears as you say a silent goodbye.

Love is a phone call I call in the morning, just to hear your voice, just to say good morning, just to make sure that the world is still in order, and that you’re still in love with me.

Love is a glass of wine, a third that night, that I drink while watching your face coming closer to me, kissing me on the lips for the first time in public and smiling a shy smile afterwards.

Love is your arms; stretched to welcome my body at the end of night; as we slowly reach to the remote controls; and turn off the TV, and we whisper our goodnights in a sleepy voice.

Love is  your hug when I need it the most, your sweet skin when I kiss it the deepest, your soulful eyes when they speak secrets, your playful lips as they reach to mine.

Love is not an emotion, I came to discover, love is as complicated as a human being; love is so wide and indescribable that it cannot be brought down to a simple emotion; love is a human being, my love, and that human being is you.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Shattered Bones

Angela: I’m afraid that I won’t… (cries) have the chance that I had with Kirk ever again.

 Brennan: You will.

– How can you be so sure?

– Because nothing in this universe happens just once, Angela. Nothing. Infinity goes in both directions.  There is no unique event, no singular moment.

– I don’t know what that means.

– It means you will get another chance.

– You promise? From your heart?

– Better. From my head.

Bones – Season 1 Episode 17 – The Skull in the Desert 

Face down on the wet ground, I scream in pain, I turn my head around looking at my foot, stuck in the metal of my bike and cracked in front of my eyes; and pulses of agony are travelling from my toes up my spin all the way to my brain. I froze in time trying to calculate the losses. I remember taking a turn on my bike on the wet ground in a cloudy morning after a heavy rainy night. I remember my fall, which took a split of a second, and my face as it goes, in the speed of gravity directly towards the concrete; my palms as they hit the ground and my body as it smashes on the road; then comes the pain; solid, colorless and constant; I am at loss of words; as I scream primitive sounds aimed at no one, I think of the worse: I just cracked my bones falling off my bike.

From nowhere comes my boyfriend, my lover, my knight in shining armor, my sweet man, my partner, my bed-mate, my one and only, my Mr. Right, my reason to smile in the morning and to sleep at night. He stands helplessly studying the matter; he doesn’t want to pull my foot from its location, stuck between the metal of the bike, fearing that he might add salt to the wound; also, he doesn’t want to leave me on the ground; he slowly pulls the bike away from my broken foot; he helps me to try and stand; but I couldn’t put any weight on my foot. “It’s not broken,” I repeat in agony, but I knew I was just telling myself lies to ease the pain.

Sitting on the side of the road, waiting for him to deliver the bikes back to where we rented them from, I look up as the sky begins to rain again; softly at first, then getting harsher and darker. I try my best not to, but with the frustration boiling inside, and the pain reaching a limit I can’t even describe; I cry.

Under the rain, I walked the same city, eight years ago, Beirut was welcoming and warm; the sounds of people partying the night away is being heard from the bars on top of buildings despite the rain. I was young and mending a shattered heart; I had a nightmare that I will die when I reach 24 of age; that’s in four years, I think to myself and welcome the thought. It was a dark period of my life.

I sat there, on a side street, under the rain, and I imagined myself in that burned, twisted car that I know all too well. I imagined myself opening its door; the passenger door that I usually open and where I usually sit while Eyad is driving. I imagined myself cleaning the passenger seat from the shattered glass, and sit there. I imagined myself putting my hand on the wheel, which is the last thing that Eyad ever touched; and feel his last moment; the panic he must have felt as he lost control of the car. The painful second as he was hit by the incoming cars on the other isle. The moment when his precious soul parted ways with his beloved body forever.

I direct my anger at myself; I started punishing myself for not talking him out of that trip; for not hiding his camera and forcing him to stay the night. I start hitting my own face with my open palm, once after the other after the other. Destructively, I walk the high road without looking; hoping that a car would sweep me and end this on-going pain that is haunting me (and will continue to do so for years to come).

Sitting on the side of the road, the frustration is building up in me; and emotional pain reaches a level I can’t handle; I cry.

“Healing takes time, you know.” My beloved boyfriend tells me, as he smiles at me while I’m in bed with a grim look on my face; looking with half a heart to the cast on my left leg, “you’ll take your time, and the bones will heal, and you’ll walk first, then you’d be able to run; and before you know it; you’ll be back on the bike again.” My dog is sleeping next to me, she rests her head on my cast. The next day, she’ll guard my leg with her own life when the cleaning lady who comes to the house tries to help me stand; she doesn’t allow anyone to touch my cast.

A month, it will take me a month to heal completely from the fall off my bike. Eight years! It took me eight years to feel for the first time that I healed completely from the loss of my love for Eyad.

But, as I woke up yesterday, Sunday, warmly tucked in the arms of my boyfriend, my man, my one and only, and as we exchange soft kisses as we open our eyes; and as I smile at his jokes and he helps me get out of bed; I think to myself: Lightening can strike twice in the same point; Because nothing in this universe happens just once, Angela. Nothing. Infinity goes in both directions.

I smile.

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