Life at an Intersection

Chicago Phoenix, indemnity bonds, journaling, really really really want a zigazig ah, travel, books, travel books, relationships, values. It is hard to pinpoint precisely, but I'd say about 82% of what you read here is true. The rest is fictional nonfiction.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

UAE

No matter what I say here, you are going to be the one to choose whether you believe this to be a true story of not. Go ahead, make your choice.

***************************************

Ashar and I met on a gay social networking site last spring, something akin to MySpace like 5 years or 20 site upgrades ago. It is a lame and clunky website, but turns out to be a good way to meet guys. I also met Scott, my wonderful summer boyfriend, and Zach, a sweet boy who has since fallen madly in love and off the rails of sanity, on there as well. Ashar and I were both in the video chat room late one Friday or Saturday evening. He's very handsome in an exotic, other-side-of-the-world way, and he was looking as bored as humanly possible, so I struck up a conversation. We hit it off.

Over the next few weeks we chatted online a bit, sometimes with text, sometimes with microphones and videos. Turns out that, though he was living in Manhattan, he has the posh British accent that Middle Eastern people sometimes have when their formative English experiences happen on the other side of the Atlantic. He was born in Las Vegas (who has even claimed to have been born in Las Vegas? No one, I assert) and is therefore an American citizen, but he spent his childhood years in London and his adolescence in Dubai, where his parents have permanently settled. One unsettling thing that I noticed at first: he claimed to be bisexual. This is actually a pretty common thing among gay men, though, when they are first working through a coming out experience. Many have had relationships with women in the past, and they try to reconcile this history with their current, maybe newly-discovered attraction to men. It is pretty easy to shrug off these claims of bisexuality, just a step in the gay man's evolution.

Ashar and I learned a lot about each other over the weeks and developed a pretty good friendship, as far as I could ascertain and these online things go, you know. He kept prodding me to come to New York for a visit, and I was at a fairly impressionable place and needed a getaway. So I found a good package on Travelocity and went. It was a great weekend. Spring was coming on, Central Park was a bit soggy but blooming, the food was primo, the boys were looking fine. I experienced New York City nightlife for the first time, and had the most fun, most memorable club night of my life. I should hasten to add at this point that Ashar and I did not become romantically involved.

We stayed close after that May weekend, talking often, trading stories of our current boy dramas, our complicated exes and ohs. I got Ashar to come visit for the long July 4th weekend, and we had a great time. He had never been to Chicago, so we did some touristy stuff, went up to Scott's family manse for a pool party/cookout, hit up the bars so he could compare and contrast our gay Chicago nightlife to his own. I tried to convince him in advance that the Chicago boys would love him, but he seemed to believe that all Midwesterners are white xenophobes who would be less likely to find his Persian-Pakistani ethnicity appealing. I won that argument in the end.

He told me just after that July visit that he was going home to Dubai for his cousin's wedding. This female cousin was his best friend and closest family member, so he was very excited and was going for the entire two weeks of festivities. This must have been early to mid-August. I remember him wishing me a happy birthday and ribbing me for being such an old man. I got an offline instant message from him a few weeks later on AIM saying that he had so much to tell me about his trip home to Dubai. That was the last time that I ever heard from him.

I sent him text messages, I tried to instant message him, I called his phone number, I sent emails on the ridiculous social networking website where we had met. Nothing. I did Google News searches for his name, hoping that I wouldn't find any mention of him in any New York newspaper obituaries. I called his work phone number, sent emails to his work address, and got no answer. Left voicemails, kept trying over the course of several months. Then I gave up.

**************************************

New Year's Eve, just a few days ago, 8 o'clock, getting ready to go out for a big night. I started my congratulatory, well-wishing texting a bit early, expecting that the place where I was going for the evening would be packed and noisy and I would be drinking and it would be impossible to do much with those tiny phone keys under the influence of that wicked combination. I'm not sure exactly why I sent this message, some combination at the crossing of sentimentality and fatality, I suppose. But I sent it.

Outgoing Text, 12/31/09 7:59 pm CST
"Happy New Year, Ashar, wherever you are and whatever the hell happened to you. I still think of you fondly. <3 David..."

When my phone buzzed a few minutes later and I saw his name on the screen, strangely, inexplicably, I felt nothing. Not surprise, not excitement, nothing.

Incoming Text, 12/31/09 8:01 pm CST "I think you messaged the wrong person?"

Now I know why those messages weren't returned. His phone was deactivated, he's moved, someone else has his number now.

Outgoing Text, 12/31/09 8:02 pm CST "Sorry! I must have an old number. Happy New Year to you, anyway! hahaha"

Well, that's over. I can delete his number from my contacts for sure now. Continue getting ready, fiddling with hair, etc.

Incoming Text, 12/31/09 8:09 pm CST "Are you trying to reach Ashar Khan?"

Sproing!!! Sweet, surprising, a lead!

Outgoing Text, 12/31/09 8:11 pm CST "Indeed! Do you know him? Do you know how I can get in touch with him?"

Incoming Text, 12/31/09 8:14 pm CST "This is his wife; I have his phone."

Oh. My. Allah. (I say this as a prayer, and not in vain. A prayer of total shock. Prayer as punchline.)

Outgoing Text, 12/31/09 8:19 pm CST "Is he in the US? Can you give me his new number or some other way to contact him?"

Incoming Text, 12/31/09 8:29 pm CST "Are you talking about Ashar Xxxx from Xxxxx Xxxxx? May I know who this is?" (Family and employer names redacted to protect the innocent from Google search results)

Okay, time to panic. Wait, must reread initial messages to make sure I didn't say anything inappropriate. Okay, besides the <3, everything is quite tame and asexual. But what if I'm not the first, just another piece of evidence in a mounting case against his heterosexuality? Is this an arranged marriage? Did he marry his cousin? Must act quickly, must lie creatively, accurately, and convincingly.

Outgoing Text, 12/31/09 8:32 pm CST "This is his friend David from Chicago. We went to UPenn together. Can you send me his number?"

And that's pretty much the end. I made one more unanswered attempt a few minutes later.

Outgoing Text, 12/31/09 8:57 pm CST "Alright, thanks anyway. Please tell Ashar that his friend David in Chicago says Happy New Year if you have a chance. Take care!"

Photobucket

Waiting in line at the 53rd and 6th Halal food cart in midtown Manhattan with Ashar, 2 am, May 2009.


Currently Listening to:
John Mayer's Battle Studies

2 comments:

Liza January 2, 2010 at 4:30 PM  

words.....words...I cannot find any words.

Sarah January 5, 2010 at 5:06 PM  

Oh, I totally believe it. Those Pakistani families do not tend to be the most understanding people in the world.

Twitter / Davie_St

Words That I'm Living By - 5/2/2010

Time, as I've known it
Doesn't take much time to pass by me
Minutes into days, turn into months
Turn into years, they hurry by me
But still I love to see the sun go down
And the world go around

Dreams full of promises
Hopes for the future, I've had many
Dreams I can't remember now
Hopes that I've forgotten,
faded memories
But still I love to see the sun go down
And the world go around

And I love to see the morning
as it steals across the sky
I love to remember and
I love to wonder why
And I hope that I'm around
so I can be there when I die
When I'm gone

I hope that you will think of me
In moments when you're happy and you're smiling
That the thought will comfort you
On cold and cloudy days
if you are crying
And that you'll love to see
the sun go down
And the world go around
And around and around

"Around and Around" by Mark Kozelek

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