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I Am What I Am

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Faizal wiped the tears from his eyes as he entered the street where he lived. He had been wandering for the past three hours through the night and his body was sore all over. His chest felt heavy and there was a burning pain in his side. He could hardly breathe. He suddenly had an uncontrollable urge to cry out for his mother, but he stood still and stared at their house some paces off. He swallowed hard and continued on.

He had been with Adeeb, his friend, earlier on; they had been to the Waterfront and from there they had gone to Sea Point, on the edge of Cape Town, with two men whom they had met at a restaurant.

A sob wracked his thin body, increasing the pain in his side, making him feel feint. “O, ALLAH! O, ALLAH!” He fell to his knees. “O, ALLAH!” He gritted his teeth, and carefully touched the wound. He wondered if the bullet was still in his body, or had it passed right through? He had been lucky, Adeeb had not. Adeeb was dead!

He reached the front door and rummaged in his pockets for his key, but couldn’t find it. The light at the back was on.

He staggered towards the room that he and his brother Nadeem shared and knocked on the window. He didn’t want his mother or father to know. He hated to think what their reaction would be if they saw all the blood on his shirt. He called out softly to Nadeem, almost willing him to get up. He wasn’t sure how long he would be able to stand there, without losing consciousness. Tears streamed down his cheeks.

“My God! Faizal…?” Nadeem said when he saw his brother in the light, as he opened the door. “My God! what happened to you? You must get to a hospital! I’m going to call Mummy!”

“No!” said Faizal, grabbing him by the arm. “Don’t call Mummy!”

“But you are bleeding. You must go to a hospital!”

“No. I’ll be all right. Just help me get my shirt off.” He sat down on the bed.

Nadeem shook his head. “What happened? Who did this to you?” He had to use a scissors to cut the shirt off. “Did you see their faces?”

“No. I didn’t,” lied Faizal. “They wore balaclavas.”

“O, ALLAH! There’s so much blood here!”

Faizal moaned as Nadeem touched the wound. “They robbed me and took everything I had on me. They shot me!”

“O, ALLAH!” Nadeem shook his head. “O, ALLAH! It’s turning blue! You must go to a hospital! Where did this happen?” He was speaking rapidly, almost incoherently. “Didn’t you see their faces? I mean..? He stared quizzically at his brother. “My God!”

“I’ve told you I don’t know who they were. They wore balaclavas.” He lied, wondering what Nadeem would say if he knew that the men were white South Africans and that he and Adeeb had had to entertain them by performing oral sex on them as well as touch one another intimately while dancing naked on the bed.

“And the Police…? Did you call the Police?”

“Yes. I did.” He lied again.

“And what did they say?”

“Please. Nadeem…” He lay down backwards on the bed “My head is hurting a lot. Get me some tablets please…”

Nadeem was twenty, two years younger than Faizal. He also had his suspicions about Faizal’s nocturnal escapades, and on occasion had caught him wearing their sister Hafeeza’s bra and panties; Faizal had had to bribe him not to tell Hafeeza.

“When are you going to listen, Faizal?” There was a deep frown on Nadeem’s face as he made his way to the kitchen. “Daddy came to look for you earlier on!” He stopped in the doorway.

“Why?”

Nadeem’s frown deepened. “Because he’s concerned about you!”

“Concerned about me?” snorted Faizal. “Concerned about me?” It was more a statement than a question as he pulled a pillow under his head. “He’s more concerned about the Badia name and what people are saying about his eldest son who is gay!”

“Don’t say that!”

But Faizal wasn’t listening, he was thinking about the numerous times his father had knocked his head against the wall when he was younger. His father had thought he was just trying to imitate women by putting on lipstick and make-up and wearing women’s panties. There was also that time when he had just turned seventeen and his friend Adeeb had come to visit. His father had caught the two of them kissing in his room and had barred Adeeb from ever coming to their house again. Faizal had received the beating of his life!

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