The Pale Glow of Lost Heaven


By Ali Tal



I
It was a member of those high principled homophobes whose numbers in recent times seemed to be exponentially on the rise, that caused the needless death of three men. The terrible end of Malik, Shahir and Ahmad was the main topic of discussion amongst the fairly sizeable gay community of Irbed.
The hatred expressed by the public towards the victims had so enraged the homosexual kith that some of the younger men became rather belligerents in their nightly battle with their zealous tormentors. So incensed and humiliated by the hostilities exhibited towards Shahir and Ahmad, who only wanted to get on with their idyllic lives harming no one, that a few young hothead homosexuals no longer cared if they were seen and vindictively spread their names far and wide.
The telling and retelling of the story of Shahir’s and Ahmad’s hanging had somewhat overshadowed the gruesome fate of Malik.
Everyone in the country and even abroad had heard of the tragic executions of Shahir and Ahmad for their violent and merciless murder of Malik, their labourer friend. However, only a few people bothered to get into the unusual particulars of this sad tale.
Before their notoriety became public, there was nothing known about Shahir and Ahmad amongst the gay community of Irbed. The two lifelong lovers’ backgrounds slowly came to light through the proceedings of the court during the course of their trial.
It transpired that the boyhood bosom pals, Shahir and Ahmad, were born amongst the fellahin in a village on the Ajlon heights. As teenagers alone they blissfully climbed cliff faces and merrily rolled down slopes. They mounted old oaks and chased each other through ancient woods. Unseen, in the crisp wilderness they laid on boulders, kissed, floating on the wings of their own overwhelming happiness.
After finishing secondary school they joined a technical college where they trained in the art of tile laying. The lack of availability of constant work in their locale forced them to seek work in the thriving building industry in Irbed.
At the age of twenty five the pair packed their belongings and descended from the mountains northward to the fertile vale of Bashan, snugly nesting between the Golan heights to the north and the Ajlon heights to the south. Many pipe dreams filled the airy heads of the two young lovers. The prime of those hopes was the unrealistic wish that they would live together in the big city unnoticed.
The pair’s good work and reliability spread fast so that they were rarely out of employment. That meant they had healthy accounts in several banks. When they felt comfortably well-off, they abandoned the dosshouses forever and rented a small house in the Turcoman district, a working class neighbourhood to the west of the city.
Their home was in a line of five houses that opened out onto a paved alleyway. In the manner of the ancient cities of the Levant, the house had no windows onto the outside. The two bedrooms dwelling also had a commodious sitting room, a spacious kitchen and a large courtyard with flowerbeds and an arbour covered by two mature white and red grapevines.
Ahmad was quite home proud. Over the years he redecorated and retiled the floors and refurnished their home with comfort on their minds. At the time, due to a quaint old Ottoman law, when a rent contract was signed, it renewed itself in perpetuity.
The couple felt so cosy in their little home that, even after they became rich, they saw no need to move out. Eventually, they felt so well-off that they bought a car in which every Friday afternoon they went on drives around the nearby ancient ruined cities and beautiful countryside. After Friday prayer, the pair normally took their lunch and drove to nearby black ruins of ancient Gadara where they took their lunch, sitting on the ridge overlooking the Sea of Galilee#.
Working from seven until late, six days a week, they had no time to socialise and make friends with any of their neighbours beyond the obvious pleasantries. They were so polite and reclusive that everyone in the neighbourhood assumed they were brothers. With their ever present maelstrom of fears and paranoia of being discovered, Ahmad and Shahir deliberately kept the outside world away. enjoying each others warm company.
For seventeen years they managed to withstand their families ever-increasing pressure to get them married. Strangers to their many new nephews and nieces, the two men lived so happily together that they rarely, even in Eids#, made the effort to visit their folks back on the Ajlon heights. It looked as if their aim was to be forgotten by kith and kin alike.
During the five years that preceded their executions, the pair took pity on twenty five year old pious Malik who seemed to them to be a genial man. Out of pity, they employed him as their labourer. To express his melancholy and disillusionment with his unfulfilled life, Malik often waved his graduate degree in Islamic Studies from the university of Karachi, his hometown. Sadly, he gravely misunderstood the kindness of Shahir and Ahmad for friendship. At some stage he had even fancied himself as their lodger and bosom pal, eating and doing things together.
As much as they liked Malik, Shahir and Ahmad were not about to break one of their cardinal rules and they only associated with him at worksites. Despite his low income as a labourer, Malik was content with his easy job which included fetching and carrying and mixing concrete and taking it in buckets to Shahir and Ahmad to spread under tiles. Malik generally followed their orders as they toiled.
Transferring the largest portion of his earnings to his family in Karachi left Malik with little to live on. Seeing how poor he was living and staying in multiple lodging houses with other unfortunate labourers, if working Shahir and Ahmad invited him lunch with them. They tried to teach him the art of laying tiles. But he had no ambitions left in him and preferred to demean and humiliate himself following orders as a mere labourer.
Of course, in private Shahir and Ahmad jokingly accused one another of fancying the loner Malik and would never kick him out of bed. In reality the pair were so in love that neither had any lusting or design upon Malik’s youthful body. Shahir suspected Malik to be a latent homosexual but Ahmad was not so sure. But neither had a wish to find out.
Shahir often reminded his lover, ‘Ahmad, why do you think he leaves the company of his own Pakistani community? They all work in agriculture in the Jordan valley and chooses our company which, as you know, we frugally dispense. Neither one of us actually wants his friendship. And we must keep it that way. We are happy together, are we not?’
Ahmad sighed deeply as he said, ‘May Allah keeps it an ever lasting happiness.’

II
In the past few months the couple were very infuriated with him for his frequent visits to them. They did everything to discourage his unwelcome calls. But Malik did not understand the signs they were giving him that Ahmad told Shahir, ‘He is blind. One of us must put it words that he is not welcomed at our home.’
Shahir wholeheartedly agreed. If their front door was knocked they did not open the front door if they knew, through the spyhole, it was him. However, this did not stop Malik. Having no one to call on, he persistently carried on disrupting their peace.
Usually as soon as the couple had got home they unfailingly locked their front door, and, still in their working clothes, they joined in a long kiss and a cuddle to renew their vows of Love.
So it happened that one evening, and Shahir and Ahmad had just arrived home from an unusually exhausting day’s work in the open under the blistering sun of July. The pair were so tired that each man left the simple task of locking the front door to the other that neither made sure that the other had locked the front door as usual.
That was the only time in the seventeen years they lived in their ideal house that the front door was left unlocked against the cruel world outside, strongly disapproving of their very existence.
Ahmad was so longing to share a kiss with Shahir, that they were unaware of sojourning Malik sneaking up on them. As Malik was about to knock on the door it unusually opened before him and he innocently walked in on them in the courtyard to find them kissing in a strong embrace as if the world was totally absent to them.
For a few seconds Malik was profoundly dumfounded by what he thought was an extraordinarily far-fetched sinful act of two men in each others arms. His piousness only took mere seconds to resurface. Possessed by such a raging tempest of fury Malik became extremely offended by the irreverent sight. Not stopping for a second to think, Malik noisily attacked the two oblivious men.
Vocally shouting insults, he attacked them. When he ran out of abusive Arabic words he reverted to Urdu. His aim from the start was to alert the neighbours. Disgusted Malik attacked the two jolted men with force. Always afraid of this very thing happening, the quick witted startled pair realised that this might catastrophically end by exposing them to a mean-spirited human race that reviled people like them. The first objectives of the pair was to silence Malik lest some passers-by or worse a neighbour overheard him.
Silent and angry and showing no trace of clemency, as hard as he could possibly muster of his overwhelming physical strength Shahir kicked Malik in his private parts with the stub of his dirty heavy right foot boot that Malik wreathed to the floor in intense agony.
Reading each other’s minds, whilst Ahmad carried on kicking the punch-drunk Malik on the head, Shahir dashed to the front door and locked it. Ahmad kept on lashing out, striking and hitting the stunned Malik on the mouth to stop him moaning. When Shahir rejoined his lover, the pair dragged their nemesis into the spare bedroom in the hope that none of their next door neighbours had overheard the initial fracas.
Believing that no one could hear them, they sat upon Malik, who could hardly breathe under the blows. By the time they had silenced him, both were drenched with his blood.
Ahmad stopped kicking to catch his breath. He worriedly asked his lover, ‘What is next, Shahir?’
Shahir looked long and hard at the tense and troubled face of his sweetheart and felt sad and protective. To soothe Ahmad’s turbulent fears Shahir resignedly said, ‘If we are to outlive this night, he must die. It is either him or us?’
Almost crying, Ahmad said, ‘What has brought this fool here? Why is he throwing himself on us?’ After a second of resentful silence he cruelly added, ‘He has killed our happiness. For this we have to get rid of him in some godforsaken desert place.’
Be it in a low pained voice, Malik suddenly restarted mouthing out threats, ‘I will defame your names and expose your disgusting iniquitous relation. I will entice every God Fearing man to throw stones at you until you are dead. You are wicked sinners. You have no right to be alive.’
Shahir, who never missed a prayer as far back as he remembered, was overwhelmingly enraged by the false utterances that he kicked Malik’s head with the stub of his right foot boot so hard on his forehead that Ahmad thought he heard the skull of the man on the floor crack.
When finally Malik was silenced the two men thought that they had to kill him. But unfortunately for Shahir and Ahmad their zealous efforts to stifle their tormentor quickly became futile. No sooner they thought that they had finished Malik off and the shouting had ceased, the eager to help neighbours became so concerned for the safety of the two brothers. Thinking they had caught burglars in their house, the neighbours broke the front door to rescue Ahmad and Shahir. At the instant the noise surrounded them on all sides, they knew that their cosy existence had finely ended.
Relieved to see the unconscious intruder was bloody and flat on his back caught red-handed inside the house, those overenthusiastic neighbours vied with each other and took the matters into their hands. Using the ubiquitous mobile telephones they all called the police.
Unusual for the policemen, they were on the scene of the crime within five minutes. When they saw wounded Malik on the floor they were shouted at from all sides that he was the burglar.
The next doors neighbours were very excitable and told the police, ‘You can see, officer, it is self-defence.’
The police office in charge asked, ‘Does anyone know who are his relatives?’
The question was met with silence. It was Shahir who finally volunteered the answer, His boots and the lower parts of his trousers covered with blood, he said, ‘His name is Malik. He is a Pakistani national.’
On hearing this the commotion suddenly abated. They were all surprised that Shahir knew the burglar. Like the rest of the men crowding the courtyard, the police officers were also intrigued.
With sharp official voice a member of the police asked, ‘Do you know this man?’
Shahir who saw no point in not answering, said, ‘We took pity on him. He sometimes works as a labourer for us.’
The next door neighbour again butted in, ‘Shahir and Ahmad are very good tile layers.’
Never looking to complicate matters, the police accepted the story that was banded around. They telephoned for an ambulance. When the paramedics saw the bad condition Malik was in, they right away carried him to hospital.
Ahmad was so traumatised and uncommunicative by the horrible incident that he could not find the right words to say. He wisely held his tongue. It was the more present minded Shahir who, hoping over hope that Malik was dead or would die of his sever injuries before he could talk, concocted a plausible story that when they came back home from work they caught Malik burgling their house,
He finished by saying, ‘We must have left the front door open.’
By the next morning, the news of the terrifying ordeal of Shahir and Ahmad had reached their village. Their mothers and sisters immediately began to screech at their highest pitch that they had lived to see the day when their sons are assaulted with no one of their clansmen to stand by them. The mother of Ahmad bared her head and began to wail, scratching her face and pulling her hair. Her daughters followed suit, gnashing their teeth they called upon their clansmen to avenge Ahmad.

III
Bad news travels fast. Soon the whole village knew. According to the clans’ interrelationships, the clanswomen wended their way to join the bereaved females of their allies in their grief. No woman had yet really understood what had happened. But there were rumours and many unverified tales of the bravery of the two men.
Some woman whispered in another’s ear in the wake of Ahmad, ‘They say they are both quite rich.’
Another nearby woman interject, ‘O yes, you gray dusty woman, they are. They have many accounts in several banks.’
The woman who spoke first said, ‘It is such a shame that neither is married to have sons of his own to inherit all that stacked wealth.’
Yet another reminded them, ‘Ahmad and Shahir are both in their forties.’
Another woman interjected into the guessing game, ‘Forty is nothing to a man. Unlike women who dry up of childbearing at that age, a man has no age. He can father boys and girls even in his nineties. I tell you, you devoid of jollity, if the folks of Shahir or Ahmad came asking for my fifteen year old daughter‘s hand in marriage, I will not hesitate for a second. I will take her out of her classroom and hand her over to whomever of the two is her fate without a dowry.’
When the news of the wealthy couple became known, soon men of the nearby clans of all ages descended at the respective mathafas until they were full to bursting. Almost a carbon copy of each others, there was a lot of angry shouting and posturing by the young of each clan. The brothers, paternal nephews and cousins of Ahmad and Shahir openly waved their various firearms, declaring their readiness to drive straightaway to the hospital to finish off the good-for-nothing Malik.
The sheikh of Ahmad’s clan summoned one of his trusted elders and sent him to the mathafa of Shahir’s clan to invite its clansmen to join them so they could coordinate their actions. The men of Shahir’s clan stood silent and waited for their sheikh and his elders to make a decision.
By midday a convoy of fifteen cars, with six and seven men to a car noisily left the village and headed to Irbed followed by women yodelling and singing uplifting songs.
The local police officer immediately telephoned his counterpart in Irbed, informing him of what had come to pass in the village. The news of the convoy reached to the highest police authority in Amman long before the clansmen arrived in Irbed, heading to the Princess Hospital where Malik was lying in a state unconsciousness.
The usual simple plan not to antagonise the clansmen was set in motion. The perimeter of the hospital compound was surrounded by a large bevy of armed policemen. The guards at the ward where Malik lay in a coma were reinforced. As there was no one to pay the cost of Malik’s medical care, he was put in a male common ward.
An urgent massage was sent to Shahir and Ahmad by the chief of police stating, ‘You must join me at the Princess Hospital to receive your relatives so they can see that you are alright and no harm had been done to either of you. We do not need trouble if we can avoid it.’
Ahmad hated the idea of being paraded before all and sundry and refused to go. But Shahir held the opposite view.
He told his reluctant lover, ‘We must make an effort. It is a day and, Allah willing, we won’t be bothered by anybody again. Come the morrow and everything we will be fine. We will go back to be normal and resume our life. We will even go back to work. But this time we will be more guarded whom we shall employ as a labourer.’
In its haste to calm things down and prevent the clans of Shahir and Ahmad from making revenge attacks on unconscious Malik, the police had totally overlooked the existence of the sizable Pakistani community mainly working in agriculture in the Jordan Valley. Many Pakistani men had been in the country for many years and were sort of familiar with the proud ways of the Arab tribes and how they solved problems. Some brought their wives to Jordan whilst other married local girls, had children and settled down.
Having heard the news of what had happened to Malik, the Pakistani community put a plan in the way of the clansmen. Arousing each other to stand as one, they hired two lories to take them to Irbed.
By ten o’clock the next day, the loaded lorries were the first to arrive at the Princess Hospital. The men were confused and anxious. A few were fearful of being accused of making troubles and losing their work permits. As a show of strength, the younger men waved bamboo sticks.
To give each other courage and support as the overloaded lorries slowly climbed up from the Jordan rift valley, they loudly sang in Urdu patriotic Pakistani songs. However, not knowing what exactly to expect, by the time they had reached the Princess Hospital in Irbed, they were mostly subdued and silent.
Without an apparent sheikh to lead them, a vociferous tall and thin young man called Mushtaq appeared amongst them. In his late twenties, he was married to a local girl. During the ten years he lived in Jordan he had never visited his home country.
Intrepid Mushtaq was the first to disembark. Watched by the armed policemen, he selected a strategic part of the empty hospital ground. Keeping his wits about him, In a firm voice Mushtaq told his countrymen to alight from the lorries and behave in a respectable manner.
On their unforeseen arrival, the police chief became worried that fights might break out between the Pakistani men and the villagers. He carefully watched Mushtaq as he, in an orderly manner, saw to his men. Once he had finished placing them in the western corner of the hospital yard, the police chief sent for him.
After the exchange of niceties, in a sharp voice the police chief told Mushtaq ‘I do not want any troubles. Anybody making a nuisance of himself, I will instantly revoke his work permit. Besides, it is your man who is the wrong.’
Just as firmly Mushtaq answered, ‘You will have no troubles from us but we will defend ourselves if we are attacked. Besides, as I understand we only have one side of the story.’
The midday saw a great commotion of clansmen creating a great ballyhooing in the hospital’s grounds. Many did not exactly know what to do. On the peripheries of the gathered throngs some younger hothead relatives of Shahir and Ahmad were so agitated that they picked fights with the younger Pakistani men. But the policemen were ready for these sort of confrontations and quickly put a stop to them.
Using a loudspeaker, the chief of police warned the multitude, ‘If there is any other fighting I will not hesitate to put the culprits in prison.’
On the advice of the medical staff at the hospital, Malik was not likely to revive from his coma. His death would be a matter of a day or two at most.
The doctor in charge of Malik’s care affirmed to the police chief, the two sheikhs and Mushtaq, ‘Ideally Malik really need to be in the intensive care unit. As no one has given us a promise of responsibility for the cost of his treatment, the man is put in a common ward. He is receiving our best medical attention.’
But in fact Malik only received painkillers.
Accompanying their sheikhs many of Irbed’s clansmen arrived at the hospital in a large procession. Whilst the policemen stood aside, allowing the ancient tribal rituals to take their calming effect upon the men. Shahir and Ahmad each stood behind his sheikh as they were told. With Mushtaq representing his countrymen, the various sheikhs immediately began mediating and evoking the relevant sections of their canons.
After a great deal posturing by the various sheikhs and elders, an agreement was reached guaranteed by the authority, Seven days were declared as a period to calm things down so that wise brains could think. Not to antagonise Mushtaq, the sheikhs deliberately avoided the mention of Malik who most likely would be dead by then when the issue would become about a burglary and self-defence.

IV
When Shahir and Ahmad thought they had regained their low profile life, suddenly and unexpectedly Malik awoke from his coma. The doctors called it last brave push to retain life. It seemed there was one thing and one thing only on Malik’s mind and that to speak to the police. Although he was in obvious severe pain and discomfort he was lucid enough in his wish to speak to the police to expose his dire hatred of his homosexual employers. The police were duly alerted and a young policeman with an Urdu translator came to interview Malik.
The sick man’s statement was mostly a repetition of homosexual loathing words fed to him by a zealous young policeman taking his confession through a sympathetic interpreter. Malik’s could not make his statement more disgusting of homosexuals more obvious. Despite his evident weakness, he was hell-bent on exposing what had actually happened plus more from an inventive imaginations.
Using as much as he could muster to speak in Arabic, Malik was provided with profanities by his similarly inclined interpreter and interviewer. Having such an eager audience, Malik let his imagination go wild as he described how he saw the two men with their trousers down at their ankles, committing indescribably evil homosexual acts upon each other. To give his sordid allegation religiosity, he claimed that the Heaven was shaken to Its core witnessing such sinful outrages against Godly morality.
On his deathbed bed Malik claimed with a trembling weak voice, ‘Without any decency or shame with their trousers down at their ankles and fumbling with their erect penises, Shahir and Ahmad tried to get me to join in with their abhorrently abnormal sexual activities. But Allah gave me much strength and courage. As they drew near to me and with all the strength Allah gave me, like a loin I jumped at them with all my might, meaning to kill them both and cleanse the earth of their wickedness.’
In a voice, the interviewer and the interpreter said, ‘Had you killed them and cleansed the world of their iniquities, Allah would have ensconced you in a high place in Paradise.’
Malik used the last of his strength to stress his story again and again. He claimed, ‘I am a ‘God fearing’ man and was appalled by the sight of two grown up men fornicating in the Eye of God. I hit them both and had I had a gun or a knife they would not be still alive today. But the two against me, they gained the upper hand. I heard them say we will kill him and burn his body in the desert.’
As there was no one to pay the costs of the necessary surgeries and urgent treatment and medicine Malik needed, the Hospital kept him in the common ward where he died three days later. It was Shahir’s and Ahmad’s bad luck that he did not depart this life before his bigotry and hatred took the better of him and he gave that damning confession.

V
After they gave their initial statements to the police which were almost identical, Ahmad and Shahir were discharged and went straight home. It was obvious that the pair were in a troubled state of mind. They chose silence and neither could stop shaking and feeling cold shivers going throughout their masculine bodies. The were disturbed by the images of the horrendous night which Malik had brought upon them.
Despite the doctors’ prognosis that his survival was doubtful due to the bleeding deep gash in his skull, the pair could not put the thought that he could revive and bring everything noisily crashing over their heads. They would never be able to live down the scandal that would ensue.
As they entered their house through the broken down front door they were met by the bloody disgusting chaos that pervaded the whole courtyard. The contents of the two shopping bags they bought littered the floor on which Malik’s blood had turned into gore due to the July heat.
Although he had raging storm of anger inside his head, Shahir mutely saw to the front door the best he could for that night. He told Ahmad who was busy picking the rubbish off the floor, ‘For now, this is the best I can do. We will need a carpenter to fix it.’
Seeing how badly Ahmad looked, Shahir told him, ‘Let us leave things as they are. We will have plenty of time tomorrow. I need to rest and reiterate what has happened here. I want to understand why it has gone so bad. It has been a tough day, my dear but we will pull through as we have always done. But I will first make us a pot of tea. That is what we need a glass of mint tea.’
Neither could bring up the subject of food and they went without their usual supper which was more their main meal of the day. Ahmad felt so nauseous, he could not face drinking his glass of tea. When instead Shahir gave him a glass of water but Ahmad’s stomach was so agitated that he could not drink that either.
That night was heavy and slow. The pair just sat quiet, thinking of what had happened and what effect it would have on their idyllic lifestyle. It was nearly two o’clock in the morning when Shahir finally broke their icy cold silence. He was aware that the events of that evening would have a very direful effect upon Ahmad and he treated him gently lest he said something that would upset him.
In a low affectionate voice, Shahir said, ‘Sweetheart, it is late we better get a little sleep to rest our heads. Tomorrow, everything will look different, you will see. We might even go to the village to see our families.’
Ahmad said nothing. He just got up, wore his pyjamas and went to their bedroom. Whilst Ahmad pretended to be asleep, Shahir got busy mopping the clotted blood and the mess the people left behind on the floors of the yard and the second bedroom into which they had dragged Malik to silence him.
After he had put everything where it should do, he washed and noiselessly slipped into bed next to Ahmad, thinking he was asleep. But Ahmad’s sleep was feigned. It was Shahir, who, no sooner he put his head on the pillow, started snoring whilst Ahmad remained wide awake until the muezzins called for the dawn prayer.
Making sure not to rouse Shahir, whom he had suddenly started to see in a different dark light, Ahmad carefully slid out of bed. He did the ablution and after he had prayed, heartbroken he called on Allah to take pity on him and to forgive his sins and cure him of the illness of loving Shahir.
With streams of tears running down his face, Ahmad entreated Allah, ‘Please God of all that is there, make me stop loving Shahir on whose name my heart beats. If my love is a sin, I beseech You, O Lord! Absolve me of it and put me on the straight path. If I come out of this punitive predicament intact, I do vow before You, Allah, my intention will be to marry.’
Yet, fearful of awakening Shahir, Ahmad could not bring himself to sleep in their bed. Instead he went to sleep in the spare bedroom.
From a young age Shahir and Ahmad were aware that everybody had forcefully asserted that homosexuality was a blight, a sin and the fate of those practicing it was in the deepest pit of torture in Hell.
Though afraid of being discovered, Ahmad and Shahir hid from view their shame as best they could. Yet when the young lovers were together in the wilderness of the Ajlon heights out of the sight and hearing of an uncomprehending world they felt complete and very happy and saw nothing wrong with the natural way their heartbeats pounded in unison. They were unaware of guilt or remorse nor did they believe their love was a wicked crime. As far as they were concerned everything felt natural and pure.
The way they were raised and inculcated by the villagers, they were always careful of showing their care to one another in public. Subconsciously neither young man could entirely forget the terror, panic and dreadful humiliation that would fall upon them if they were found out. These terrible feelings of wrongdoing and shamefulness were always at the back of their minds. Indeed if they were with other people, they always felt embarrassed and their youthful faces would turn bright if they caught each others eye.
Ever after that awful evening of the fight, Ahmad wholeheartedly accepted that Malik’s walking on them was the first of God’s many severe punishments to follow. Kneeling before God, he felt so guilty and mortified. Certain that Malik’s death was their first public crime, tears of repentance flooded Ahmad’s face. He had suddenly become mentally exhausted and his mind began playing ticks on him, seeing things that were not there.
He saw the face of his tearful mother, intensely gazing at him crying, ‘What shame have you brought upon us, Ahmad?’
Worried that Ahmad might infect his three boys with queerness, his only surviving brother kept his three boys behind him as if to hide them for fear that their uncle would touch them.
The brother rather agitatedly told Ahmad, ‘If I see you near my boys I will kill you. Do you understand, I will kill? You better hide well, Ahmad, because if I find you, I will slaughter you like a goat and cleanse the name of our family and clan of the shame you bring upon us.’
But it was the choleric face of his old father that was the most frightening. Shouting abuse at Ahmad, his father wrathfully censured his depraved son, ‘I will kill you if you ever dared to show your face in the village. If the Shaitan# has ever persuaded you to step over the threshold of my house, I will not spare your life for a single second of my fury and my anger. I swear by Allah, I will slit your throat and I will not bury your rotten flesh. No grave will hold your depravity and wickedness. I will throw you to the wild beasts to devour. From this wretched day onward you are no longer the son of my loin. For all the time to come, you are dead and gone to me to my family and to all of the clan.’
With such an howling tempest of voices roaring inside his head, Ahmad became taciturn and just laid in bed and faced the wall. Due to physical exhaustion, his eyes closed and he slept a disturbed, restless sleep.
His slumber was very short. He abruptly woke in a cold sweat from the nightmare that had been pervaded bleak darkness and death in his conscious. Instinctively Ahmad’s hand searched for Shahir as if to reassure himself. But he was snoring in the other bedroom.
In Ahmad’s terrible dream this man whom he loved all of his life was fading too soon. Their happy life together seemed to have passed away in the blink of an eye. A life spent in love and security was murdered by Malik that night.
Even if Malik would departed this life and they came through this debacle unscathed, Ahmad had convinced himself that everything would changed. He longer wanted to shut the outside world and hide but he wanted to be seen, visit his family more often, get married and have children. But as his love for Shahir was much stronger than his will, Ahmad thought of all wonderful times he had Shahir shared and the happy days they had.
But Ahmad was resolute that he wanted to put an end to his fears, embarrassments and the shame that permeating all of his adult life. He now wanted to walk with a head high like all men.
Yet the ugly thought invaded all of his being, ‘What will the world think of me?’
His head elbowing his arm, Ahmad wondered, ‘It is so strange how grief and fear stretch Time beyond the limits of its unanticipated period. Now that the search for bliss is practically over and normality beckons, despite all the years of love and contentment we had it seems as if it has ended before it began. O! How days and nights appeared like minutes when I and Shahir were together and the light of our love only lit our home. The world was just a mere dark memory of toil to live!’
Feeling like a tired old man pale and perspiring, Ahmad thought, ‘My father will hand me over to Mot# without a second of hesitation. O! Elohim of Mercy and Compassion, why is this unforgiving reality refusing to acknowledge my existence unless I wear the clothes of morality.’
Suddenly, Ahmad felt very hot in the sweltering darkness. In his turbid mind there were all these people, noisy and curious invading his unsettled head. From within the little nightlight that was forming deep shadows around the room, Ahmad’s senses suddenly felt an abnormal presence in the room with him.
He sat startled and afraid. Looking around the room there was deep shadows and cold silence. All of sudden he overheard a soft voice as though it was coming from the black folds of the ink black glooms. He heard the voice again.
In a condescending hurtful tone the voice chillingly called out, ‘Ahmad.’
But Ahmad could not tell from where the voice was coming.
He thought, ‘It is not Shahir‘s.’
All of sudden Ahmad realised whose voice it was. He had heard it smirk. A large black form with its head touching the ceiling slowly detached itself from the darkness and loomed large over him.
Ahmad heard more than he could see. ‘It is I, Azrael#. I have come to crop your soul.’
At that exact second Ahmad heard Shahir saying as he walked in, ‘Ahmad, are you awake? Did you do the dawn prayer?’
Ahmad was very pleased to hear Shahir distracting him from his morbid visitation. He pulled out of his mind the gloomy thoughts.
In a low slightly shaky voice Ahmad said, ‘I have already done the dawn prayer. If you hurry up you will also be able to pray before the sun rises.’
Almost apologetically Shahir replied, ‘I do not think so. It is six o‘clock. I overslept. Would you like a glass of tea?’
The couple carried on as though nothing had happened.

VI
Before dying what Malik said of truths and lies were more than enough to destroy the lives of the two kind men who took pity on him and gave him employment. Mushtaq was called as his next of kin. He and a few of his countrymen took Malik’s body and buried him in the common Muslims’ cemetery without a headstone as if a martyr.
Belonging to the new zealous homophobe, the young policemen who interviewed Malik on his deathbed and the interpreter made sure that Malik’s malicious confessions did not remain secret. Although the facts were not really substantiated, all of a sudden in the eyes of a society that blatantly hated homosexuals, the insinuation was enough to condemn Shahir and Ahmad. Everybody, including their families and clans, loathed the two men as evil sinners and called for the death penalty.
Unable to pay his medical cost, a few days later Malik died of his injuries.
Malik’s hateful and lurid details had turned them from victims to villains. Homosexuality is legal in Jordan but that same day Shahir and Ahmad were unceremoniously and roughly arrested for the alleged crime of manslaughter and crime of indecency against public morals. But in the eye of the police and the public at large the pair were criminal because of the stigma of being homosexuals. Fearing they might come up with identical stories, they were put in separate cells in the police station, pending further investigations.
The police put out a short statement saying: Ahmad and Shahir were arrested for assault and bodily harm which was in self-defence.
But the misfortune of the two lovers became bleak when Malik died, leaving behind him his ugly scenario.
Having not being apart from each others all their lives, they took the torment of not knowing how the other was coping very hard, destroying any inner-strength they might still have left in them after the terrible ordeal they went through.
Ahmad’s remorse and shame for being homosexual made him feel very guilty and he spent his time weeping and calling on God to forgive him. As if they had completely given up on life, under torture and heavy handed interrogations, Ahmad who was totally lost without Shahir being by his side, confessed to everything the police accused him of including other unsolved crimes.
Seeing no escape from their terrible fate, Shahir also confessed to everything the police wanted him to confess to and other crimes he was totally innocent of.
The story that went around the city and the country was miles from the whole truth. It was to hide their nauseating homosexuality, the two queer men wanted to kill the poor labourer, Malik, because he refused to join in with their evil acts then burn his body in the desert. The virtuous people were so appalled by the horrendous news that everybody demanded the death penalty without mercy.
Even before the pair were put to death their respective families began fighting over their shares of Ahmad and Shahir’s legacy.
Announcing the court’s verdict and their imminent execution, a brief statement from the ministry of justice read:
‘The tile layers, Shahir and Ahmad, attacked Malik, a Pakistani national, in their house. They unrestrainedly beat him until near death but later he died in hospital of his injuries. By their admission Shahir and Ahmad were going to take the body of Malik at night, in their car, to set fire to it in the desert.’
One murder and two executions need not have happened if only homosexuality were accepted as a normal way of life rather than fear and fanaticism by its public display.



Portsmouth 1917