This is solely for green, to let you know that I haven't stopped writing. I didn't know how else to contact you.

This story is only half-written, however I fully intend on completing it.

I dumped him not because he stole my last two cigarettes, but because he'd stolen money and my electronic toll card and treated me like crap and never let me fuck him. It simply appeared I'd dumped him over two cigarettes because the smokes were, as they say, the straw that broke the camel's back.

I didn't tell him he was being dumped. That would have been awkward and stupid, largely because words like 'relationship' and 'love' had never been spoken during our time together. Instead, the very next day, when I was due to pick him up from work and drive him home in my rather ridiculously modified Camry, I made sure I was a good fifteen kilometres away with my mobile phone switched off.

'Ibrahim is gonna fucking kill you,' Sam laughed on Monday morning.

'Maybe,' I agreed tiredly.

I desperately needed more sleep. I was always tired, always. My days and nights were a blur of working at the local hospital and watching bad movies. I had a bigger movie collection than anyone I knew of, though most of it was crap. I'd watch anything; new releases, classics, two dollar bargains picked up in handfuls at the cheap store. I was destined to die either behind the wheel after a fouteen hour shift, or on my mother's pristine couch. Sad. Life probably should have been better for a twenty-five year old.

Samir Atkinson, the most beautiful Lebanese-Australian boy in the world, curled his lips into a smile. 'No maybe's. Definitely.'

I, Iskander Beshara, the most pathetic, overweight, Lebanese-Australian nurse cum administator in history, picked distractedly at my crappy complexion. 'He only wanted to fuck something. He can find something else.'

It was a pointless conversation, because there was no way in hell Ibrahim – Lebanese-Australian boy number three, who was more horny than gay and quite well respected at church - would ever make an attempt at revenge. He wouldn't do anything that might risk people finding out that he'd fucked another man.

Sam tapped a cigarette from the pack and put it in his mouth. He flicked his lighter, and the flame twisted up and touched his smoke. I echoed the action with my own cigarette, and took a deep, thoughtful, pull. How screwed up was this, anyway? Why was it that the only thing in my life left to get excited about was payday, and a few stolen moments with my best mate?

It wasn't even that I loved Samir. I didn't, not romantically, anyway. I loved him like a brother and admired his good looks, but that was the extent of it. Besides, we'd been friends for so long that even if I'd loved him, I would have had the good sense to accept he was straight and would neve be able to reciprocate my feelings. Ten years we'd known each other. We'd met in the guidance counsellor's office, during a progam targeting kids with parents from non-English speaking backgrounds. We had been 'at risk' of falling though the cracks of society, or so we'd been informed that afternoon. Clearly no one had informed the guidance counsellor that Samir's parents were medical doctors, and that his mother was teaching him to drive in her Jaguar.

'Mus'ad will be happy,' Samir said, suddenly.

'Is Mus'ad still around?' I asked curiously, thinking of a dark-haired boy who gave great head but was violently terrified of being 'found out'. Every time I'd met with him I'd had to listen to his accusations; that I was being careless, that I was an evil Christian out to subvert Muslims, that I didn't love him. Only the latter was true, although I never said as much. We'd only been 'together' for a few months before he tried to hang himself and that, as it happens, pretty much heralded the end of our time together.

'Mum dragged us all to the mosque to say Aloha to God and I swear I saw him,' Sam confirmed.

I laughed. 'Aloha.'

Sam laughed, a little uneasily. He looked towards the sky and with far too much sincerity in his voice than I felt necessay, added 'Sorry God, mate. That was a joke.'

Unlike his father, and unlike me, Samir could never quite wash away whatever vestiges of religious guilt had been instilled in him.

I glanced aound the car yard we were standing in and gestured to a man running his eyes over a shiny new Accord Euro. 'Bait,' I said.

Sam ground out his cigarette. He was too much of a car salesman to let a potential sale slide by because of idle chit chat. 'I'll see you on Thursday, Iska. We need to catch up.'

Mus'ad slid into the passenger seat of my car without a word. I glanced over at him and wondered how long it had been since we'd hooked up. Nine, ten months? It had been a while. Still, he had responded to my casual text message with a brief phone call, and we'd agreed to meet up.

'So how have things been?' I asked.

He shugged slightly. 'Okay.'

'Yeah? You seeing anyone?'

He twisted something on his left hand. I glanced down quickly and saw the silver ring on his wedding finger.

'You got married?' I asked.

Mus'ad nodded. 'I graduated and got a job. It was time.'

'You graduated, got a job and a wife? Shit, that's a lot of stuff.'

He smiled faintly and leant against the window. He looked tired and sad and lonely. So different during our first affair where he'd been brash and defensive. 'She's pregnant. We've only been married eight weeks.'

'Yeah? You like doing it with her?' I asked curiously.

'Not really. She doesn't say anything, though. I think she's just happy I don't bother her for sex very much.'

'Do you like her?'

'I like her,' he agreed. 'She's my second cousin, though, so I've known her all my life.'

'I hope it works out for you.'

'It will. In it's own way, it will.'

He sounded sad, miserable. I wanted to hug him or something weird like that. I wanted him to hurt less and smile more, because...god, fuck it, you don't have to love or even like someone to want them to be happy.

I'd finished my shift – all thirteen hours of it – and drove Mus'ad to a quiet part of town where there was kilometres of dirt road joining truck stops and dumps and great tracts of unuseable, flood-prone, land. I parked my car and turned off the radio and we just sat there for a few minutes, silent, mulling things over. Mus'ad fiddled with his shirt and swept off a tiny piece of fluff. His shirt was immaculately ironed. I figured his wife was doing it. His new, pregnant, wife.

Mus'ad reached out tentatively and laid a hand on my thigh. 'I missed you. You never came to see me... afterwards, after that thing. You could have come. Nobody would have known who you were.'

'Really? That wasn't the impression I got. Besides,' I lied. 'I didn't want to cramp you. You know.'

He nodded slowly. He had really nice dark skin, smooth and flawless, and I reached out and stroked it, half out of desire and half to comfort him. He leant into my hand and smiled.

'Can you remember what we used to do?' he asked.

Of course I remembered. Instead of answering, though, I moved closer to him and tilted his face towards mine. He was a keen kisser, loved kissing. We used to make out for a good ten or fifteen minutes before he undid my pants and got down to the business of giving me head. Sometimes, he used to get spooked by a passing car and would demand I drive him home immediately. Those days sucked.

Tonight, though, there was no interruption. We kissed, sucked each other off, and he cuddled me for a few minutes before quietly, regretfully, asking me to drive him home.

Sam was amused by my rekindling of my affair with Mus'ad. He thought the guy was dorky and stupid and not really good enough for me.

'He's actually improved,' I argued.

'Yeah, well if your parents found out about him, would you still think he was worth it?'

'Of course not. But I'm not telling anyone. Ever. You know that.'

'One day they might find out.'

'Probably not. I'm very careful.'


'What? You think somebody's found out?'

Samir shrugged and sipped his Coke. It was his Thursday lunchbreak, and I wasn't due to start work for another hour. We had a little time left to talk about things.

'My father asked me about you,' he admitted. 'Why you don't have a girlfriend, that kind of thing. He said he'd be happy to talk to your parents... you know. If things ever got difficult.'

My stomach felt heavy and uncomfortable. 'What did you tell him?'

'I said I didn't know why you didn't have a girlfriend.'


He shrugged, defeated. 'Fine. You know me too well. I told him you'd been with a few guys but nothing was certain.'


'What?' he replied defensively. 'You know he'd never tell anyone. He just wants you to know that you have support if you ever... you ever come out.'

I wanted to cry. I don't normally want to cry, either, but today I did. My chest constricted and I lunged for my cigarettes, lit one, and inhaled.

'Goddamn you. You have to tell him you lied. Tell him you were joking. Tell him I've never been near another guy.'

'Christ, Iska, don't get so worked up.'

'I'm not worked up.'

'Of course you are. Listen to yourself. Fuck, you think Dad would blab? You know what he's like. He's just concerned. I mean, he started telling me about this guy that came into the surgery last week with green pus coming out his dick. He asks this guy what he's been doing and the guy says 'nothing, no one but my girlfriend and we were virgins when we hooked up'. Dad said 'bullshit, someone's screwing around or not telling the truth about their virginity. This guy eventually cracks and says he's been screwing all these men, without condoms.' Samir paused. 'You want green pus coming out your dick, man? 'Cause that's what my Dad was worried about. He wants to know if you're gay, and if you're cool with it, and if you're using condoms.'

'He has nothing to worry about,' I said shortly.

Samir tapped his cigarette in the ashtray. 'So you use condoms?'

'Sure,' I replied. 'I'm a nurse. You don't need to tell me this shit, man, I already know it.'

It was true. Not only was I scared of getting something nasty, but it's a lot easier to clean up afterwards when you use a condom. Still, I was seething inside. Samir had 'known' for seven years and had never told anyone before. Why now? And why his father?

The whole reason that my parents, and Sam's mother, are in Australia is because of the war in Lebanon. All three were refugees, fleeing a civil war based on religious indifference. I can't imagine getting that worked up over religion. It's never been a source of contention for us that my parents are Maronite, and Sam's father a stauch atheist and his mother a haphazard shi'ite Muslim. It's never been a source of contention between our families, either. Our parents actually get on, hold regular conversations with each other. Ths is why I was I was why I was getting so worked up. What if Sam's father told mine?

'Are you pissed?' Sam asked.

'Of course I am,' I snapped. 'I'm fat and I have a complexion like the moon and the only men I've been with are idiots that I've picked up from my church or your mosque. Do you have any idea what our mothers would say if they found out I'd been fucking good Christian and Muslim boys?'

'I'd say that if they were letting you fuck them, they aren't very good Christians or Muslims,' Sam joked.

I glared at him. Sam shrugged.

'Sorry,' he apologised.

I bit down on my bottom lip. 'Don't tell anyone else, okay? Please?'

Samir stared down at the remains of his lunch. He never ate his lettuce, and today was not exception, but he pushed it around and located a stray piece of carrot. He stabbed at it with his fork. 'I'm not trying to get you into trouble,' he explained. 'I was only trying to help you.'

'It doesn't matter,' I muttered. 'I don't want any help. I want to be left alone.'

Samir pushed his plate aside and stood up. 'We should go. I need to go back to work. I'll pay for lunch.'

'No, it's my turn.'

'No,' he said. 'No, it's up to me. You're right. It was your secret. I shouldn't have said anything. I'll talk to Dad tonight and make sure he knows that he can't tell anybody.'

It was exactly what I thought I wanted to hear, but now Samir was saying it, I felt awkward and pathetic. My secret. That's what it was, really. My shameful, dirty little secret. I let straight men fuck me, and I had illicit affairs with lonely, married gay men.

Samir flung an arm around me and smiled broadly. 'You're not fat, either.'

I sighed, forgiving him for telling his father. 'That's not true.'

'No, really, it is. You look like every other Lebanese guy.'

'The forty year old ones. The young ones are thin.'

Samir laughed, and handed over his credit card to the waiter. 'You're so paranoid.'

Sam sighed as he was handed his receipt. 'We gotta catch up, you know? Both of us. We need to take a Saturday night off and go wild.'

'Next Saturday?' I suggested. 'I finish at ten. That's about when eveything starts.'

'That means you're due to finish at six,' he said knowingly.

'I can't leave other people in the lurch.'

'Iska! You can't work all the time. Are you short on cash?'

'No,' I admitted. I sighed. I'm known at work as the perpetual sucker, the guy who will always cover a shift. It's not a good thing. 'Next Saturday's good.'

'Excellent,' he grinned. 'I'll give you a call.'

I waved good bye to my friend and headed to my car as he headed back to work.

God, I was tired. Tired but stressed. I still couldn't believe that Samir had told his father. As I buckled myself in, an even worse thought struck me. If Gordon Atkinson had figured out I was a fag, who else had figured it out? What if any of my four older brothers, or Sam's older brother or sister, had figured it out? What if they told someone?

I drove home in a cold sweat. I was already enough of a disappointment. My parents had held such high hopes for me. My brothers all had great degrees, and here I was, an overweight nurse. I should have been a doctor. That's what they were always saying. Why nursing, Iska, why not study medicine? The answer was – pathetically – that I didn't want to go to med school. I didn't have either the ambition or the dedication.

When I arrived home, I was expecting some kind of horror greeting. I don't know what, exactly, but I expected it to be bad. What I got was actually nothing out of the ordinary. My mother – a housewife – ushered me in, asked how my day was, and then watched as I stumbled down the hall to my bedroom. I was tired, really tired, and I needed a few hours sleep before she came in and woke me up for dinner.