Jameel walked slowly along Al-Madinah Road, swaying his hips more than usual and flapping his arms deliberately in what he thought was an extra sexy gesture that was sure to get the attention of prospective clients. He imagined the sidewalk to be his catwalk and he was sashaying for the crown. The temperature had gone down as winter set in, but Jameel was wearing a tight white shirt and brown and orange plaid cotton shorts that hung just below his knees. He left his jacket home because it would conceal his curves. He would rather bear the cold than look fat.
Jameel was short at five feet flat. His small shaven head and round tummy gave him the appearance of a bulbous onion. But Jameel was confident that he was sexy. He would tell his friends that in order to be sexy, one simply has to convince one’s self; never mind what the mirror shows. His friends laughed at his brand of self-confidence, but after they heard Jameel’s stories and the number of men he had slept with in his two years of working in Jeddah, it erased any of their doubts about Jameel’s appeal. Carlitos (also known as Karla to the gang) believed it was Jameel’s ass, as round as his belly, that attracted the men. Jun, another gay friend, attributed Jameel’s success in hooking up with Saudi men to some kind of gayuma or love potion, but Jameel corrected him. He said it was simply his natural charm, wit, and exotic looks.
Jameel hummed along to a rock song playing in his head and walked in time to the music. His eyes, however, were alert to the passing cars, trying to establish eye contact with their drivers. It wasn’t enough to look gay. He also had to make them know that he was on the trade.
A car slowed beside him on the road and honked once. Jameel placed his hands on his hips and crossed his feet into what he called “the Miss World pose.” The tinted side window slid open and revealed two young men inside. The driver, pimpled and with a nose that looked too big for his gaunt face, poked his head out and scoffed: “Bakla! You, so ugly!” His companion hooted and laughed.
“And you are more ugly. Peste!” Jameel shouted at them.
“Bakla, you Filipini shitty bitch!” The pock-marked one flipped a finger at him.
“Fuck you, too, you poor ugly Saudis! Go away, you can’t afford my beauty,” Jameel jeered back.
The two men laughed harder and their laughter was carried by the wind into the night air as they drove away in a screech of tires. Jameel exhaled his irritation and continued his strut on the sidewalk. He pulled down his shirt as it kept slipping up; the tightness could hardly contain his tummy, revealing a protruding navel.
After a few more minutes, another vehicle pulled over beside Jameel. The side door of the van slid open slightly. Three young men were inside. Two were in front and one occupied the second row. A third seat at the back was empty.
“Hey, you Filipini? What is your name, kalbo?” said the one at the back. Jameel looked at him and his knees buckled with delight. This must be a lucky night, he thought. The speaker was fair-skinned, had loose curly hair that framed a face with a beak-shaped nose, deep-set brown eyes, rosy cheeks, full red lips and a shadow of a beard on his freshly-shaven chin.
“Hi, handsome,” Jameel waved a hand at him.
“What about me? I am handsome, too?” asked the one in the driver’s seat, smiling.
Jameel squinted for a closer look at the driver’s face. He leaned on the car door, laid a finger on his lips, and pretended to be thinking as he studied the man. He was dark, reed-thin, and had large black eyes surrounded by long curly lashes. He had the same sharp nose as the guy in the back, but with his angular face he resembled a crow.
“A little. A little handsome,” Jameel giggled in answer, fluttering his lashes at him. A handsome crow, he thought.
“What is your name? You filipini, aren’t you?” This time it was the third guy who asked. A shadow of a beard covered his cheeks up to his neck. A cap hung low over his face so that Jameel could not make out his features clearly. His deep voice, though, made Jameel’s skin shiver, more in excitement than fear.
“A-sian go-ddess,” Jameel answered, stressing every syllable.
“Asian what? What kind of name is that?” the man in the backseat asked.
“Goddess. I am Asian Goddess … yes, handsome, you call me that. Because I am a beautiful Filipini, am I not?”
The three laughed.
“Sure, sure … you, beautiful!” said the one who looked like a crow, rolling his eyes in amusement. “But what it means, goddess?”
“It means very beautiful,” Jameel giggled again.
“Oooff … okay. Is that really, really, really, your real name?” Crow-face insisted.
“Jameela! Anaa, Jameela. I am beautiful. Isn’t it obvious?”
The three laughed again.
“Yes, Jameela means beautiful. You know Arabic, huh?”
“Mafi. No speak Arabic. Just very little,” Jameel answered, “like khabir and saghir. Big and small. Ha, ha, ha!” He laughed loudly. “And what about you, handsome? What is your name? Are you khabir?” He was addressing the man in the backseat.
“Anaa, my name is Handsome,” he answered with a grin. Jameel stuck his lips out in a feigned pout.
“And I’m big and black,” Crow-face interrupted. “This one to my left,” he patted the shoulder of his companion, “he, also khabiiir!”
“Wanna have fun? Come with us,” the deep voice invited in a humorless tone.
“Where we go?” Jameel asked back.
“Anywhere, we like, you like … we will have fun. We will … enjoy the night!”
“Yeah! Yeah!” Crow-face bobbed his head up and down.
“Sit with me,” the handsome one in the back said, and he slid the door further for Jameel to climb in. The deep-voiced man moved out from his seat in front and joined them at the back so that Jameel found himself sitting between the two. The car sped away.
“So, what is your name? You are cute.” Jameel looked at the handsome man again and pinched his cheeks. The latter just laughed in reply.
“Okay, you don’t want to tell. Umm … what about … how old are you guys?”
“Twenty-one, all of us.”
“Do you go to school?”
“At university. We belong to the same class. Classmates, all of us. We specialize in chemical engineering.” The deep voice was doing all the answering. Crow-face drove the wheel, grinning all the time. “Now, we are vacation from university. We just finish final exam, all subjects. So today, we want have fun because today we are vacation. This last vacation from university … Inshallah, next semester we finish.”
“Yes, and after next semester, inshallah, you know, we will be engineer,” the one to Jameel’s left added, pride in his voice.
The van slowed down and all went quiet as they approached the city border checkpoint. Traffic was sparse but the checkpoint police simply waved them through. The driver picked up speed when they had passed the checkpoint until the speedometer registered a hundred and twenty.
“Where are we going?” Jameel asked, concern in his voice. “We are outside Jeddah already.”
“Oh, don’t worry. We turn back to Jeddah after two hundred kilometers, you know? This road trip,” the driver answered, glancing at the rearview mirror, exchanging looks with his two companions. “We just go straight, straight, then when we near going to Thuwal, you know, we turn back. We just have fun, you just sit quiet and wait …”
“Isn’t that quite far already?” Jameel asked.
“No, no far. Not really. Just about one hundred … one hundred fifty kilometers. We have full tank. Then we go back.”
When they had been cruising for some time, the one with the deep voice spoke again. “I’m Ahmed.” He caressed Jameel’s thighs. “That, my handsome friend to your left, is Khaled.”
At this point, Khaled was already unzipping his pants. “Take off your pants,” he ordered Jameel. “I will fuck you first.”
“Here in the car?” Jameel asked, now feeling anxious.
“Yes, here. Where you, think, hotel?” Ahmed laughed.
“And you suck my cock while Khaled fucks you, okay? We come together, Khaled and I. You like that? Then when we finish, next Mamdoh,” he pointed at the driver. “Don’t worry, you will enjoy. This is what I said to you about fun. Have you fucked inside car before?”
“No. Come on,” Jameel protested. “Can’t we stop somewhere? I live alone in a flat. You are all welcome there. It’s uncomfortable here. What if the police see us?”
“No police here after checkpoint, see? Not many cars in the road tonight. No more lights in the street. Just desert all around. Also because it very late … and if you embarrassed, don’t worry because the window is dark, see?” Ahmed was referring to the tinted windows. “People outside cannot look in and will not know what we doing inside. Take off your clothes now, yes? We all big,” he whispered into Jameel’s ears. “All for you to enjoy.”
“Why do I have to take off my clothes?” Jameel asked. “Can’t I just, like, pull down my pants?”
“Shut up you fucker Filipini!” Mamdoh called out from in front. “You talk, talk, talk … Just do it. Finish talk! Okay? You a fucker gay, so fuck!”
“If I have to take off my clothes, then take off your clothes also.”
“You are noisy, Filipini,” Khaled snarled. He forcefully took off Jameel’s shirt and pushed down his shorts and underwear to his knees. He spit repeatedly into his palms and covered his now tumescent penis with saliva. Then he spread Jameel’s buttocks apart, spit some more on the crease between them, and entered him from behind.
“Aww! Slowly …” Jameel exclaimed in pain at the sudden thrust.
Meanwhile, the man named Ahmed started pushing himself as hard into Jameel’s mouth. Jameel gagged but could not push the other man away. His two hands were cupping Jameel’s face to steady him. He was muttering “Oh, yes!” repeatedly in monotone, like he was chanting a mantra, with every push down Jameel’s throat. His eyes were closed; his face looked upwards as in prayer. Meanwhile, Khaled pounded behind him quietly; only his heavy breathing could be heard, every exhale in rhythm with his pounding.
Ahmed uttered a final “Oh, yessss” when he came, prolonging the second word to the last squeeze of semen that he forced Jameel to swallow. Khaled followed five minutes later with satisfied grunts of orgasm. When both had zipped back their pants, Ahmed motioned to Mamdoh in front to take his turn. The latter stopped the car by the roadside and let Khaled take over at the wheel.
Mamdoh unbuckled and slid down his pants to his knees and took over Khaled’s place. While Mamdoh thrust himself inside Jameel, Ahmed slapped Jameel’s buttocks, enjoying himself watching live porn. Mamdoh finished even faster than his friends. He had been horny, stroking himself through his pants while he drove and watched in the rearview mirror the activity going on in the back.
Jameel chose to close his eyes and shut up. He felt disappointed, and he could not make himself enjoy the experience. He knew he was already cheap, sleeping with strangers almost every night, but he still never got used to being treated like a common whore. They always brought him to bed, preferably in his flat. They always kissed and caressed him first, and he kissed and caressed them back. He would have to chalk this up as one of those bad nights, Jameel thought. Like the time he was forced to have sex inside a filthy toilet cubicle. Or the one in the parking lot, locked inside a car where the air-conditioning didn’t work. Or that other time when he did it behind a rock in the middle of the sea. Just another unusual-places-to-have-sex to tick off the list. Tomorrow would be better, he told himself. Tomorrow he had booked a regular. That one always took him to dinner first.
After Mamdoh came and slumped on the seat in exhaustion, the three conversed in Arabic, which the Filipino could not understand. Jameel was about to put his shirt on when Ahmed stopped him. “One more, one more for me, okay?” He threw Jameel’s clothes under the seat, placed his hands on Jameel’s shoulders and massaged him, then mashed his chest like they were women’s breasts. The three continued talking in Arabic. At first the tone was casual. Suddenly, they turned excited, grinning, hatching a plan. Before Jameel realized what they were conversing about, the van slowed down, the door slid open, and he was pushed out onto the sidewalk. When he screamed, the vehicle was already pulling away. He was left naked by the roadside except for a slipper on one foot. Nothing in sight but desert plains on both sides of the snaking highway.
Jameel stood shivering in the cold air. Fortunately, it wasn’t the peak of winter and the cold was still tolerable. He saw pages of an old newspaper among the trash strewn around. He tried to cover as much of himself as he could. He dashed across to get to the opposite side, the road leading back into the city. He cut himself on the ankle trying to jump the barrier of wire that separated the opposite lanes.
Traffic was light at that late hour. He raised a hand to hitch a ride with the first vehicle that passed. He did not feel conscious or ashamed of how he looked. He was only desperate to get back home. Three oil tanker trucks passed him by. He could not believe they didn’t stop even out of curiosity for an almost naked man on the side of the highway in the middle of nowhere. His teeth chattered. He could barely feel his feet now, frozen by the cold pavement. Finally, the next vehicle, a pick-up truck, pulled over. An old Pakistani with a heavy white beard was driving. He was dressed in the traditional white Middle Eastern thobe, his head covered with a checkered red and white shamagh.
“Yallah! Why you have no cloth?” It was more an exclamation of surprise than a question.
“They took it.”
“I fuck them and they leave me.”
“You fuck men?” He laughed, a mixed expression of disbelief and amusement on his face. “You gay?”
“Yes, is there anything wrong with that?” Jameel replied haughtily, clinging tightly unto his fragile covering, which the wind was then threatening to blow away.
“Yallah, very, very wrong. But come, come, ride,” the old driver motioned. “I’m going to Jeddah. You going to Jeddah?”
“Yes, Jeddah. Do you have extra clothes? I feel cold.”
“No, no clothing here. Here, my shamagh. Cover yourself.” He took off his head covering and threw it at Jameel. It was sheer and frayed at the edges, but it was better than the newspaper page.
The man tried to engage Jameel in conversation but the latter did not go beyond introducing himself. Jameel stopped him from asking more questions by claiming that he was tired and could not talk because of shock at what he just had to go through. The old man relented with a shrug of his shoulders and they drove in silence. After a while, however, he could feel the man’s hands kneading his thighs.
“Oh, my God, old man!” Jameel exclaimed. “I was raped by three men tonight, okay? And now, you too? I am dirty and smell like shit. Maybe another time, okay? I’ll give you my mobile number and you call me.”
“Come on. I give you a ride. You have to pay me.” His voice was thick with lust.
“No! Drive! Bring me home and I will pay you. How much you like? Two hundred? I will give you two hundred, just bring me home, okay?”
The old man went quiet for a while. Then he stopped the truck under a road bridge. “Go out!” he commanded Jameel.
“Hey, are you leaving me here? That is unfair.”
“Filipini, you only ten kilometers to Jeddah. Walk. Keep my shamagh. Gift from me.”
“Please, Mohammad, just inside the city gate. I can get a taxi after that.”
“No. You not know how to thank me. I get you from the road with no clothes. You in big problem and I save you. And you not know how to thank me. Go find another to drive you.” The Pakistani pushed Jameel off the car and drove off.
“Shukran! You pakinshet!” Jameel shouted at the old driver. He walked unsteadily on his cold legs.
“Shit! Shit! Shit!” he muttered every time his unshod left foot pressed on the desert sand.
Fortunately for him, a Filipino was driving the next car that passed by.
“Kabayan? What happened to you?” The driver could not suppress a smile at the incredulity of the scene before him.
“Dyosko, kabayan, please would you give me a lift to Jeddah? My God! Salamat!”
“I knew you were a Filipino. I saw you get out of the pick-up. I was … shocked. You are naked? Pucha, what have you been doing? Put on this jacket,” he reached over the backseat for a jacket lying there, and handed it to Jameel. “We will soon be at the city border checkpoint. They will stop us and question us if they see you there naked. Stay low so they won’t see you’re not wearing any pants. Do you have your iqama ID with you? What happened to you?”
Jameel narrated his story to the Filipino.
“Let’s hope they don’t stop us and check our iqamas, okay? Pray hard. Because if they do, lagot, you will have to tell them what happened.”
Jameed simply nodded as the checkpoint reared into view.
Jameel was back at his route. It had been a month since his ordeal. He credited what happened to mere bad luck. “There are good-hair days, and there are bad-hair days,” he consoled himself. He was wearing another tight-fitting green shirt and pale orange shorts. Large sunglasses covered his eyes in spite of the fact that it was nighttime.
Tonight, though, he wasn’t alone. He was with another gay friend. His name was Juanito, but he liked to be called Janina. He was more subtle, in a tight white shirt under a light jacket and slim-cut jeans. His foundation-caked face and plucked, arched brows gave him away, however, along with hips that moved in time to Jameel’s rhythmic sways. He was new in Jeddah, having arrived only two weeks before. He worked in the same dress shop as Jameel. The latter had taken him as his charge and was teaching him the ways of the gay Filipino in Saudi Arabia.
“Bakla, Filipini, baklaa!” A sedan slowed down beside them on the road and the driver opened the passenger window just so he could jeer at the two.
“Keep walking, Janina,” Jameel told his companion. “Ignore those shits from the mountains. We are Asian goddesses. They cannot resist our beauty so they insult us to get our attention.” He pushed his sunglasses up his nose and kept walking.
Janina shrieked in delight.
Raymund P. Reyes (Issue 7) is an EFL teacher in the Middle East. He has published his poetry and short fiction in various literary journals and anthologies in his native Philippines