As the doors of the club opened, Hosni stumbled out flanked by two other guys, not one looking as lost as he was. He had to lean against a wall next to the club and just wait there. The two guys that had come out with him did not ask him if he was ok or if he wants some kind of help. Actually, they only looked at him glaringly and started talking on their phones almost immediately. His head felt very dizzy, he felt it turn and turn and not stopping but his body had no reaction further than that. He wasn’t going to vomit, so he just stayed there, looking wasted.
The guys finally asked him if he was going with them. Hosni shook his head. He didn’t feel up to any task right now and just wanted to get home as soon as possible. As the guys left, he put his hands on the pockets of his jacket and checked everything that needed to be there was indeed there: the wallet, home keys, his socks and a candy. He even opened up the wallet to see how much money he had and realized he was obliged to walk back home, as he hadn’t enough money for a bus or the subway. And even if he had, he wasn’t in the best state to know where to walk to take any of those transportation options.
So he started walking, at seven in the morning on a Sunday, through a neighborhood that he knew well as he had identified it as a go-to place since he had arrived in town five years ago. He remembered his excitement when seeing the order and the cleanliness and the coldness of people. It was very different from his home country, in both good and bad ways. The nice thing here is that his parents became a bit less religious and were not as tough with rules as hey had been before. The proof was that he was there, stumbling around corners at that time of day.
Then he realized he hadn’t felt his cellphone in his jacket. He stopped right in front of a disco and people smoking outside watched as he furiously looked all over himself for the cellphone, only to find it in pocket close to the knee. He was wearing the cargo pants that his dad had felt would make a great worker, being able to carry all sorts of things everywhere. Even as he had studied to be a psychologist, his parents were still looking forward for Hosni to come to the family business, which was fixing all sorts of things, like a plumber.
The walk was resumed, with Hosni checking out a map on the phone and rectifying his route. The small scare of not finding his cellphone had helped him being a little less wasted, he could see things little bit clearer. Yet, he wasn’t walking faster at all. He thought it would have been funny to go back to the club and make the owner or some guy turn on the lights to look for the cellphone. But then he remembered that couldn’t have been possible because electronic devices were not allowed in. He laughed stupidly, alone.
After stumbling around for around thirty minutes, he finally got home safe and sound. It took him a while to open the main door of the building and he helped himself by holding the cellphone towards the door when opening the door of the apartment, in order not to wake up his family. He was very silent and when he got into his room he took every single piece of clothe of and just entered the cold bed stark naked, falling fast asleep in a matter of seconds.
The following morning, the voice of his mother woke him up. She wasn’t calling for him but he could hear her in the kitchen, talking to his sister and father. They were probably having breakfast. He could smell the eggs and his stomach practically belched at the presence of the aroma. He would have wanted to eat but, again, his head was spinning. He was not wasted anymore, sleeping had taken care of most of the damage, but his head hurt and he just tried to fall asleep again but couldn’t.
Besides, as he closed his eyes, he remembered various scenes from the previous night including many that he thought were not real. So he stayed with his eyes wide open looking at the ceiling, deciding which memories were real and which ones were fake. He knew he had a lot of beer and also some drugs, which weren’t allowed in the club but people still had them inside, when employees weren’t around and that was pretty often. The scent of the eggs felt stronger, so he got up.
His family celebrated that he joined them and he was served a plate. Then, minutes later, he had to unfold the lie that he had been preparing since the day before. He said he had been in a friend’s house, drinking and having a small party with some of his friends that had recently arrived from his home country. All his parents could ask was what news they brought from home and how they were adapting to the city. They didn’t really care for anything else. It was his sister that asked at what time he had arrived and he had planned to lie about that too: he said he arrived around four in the morning, after helping a couple of his friends get home.
The truth was he had arrived much later than that, even remembering seeing a bit of sunlight as he entered the building. He wasn’t asked much else, and he was thankful because remembering every single lie that he had planned before that night was difficult and made his head hurt even more. He just ate and enjoyed a time with his family and then went back to his room and tried to sleep some more but couldn’t. Again, he stared at the ceiling and just wandered about every single aspect of last night and how everyone had no idea of his real night.
Later that Sunday, he took something for his headache and by night he was feeling better. He helped his dad around at the hardware store the family owned, as it opened every day, and just tried not to think about that night anymore. Now that he was better, he felt guilty and kind of scared that someone would be able to really now what he had been doing that night and so many other nights, because that one had not certainly being the only night he had gone out in order to be closer to what he thought was being his own real self.
Since arriving to the city, he had been going out to places his parents had no idea he went and the thought of them knowing was enough to make the headache come back. He was afraid of the response, not only from his father but from his mother too. Even his sister’s response would be very hard to take in. He loved his family and wouldn’t want them to disappoint them or make them feel like he had betrayed them. But the fact was that he couldn’t tell any of them the truth. Because he knew how they would respond and he wasn’t ready for that yet.
As if his thoughts had been heard in heaven, his father rolled out his prayer mat and felt in one very specific part of the store. Hosni did the same, just next to his father and prayed for a while with him. The amount of guilt that was piling up in his mind was too great and he seriously thought that his mind would explode one day. But it didn’t, because he was much stronger than he realized. After all, he had kept them out of the truth for many years and was ready to do it for many more.
A couple of friends told him to be real, to live a more honest life and to lift that weight from his shoulders. But they didn’t understand how his family worked, how his religion and traditions really set a standard in which he didn’t fit in at all. Sometimes he had to go to his room when his parents had discussions over news in the TV that were “immoral” to them. He just couldn’t bear to hear them argue over something he felt they didn’t understand. He was just trapped between the life he had while a kid and the life he had now, after being able to go to college and have a real education.
So, as always, for the following week, he was the Hosni everyone knew. He worked in the store and then he applied for jobs, some very far away, trying to get into the work world and into his profession, which he actually loved. He was charming with people all around him and loving with his parents and friends. He was just a young man full of dreams as anyone else, ready to take on life and just try to get the best out of it. He really wanted to be happy and thought that lying was part of that idea. It was unavoidable and he didn’t really mind.
H was back in the club the following Saturday night. He had bought a year pass many months before so they knew him well. They gave him a token for a complimentary beverage and then he moved on the locker area, where he proceeded to strip down and only keep on his sneakers and his underwear. Then, he crossed a curtain to the bar where he drank vodka straight. Five minutes afterwards, Hosni was walking downstairs, to the dark room below, where his dreams did not live and he could be as close as he thought he could to the person he thought he was.