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My first failed girlfriend, Sandra, staring at me from deep in the grip of what turned out to be highschool-gossip Tourettes syndrome, said
  But that's great! You'll get lots of sex and drugs and you can take me out clubbing!
  Don't tell your little brother though -- probably won't even know what you're talking about.

My brother Steven, barely glancing up from the TV, said
  Yeah, I knew that. You're gunna be very sad & lonely when you grow up.
  Go and tell Mum & Dad: they'll diiiiie!

My father, awkwardly looking up from his workbench, said
 Well, I'm very disappointed in you: not surprised but disappointed.
 I thought Scouts had made a man out of you. And don't tell your mother, it'd kill her.

My mother, staring at her Kleenex box like a dingo at Azaria, sniffed, gurgled and said
 How could you do this to me? You're going to die!
 After all we've done for you, you're just gunna die. And don't tell your father, it'd kill him.



sex & drugs

Sandra, it was a month or so after I'd told you. I was 15. I'd been to a nightclub, seen what I should look like. Baby-bottom pecs, egg-carton abs, redgum thighs, geometric jaw

. . . I could never be that. So I took the basketball team captain up on his offer (I had a crush on him anyway). He took me to a sex party, said I'd learn what to do, what to put where. Two famous TV people and a radio star were there. They spiked my drink, then they gave me tranquillisers and amyl nitrate. It made me inside-dead, dissociated, so separate from my arse I could twist my head around, upside down, doing a hand-stand, while the two men held a leg each and fucked me simultaneously, and I'm thinking -- Eehh. So this is it? This is what it's like.

I went back. Nervous, titillated, feeling dirtied but brave and undercover-spy and hey, who's gunna look cross a crowded bar and say Yep, that's what I want for the night-- a pretzel. I got my sex and drugs before I finished school. I tried everything, enough times to know it wasn't what I wanted.

sad & lonely

Steven, in 1995 I was curled up like a pickled foetus out on the shoebox balcony of the apartment, retching out the betrayal, waiting for my lover of eight years to come back for another carload of his belongings.

I was being left for a man who had thighs.

And a Saab, with central locking.

I knew, see cos I read the diaries.

I knew he'd found my upgrade in a toilet.

Our friends had already started lining up, orderly and quiet, on either side in neat playground lines. I tried not to wonder how many of them he'd fucked. We'd done triage on our stuff, our slow moraine of things, earlier that morning, zombie-hard and wordless mine his his ours his. He was a coward so I got the mementos.

His absence had a hyena echo. How could I have been so stupid? Sad isn't it? Everyone else knew.

Time clotted, grew a scab. How can you still be crying when you don't even have snot left? I couldn't stop looking at the pinprick from the AIDS test. Ecclesiastical question: how many anonymous fucks can dance on the head of a dick and are they in me now?

Unbelievably, I fell asleep. Woke up claggy-tongued and tundrahearted. Deep breath. Got up, went to his neat piles of 83 classical CDs and drew a neat diameter line from hole to edge with a Stanley knife.

made a man out of you

Dad, yeah, sorry to call so late, but I just had to ring and tell you, you know you said I should get the landlord to send someone round to fix the loose sash on the front window, yeh? OK. Well, I got some twine and did a rolling double hitch knot and fixed it meself! Zat butch or what?! Just thought I'd let you know. Bye.

how could you do this to me?

Tah-dah. Mum, this is the new Melbourne me, short hair & all, and this is-- no, no, you can say it, go on, JON-a-than, nono not friend or best friend or special friend or even flatmate . . . . Jon a than there that's it goooood. You could probably even say that in front of other people couldn't you? Yes.

Jonathan's best friend said well, if you ever need a boyfriend you can borrow one of mine.

His brothers said Yeah, we knew that -- well, except for the brother that looks like a K-Mart catalogue flannel-shirt model. He, never one to risk being original, said Some of my best friends [dot-dot-dot]

His father couldn't bring himself to say anything, so he wrote a letter. And I quote . . .
 Dr Parker said to me that people like you are fated, at about your stage, to move from one intense relationship to another, in fairly rapid succession, suffering a fair amount of anguish along the way.

His mother, after seeing a psychologist, a psychiatrist, the family doctor, a family counsellor, and joining a therapy group, said that she'd realised it wasn't her fault after all, that homosexuality was in fact caused by a toxic buildup of the hormones the farmers force-fed to cattle and that, since Jonathan's a vegetarian, it'd work its way out of his system and he'd be OK again in about 6 months.

Mum, we're not the ghosts of all those futures past.

Mum? Oy! Pay attention.



This is my lover.

He leaves nests of wadded-up tissues all over the house like angels' furballs.

He whistles at me, an obedience school heel boy heel!, when he wants attention or another coffee.

He inhabits the toilet the way Kubla Khan or Dad would.

How can we not always have been living together?

Late at night, after work, when I crawl into bed beside him, without even breaking the surface of sleep he rolls over, fits around me, feathers the back of my neck with his dream-pulsed breath and cradles me kitten-warm. He thaws me. He completes me. He makes me.

If I wake in the early hours and he's been tidal-washed to the other side of the bed, nextdoor's outside light zoom-lenses him in a fluorescent square. His hair crinkles out on the pillow like cuneiform, his kissbitten lips are open, the drawstring of his day lets loose, releases him into the blank of innocence. In the shadow penumbra outside the light, as it slides down his neck and stops short of the shoulderblade, there, just past the knuckly bone to the left, there's a constellation of nubbled freckles and I could reach out and touch it now, in the dark, with my eyes closed. I know him by heart.

He has a breakable beauty that leaves me raw jubilant yearning
worrying at a bone-deep wonderment at the unlikely fact of us.

I feel like a sentinel, want to stay awake always, just watching, watching over, statue-dumb, unable to find even the easiest of words.

And when, in the half-morning, against sleep and judgment, we make love in remembrance of time stolen from alibis and family surveillance, I realise again, as ever, as always, what now is for, in the lost-and-found of our bodies, luxuriant, exulting, skinned by touch, sweaty, groggy from trust, bad-breath-ed, skittish with desire
and it is not habit it is not charades it is not proof it is not dues it is not forgetting it is not panadol it is not giving-in it is not code --

it's just us.

No, Mum, I'm not dead yet. I'm so alive, so me, I've made a cliché of myself.



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