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Watching Me
Dean Durber

The wind doesn't blow much here. All the windows to the house lie open, and still nothing stirs. The endless summer heat has drained us. It has driven us all crazy.

"Go take yourself a rest," they said. "Enjoy. It's real beaut down there. White sand. Clear water. Everything you want. Not a soul."

My friends gave me the key to their house in the bush built of wood and bricks. Its windows are large. There's an open fire waiting eagerly for winter. The floors gather dust and nobody cleans. I sit alone in the middle of the silence straining to see through the clustering of trees that surround me. Across the way there's a mud brick hut where a family of four all live.

"He's into his surfing, the eldest."

Is he?

"Is he?"

I have seen him from a distance as he passes by. I have followed along the strip of bush land that he treads into dirt with his bike everyday, going to and from school I imagine. I find insects crushed in the soil. His blond hair flops down and over his face. As I watch him, I stand naked and I dry my dry body with a towel that never gets wet.

"And he reads a lot. We don't have a television, you see. He'll just spend hours in his room just reading. I think that's unusual for a boy of his age, don't you?"

His mother talks with an accent. Does he hear it like I do? I welcome her invitation to come over, and the generosity of this offer of cheap instant coffee.

"You'd think at his age he'd be begging for the city life!"

I laugh when I say this. I hide my whole face in the chipped white mug.

"No, he seems to be dead happy here."

Does he?

"Does he?"

I stare along the pathway and into the depths of the trees. My eyes squint to see. I ask about plants in the garden when all I can think of is when, where, what time, him.

"How's it goin'?" I ask.

I notice how different my voice sounds.

"Not bad," he says back.

He stands staring at me with one foot resting off his pedal and balancing on the ground. His board shorts cling to his legs. There's a constant slight twitch in his left eye. My hand tingles to touch him.

"Fancy a coffee? I mean...or..."

The dryness of the air sticks to the back of my throat. I panic when I talk. Is "fancy" a word he would use? Is it too old-fashioned? I panic that it might be a word his mother speaks all the time in an accent that sets her apart. Dead happy, she says. Does he equate me with her? My skin starts to tighten and crack. My mouth is too dry to make the correction.

"Sure. Coffee would be good. Thanks."

I pull up another plastic white seat close to the one where I have been sitting. I offer it to him, but he doesn't sit.

"I've been sitting all day at school learning fuck all."

I nod and I smile. I hold still for a while there before leaving him standing.

"They just talk fucking crap there."

The hairs on my arms rise.

"I'd rather just surf."

"Sugar?" I shout from the kitchen.

"Two thanks."



"Heaps!" I repeat in a quiet laugh. "That's a nice word. That's a real nice word."

"He's in Year 10 now, which seems to be working out okay for him."

She offers me a slice of homemade carrot cake and I decline. I don't want to be taking everything for nothing. Just glancing around, I can see how they rely on the sun for their heating and hot water. All their electricity is recycled from old car batteries that stand in stacks outside the back door. The garden grows all their food. He would be happy to get away from all this. I know he's a boy with dreams and desires. I watch his mother as she munches clumsily on cake.

"He must want to get away from all this, at times though."

She fingers the crumbs through her slightly parted lips.

"No? Doesn't he?"

"I saw you this morning on my way to school," he says to me.

Did you?

"Did you?"

I know exactly what time.

"You were standing in your window..."


"...naked. You should close the curtains if you don't want people to see."

"I'll keep them open then."

"That's kewl."

I know how he spells it. He shuffles down beside me on the sofa as he sips on hot fresh coffee, very sweetened and heaped with milk. The hair on his legs is fine and fair.

"So, I was wondering."



"I was wondering if you like...?"



"I was wondering if you like to...?"

She takes the stained mug from out of my hand and sighs.

"Well, I suppose I should get on with some gardening then."

I sit back in the chair.

"Does he sleep over there?"

I point towards a small tin shed resting on stilts. Through the open door, I can see a bed and the poster that hangs on the wall. It's the picture of a wave.

"The eldest does, yes. The two boys just got too old to share. We had to build that extra room to give him a bit of privacy, you know."

Do I?

"Do I?"

"They need their privacy at that age."

"I see."

Privacy away from this family home built out of mud and stone. Privacy for his thoughts.

"I know."

I know all the thoughts of this boy. She walks away to clear the cups and I sniff deep. I try to fill my lungs with the air that escapes from his bedroom. I want to believe it holds just one tiny molecule of the sweat that has managed to escape from my vision of those unwashed ruffled sheets. I sniff deeper for the smell of the tissues he stores in hiding beneath his pillow. Will his mother find them one day? I close my eyes and hold my breath and pray. The air is dry. My lungs fill with pain.

"I really must get on with some gardening."

I exhale and feel my chest sinking.

It is dark and empty at night here. It is not like in the city where streetlights pave the way and nobody notices a soul. Here, I must creep on barefoot through the trees with no torch to lead my way. I hope that the rustle of leaves and the cracking of their dryness beneath my soles can be mistaken for a possum passing by. The air and the warmth start to choke me. The heat of the day won't die in the shade. I step on to dry grass and thirsty shrubs. I hold my breath. He has left his curtains wide open desperately hoping to catch just one second of passing breeze, but this place is on the verge of combustion.

I stand and I watch the stroking colours of brown and white as his sheets move up and down beneath his hand. His eyes are closed. His head flops from left to right to left. He pushes back the covers and spits on his fingers. His eyes roll. His thin sprout of stomach hair glistens as it catches the last drops of semen that dribble. A stream runs all the way up to his tiny pink nipples.

"He's got such a bad back though."

Has he?

"Has he?"

"I don't understand it at his age. We've tried changing the mattress."

Did you?

"Did you...?"

I have seen the clumps of tissues that fester beneath his pillow. Has she already caught him and warned him away from the things he likes to do?

"But that didn't do him much good. He's been doing yoga for a while and that seems to be helping, but I think it's all the surfing. I've told him he has to give it up if he doesn't want to hurt himself."

I can see his hair all ruffled and wet from the salt of the sea. How brown his body can turn in the glare of the sun as it beats down on his exposed skin. The colour of his swimmers. How they cling tightly to his flesh. I have pictured him at sea, his surfboard clutched tightly between his legs as he kicks out and waits for a wave to carry his tanned body home to the white sand that clings on like grit. It roughens his look. It wakes him.

"But he won't listen to me. He's just addicted to that board."

At night from this house I can surround myself in total blackness. Or I can flick one switch and send a scurry of animals running for safety into the trees. In the spotlight tonight I see a naked boy's body leaning back against a tree. I stare at his perfect complexion.

"I want you..." he mouths.

He calls me.

"I want you to..."

My hand tingles to tickle along the line that leads from his sore, sore back, and around to the sprout of hair that I know exists. His neck arches backwards. He waits there for the touch of my tongue to connect. This boy will never close his curtains again. My cluster of tissues builds.

"He'll be home next week."

I sit forward and feel the heat knock me back.

"Next week?"

"From his school trip. It's such a shame you won't get the chance to meet him. He's such a lovely young boy."

Is he?

"Is he?"

"Are you sure you won't have any cake?"

I shake my head. I cross the gravel that separates his tiny mud hut from the seclusion of the place where I stay. I sit alone staring out at the trees that hide my view.

I start to imagine.

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