1. His birth
I was born a boy, with my balls cupped in my hand. Even then I was ashamed to be associated with them. But what man isn’t? My balls were lumps of agony enclosed in a shower curtain. They ached at my touch and dripped stupid thoughts into my head. Of course, I didn’t know this until later. Thinking back, I’m not sure I even acknowledged they existed until much later: once they had wrapped their wispy little wires around my brain and hoisted my dick into the fraying mesh of my underwear.
I was born from my mother’s uterus and suckled on her tits. Of course, I don’t remember this either. I imagine that if I did, it would only leave me more ashamed.
2. His second sexual partner
At the age of thirty, I have had three sexual partners. I can count them on one fucking hand. They do not even equate to a full fist. I remember each so well. I can paint every one in vivid colours on the blackness of my mind.
My second sexual partner came when I was twenty-one. She was my room-mate at the flat in
Cardigan Street. She had perfect black hair that merged with the darkness. Her skin was pale, filled with every colour in the light spectrum. Dark little freckles splayed in constellations across her skin and fell in and out of her shirt and her bra and her underwear. She was drunk; we both were. We were celebrating my appointment as the new maths teacher at a big rich school in the city: the kind I had attended in my youth; where boys are funnelled into suits and are lead around by the tie and wrestle on the footy field and cum in the toilets. At this point in my life I had dropped the fat that had hugged my waist since childhood. Every few mornings I could compliment myself in the bathroom mirror. I sat with my hands in my lap and just watched her. I remember that she skulled the bottom out of her cider and turned to me beside her on the balcony, staring at the bricks and grout like maybe there was something more interesting behind it than the lives of strangers. Then she was talking to me with her lips and her tongue. Her jaw stayed very still.
“I’m so proud of you,” she says.
Her eyelids were heavy with powder and her nails were the colour of blood. I could see the slice between her breasts falling deep into the cut of her sweatshirt. I knew then that was all I wanted: not her breasts but that hint, that constant lure, desire; never anything more.
3. His adolescence
I have always lived in the city. I grew up in a sunless apartment on the twenty-third floor of the ANZ tower. When I returned to visit years later, I discovered the drab bedrooms reeked of mothballs and bottled farts. My bedroom was crammed up against the wall. Most of it was consumed by my double bed, strewn with clothes and homework and little ink stains. Through the wall were my mother and her boyfriends. Across the window was an office block over the far side of
Collins Street. My window lined up with the office of a fat man with gluggy sweat patches under his arms, nimble fingers and a neck pillow. I named him Steve. Something about him looked like a Steve; as if I’d seen him on TV. There was some admirable quality about Steve: the way he sat there all day typing to his reflection on the screen, stopping only at to eat his lunch from a sandwich bag. I think what I admired most about Steve was that he was completely fake.
4. His Mother
My Father died when I was eight. It was a heart attack; completely unexpected. He ran the Tan every lunchtime, and never took his job seriously. He never fought with my Mother and was born on a diet. I can’t remember the day that he died; not anymore. I remember knowing he was dead and not coming back. I sat for hours and watched Steve punch away at his computer.
Two weeks later, my Mother found God in the newspaper. Just like that. Fucking bam! Then every Sunday she was off to this gingerbread church in
North Melbourne and returned humming organ notes and singing about Jesus, the man who would save her. I went there only once. My mother never forced religion upon me, but she did not try to stop me going along with her. The music droned from before I could even see the little ornate church across , like a tone-deaf siren. The Chaplin smelt of piss. He took my hands within his, wrinkled like his testicles, and told me I was a child of God. God, it turned out, was some kind of all-seeing, all-knowing warlock and I was already too old to believe in Santa. When my mother died last year, the doctor told me that her final words were “I repent.” Flagstaff Gardens
My mother was only a short woman. She had been beautiful and she knew it. She told me of how she was fussed over at the University and the flowers she received from students taking her history lectures. She put each bunch into flowerpots around the kitchen. She would tell me the story of each one, each petal and trimmed stem. She told me of her affections for students and their eagerness and naivety. I think that I now believe she was buying them herself from the florist on the
Flinders Street steps.
5. His Mother’s Peter
My mother began dating again when I was twelve. At first she kept this to herself. She told me she was meeting girlfriends along Degraves or up Lygon or something so specific and true that it must be false.
I know she still thought about my father. I saw her sometimes crying on the balcony, like she wanted me to watch unseen through the lacy drapes. She was smoking again too. She’d light up every time she started something new: cooking, cleaning, eating, going out, coming home, dropping her dacks, coming on or off the balcony. If ever she saw me, she’d hide the butt beneath her heel.
I know Peter wasn’t her first, but he was the first that she brought home. I was watching TV, just that kids’ crap they put on in the afternoon; when he came striding in carrying my mother’s hand.
“Jason,” she was smiling. “This is my friend, Peter.”
“How are you, champ?” He stank of bravado. I got it between my fingers when we shake hands. “I have heard so much about you.”
I don’t think it was unreasonable for me to hate him from this first encounter. I mean, it wasn’t really hatred directed at him; just the idea of him, and his deep stupid voice and his sweaty hand.
This was my first year at Melbourne Grammar. I did not make friends easily, a trait that still continues to frustrate me. I suppose I could never acknowledge or believe that everyone else is the same as me. Now I have learnt not to care. I knew a little, though; I was not completely without hope. I knew to sit in the middle of the class, so when my eyes drooped and weighed down my skull, I could stare at the flash of skin and hair chocked between their shorts and their socks. I watched the curl of flesh across their thighs and the smoothness of their skin below the hairs; then the next leg and the next leg, smooth and throbbing at my insides, pumping lust and guilt straight out of my balls. I was a sick hopeless cunt. I spent a weeks worth of lunch money to buy an outdated FHM off Robbie Harrison. I was not going to allow myself to be fucking queer. With my blinds closed and my back up against my mother’s wall, I looked at the women through my eyelids. Everything about them was fake: their tits and their pubes and the smoothness and blankness of their skin and the part in their hair and the emptiness of their expressions. Then I thought of Peter with my cock attached between his airbrushed legs. I couldn’t fucking help myself. Then I thought of Steve, tapping at his keyboard.
6. His first sexual partner
Soon I began to notice one of the girls. He name was Amy; it said so in the caption: “Amy enjoys playing with dolls.” She sat on a wooden bed in a Doll’s house, staring out of the gloss as if it were made of glass. She looked so lonely.
Soon a crease developed along the page and when in moments of shame and emotion, I reached for the magazine; she would fall open in front of me. She was always there, looking back.
7. His breakfast
One night I awoke to the lock jamming in the front door.
“Shit,” I heard my mother hiss. “It always does this.”
“Can we get in?” It is Steve.
“I don’t know. I don’t want to need to wake up Jason.”
There was a click then a long yelp as the door swung open. I traced the footsteps across the dining room, then the giggles by the bathroom.
“We’re going to need to be very quiet,” my Mother says.
“I can’t guarantee that.”
They giggled again until the sound snapped shut. Suddenly I felt so alone. Across the road, cleaners were vacuuming out the offices. Cars and pedestrians flowed through each other on the street. The night sky was empty. I leaned with my ear against the wall and opened the FHM on my lap. Amy. When it was over, I took my doona onto the balcony and fell asleep on the banana lounge in the dank; watching the red light on the mobile tower blink on and off.
I woke up to the sound of the morning commuters. Peter was sitting next to me; juggling a coffee and a cigarette in his lap.
“What are you doing out here champ?” He watched each light flick on in the offices across the street.
“I couldn’t sleep.”
“Why not?” A stupid grin was slumped across his stupid face.
“I don’t know.”
“Your Mum’s gone to work. Are you hungry?”
“That is none of your concern.”
I remember his long sigh; I had heard it before. Somewhere above us was the sun we would never see.
“What do you reckon?” he asked. “Do you think we will end up like those losers locked into tiny little offices?”
I looked at him properly then; probably for the first time. I noticed things that I had not seen the first time: the colour burnt into his hair, his stubble like sandpaper, the premature bald patch and how tort his skin was across his cheeks and down his neck. It was as though he was every age.
“I am twelve years old. I haven’t even thought about that.”
“Then what do you think about?” He pulled his chair closer until I could taste the fermentation of his breath. All around me there was noise.
“I don’t know.”
“Do you think about girls?”
“I don’t know – I mean, yes.”
He laughed; like his corpse is being pumped full of bullets in an old war movie.
“Are there any special girls you think about?”
“That is none of your business.”
His hand fell onto my shoulder and spun me around. I could feel the muscles and tendons hoisting his arm.
“Come on. From one man to another.” I give in too easily.
“There is this one girl; Amy.”
“Does she go to your school?”
“No. There are no girls at my school.”
“Then how did you meet her?”
“Through a friend.”
“Does she know that you like her?”
“Then maybe you should tell her. Don’t be frightened, Champ. What’s the worst that can happen?” He furrowed through my hair. “You’re not embarrassed are you?”
“No, of course not.”
8. His father
I don’t have a lot left of my Father’s. I have the picture books he gave me when I was young, half-eaten by mould on my bookshelf. I have his old hairdressing scissors from the salon where he worked and one of the old gowns he draped over patients like veils at an art exhibition. I don’t really remember much about him anymore except a flipbook of still frames from old photos.
9. His mistake
Peter was still there when I slugged my schoolbag through the front door that evening I remember him straddled behind my mother as she fried up the beans.
“How was school, Champ?”
I headed for the lounge room but he dropped his sack-load of limbs in my way.
“Jason and I are going to have a chat in the other room and get out of your way.” He kissed my Mother. Smack! Across the lips and all.
He wheeled me onto a couch and sat with his head halfway up his arse and his knees around his shoulders. He smelt of stale cologne and the grit under my fingernails.
“So what did you do with your day?” He gave this weird smile, like his lips were going up and down.
“I don’t know.”
“You don’t know?”
“I don’t know.”
“Look,” he said finally. His head dropped with a puff between his cheeks. “I really like your mother and I really hope that we can be friends too.”
I don’t know why I started to blab. I was tired, I guess. I think I had my eyes closed.
“I hate school. I have no fucking friends. I get called Tubby. I was asked three times today if I was pregnant.”
He sat back in his chair for a long time with his fingers across his balls. I can hear the trams bleating in the street and my mother singing in the kitchen, like nothing is the fucking matter. I still can’t believe I told him. What stupid pang of loneliness thought this would be a good idea? That it would somehow make us closer? Did I even want that?
“Jason,” he said finally. “You have just got to ignore things. If you don’t acknowledge them then they won’t exist.” He climbed onto the couch beside me and ruffled my hair with his rigid greasy fingers. I could feel the warmth off his knees through my school pants and his breath on my neck, down my throat. I wanted to vomit but instead I stood up.
“I need to go do homework,” I tell him.
“Alright champ.” He smiled back like nothing fucking happened.
I lay on my bed for a long time until I get this familiar little stirring in my cock. I rifled through my room until I found Amy, waiting for me.
10. His shame
Soon it was every night. I came home, entered my bedroom, stripped off my uniform and found Amy waiting for me in the folds of my bed. She was beautiful and completely perfect. Then I returned her under the mattress and moved over to my homework with my head swamped in a regret I could never fully understand nor shift. I felt sick and lonely. I still do. But for a few seconds when my mind dripped from my brow, it didn’t seem at all to matter.
I thought about God too. Fuck him; all seeing, all knowing. If he knows the thoughts that live inside my head then it does not matter what I fucking do. But then I had this guilt that maybe there was something better that God could offer. If God has some plan for me then suddenly desire seems like the ultimate sin. I could not walk from my room and smile at my mother or eat dinner and not stink of cum.
11. His expulsion
When I came home, one Friday; my mother was crying at the kitchen table. Hey eyes were closed and her lips moving silently. My first thought was that Peter had packed up. Then I thought of my father.
I sat down beside her and splayed out my palm on the table close to her own. She clasped her hand over my own and pulled her fingers in tight.
“The landlord is not going to renew our rent,” she breathed. “We need to be moved out in a month.”
I felt like my intestines had just dropped out of my arse. She placed her head on the tabletop and her skin and cleavage shifted about under her shirt.
“It will be alright,” I said. “At least we won’t have to buy new drapes now.” She snorts her sappy snot back into her nostrils.
“I love you,” she said; “No matter what happens.”
12. His scissors
I was in my room all night, against the wall, just thinking. Steve had gone home, the office block was dark. I was so alone, but my thoughts are my own. No-one should ever know what I am thinking, or want to know.
I could hear them through the wall. My mother was still teary, hanging over the side of the bed.
“Shh,” said Peter. He dabbed her eyes with a tissue and plugged her little shudders in his lips. She convulsed, full shakes up and down her body.
“I don’t know what will happen to us,” she said.
“It will all be fine. You are torturing yourself. Just don’t think of it.” He kissed her again, long and slow.
“I love you, Peter;” she said. He slipped my grandmother’s old blouse off from over her head and fumbled about with the clip on her bra. Her breasts were glossy and perfect under my fingers. She stared back at me with glass eyes and a brain filled with stuffing. My whole body fell into her until the thudding pulse in my ears turned mute. I could hear little noises through the wall; lost syllables without inflection. I pushed harder, staring blurred into the ellipse of her cheeks and the lightness of her skin. My cock, burnt, my eyes were closed pooling with sweat; I could hear the whimpers rise like a wave and crash into the shore. But I was still here. Amy’s face was empty so I close my eyes. I thought about the slits of legs hanging under school shorts. I thought of Peter and then of me. The light clicked out in the hall. I just sat there. I was weak.
It wasn’t an idea that I got which made me do what I did next; it was a drive that picked up my limbs and pulled me into the landing. I found my Father’s old scissors in the kitchen draw. They were tinged with rust that chattered as they tugged open. I held them ahead of me like I was some movie spy sneaking through a stranger’s house. The bedroom door fell open at the soft clack against the blade. Inside, the city funnelled into two vertical strips of light enclosing me in on both sides. They were both naked. My mother was wrapped tight around the doona while Peter sprawled out across the edges. I pushed my fingers underneath his wrapping until I felt them in my hand; saggy and wrinkly. When I had my grip right, I moved in the scissors so his balls hung over the blade.
“Peter, wake up.”
He murmured back.
“Wake the fuck up.”
“What is it, Champ?”
I steadied myself. It felt so good.
“Get out of the house, now.”
13. His third sexual partner
My third sexual partner came when I was twenty-six. She was at a bar in
waiting for someone to buy her a drink. I had already had a few. Richmond
“You are so beautiful,” I told her.
“Thanks,” she said. She told me her name: Rebecca or Rosie or Melody or something. We danced. I have never been able to dance, but on that night I just got into the rhythm of the music and found my limbs had fallen into all the right places. I bought her another drink and I leaned in for a kiss. My hand slid up her back until I could feel her bra strap tight beneath my thumb. I lead her out into the cool street where the streetlights splashed in the puddles and our words were spelt out in the heat of our breath.
“Let’s go back to my place,” I said.