Tamika Wood’s Birthday Party

& Other Stories by Le Kendall

Content Notes are available for That Was A Big Week For Us

Alan Sebastian

November 2006

I don’t know how to ask for things.

I mean… I know how. But I know how to ask for things in the same way that I know how to go to sleep. I have all the requisite knowledge but it’s still not something I can do on purpose.

I saw a psychiatrist for a while. She wanted to talk about my sexuality. She wanted to talk about my family.

She wanted to talk about the things that happened when I was sixteen – my twin sister Michelle having a baby with the boy I was in love with. And a few years later Michelle leaving and never coming back.

She wanted to know if Michelle stole my boyfriend or I stole hers. But Scott was never either of our boyfriends.

I don’t really know how to link the way I felt about those things when they happened to the way I think about them now that I am twenty-three.

She wanted to talk about Mani and if I resent him or feel angry toward him. I don’t know why I would. He’s only seven years old and it never occurred to me to feel like he was in any way responsible for the things that happened before he was even born.

She wanted to talk about Gillian. She wanted to know why I call her ‘Gillian’ instead of ‘Mum’. She wanted to talk to me about my father. My father isn’t even a person that I know.

And I still don’t know how those things are at all relevant to not being able to get to sleep.

She wanted to know what’s stopping me from sleeping. And I didn’t know how to explain that I don’t think there’s anything stopping me from sleeping. The problem is there’s nothing starting me.

She asked me if I have trouble staying awake. If I ever fall asleep during the day when I don’t intend to. And I don’t understand why she asked me that because I had already explained that the problem is that I can’t fall asleep even when I do intend to. I don’t have a falling asleep during the day problem. I have a falling asleep at night problem.

I drink a lot of coffee. I go to the gym in the hopes that it will make me more tired. It doesn’t seem to help.

It’s worse since moving to St Kilda. People keep telling me I’ll get used to the sound of the traffic and the trams but I haven’t.

I do have sleeping pills, but I don’t like to take them. They make me feel weird and foggy-headed in the morning and since the morning is the time I’ve always felt the best and most alert taking the pills just makes me feel bad all the time even when they do help me get to sleep.

Sleeping is only one of my problems though.

I don’t know how to ask for things.

I don’t know how to ask for help when I need help. I don’t know how to notice that I need help before the situation is so dire that I’m embarrassed for anyone to even know about it. But once I mentioned the sleeping thing to the psychiatrist I didn’t know how to move away from it and the sleeping thing was the only problem the psychiatrist seemed to want to solve.

So I stopped going. And I don’t know what to try next.

I know that for other people there is some kind of connection they can draw, some link they can make between the way things were, the way things are and the way things could be. But that last thing always feels so abstract to me. I don’t know how to imagine how things could be better.

Perhaps I spend all of that imagination on the people in my head that don’t really exist. I imagine how things could be different for them. All there are are ways that could be because there isn’t a way things are.

For me, For Alan Sebastian, all there is is the way things are. And I’m too busy trying to untangle that to form any kind of solid picture of the way I’d like things to be.

I’d like to sleep though. I suppose.

And I would like to see Scott.

I haven’t been home since Christmas. Mani came to visit for his seventh birthday in July but I haven’t seen Scott for nearly a year.

We talk a lot. On the phone. SMS and email. We talk about Mani and everything about our lives which doesn’t involve:

A. Sex with each other.
B. Sex with other people.

We didn’t see each other all that often even when I was going back semi-regularly. I have sex with other people and I assume that he does too and it’s not so much that I don’t want him to know about what I do with people that aren’t him… it’s more that I don’t want to know what he is doing with people that aren’t me.

I’d gone back to visit several times a year up until I’d finished Uni and got a real proper job where I couldn’t just swap or give up shifts. I only have a limited amount of annual leave which gives me a convenient excuse not to go back.

When I had we’d always spent a few days adjusting to each others real-life company again but toward the end of my trip the tension would build and I’d kiss him or he’d kiss me and…

And I’d sneak out afterward like I had that first time I’d been back and I’d dodge his calls for a few days just in case. I felt like I was doing him a favour, really. He was never forced to remind me what we weren’t to each other.

And I know that one day he’ll find someone else, if he hasn’t done already. He’d managed to avoid introducing me to Jasmine for the three or four months they’d been together and we’d lived in the same house. In a different city – in different state – I’d just never know unless Gillian happened to mention it. Which was how I’d found out about Jasmine in the first place. He’s done a pretty good job of not mentioning anything since then. And I think I appreciate that.

So when he called me and told me he was booking flights to come and visit Melbourne – to visit me – that it was important that he see me – I assumed the worst.

I think he’ll be coming to tell me that he is seeing someone in a serious way. Or he is engaged. Or married. And I feel sick and sad and terrified and I wish I had gone home at Easter or for Mani’s birthday.

My friend Jeremy pointed out that every time I come back to Melbourne after being at home I’m miserable for a few days. He said that if I was feeling bad about something I kept doing… that maybe I could try not fucking doing that. And that makes sense.

I kept putting off talking to Scott about it but when he SMSes me from his hotel and suggests that I meet him there and ‘watch a movie or something…?’ I know I have to actually ask him to change things. Which, as I have already explained, is always very difficult for me.

I don’t know that that’s a good idea I message him if you want to watch a movie we could go to the cinema. Or just go out to a bar or something?

I don’t really drink much – I don’t like the taste of alcohol or the fuzzy feeling it gives me. But Jeremy had suggested that I stick to meeting Scott in public places until I develop some ‘fucking self control’.

Scott calls.

“I don’t really want to go out,” he says. “I just… I just want to see you.”

I try to remember the words that Jeremy used. I tell him that we need to reset our friendship. That I am worried that if I come over we’ll end up in bed together and that I don’t think that is a good idea. Right now I can’t remember exactly why it is not a good idea but it did seem very important when Jeremy had said it.

“Oh,” he says.

“I just think. Maybe we need to go back to being… platonic friends,” I say. My throat hurts as I force out the words I don’t really want to say.

“Oh,” he says again, “okay.”

“So we should. We should just go out somewhere. I still want to see you…”

“I think um, just… just let me process this okay? Maybe I’ll call you back in a bit?” He sounds very upset and I hadn’t expected that and I don’t know what to do about it.

“I do want to see you…” I say.


“Alan Sebastian,” I say.

“I didn’t realise… I thought. We were on the same page about things but… you’re my best friend. Apart from Mani you’re the most important person to me in the world. And if you want to… adjust the parameters of our friendship then of course. Of course we can do that. But I just time to… get used to that idea? Because this is something new for us okay? I don’t know what you mean by ‘resetting’ or ‘going back to being friends’ because I don’t know that we ever had that? That that ever really existed? Not for me. There was never a time in the history of our friendship that I didn’t want you.”

And now I am trying to remember the things that Jeremy had said. But they don’t really seem important anymore.

“So maybe. Maybe I’ll just stay in and get room service and enjoy having a night away from Mani and try and relax or something? I don’t know. I don’t think I could go out and gave a good time right now. I just. I was really looking forward to having sex with you…”

Jeremy is right. I have no fucking self control.


When Alan Sebastian arrived in the hotel foyer I couldn’t stop my hands from shaking. He didn’t say anything on the way up to the room but my hand brushed against his in the lift and…

My hands were shaking so much I could barely open the door but as soon as we were inside he was kissing me and he was kissing me and…

“I just want to double check,” I said, “about that whole like just friends thing?”

“Forget it,” he said into my shoulder, “I didn’t mean it, it was stupid, I’ve always always wanted you too…”

We’d always done it in the dark before. Mostly wordless, if not silent. Apart from the one time I’d come to him after breaking up with Jazz and told him all of the things I’d taken back again in the morning. But that afternoon in the hotel room we spoke and laughed and I told him what I wanted and he told me what he wanted and the intensity of it made me want to burst into tears. And he held me and he kissed me and I wanted to say I love you but the words seemed small and silly in contrast to the profundity of how he moaned my name.

We ate room service pizza, sitting naked on the bed. And we called Gillian’s house to speak to Mani and he squealed in delight and told us he wished he was there with us too.

“Everything okay, Gillian?” I asked her, as I do whenever she takes Mani on her own, which isn’t often.

“We’re all fine here, thanks for checking,” she said.

“I’m sorry,” I told Alan Sebastian later, in the shower.

He shook his head, “Don’t do that. Not now. Not while I feel so close to you. I can’t handle it right now. Not while I feel like this.”

But the problem is that without being able to talk about what happened before I don’t know how to explain how I want things to be from now on. And how and why it’s different.

So I just tried to tell him with my lips and my hands and my body. And I felt like he understood what I meant.

Now for once I’m not afraid of how things could be. I know what I want for us and we just have to get there. I feel sure he wants what I want. I just have to ask.

“I’m really tired,” he says. As he always seems to be. He doesn’t ever sleep well.

“I’d like you to stay the night,” I tell him. The first time he’d come back from Melbourne, more than four and a half years ago, he’d asked me not to say anything I’d need to take back again the next day.

So this time I want to make sure he knows I’m not rescinding anything. I want to say it all again tomorrow and every single day.

And I drift off to sleep with him, his breath on my breath and his skin against my skin.

But when I wake up, I’m alone and the bed is cold beside me.

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