Late on Thursday night I got a phone call from my boss saying not to come in and I think I do not have a job anymore. And I am so tired and all I can think is that I slept properly in Scott’s bed and I would really like for that to happen again.
I told Mani I couldn’t stay for his school play and I had to go back to Melbourne because that is where I live and where I go to work and… neither of those things seem very true right now.
I have a suitcase and most of my clothes fit in it. Then I realise that I can just put my clothes in the washing basket and put it in the back seat of my car. All of my books fit in the suitcase. I put my laptop in my backpack and I don’t really own much else of value. I don’t have any CDs anymore.
Gina isn’t home but Julia is and I’m not sure if she’s officially moved in already but it will have to do.
“I am moving out,” I tell her.
“Great? You found somewhere. That’s great. Got a move in date?”
“I am leaving now,” I say, “Do you think it would be okay if I give you some money to get rid of the rest of my things. I don’t need my bed or my desk and they don’t fit in my car.”
“Wait, what?” she says, “hang on… where are you going?”
“I am going to Scott’s,” I tell her.
She looks at me blankly.
“My boyfriend,” I clarify. And I don’t really understand why she needs that information.
“I didn’t know you had a boyfriend. Is that new?” she asks.
“… sort of,” I say, “If I leave now I should still be able to make it to Mani’s school play. Goodbye. Say goodbye to Gina for me.” I tell her.
That is the sort of thing people say but I am not sure if it is the sort of thing that people do because people have often asked me to say hello or goodbye to someone else on their behalf but nobody has ever said goodbye or hello to me on behalf of someone else.
And I go.
And I think I should probably tell Scott that I am coming but I think it will be easier to explain when I get there.
When Alan Sebastian showed up again on Friday afternoon I wanted to be as happy and excited as he seemed to be but I just felt a lot of other things.
I felt angry with him. And I don’t really feel angry very often so I didn’t really know how to handle that.
Dierdre says I seem to get caught up a lot having feelings about my feelings and that it’s probably most important to feel like… the first feeling and let the rest just sort of sort themselves out.
But it’s easier to feel angry than acknowledge that I’m terrified and wonder what that says about me as a person. Because I shouldn’t be.
“Alan Sebastian,” I said. “You can’t just unilaterally make decisions about our lives like this. We have to talk about things and make these decisions together.”
And I could feel him pulling away from me and it just made me feel angrier because that’s the last thing I want.
“I don’t want to break up with you,” I told him.
And I know the look he gave me. It’s the look he gets when I break up with him.
“Really. I don’t. I’m not doing that. I do not want that. So can I please just be upset with you without you worrying about that?”
“Okay,” he nodded. “You’re right. We should talk about these things. I can stay at Gillian’s for a while. I don’t have to live here. But I don’t want to be in Melbourne anymore.”
“Okay. Okay,” I said.
And I breathe . I’m angry at him because I’m angry at myself and I’m angry at myself because I’m scared and I don’t want to be.
“I love you,” he says and that’s a thing we say now and it helps. It helps a lot.
“I’m scared,” I tell him, “I don’t want to be. But I am. And I don’t like what that says about me. I don’t like what that means. Because I thought I was ready I really thought I was ready and now I worry that I never will be. Because the first thought I had was that… people are going to think awful things about us. And what if they say something to Mani? He’s only seven and he won’t understand why people think we’re… bad people. That I’m a bad person because I love you. What does that say about me?”
“I don’t think that says anything about you,” he says carefully. “I don’t think I understand why you think it does.”
“I shouldn’t be so scared.”
“I’m scared too,” he says. Which surprises me. “But I don’t… I don’t think that means anything about me. It’s just a rational response to living in a world that is fundamentally hostile to my identity. I can’t… I don’t know how to reassure you, Scott. Because you’re right. People might think horrible things about us. People will. People do. And they might say something to Mani. And even if they don’t he’ll pick that up if hasn’t already. You can’t protect him from that… And it is scary.”
“Move in with me,” I say.
“I love you,” I say because that is a thing we say now, “Move in with me. Right now. Right now.”
“I don’t think I understand what’s happening here. I thought you were too scared.”
“I am. I’m fucking petrified. But…” I laugh. “I feel like my therapist has been trying to explain this to me for ages but I didn’t get it. I thought… I always feel like if I am scared of something it means I must not really want it. Like at some level that means I’m not ready or I don’t deserve it? But… it doesn’t mean that. I’m scared because it’s scary. It’s like… it’s like I’m standing on the edge of a pool and I’m so hot and uncomfortable and the water looks so good and inviting and I really want to get in. And my mum says ‘why aren’t you getting in the water, Scott’ and I say ‘I’m scared of the sharks’. And she says ‘there are no sharks Scott so if you’re scared of sharks that means you’re not ready to get in the water so come away from the pool.’ And I’ve been standing here for years waiting for the fear of sharks to go away so I can finally get in and you’ve come along and reminded me… ‘oh the sharks are real. There are real sharks. And they may very well bite you.’ I’m not afraid of sharks because I’m not ready to go swimming. I’m afraid of sharks because there are sharks and sharks are scary. But the sharks are on land too. I could stay in the closet for ever but I’m not actually safe from sharks… so I should just get in. Or out. My metaphors might be a bit mixed up… Move in with me.”
“We need to think about it first. I should go to Gillian’s.”
“Yeah? Okay think about this. You go to your Mum’s. When are you going to sleep there Alan Sebastian. Are you going to go there and lie in her spare bed and call me on the phone and I’ll say ‘I wish you were here in my bed with me, Al’ and you’ll say… ‘Alan Sebastian. Good night. See you tomorrow?’”
“I suppose not.”
“I’m in love with you,” I tell him, “completely. And I want to be with you. I want to spend my life with you. I’ve been waiting for so long to feel like I was allowed to want this. I’ve been waiting for the moment that I no longer feel afraid. But that’s not going to happen. It doesn’t have to. I don’t want to wait anymore. I want to live my life with you. And I want to start right now. Move in with me. Right now. All of your stuff is in the driveway. That counts. You moved in. You live here now.”
I pull back from kissing him and look him in the face.
“Right now,” I say. And I don’t mean getting his things from the car.
“Don’t stop,” said Scott. “Wait why are you stopping. What’s wrong. Al?”
“Gillian just walked in,” I told him.
He looked at the front door in alarm. We were in the lounge room, still. We’d never made it to the bedroom.
“She didn’t stay!” I told him.
He looked back at me and burst out laughing.
“It is not funny,” I said.
“We’re not going to finish this are we? No? No.”
I put on my pants and I tried not to think about Gillian.
“It’s okay,” Scott said, “from this angle she probably didn’t see anything.”
“She definitely saw what we were doing.”
“Well yeah okay. It’s fine. We will all survive this. It’s just sex. It’s a thing that people do. Your mother has had sex.”
“We don’t know that.”
“Uh. Well she had you so…”
“I don’t know that that was consensual,” I said. I’ve thought about it before. There must be a reason she can’t talk about it.
“We-eeelllll… let’s assume your mother knows what sex is and that she will be too embarrassed to ever mention it and we can all just pretend it never happened. Okay?”
“Oh shit! is that the time. No wonder she’s here we’ve got to go to Mani’s play.”
“I don’t think I can go.” I said. I didn’t think my legs would work to walk outside.
“It’s okay,” he told me again, “I guess… it will be less of a surprise to her when we tell her we’re together and you’re moving in. She’ll have like… time to process it first.”
And I smiled at that because we’re together now and I’m moving in.
And that is so extremely good.
We got into Gillian’s car and nobody said anything and it was extremely awkward. I sat in the back so I wouldn’t have to look at Gillian.
“Well, this is extremely awkward,” said Scott.
“I didn’t know you were here, Alan Sebastian,” said Gillian.
“Is that your car in the drive with the Victoria plates? I saw it earlier in the week. Have you been here the whole time?”
“No,” I said, “I was here and then went back and then I came back again.”
“That’s a lot of driving,” she said.
And then they talked about Mani’s play and I started to calm down again and the conversation drifted to people and things I don’t really care about.
We saw Mani’s play and afterward Mani saw me and he was so excited.
“You came! You said you couldn’t but you came!” he said to me.
“I did,” I told him, “And I am so glad because it was great!”
After the play and then dinner we went home. Mani needed the toilet so he and Scott rushed inside leaving Gillian and I in the car.
“I am going to stay here,” I tell Gillian, “I am not going back.”
“Okay,” she says, “There’s some stuff in my spare room but I can… move it out. You could have given me a bit more notice.”
“I’m going to stay here,” I say.
“But they don’t have a spare room,” she says.
I stared down at my shoes, “You walked in on us having sex, Gillian. I’m not… I’m not going to sleep on the couch.”
She looks at me then and I glance at her from the corner of my eye because I still can’t look at her face. But I think she looks happy.
“Is this really happening?” she asks me, “for real this time?”
“Yes.” I say.
Scott comes out then and I wind down the window.
“You can come inside,” he says. “I know you haven’t seen him in a while but you don’t have to sit in the car.”
“I’m not sure I’m ready to sit on your couch,” she says.
I put my hands over my face and Scott just laughs.
We go inside. Gillian sits on the armchair. My face gets very hot because I think of what I’ve done with Scott on that armchair.
“I’m pretty sure it was the other arm chair,” says Scott.
“Scott. Why would you say that. I hate you.”
“Al! That’s a lie. You lied! You don’t normally do that. I’m so proud of you. I love you so much.”
“I love you too.” I say. I still can’t look at Gillian.
“It’s not like we haven’t done anything on Gillian’s couch anyway,” says Scott.
I hide my face behind my hands, “that was this couch. Before she got a new one.”
I don’t know if Gillian is horrified or amused and I don’t want to look at her to find out.
“Please don’t talk about any more places we’ve had sex,” I say.
“Yeah. Yeah… I’m really excited about not hiding this anymore… but it’s possible that I haven’t worked out where the line is now.”
Mani calls out and I am extremely relieved to have an excuse to walk away. I go and help him have a bath and read a story. I tell him I’m going to live here now but it seems like he’d just assumed that was the case and does not express any surprise.
And later as we get into bed. Our bed. I tell Scott what Mani had said. What he’d asked me.
“Remember when he used to call you that? Before he could say your name. Do you think he remembers?”
“It doesn’t seem right. I don’t want to take anything away from you,” I say.
“I have been doing this completely on my own for so long. The idea that you can share any part of parenting Mani is honestly a huge relief for me. I want to share everything with you. Everything. He doesn’t call me that anyway. I’ve always been Pa. The title is available if you want it. But you don’t have to. I know you like to be called by your name and we can explain that to him.”
“I will think about it,” I tell him.