Michelle left the week we turned eighteen.
She’d told me she was thinking about it. She told me if she stayed that she thought she would… die. And I asked her to promise that if she left she’d keep being alive. And she did. But I don’t know if she has.
Gillian blames herself and I let her do that even though I think it might be partly my fault. I know Michelle would want Gillian to blame herself and I think she would not want me to blame myself. So I let Gillian take all the blame.
And then I went to school without Michelle. I’d thought she’d avoided me at school before but the lack of her there felt like more of a gap than the lack of Scott. Scott looked after Mani while I was at school or worked in the shop with Gillian. Gillian has worked there my whole life even before she bought it. I’ve seen photos of her working with two babies – one strapped to her front and one at the back. One adult, two babies. Mani has three of us… I mean two of us. And there’s only one of him. It’s probably a much better ratio. And we have Gillian, as well, of course.
Before Mani was born, I had always tagged along with Scott at school. Never really had friends that were mine and not his. Apart from Michelle.
But it wasn’t until I was going to school without either of them that Scott had friends that weren’t mine. I’d never thought of Scott’s friends as being my friends too. But looking back I think they were. At least in a way that Michael’s brother was not.
Scott and Mani went to the library some days when I was at school. For story-time or the music program. And that’s where they met Michael and his brother.
Michael was a toddler, a bit older than Mani. Michael’s parents had died and so Michael lived with his brother, who was a bit older than Scott and I.
Michael’s brother was also named Scott. So we always just called him Michael’s brother. It makes me uncomfortable not to call people by their names. But it makes me even more uncomfortable when people have the same name as each other.
I felt like I should have liked him. Michael’s brother. Around our age and he was raising a young child just like we – like Scott was. He was also gay which I thought should have made me feel some kind of solidarity with him. But honestly I just thought he was kind of an asshole and I didn’t know why Scott hung out with him. I suppose Scott was probably just lonely. He’s a lot more extroverted than I am and I had far too much of being around people during the day at school. Scott only had Mani – who turned two in July – and Gillian.
Scott and Gillian tried. But they didn’t really get along. I don’t really get along that well with Gillian myself and Michelle never has… had. But Gillian and I can just stick to our own rooms and ignore each other and be perfectly happy. Scott wanted – needed – to have company and talk. And Mani wasn’t old enough to provide much conversation.
So then Scott had Michael’s brother and they’d get together and do baby things. They’d go to the library or the playground.
I’d thought at the time that I was jealous. But if I was, it wasn’t very much. It was nothing compared with the all-consuming hurt I felt when Scott got a girlfriend.
I’d known he wanted to try and… find someone. To be a mother for Mani. Even after Michelle left he seemed to have this idea that she’d come back and they’d get married. He said he needed to give Mani a ‘proper’ family with two parents. I didn’t know whether to be offended by that. But I don’t think he realised what he was saying about my family.
I’ve only ever known my Mum.
“I can’t talk about that,” is the only thing Gillian has ever said to explain how we came to be or how she came to be alone.
But Scott wanted what he wanted and I wanted to respect that. But it hurt when he started seeing her and it hurt when he didn’t tell me about it and it hurt when he still wanted to kiss me after that because I had to turn away from him even though I didn’t want to. I had to move out of the bedroom that I’d shared with him since before Mani was born and into the room Michelle had vacated.
And that hurt most of all because that meant finally admitting that Michelle was really gone.
I tried to avoid meeting her. And somehow I succeeded. Schoolwork – the pressures of year 12 – was a convenient excuse. Scott didn’t put any effort into introducing us. So I think we were on the same page with regard to that.
But during the school holidays sometimes Scott went over to Jasmine’s place and I looked after Mani. And I took Mani to the library. And I met up with Michael and his brother.
Without Scott around Michael’s brother was nicer to me. And once Scott had Jasmine he was nicer still. And I didn’t really know why or what he wanted. Until I did.
It took me a while after Michelle left to accept that she wasn’t coming back. I thought I should marry her but since she wasn’t around I thought I ought to marry somebody. I didn’t want Mani to grow up like I did without a real family. I wanted to give him everything I’d never had.
And if it didn’t seem right considering the way I felt about Alan Sebastian… well I was a parent and people kept telling me I had to prioritise Mani over myself.
So. I met Jasmine. Jazz. She’s great, obviously. Perfect. She’s nice. She’s pretty. She’s great with Mani. She is everything he needs. Everything we both need.
She really likes me. And that’s great. And she wants to… you know. And I can do that, obviously, I like her. She’s very attractive, obviously. But it’s weird because the more I get to know her the less I want to do it with her and I’m trying. I really am.
“This isn’t working,” she says. And she doesn’t mean the sex.
“I’m sorry,” I say. I’ve been saying that a lot. To her. To Alan Sebastian. To Gillian and Mani. I’m always trying and never doing anything right and there’s still the … gap between what people want and expect and what I can deliver on.
“I really like you, Scott,” she says. “But I don’t think we can do this anymore.”
“I’m sorry,” I say again, “Just… tell me what to do and I can fix it. I can try…”
But I let her get to know me a little too well, I think. Because she told me she thinks I try too hard already to do what other people want and to be what other people want me to be. I just don’t know what else to do.
“I don’t think I’m the person you want to be with,” she says.
“That’s not true,” I say. “You’re perfect. You’re exactly the kind of person that I want… The kind of person that Mani needs…”
But she just looks at me. And I know, of course, she wants someone who loves and wants her for her own sake. That once again I’m not doing things right and once again I’m not good enough.
And I didn’t want her to know. I don’t want for her to say it because I’m still trying to be what Mani needs and I can’t…
“I know you think you need to do what’s best for Mani,” she says quietly, “But I don’t think he needs me, Scott. He needs you. He needs you to be happy and secure in yourself. And he doesn’t need you to be in a relationship you don’t want to be in just to check a off list that you made up yourself. It’s not fair on him. It’s not fair on you. And it’s really not fair on me.”
I hurt her. And I hurt Michelle. And I hurt Alan Sebastian. I feel like all I do is hurt people and it’s no wonder my parents didn’t want me, isn’t it?
It took me a while to realise what Michael’s brother wanted. I’m not inattentive so much as I don’t always notice the same things that other people notice. But eventually I did.
So I gave it to him.
I don’t know if I can really explain why. I didn’t like him like him. I didn’t even normal like him.
But it was my turn to be lonely. And he was there. And I thought maybe it would hurt Scott if he knew about it. And I thought maybe I wanted it to.
It was …awful.
Looking back, now, having had sex with quite a lot of people, I know that he was probably just inexperienced… but he pretended to know what he was doing.
I don’t like lying. It makes me feel very uncomfortable to say something knowing it’s not true. I don’t like misleading people, even, by saying something that is true if I know it will give them the wrong idea. But I’m also really really bad at lying and I don’t know how to do it convincingly.
But when Michael’s brother asked me if I’d kissed a guy before I said “no” and he just smiled and kissed me and said “now you have” and I smiled because he had believed me and I thought it was kind of funny but he just thought I was smiling at him because of the kiss.
He told me he’d help me. He’d tell me what to do. So I did what he said and he did what he did and it hurt …a lot. It’s possible that he didn’t notice that I was in pain because I’m not always good at expressing that the way that people expect. But it’s also possible that he simply didn’t care.
When he was done he was done and he said “You’re welcome”. And he made it clear that he wanted me to leave.
“I don’t think we should do this again,” I said and he laughed at me.
“Don’t flatter yourself,” he said.
I asked him not to tell Scott and he rolled his eyes at me. But I don’t think he ever did.
I certainly did not.
I hurt all over. I hurt in places I didn’t think had even been involved in having sex. And I was confused by how he’d treated me afterward and I didn’t, then, understand why.
Jazz had broken up with me. And I knew it was for the best. And I knew that she’d done it because I hadn’t liked her enough. So it seemed unfair that I was so hurt by it.
But I was and I was lonely and I missed him so I knocked on his door.
Even though didn’t love Jazz the way she wanted me too it still hurt that she rejected me. It hurt and I was in pain and nothing seemed to matter so for once I told Alan Sebastian the truth. That he’s the person I want to be with. Him and only him. And that’s always been true.
“I know you have to do what’s best for Mani,” he told me.
“He’s learning from me,” I said, “He’s watching me all the time and learning from what I do. So I think… I have to be the kind of person I want him to become. If Mani grows up and he feels about someone the way I feel about you… I don’t want him to walk away from that.”
And when he kissed me it felt so right and perfect that I wondered why I ever let him stop.
But in the morning I was afraid again. I’m still afraid. And I’m afraid of my fear because I think, deep down, that means I’m not doing it right. Shouldn’t it be easy? Shouldn’t I be sure? And if I’m not does that mean I don’t really want this? Want him? And If I don’t… that means I’ll hurt him even more than I have already hurt him. And I don’t want to do that.
“Did he tell you yet, Scott? I’m so proud of you Alan Sebastian,” said Gillian the next day.
Alan Sebastian got in to the University of Melbourne and… I’d still been assuming he’d go somewhere more local… Woolongong, Canberra maybe. Even Sydney.
“I don’t think I’ll go,” said Alan Sebastian quietly and he looked at me and the bottom dropped out of my world because I can’t be the reason that he doesn’t get to go. I can’t be the reason he throws his life away.
“You can’t stay,” I told him after Gillian left. I was shaking and I couldn’t, couldn’t think.
Doing the right thing is easy. My mother used to always say. And breaking Alan Sebastian’s heart is easy. I’ve done it so many times. I’m practiced at it. I knew just what to say.
“I didn’t mean it,” I lied, “The things I said last night. I didn’t mean it. I was lonely and you were there and I just wanted you to sleep with me and I can’t be the reason that you stay here. I can’t be the reason you don’t go. I don’t want you to stay.”
“I don’t understand,” he said. And he should have been the one who was crying because I was breaking up with him again. But I was the one who was crying.
“I don’t want you to stay,” I told him. “I don’t…” love you I want to say. But I never even told him that I did.
And even when he leaves. Even the day he packs his bag and walks out the door I know that I could take it back and that he’d stay if I asked him to. That he’d give up almost anything for me.
The only thing I can give up for him, is him.
I finally understood what Michael’s brother had done when Scott told me he had only said those things so that he could have sex with me because he was lonely and upset after breaking up with Jasmine.
Michael’s brother had said and done the things that he had said and done to try and get me to have sex with him. And after he had done so he had no further use for me. Once I understood that, it was very straightforward.
Scott had said that he had said and done things to try and get me to have sex with him but it was obvious to me that even though he had said that was why it was actually for some other reason that I could not understand. I did not understand it at all and I continued to be confused by it.
I could make sense of Michael’s brother in a way I couldn’t make sense of Scott.
And when I went to Melbourne I was still grappling with this dichotomy. And so I tried to replicate the situation that I did understand. And it was actually very easy. Especially once I started going to the gym. I got pretty good at finding people who would give me the experience I was after. Of… of being used.
It’s not physically so deeply horrible like it was with Michael’s brother. Sometimes it feels good. Maybe even great. But honestly I don’t want anyone to touch me the way Scott touches me or make me feel the way Scott makes me feel.
Sometimes I just feel bad. And sometimes the only way I can feel better about it is to feel bad about something different.
That’s pretty fucked up, I know.
But it works.
That’s a lie, I’m lying, it doesn’t work at all. It doesn’t help in any way. I continue to feel bad in the way in the first way and then I also feel bad about the other things.
But I do it anyway.
Maybe that’s what I want. Maybe that’s why I do it. To feel worse.