After work, Brett met me at the surf shop. From there, we traveled to his flat. I thought it was curious that Susan was absent. "We already said our goodbyes," he explained.
"And why did you choose me for the final goodbye?"
With the last of his belongings packed into two sports bags, he zipped the top and faced me. "I'm not going to kiss you in public, Kyle. May I now?"
At the bus station, Brett appeared like a little kid about to run away from home, with his sports bags slung over his shoulders and his bedding wrapped and strapped. It wasn't a time for talking, however; we hardly spoke a word while waiting for the boarding announcement. Both hearts were heavy with profound sadness that threatened to erupt if we dared look at the other's face. We chose instead to stare into emptiness and remain silent.
Finally and inevitably, the boarding announcement penetrated the gloom. Brett stood, threw his arms around me and hugged me harder than ever before. Tears flowed freely. "If you don't get a cell phone," I sobbed, "I'll come over there and hunt you down like a dog."
"Love you, Kyle. Thanks for everything. Keep smiling, huh?"
We released our grip and tried vainly to dry our eyes. Then I reached into my pocket and handed something to Brett. "I want you to listen to this tape as soon as the bus leaves. I made it specially for you."
`SHALLOW WATERS' Just Jinger.
I'm leaving tomorrow, I don't know why
There's something that's not right with my soul
I have no goal, I have no goal.
I'm leaving shallow waters
I'm leaving all my dreams of you
I can't go on, I want to run away
I think I'll go today ... tomorrow
Well, it won't help me at all, it won't help me at all
There's something that I told you and you don't know
That it's true
That it's true, oh, that it's true now.
The bus slowly pulled away, and left me alone in a world gone mad. When my dad arrived in the Kombi, he saw me still seated on the bench trying to control myself. My dad didn't need to say anything; he understood how I felt ... Rick all over again.
Next day, no word from Brett. I hated the whole day. But he phoned that night to say that his new boss met him at the airport in Perth and drove him home. He said he was chuffed with the setup there, and his own digs. Nevertheless, I sensed he felt somehow a little disoriented.
"Hey, Kyle, it's not Shallow Waters. I'm not leaving anything of you behind. Love you. And yes, it is a kind of runaway, but not from you. You know that."
We didn't speak long, but I was thrilled to hear from him. Soon enough, he would have a cell phone, and I'd be able to contact him anytime.
G soon became the target of my misery email. He kept telling me to be strong for the sake of my folks and friends. He made sense, of course, but it wasn't easy to be strong. Meanwhile, Melanie was a blessing; she slept over quite often. And Graham's constant visits to `our room' also kept my mind occupied. One morning he woke me at sparrow's fart to go cycling. He was training for an upcoming long-distance race.
The following night, I was out by the garage fixing a ding in my board, and another in Graham's, when the phone rang. It was Brett, and I let him have both barrels for not phoning earlier. How did he react? He laughed at me.
"Don't laugh! I miss you big time, you prick!"
"Big prick ... don't forget that."
"And I've got a big mouth, right?"
"You're disgusting, you know that?"
"Yeah, I know ... so tell me, what's the buzz?"
"We're in the middle of nowhere here, inland from Fremantle, miles from town."
"Cool, so you can behave."
"I'm bored shitless, Kyle. I need to get my driver's license. But where I'm staying is pretty damn neat. I have this huge room with a walk-in robe. It's like something out of a movie, and this dude is gonna buy a TV for my room. There's already a small stereo."
"He's after your body."
"Okay, here's the buzz," Brett said, dismissing my comment, "and don't you breathe a word or I'll break your legs."
"I was right, he wants your body. Tell him it's mine."
"Shut the fuck up for a minute! The second day I was here, he showed me around and says right to my face that I got a well-developed body."
"So he didn't notice your bod back here at the Gold Coast? Yeah, right."
"Shut up, Kyle. So I thought, `well fuck this, I need to ask him straight out if he's gay.' He says no, he's not, but he's always been interested in being with a guy, and that he's sure he's bi. I told him I don't have a prob with that. But he keeps on and on about spending a night with a guy."
"A guy? Which guy?"
"He's got a hot chick, though. She's about 20 and, bloody hell, Kyle, she looks like a model, so I'm not sure what the case is."
"I told you, didn't I? Get back here where you're safe!"
"Safe? Safe from what? You? Yeah, right. Listen up, he tells me how hot I am and would I mind if, like, he touches my shoulders and stomach. He's desperate. So I told him if he touches my stomach I'll fix his jaw."
"Good. Now tell me he's fat and ugly and gross."
"Nope. None of that, but he's like 40 or something. Pretty good bod for his age, and spends a lot of time in the gym. And that's another thing, he says he'll get me a gym membership. He reminds me a bit of your dad, a recycled teenager."
"Come the fuck home!"
"Chill, Kyle. Do you really think I'll let this guy get into my pants? Anyway, he's pretty cool. I don't think he'll try anything. And he's nice to me. BRINGS ME COFFEE IN THE MORNINGS! You never did that."
I enjoyed hearing Brett's laughter as I visualized his dimpled grin. "Coffee in the mornings?"
"Yeah, and he sits on the bed and chats. Okay, so he gawks. So what? Before I met you that would have freaked me out. If you'd been here, you would've gotten a kick outta his getting an erection when he stares at me."
"Hey, he tries to hide it, but it's nature, my bro."
"Be careful, he might try to drug you or something."
"Nah, he wouldn't. Hey! You must see this damn ship he's building here. I don't know how they're gonna get this thing over to Fremantle. It's enormous! Just a shell at the moment and there's still a lot of work to do."
"Oh, shit! So you're gonna be away forever!"
"Nope. When I need some sex, I'll fly over there to see you. It's as hot as hell here, and dry. Last night we had an electrical storm. Awesome!"
"I can smell the sea from here."
"Yeah? That's your blood you're smelling."
"Can I phone you there? What's the number?"
"He's buying me a cell phone--says I can keep it."
"It's not the cell phone he's buying, Brett."
"He knows that's not gonna happen, Kyle. Anyway, as soon as I get the phone I'll give you the number."
"Had sex with Susan the other night. Says it's the best she ever had."
"Yeah, right. She use tweezers to find that little thing?"
That comment cracked me right up, and it was a while before I could speak again. "I really miss you," I lamented. "Can you get over here for the old boys swim comp?"
"Do you really?"
"Yes, Kyle, I really do. Honest."
"So you miss me?"
"Hey, we're mates, right? Of course I miss you! I phoned, right? Hello? This is Brett here."
"Do you jack off thinking about me?"
"Well, do you?"
"You're fucking outrageous--totally."
"How often is sometimes?"
I invented reason after reason to keep the conversation flowing. I desperately wanted to hear his voice for as long as possible. I loved that voice. But, finally, he insisted on terminating the call. "I gotta jet, Kyle. I don't wanna take advantage of this. I'll try to call you later in the week. And don't worry, okay? I'm not stupid or naïve. I know where this dude's coming from and, trust me, he really is cool."
Replacing the receiver reminded me of the night the bus left the station. Gone again. Poof! It was a battle to handle Brett's absence, but I guessed it was `chin up'. I wrote G often to tell him how hard I was trying but, sometimes, the downers took control and caught me by surprise.
I can understand why Brett had a habit of shrugging off a problem with the comment, `that's life', Kyle. You've led a charmed life by comparison to Brett's. His dad walked out when he was just a boy and then in walked SFB. You never arrived home to a rubber hose, mate. You always came home to a loving family, so it's not difficult to see where Brett is coming from. And you gotta hand it to him. He rose above all that crap; rose above all attempts to intimidate him. He survived. And when he says things like `that's life', which pisses you off, you need to remember that his attitude is what saved his sanity.
You're very fortunate to have Graham's grinning face bobbing up out of the blue, ordering you about, getting you to train for the cycle race and the School Swim Gala. He keeps you busy. So does Melanie, for that matter, in more ways than one. Ha! She's a wonderful person, Kyle, and I think she understands a lot more than you realize.
Brett phoned again later in the week. I couldn't resist feeling disappointed by his relaxed and happy attitude. It was cool that he enjoyed himself over in Perth but it sucked that he wasn't homesick. His boss gave him a 250cc off-road motorbike to use.
Brett also mentioned that his boss' girlfriend was peeved about how much time he spent with him. The boss even left her home alone one time while he took Brett to a nightclub. Then the bloke got all miserable when Brett got himself attached to some chick. Brett said he hated upsetting the guy because of everything he was doing for him. Every morning, the boss took coffee to Brett's room, sat on the bed, and massaged Brett's back. "But I always make sure I'm not naked when he's around. One evening he asked me why I was so shy about being nude, and not to be concerned because he would not touch me. He's cool, Kyle, but the other morning he waltzed into my room while I was pulling on my boxers and caught a gander at my bare ass."
Brett was obviously keen on that girl he met at the nightclub, and told me they would connect on the weekend for a movie. At that point I became quiet and he asked what was wrong. "Nothing, except that I miss you."
His response was that he missed me too. "Hey, maybe you can visit Perth for the weekend or something. How about that?"
"Yeah, and then get depressed all over again when I have to leave."
"Hey, it's just a suggestion. Anyway, I guess it would be too expensive."
"You're getting hung up with that girl there?"
"Not really, just met her. What's happening in Byron. Gimme the news."
We chatted about work, weather, all our friends but, as we talked, I got the impression Brett was pretty amped about the way things worked out in Perth. Most surprising was his attitude to his boss. I thought Brett would freak at talk about sexuality and nudity from a guy twice his age. Maybe I hoped that would be the case, but apparently it was not. Anyway, I knew Brett well enough to be confident he could, and would, handle any awkward situation that might arise.
The remainder of my week was a total drag; work, work, work. My boss was pleased, though. Sales were up. My only chance to email G from the local internet café was Friday. I dreaded opening my own mail because I anticipated a stack. I had the guilts big time about my lack of opportunity to answer everyone, unlike my time at school where I could use the computer lab pretty much whenever I pleased.
There were good days, though, like when a couple of U.K. tourists asked me to be their surfing guide for the afternoon. My boss happily approved. The guys treated me to supper that day because we finished quite late.