Chapter 43
(c) 2006

My folks woke me in the morning with a kiss from each. A goodnight or goodbye peck on the cheek was a family custom for as long as I could remember. Fortunately, Brett was on the spare mattress; he must have moved there after I dozed off.

Brett slowly stirred as my folks sat on the side of my bed and wished me happy birthday. It took my mate five or ten seconds to realize what was happening. My mom handed me a nicely wrapped gift, which I was tempted to tear to shreds in my haste to discover its contents. But I resisted, and opened the package carefully. Wow! A pair of Replay sneakers, a couple of cool T-shirts and the CD soundtrack of Tomb Raider. Fantastic! My immediate response was to hug both my folks, with the result that the bed covers slipped off and exposed my pride and joy.

Once my folks left the room, Brett cracked up completely. It had been ages since I'd heard him laugh so heartily. "Kyle! I can't believe you did that!"

"What," I asked innocently.

"Hugged your old lady with a boner."

"I didn't. I used my arms." My answer cracked him even further. "Besides, it was only a semi. The fresh air turned it into a boner."

Brett sat up, leaned over, and treated me to a nice, big, warm hug. "Happy birthday, bro."

Then I took hold of Brett's crotch. "Now that's a boner, so don't talk crap to me. Thanks for the hug, though--and last night."

He rummaged around in his tog bag for a few seconds and produced a small package. Inside was a card, which I read aloud. "Your gift of friendship has always been the most valuable gift I've received from anybody. Have a great birthday, mate. Love, Brett." My eyes watered instantly upon reading those precious words written in his neat hand. My throat closed as I searched my mind for something to say. The card was fantastic. I didn't need anything else, but inside the package was something more--two pair of boxers just like Brett's, a white pair and a black pair.

"Those are from Candy," he explained. "The card is from me. I told her you would dig those. I tried to organize Rick again but couldn't find a big enough box. Sorry."

"Your being here has really made this day special," I squeaked. "And I love the card. It's awesome. And tell Candy the boxers are totally cool."

"So try the black ones on."

I was chuffed with the way the satin hugged my furniture and butt. Slits at the sides made bending easy, and they showed off my attributes--made me feel damn good.

"Now I can tell Candy the boxers are super cool. And they fit perfectly. I was worried you'd gotten a big butt as well as fat while I was away."


After showering (separately), we sat at the breakfast table with my folks when in bounced the whirlwind. "Hey! Happy birthday, man! So how's your birthday been so far?"

"Cool. What did you bring me?"

"Kyle!" mom scolded.

"I'm kidding, mom."

"Oh, yeah--right," Graham grinned. "I did bring you something." He handed me a card.

I figured it must have taken him all night to create this hand-drawn copy of my Endless Summer poster. But, instead of the normal title, he wrote: To my older brother... And on the inside: Even though we hardly see each other, now that you're no longer at school, you're still the best bro a little grommet could have. I hope you have a totally super day. Happy Birthday, Kyle ... from your little bro, Graham.

"That is pretty damn stylish, bro."

"Pretty wicked, huh?" he beamed. Then slapped Brett's back so hard even I could feel it. "So how's Conan?"

"Fit enough to beat you up."

"Yeah, but you old codgers can't run anymore. Anyway, I gotta jet. Kyle? I'll check you later--maybe go for a wave or something." And with that, the whirlwind vanished out the door.

Following breakfast, Brett helped with a few chores around the house, then visited his mom for lunch. While he was away, I gave serious thought to his comments about my loss of focus and having no plans. Maybe crewing yachts was not such a bad option after all.

Brett returned early afternoon. We sat in my room where he told me about lunch: "It went pretty well. Even SFB was civil." Then my dad appeared at the door to ask Brett what time he wanted to leave for the airport.

"Airport?" I said after my dad left. "I thought you'd be here for a few more days!"

"I wish. I didn't tell you when I arrived because you would have been in a shit mood the whole damn time. Now I only have to handle your shit for a few hours."

"Can I talk to you about last night?"

"What about it?"

"I just want to say that it was pretty damn special, especially because you initiated it."

"That was my birthday present to you, Kyle. It was special for me too. Actually ... it was incredibly special."

"Do you think about it? About us? Like when we were at your flat at the Gold Coast, and we spent that time together?"

"Sure ... but not the way you do. I think more about the closeness of our being together than anything physical that happens as a consequence. The sex is the result of how I feel, but it's the feeling of closeness that's really important."

"Does the physical stuff worry you?"

"No--and that's honest. I know it's something special we share.  It's because you're special to me that I don't let it hassle me. It could ... but I don't let it."

"You've definitely changed," I mused as I studied his eyes. "But, sometimes, I wish things could be different--like you still living in Byron. But ... I guess I need to be happy the way things are, which, I have to admit, are pretty awesome."

"Kyle, there's something I want you to do."

"Anything for a best mate."

"Nope, it's for you. Remember the things I spoke about? I want you to write down the things you wanna do, then write how you think you'll achieve those things. After that, make a plan based on what you wrote, and go out and do it."

"Like yachting?"

"That was just an idea, but I think you'd enjoy it. You're very focused on who you think you are. At the same time, I don't think you really know who that person is. And I reckon that is what prevents you from starting the adventure."

"Whoa, boy! You're getting quite heavy."

"Crap. I don't mean to sound heavy. It's just that Candy taught me so much about myself; how to look forward, how to set goals for myself. There's not a thing you can't do, Kyle. But you need to get out of that cocoon you've wrapped yourself in. I can't put my finger on it, but I know you're in it--like a rut--a comfortable rut. You got so much bloody potential to go out and do whatever you want, bro."

"Jesus! That is pretty deep shit. I'm gonna need to think about it."

"Hey," he smiled, "that's a start."

We spent the remainder of the afternoon just chilling and talking about all kinds of stuff. Then, all too soon, it was time to head to the airport. Shallow Waters all over again.

We drank coffee in an airport café while we waited for Brett's flight to be announced over the PA. Brett actually seemed more upset than I was feeling. I surprised myself by my own self-control. Truth was, it was pretty damn neat--my folks, Brett and me chatting. My folks listened intently as Brett told of his life in Perth, Candy ... but in mid sentence, he was interrupted by the boarding announcement.

Brett became suddenly anxious and nervous. He treated my mom to a big bear hug, then shook my dad's hand and thanked my folks for the weekend. Okay, okay, so then I lost some of my self-control. My eyes watered profusely--dust or something--yeah, right.

Brett and I hugged warmly, patting each other's back, then, without a word, he turned toward the boarding gate. He never looked back.

Surprise number two; I didn't feel as morose as I thought I might. Maybe I was getting used to these goodbyes. I simply stood there and watched him walk away, and wondered when I would see him again.

That night, in bed, I could still feel him and smell him. I could hear him speaking to me. I loved his voice. It was a special voice, a voice that spoke intimately to the very depths of my soul.

He phoned Monday night to tell me what a great weekend he had in Byron and to remind me of what he said about planning my future, and yachting.

And that, G, is why this bloody email has taken so damn long to write. Since Brett left, I've been in and out of depression, not so much because I miss him or our relationship but because of my situation and me.

Bloody hell, G, I've been so deep in thought that, at one stage, I thought I was having an out-of-body experience. Have you ever asked that question, `Who am I?' over and over again, and really wondered what the fuck you're doing here? That's what I've been doing, and I wrote down a lotta things. Then I tore up the papers and threw them away. Meanwhile, I've been working my ass off at the shop, and went on a two-day surfing trip, which provided an opportunity to think.

A whole lot has changed, G. I often wish I was still at school. It was a safe haven for me. Hehehehe. Yeah, despite all the fighting and crap. Rick's gone. Brett's in Perth, and who knows where after that. Stuart's thinking of going to Hawaii to try his hand at surfing the north shore. Graham is really nailed to his group of mates now, and that's how it should be. I see him often, though, and we still enjoy being close to each other--it's now much more of an older and younger brother thing. A lot of my friends are in college and a lot more are overseas to work in summer camps, or study in the U.S. on sports scholarships. Who knows what Melanie is gonna do? She says she'll finish school this year but is not sure what might happen after graduation. Her dad suggested she travel on a student work permit for a year or so. He even asked if I should go as well because it's easier to travel in pairs. That's something else I'm giving thought to.

I really don't know what I wanna do just yet. My grades at school are good enough to get a college scholarship somewhere overseas, like the States or wherever, but I don't wanna leave my family right now. It's not just a comfort zone thing, it's just that I'm not quite up to it right now. Besides, my savings are coming together, kinda, so we'll see where it goes from there.

Anyway, G, I'm gonna send this off now, confusing as it all is. There's really something I need to be thankful for, though, and that's the fact that you've always been there to pick me up when I needed it, and slap me around when I needed that as well.

I managed to convince Brett to get an email addy to save on the cost of calls. But he called anyway.

"Are your folks home?"

"Nope," I answered. "By the way, did you get my mail?"

"Are you outta your fucking skull, Kyle? Huh? How the fuck could you write about that stuff?"

"Whoa! Sorry, I didn't mean to freak you out."

"Hey, I know how you feel about me. Okay? And I love you too, and I enjoy being close to you, but I don't want you writing about it. Okay?"

"I'm sorry."

"I'm not sure you are, Kyle. Do you get off writing that shit? Huh? Jack off after writing all that crap?"

"I just wrote about how I feel," I said meekly.

"About my cock? Are you mad?"

"Calm down. I hear you."

"Yeah, whatever. You really know how to piss me off. You know that?"

"I said I'm sorry. What else must I say?"

"Say goodbye. I'll chat later sometime."

"What a second!"

Too late. He hung up.

September 11, 2001. The phone rang at the shop. It was Brett. "I guess you heard the news already."

"Melanie phoned. She was freaking big time because her folks are in Europe and she's home alone."

"They should nuke those terrorist bastards. Hey, Kyle, I'm totally amped to get into some army and kick butt."

"Calm down, Brett. You're shouting."

"Did you see the pics on TV? The WTC towers crumbling? Of course, I'm shouting! Those assholes need annihilating, and I'm amped to do it."

"Sorry, Brett, I'm getting the hairy eyeball from the boss. He doesn't like me taking personal calls at work. I gotta split. Catch you later."