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Sunday 11 October 2009

Fade to Black. Roll Credits.

Posted in: NZ Writing
By James Houghton - 30th July 2006

Standing on the beach, watching the children skimming stones on the flat, dead sea, I couldn't help but be reminded of so many movies I'd seen where the hero, devastated by the end of the relationship (substitute death of his mother/father/lover or loss of his glamorous job in movies/tv/music) stands gloomily looking out at an angry sea as the picture fades to black and the credits roll.

Only in this case there would be no fading to black. No credits were going to roll gently up my sky and off the top of the screen to save me from the on-going pain of the conversation I had just finished having with Alex's sister on the phone.

"Of course we know you're going to miss him, Steve. Poor baby! You're just like part of the family now - and we'll be here for you, of course we will. But, like I said to Mother last night, you wouldn't want Alex to miss out on what could be the biggest break of his career, now would you?"

"The biggest break of his career"... Aren't words funny? As in funny strange I mean, not funny ha-ha. The only word from that little quote that kept rattling around in my head, like an annoying but persistent stone in a tin can, was the word 'break'. It was a break. Oh yes, Sophie - this was a 'break' all right, the breaking of our four and a half year love affair. The breaking down if you like, of my stability, my security. The breaking of our routine of waking slowly on the weekends, spooning til the very last minute, when one of us would have to get up to let Wally (scruffy mongrel from the SPCA we'd got the day we moved in together) out for a wee. The breaking of our night time pillow-talk routine, when we shared the events of our days - the relatives who'd gotten up our noses (mostly his, my family were nowhere near as dysfunctional) and the friends who'd won places in heaven by doing something lovely for us.

Worst of all, the breaking of my heart.

"I was just wondering how you were doing!" she'd said. "What with the news and all… You must be finding it hard to adjust to and I was worried about you. I mean, how are you coping?"

Good question. How was I coping? Was I coping? Or was I just stumbling blindly from day to day. Job routine, home routine, social routine, Wally routine. It was all routine. Ever since the day Alex had headed for London, annoyed that he had such a long flight ahead of him; annoyed about all the meetings he would have to attend; annoyed that he had to stay at the same hotel as the other suited, 'Corporate' people - instead of the quirky, out of the way, slightly wacky places we always chose to stay (partly money, partly us); but mostly (so he'd said) annoyed that we were going to be apart for almost two full weeks, the longest time we'd spent apart since the day we moved in to the weatherboard bungalow we bought in Epsom. He had sold his house, I had sold my apartment and we did the sensible thing - bought something new that was 'ours'. Everybody had told us this was the only sensible thing to do - so we being sensible people - did. And even though it had seemed like a pretty drastic move while we were doing it, I thought it had worked. I thought it was 'our' home.

"I mean… he did tell you what was happening, didn't he, Steve? I haven't been some awful bitch and let something slip that I wasn't supposed to! I mean… you did know about the job in London? Oh please tell me you knew…"

It had been almost two weeks, almost over, when we had the phone conversation. Three nights ago we'd spoken and it had been fraught with tension from the beginning. His voice had been strange and strained. I could tell something was different. It was as if he was sad, angry, thrilled and elated all at once - all mixed up inside him. It was going well, he'd said and I could tell that on a strictly professional level, Alex was on cloud nine. I knew how hard he worked. I knew how much the job meant to him, how he always did the very best he could. He always gave 100%. And this was no less true with our relationship, too. So no surprise that I could also feel that on an emotional level, for some reason he was distressed, disturbed. Something just wasn't right.

At first I had thought he was just tired. Then he told me about the job. It was his dream job. Managing European accounts but based in London. Mid-city apartment, company car, expense account. You know, you've all seen the movies. Alex Braithewait had arrived. This was his moment to shine. But then there was us. Clearly the mirror ball would shatter. "What'll I do, babe?"

It wasn't really a question.

What'll I do, babe don't you mean? I thought.

Of course, I'd said all the right things. "Oh hell, there's no question hon. This is YOUR big day. It's your time to shine. No question at all - you must accept. No, no - don't be silly. We can work all that out."


What was there to work out? My 8 year old daughter, Lucy lived here, on this side of the world. How many times had I said to my Mum "Well, I might not be with her mother anymore, but I'm never going to leave her life completely. I'm going to be the best Dad I can be… well, the best GAY Dad I can be! I won't leave her until she's old enough to cope without me in her life - even if it is only the weekends and some of the holidays."

It was so simple. I loved her the only way you can love your child. No question. Unconditionally.

But I also loved Alex. The only way you can love another man. Well, if you're gay, that is.

So I stood there on the beach, watching the children skimming stones across the flat, calm sea waiting for the fade to black and wishing the credits would roll up my sky and off the top of my screen. And as I thought about how much I would miss this man, and every subtle nuance of his place in my life popped into my head (sort of like they say your life is supposed to flash before your eyes when you're drowning…) the roaring built up inside my head until the tears rolled down my cheeks.

Don't blub, man! There are people here. They'll see you. Oh for god's sake - don't blub! So I choked it back. I swallowed. I blinked hard and I swallowed again. And as the roaring subsided (have you ever noticed that roaring when you're somewhere that you just can't cry out loud? It's so noisy!) …as the roaring subsided it was then that I heard the phone ringing. What phone? Oh yeah. The phone in my pocket. My phone.


Sort of white static, like the kind you get on an international line.


And through the static of the international toll call, the deep velvet of the voice I'd come to love so much…

"Hey you - how's Wally? Hey, I've said no!"

Fade to black. Roll credits. welcomes short-format writing based on the joy of being gay or lesbian, whether it be verse, essays, anecdotes or personal insights.
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James Houghton - 30th July 2006