A Normal Man
In the mornings all I can hear is the constant drone of construction from the long-completed building behind the one I live in. Every morning. It’s too hot so I open my window for fifteen-minute periods, and close it for ten. Every tool sounds like a jackhammer in different tones. Jack -hammering the top of a building.
In the afternoons the children in the daycare next door get tired and one sets off the other until they are all screaming, then crying half-heartedly when they forget what they began screaming about. I close my window. I am defeated, a Negative Nelly.
Industrial-chic. I just moved here. I am part of this. The roads are potholed to a point where, on my bike, I zigzag down the middle of the road and cars swerve to avoid me. It is the risk I take in life I guess. I don’t wear a helmet.
There is one pothole I have been keeping my eye on for some time now. It is crumbling inwards, the tar cliffs, rubble disappearing inside it, like it is eating itself. I have a habit of scratching the skin from my head so hard that I bleed. My skull should be half-eroded, but my skin keeps re-making itself. I wonder if they will ever do road works here.
They are turning the old factories into apartments, doing that thing: preserving the façade and gutting the insides. They say they are keeping the integrity, the history of the building. I think it’s fitting that their history consists of only what can be seen from the outside. The people who move there will have a high income and will live alone in one-bedroom, one study apartments. I don’t live in a new apartment, I live in an old one, but here I am. I am a little different from them but mostly the same.
I am standing in my underwear in the lounge room with my housemate’s dog licking the back of my leg. He’s a dachshund, his name is Snoopy but I call him My Cinnamon Scroll. He has bad dandruff like me. I can see it as I stand above him and he looks up at me with those desperate wet eyes. When I part his fur to see his skin, it is not dry, but actually quite well oiled. And yet there are still those flakes of skin. I wonder why.
I wonder if the people in the apartments opposite can see me. If they think my body is strange for a man; that my hips are wide, my chest is misshapen and my head is small. But maybe next to My Cinnamon Scroll I look normal. I am having a rare moment where I want to make everyone see the ways that I am different.
I watch men in the street from my window. My Cinnamon Scroll curls up in the patch of sun on my bed, looking much like his namesake, leaving short black hairs and flakes of skin on my sky-blue doona. There are little dried yellow circles all over my doona because his penis leaks.
I study how the men move and talk. I have absorbed their ways of being to a point where I don’t know who I naturally am anymore. I think about my movements so much they feel entirely constructed. A walk that is purposeful, or at least certain. Don’t smile to be polite, smile only when laughing at a joke or making fun. Walk in the middle of the footpath. Don’t step aside when confronted with another body. If you are walking with a friend who is also a man, make sure there is distance between you. Talk loudly about nothing important, but use words economically. If a woman approaches, notice her difference, the difference that comes from being a woman, and notice how you and your male friend are alike. Don’t smile at animals. White men of English or Irish decent don’t gesture. Control your body and your pitch.
“How can I be free of something I rely on to exist in the world?’ I ask My Cinnamon Scroll. He is napping.
I have controlled my gag reflex completely unnaturally. And why I come to this park I don’t know. It’s a fine line between pleasure and the threat of death. In fact, I don’t really come here for pleasure at all. It’s more a habit, I say that I am going for a walk, I say something to my housemate like ‘It’s a nice night for a walk. I’ll be back in a bit’. And I really believe it. But then here I am, I can hear the water fountain behind me and I am kind of doing the down-on-one-knee proposal pose. The penis is hammering at the back of my throat. I never let them touch me. These are transactions even though no money is exchanged. They give me their cock, I take it. I am not ashamed of being bisexual but I am unsure of how to interact with men in a genuinely sexual way that may give me pleasure. It is easier to make them cum than to let them touch me.
When I walk home from the park I go through the construction sites. One in one block follows another in the next. The buildings are wrapped in plastic, from the top to the bottom, a 12 story high condom. My mind is on condoms. I wonder if I have chlamydia of the mouth. The plastic sounds like thunder in the wind. One of the rooms in a building is where the construction workers have their lunch break. They leave the light on in there. I look through the plastic into their kitchen and the room warps with the wind. There is a microwave, a kettle, a bar fridge, coffee, some packets of noodles, a table and chairs. I wonder what it would be like to sit in there, with my hard hat resting beside my sandwich next to my black coffee, with my work mates. What it would be like to finish eating then go out and tear the earth apart.
Bridie Mills is a country boy from Victoria, currently living in Montreal, who writes about bisexuality, transsexualism, and grief.