Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Dancing on Podiums and tearful goodbyes

Shots were ordered and we relaxed into the remainder of the night. Tom decided to give us a tour and we slowly wove our way though Arq’s version of ‘muscle alley’ – practically identical to Trade’s entrance to the dance floor – a corridor of Muscle Marys eyeing one another up and trying their hardest to out-butch one another. Pedro could see me rolling my eyes, “Oh come on Grandad, you can’t pretend that secretly you don’t love looking at a nice pair of disco tits” He dragged me through and after Tom, up the stairs, round the corner and onto a large balcony where Pedro, Tom and I hung over the edge watching the sea of muscle bouncing around on the dance floor. In the centre of the floor was a large podium and right in the middle of it was Zak, owning the space, shimmying up and down, grinding his hips and clapping along to his own internal syncopated rhythm. “You’d never believe Matt used to do that would you?” teased Pedro,
“Not now he’s such a… what is the word… fuddy duddy?" his Portuguese accent making this more 'foody doody' and making me laugh, "He was amazing – a bar manager carved his name into a podium once, said it belonged to him, he’d get up and not come down until the lights came on, used to have someone running to and from the bar, fetching him water…”
“For real?” Tom smiled.
“You should have seen him, it was definitely something…”
“Pedro, don’t exaggerate” I stumbled, tapping a finger to my temple and rolling my eyes at Tom.
“Now that I’d like to see,” Tom teased, licking his lips.
“Your wish is my command” Pedro giggled, grabbing my hand and making for the dance floor.
“Just you wait!” I squeaked as I was dragged back down the stairs, knocking over a squeal of muscleboys comparing dog tags and into the morass of muscle.
Pedro and I joined Zak and took over the now packed podium. The music changed to a bass-heavy, thumping, dirty, moaning track, sweeping us up in its rhythm and taking the already euphoric clubbers to further heights. We shook, wriggled, writhed, gyrated, sweated and shimmied. I hadn’t felt this good in years, this awake, intense, plugged in, turned on and so alive. Track after track poured into one another, the heat rising, my shirt clinging to my back, my heart pounding in my chest; it was time for a rest. I looked down at the crowd and there at my feet was Tom, grinning from ear to ear, face covered in sweat, hair sticking up and with his eyes filled with… lust? Or maybe something more…
I jumped down in front of him.
“Pedro didn’t exaggerate at all, you can really move…”
“I can’t help it once I start, sorry to leave you for so long”
“Not at all. You need a drink?”
“Please”
We moved over to the bar where thankfully the crowd thinned. Tom handed me a water and we turned back to face the dance floor.
“You know, I can’t believe I’ve got to leave all this behind, Sydney and Australia and…” I turned to look at Tom, his eyes were wet and he leaned towards me, pulling me towards him before finally kissing me.
A minute later he pulled away.
“You have no idea how hard it’s been to resist doing that…”
“Resist? Why resist?”
“Well you know; you going and me being here. It’s so impractical and it hurts like this now and… Look can we get some air?”
We stepped out into the growing light, crossed the road and sat in a shop front down the side of an alleyway.
“It’s been amazing having you here.”
“I know. It’s been pretty fantastic being here.”
“I really…like having you around.”
“Well that’s good to know.”
“And if you weren’t going… The past week, seeing you, it’s been great, amazing, but kinda scary too. I just don’t know that I can deal with, no I’ll be honest: I don’t know that I want to deal with how much it will hurt when you go. And if we sleep together it will feel worse. Much worse. And so I’ve avoided it. Does it make sense, you understand right?”
“I do yes. Personally I’m a ‘seize the day’, ‘who knows what might happen’, ‘we could all be dead tomorrow’ kinda guy, but I can understand. I would of course ordinarily try my damnedest to persuade you, but I don’t know, if it means you hurting…”
“Thank you”
A second kiss: I though I might explode.
“What if we just don’t go home – stay awake all night, wander about instead?”
“Sounds good to me. It is 4.30 after all, nearly time to get up.” He smiled that electric smile of his and I forced my heart back into my chest. “What about Pedro and Zak?”
“Oh that’s fixed with a text. Sorry, an ‘SMS’” I teased.
We wandered down Oxford Street, grabbing coffees on the way then on through Hyde Park, past the sandstone Cathedral, into the Domain and on to the Botanical Gardens.
Within an hour we were holding hands, stood under the palms watching the bats come home to roost. We drifted down towards the waters edge to see the sun rising over the harbour, turning the water from a deep sapphire blue to a golden green and the Opera House a flamingo pink. Lying on the grass I snuggled into Tom’s shoulder and gently drifted in and out of sleep.

“Time to wake up sleepy head”
Pushing myself onto hands and knees, I stretched in the sun arching my back like a cat and pushed myself upright.
“Damn look at the time, I’m gonna have to head back to the hotel and get myself into gear”
Tom sighed.
“I’ll understand if you don’t want to see me off…”
“Don’t be ridiculous, I want to. Besides I need to make sure you leave the country” he teased.
We stumbled back through the Gardens down past the Opera house – now its sunlit pearly white - and up to the cab rank. A cab ride, a shower and some last minute adjustments to my suitcase and I’m ready to head to the airport.
“I don’t know which surprises me more, that you travel so light or that you were already packed and ready to go.”
“Well I wanted to have time with you, not be worrying about getting back to pack, so I did it yesterday.”
“Practical and romantic. I like it.” Tom smiled.
A final cab ride and I was checking in.
We wandered through the airport, Tom holding onto my passport and boarding card, pausing to look at piles of books, magazines and shirts emblazoned with Australiana. We sat and ate in the large restaurant area, surrounded by departing tourists, businessmen, cabin crew and families seeing off their teenaged children to the other side of the globe for their traditional rites-of-passage year overseas.
We avoided all topics of me leaving, or coming back, of the UK, of time zones or jet-lag or further contact. Instead talking about the people around us and where they might be headed.
“Well if it’s ok with you, I might head through a little early…”
“No that’s good, I hate hanging around airports waiting to say goodbye, I’d rather get it over with… well y’know what I… It’s just easier than…”
“I know.”
We walked over to the departures area and stood outside the gate that led through to Passport Control.
“Well you have a safe flight”
“I’ll call you and let you know when I land”
I don’t remember who sagged first but before I knew it, we were clinging onto one another, tears running down our cheeks. Then just as suddenly, we were apart, embarrassed by the raw display.
“Goodbye then.”
“Yeah, you take care.”
"Well I guess I should go through."
I picked up the handle to my hand luggage, turned and walked through, turning just after the entrance to see that Tom had already gone.