The relationship would never have begun had it not been for Terry convincing me to go and see his boyfriend's brother try and win some karaoke competition down at the local pub.
Terry was the friend of an old lover of mine, and one of those people who I'd run into periodically. We were never mates, but we'd always stop if we saw one another on the street, whilst doing the weekly shopping, or hanging around the bar at one of Brisbane's few gay clubs. We would smile, exchange small talk, and invariably go our separate ways, despite vowing to 'arrange a time to catch up'.
Maybe there was another force at play on that Thursday afternoon when, instead of agreeing to a vague, uncertain, yet-to-be-planned meeting in the future, he asked me to be at his house at four that afternoon, and I agreed. Or maybe it was simply that we both wanted to be near someone who knew Victor, my now-deceased teenaged lover and his past protégé cum friend.
Whatever the reason, at four o'clock, I found myself outside the two story, neatly renovated Queenslander that Terry and his partner, Jamie, own. The sound of raucous, predominantly male, laughter erupted from the back of the house and I glanced around anxiously, wondering whether or not I should have actually shown up. I began to have second thoughts. Had Terry invited me because he genuinely wanted me to attend, or hadit been the loose, casual sort of invitation I should have ignored?
When I knocked on the door, I realised it was the former. That didn't mean Terry wasn't surprised I'd arrived; he was, and it showed. But he recovered his composure and led me out to the back of the house, where I was handed a beer and introduced to several of Jamie's relatives.
I'd always been somewhat fascinated by Terry and Jamie's relationship. They're two very different men, from very different backgrounds, and seeing the very masculine Jamie and his predominantly criminal family juxtaposed against Terry, in all his effeminate glory made it a struggle not to smile. At that moment, it was difficult to imagine the couple kissing, or making love, or agreeing on a venue for a dinner date, even though I knew from prior conversations they did all these things and more. Later, after my friendship with the couple had matured, I stopped noticing the differences, but I can still clearly remember my earlier impressions of their relationship.
At five we left for the RSL. The competition – which was at grand final stage - was scheduled for seven pm, and with a first prize of five thousand dollars, I'll admit I doubted Gary's ability to come out tops. 'Good enough' to win a two hundred dollar bar tab is one thing, 'good enough' to win five grand is entirely another.
I was soon proved wrong though. Gary – one month fresh from his latest stint in jail – silenced the room when he took to the stage with his first song. He stood head and shoulders above his competitors. He had the sort of voice, and the charisma, that made everyone in the room shut up and listen. It was the first time I ever saw a point to karaoke.
For those that knew him, Gary's performance wasn't particularly surprising. Jamie, Terry – who looks surprisingly 'straight' in jeans and a t-shirt – and Gary's family and mates even seem somewhat bemused at my reaction. But I was astounded, impressed, amazed.
It was during intermission that Brett arrived, direct from work and dressed in a black collared shirt – as set out by RSL protocol – blue jeans, and black shoes. It wasn't the first time I met Brett; I'd seen him around on a few occasions, but it was to be the first night we ever had a proper conversation.
My reasons for talking to him weren't entirely innocent. Firstly, Jamie, his family, and Terry seemed to form a group distinct from myself, which made me feel somewhat left out, and secondly, I was idly debating my chances of luring him back to my apartment afterwards for coffee and sex. I'd learned today during my afternoon conversation with Terry that he was recently single and I found him attractive, so in my mind, there was no reason not to at least try.
Besides, Brett and I were something of bisexual brothers in arms. We'd both dated both women and men. We both had trade qualifications. We were approximately the same age. In short, we shared several qualities that put us far apart from the standard gay stereotype.
He was quiet at first. He smiled with his mouth, but not with his dark eyes, and he didn't seem to mind interrupting our conversation to light up a cigarette. Perplexed – because it was obvious he didn't dislike me talking to him – I continued to ask him random questions to see where this might possibly be heading.
One thing became blatantly obvious early on; he wasn't going to be coming home with me tonight. He became uncomfortable when I tried subtle flirting, and quickly changed the topic. I was disappointed that he rejected my advances. He was attractive, with dark hair and eyes, olive skin, and a solidly muscular build. He wasn't one of those men with clear muscle definition, no, he was the type with a heavy build of muscle, bone and sinew, with strong, thick arms protruding from his shirt. There was nothing delicate about him, but nor was there anything brutish. He didn't look stupid or docile; there was intelligence flickering in his eyes, and it was obvious he was one of those rare people who were blessed with both brains and common sense.
He also looked like he knew how to fuck. And I wanted to discover how it felt to have him on my back and inside of me, with his stubbly chin pressed against my cheek.
The karaoke competition unfortunately resumed just when our conversation was finally becoming both easy and interesting. I think we were both slightly disappointed that we had to quit our discussion. At least, I'd like to hope he was disappointed. I must remind myself to ask him what he originally thought of me.
Afterwards – when rather predictably, Gary collected the major prize – we drank celebratory rum and Cokes and discussed the cricket. We both loved that stupid game. Then, realising that if I didn't make a move, he'd slip out of my life, I asked him if he was interested in going to the Gabba with me sometime to see the Bulls play.
'Sure,' he agreed.
He gave me his phone number. Actually, that's not true, he gave me two of his phone numbers; his home number and his mobile. In return, I gave him mine.
It wasn't until I was writing down the digits that I realised that I didn't want him simply for the sake of having someone to talk to during a trip to the pub, or to occupy my bed that night. I liked him. I liked what he'd shown of himself. Subconsciously, when I'd asked him to the cricket, I'd been searching for a way tosee him again. And that scared me. I wasn't good at relationships. Ever since Victor's suicide, some two years ago, I'd been unable to let myself go emotionally. Instead, I slept around, and engaged only in short, pointless, affairs.
'I'll call you sometime,' I offered, knowing he had to get home. He'd already detailed his home life, and I knew his reasons for leaving early.
'Yeah, that would be good.'
With five words he made me forget my fears about any possible relationship. A stupid smile plastered itself on my face.
'We should go too,' Terry remarked, glancing at his watch. 'You ready to leave Mikey?'
'Yeah, no problems.'
I'd traveled to the RSL in their car and hell if I was going to make a pest of myself. Besides, the highlight of the night had already left, with my phone number in his pocket, and his in mine.
Terry, Jamie and I gave our congratulations to Gary and headed outside in the spring night air. It was still fairly cold, with winter's harsh breath lingering on, but inside I was oddly excited. I'd all but asked a man on a date, and I was pleased with the man I'd chosen.
Jamie flicked the auto-unlock button on his keyring and the doors to his Monaro unlocked. I slid into the relative warmth of the car and buckled myself into the backseat, my conversation with Brett playing on in my mind.
'Mikey, Mikey, Mikey,' Terry grinned, leaning over the front passenger seat, as Jamie drove out of the parking lot. 'I didn't realize you were hot for Brett.'
'He only asked him to the cricket,' Jamie replied on my behalf, his voice irritable.
I didn't hold Jamie's annoyance against him. I didn't blame him for not wanting me near his best mate. Once upon a time, Jamie had introduced me to one of Terry's mates, and I'd well and truly screwed the guy over. Not callously, not intentionally, but thoughtlessly and senselessly, and brainlessly. Frankly, I wasn't sure I'd want someone like me near my best mate.
Terry sighed and slumped back into his seat. He glanced over at his partner and rested one hand on Jamie's thigh. 'I love you.'
I watched in fascinated jealousy as Jamie threw his lover a full, genuine smile, as if to say 'sorry for being a bastard, I know it's none of my business'.
'He might not be free to go to the cricket,' I added helpfully, a minute too late.
'Nah,' Jamie replied, obviously trying to make an effort to forgive me for my past transgressions. 'If he's not free, he'll find a way to be free. Nobody else would be stupid enough to sit at the Gabba with him all day.'
'I like cricket,' I protested, pleased with Jamie's words. I reveled in the reassurance that Brett would more likely than not agree to go out with me.
'More fool you,' Jamie muttered under his breath.
'Sorry Mikey,' Terry smiled, leaning over and meeting my eye. 'I have to go with Jamie on that one. You and Brett can have the cricket all to yourselves.'
I didn't miss the evil glint in his eye, even if Jamie did.
I wasn't just going to have the cricket to myself, I was going to have Brett to myself.