Author's Note: All characters are fictional, all events are fictional.

1 Vienna Waits for No One

"Wien Westbahnhof," the voice crackled overhead, "Die letzte Station. Bitte schiffen Sie sicher aus Danke Sch…"

The woman's voice from the U-Bahn trailed away as I stepped off the train and onto the platform. Taking a deep breath and ignoring a gaggle of Czech students who were laughing animatedly and pointing everywhere in awe, I made my way up on the escalator to the ground floor.

Now I could either get a streetcar then a taxi into the city but it would probably be easier to just get a taxi. It didn't matter either way, as long as I kept moving I was fine. It was when I was in one place too long that I would panic.

The journey passed silently as the Croatian taxi driver made no attempt at conversation, glad of the hush due to his broken German. And the usual monuments and landmarks went by – the Volkstheater Wien, Wiener Konzerthaus, the Museum Moderner Kunst, the Hofburg Palace, the Wiener Prater with the Riesenrad towering above and of course the Millennium Tower. Sites which once inspired Stendhal Syndrome, but now just make me nauseous.


What a fucking city.

There is so much to do here, so much to see, so many people to meet. There's never a dull moment unless you decide it yourself.

Vienna is the city of dreamers, artists and lovers. It does not exist in Europe, nor does it exist in Austria but rather exists somewhere else as a gateway between a world in the skies and the rest of the anger-stricken world marred by corruption, hatred and politics.

The skies above scream Viennese passion and the pavements running along every crevice of the city welcome you to walk endlessly down streets you will never tire of.

Or so I had thought.

Click. The door to my flat opened with a creak and I reluctantly shuffled forward with my backpack in tow. I paused. Silence. Thank God.

"Du schlampe!" came an excited yet disembodied voice from the depths of the flat.

I sighed and dropped the backpack to the ground with a thud. Great.

"Hallo Niklas," I muttered with a weak smile, and kissed him firmly on the lips.

Niklas was smiling, something so rare that I could not take my eyes off him.

"How was Hamburg then?" he enquired, still smiling and grabbing hold of my hand to lead me into the living room.

I smirked. I actually missed him during my week in Germany despite what I predicted. Niklas tilted his head, keeping up that cheeky grin of his which seemed to emerge like a tulip from parched earth, and looked into my eyes inquisitively. Those deep blue eyes were more than just eyes, they grabbed my heart roughly and frightened me.

I pulled him in for a deep kiss. I was not up for talking about how I wish I had stayed in Hamburg, and had even considered looking into permanent residence there had it not been for my dwindling funds. Away from Vienna, away from this life, away from Niklas.

"Katljus," he said quietly, pulling back from the kiss, "Someone from England called while you were gone. Are you planning on going back?"

I thought about this, should I tell him the truth? No. He need not know my plans of escape back to my home country, away from this pain.

"I'm not going anywhere without you," I said firmly, "And in any case, Vienna is better for our kind of people….as we know."

Niklas nodded, his face returning to the normal emotionless mask he always wore.

We made love on the sofa there and then. I felt such a release, like thrusting myself against Nick would alleviate all my inner aggression and resentment. As if this was all Niklas' fault.

It was no one's fault but mine. I never asked to be gay. I never asked to be from an oppressive, backward Turkish-Lithuanian family. I never asked to be free, it just had to be done.

A year or so ago, I found myself stood outside a patisserie three roads away from our flat, in the freezing cold of mid-November wearing just my dressing gown and slippers. I just stood there transfixed, staring at the last customers and the staff preparing to close the shop for the day. I pondered their lives and their states of mind. Perhaps every single person in that patisserie was happy, and did not even realise it.

Niklas lay next to me, fast asleep. Dreaming of beauty, dreaming of art, dreaming of beautiful places like the Japanese island of Kyushu. Tibet. Scotland. Finnmark. Lapland. Blarney. Marseille. Barcelona. Prague. Kashmir. Goa. St Petersburg. Cardiff. Macau. The Andes. Thailand. Tasmania. Fiji. Cape Town. Morocco. Sri Lanka.

The world just was not enough for me any more. Vienna was not enough for me any more. Niklas was not enough.

I could be stood on a street in Vienna, staring up at the Hofsburg and thinking of the time Nick and I made love right up against the walls a few autumns ago. I was stood on centuries of history, on roads steeped in culture, landscapes marked with an age which is no more…and I could not care less.

Why did I give up my life in Cardiff? South Wales was by far the best place I had ever lived, and believe me, I have lived almost everywhere in the British Isles. One of the prettiest cities I have ever had the pleasure of being part of, fantastic culture and language with a substantial link to the rest of the UK.

Problem was, when I was in Cardiff I wanted to be elsewhere. I would wake up and dream of Trondheim or ponder the streets of Espoo in my lunch break and go to bed in a reverie about Gothenburg.

But most of all I would dream about being free. Free from the holy chains of Islam and Christianity, the oppressive traditions of Turkey and Lithuania and live my own life away from the pain of my hapless birth. A free and limitless life where there were no restrictions and I had sexual freedom, racial freedom, political and religious freedom. The freedom that which Western Europe had nearly torn itself apart for more than 60 years ago.

I am twenty-seven years old. I am so close to thirty I can taste it. The turning point from the prime of youth to the decline of age.

I am 27 years old and all I have to show for it is a job at a local café and writing in my spare time for a struggling art magazine. A shoddy flat which we found so rustic at first glace, so romantic, so beautiful. I have a Swiss boyfriend who works as a waiter on nights in a local posh French-owned restaurant but paints in his spare time.

If I had never escaped from my family, where would I be now? I often ponder this. After all, it's not easy being sent into excommunication by your own mother and father after they find out who their son is. Was I not a faggot, or had I not given in to freedom, who would I be? Perhaps I would be married to some Turkish girl sent over straight from the Turkish countryside. A stupid, witless girl who quailed at the simple present of a man and was pious as a saint. Boring. But perhaps I would have a child. A son, a daughter? A little 2 year old girl called Fazilet or a small boy named Murat. I could have taught them about art and how the United Kingdom actually has over 7000 islands. I might have had a stable job – a doctor, a lawyer, a businessman. An income at least.

So this was the cost of living a liberal homosexual lifestyle in Western Europe. No children, no real future, no career, no stability. Just living precariously from day to the next and being utterly, utterly free. Because that is what is important right? Freedom from religion and the restraints of conservative society and of course the cage which families seem to enforce upon their children. It felt less free than it did empty. Empty and lonely. I could run across the vast expanses of Siberia screaming "I AM FREE!" without coming across a single person who could just hear me.

I imagine I am in an underground nightclub in Paris which plays mindless trance music, with lasers beaming past people and strobe lighting adding a confusing effect on the crowds. Everyone here is angry because they are free.

They are free but the effort it took to get their rent their souls apart horribly into shreds of hatred or indifference. They come to this club and bash out all their rage on the dance floor and numb their sorrow with drink. Everything will go back to normal in the morning but for one night in the week they can come here and forget everything… be happy.

Because that is all it is – you think happiness will come automatically when you are liberated but this lesson is learnt gradually and with a sickeningly unexpected realisation. Like discovering a fatal truth, it becomes part of you and you accept it, submitting to your pre-determined fate.

"Father into Your Hands I commend My Spirit."

After having control of your fate for so long you decide that you would rather a greater power take charge in your affairs after all. Why? Easier perhaps.

Far simpler to let someone else make our decisions. A child-like desire to be looked after. Even if you do liberate yourself then so what?

I'm in Vienna, I have a wonderful life partner, I have a stress-free job.

Now what?

I just exist.

Everyone needs something to work towards, to struggle against because once you get to the summit all you can do is sit there in appreciation. You could throw yourself off Everest, plummeting to the bottom because all will to live is gone.