The Nowhere Man
For Female Survivors, Male Survivors
The frame of the solid front door shook with fear as the young boy slammed it in great anger as he raced out, over the roughly laid brick paving, to his bright orange bicycle. He would do anything to get away from the family that said to do things their way was the only course a young boy could take. His bruised and battered body heaved with anger and the tears that streamed down his face were beginning to show the strains of a callow youth who could take no more.
The bicycle, with the under-inflated tyre and loose headstem, raced down Gould Street in between the gaping potholes and down past the Girls High School. The boy was running from his childhood and escaping his tormentors. He was going to the one place that he knew he would be safe from his enemies, down to the golden sands of Airlie Beach. It was a safe place to go for a walk and work out all those confused thoughts. It was a place he could make friends easily and where he might meet someone with the same problems as he. Someone who would understand.
The narrow pathway had recently been covered with bitumen so the ride down to the shoreline was quite smooth. The path was quite steep. At the bottom of the path, beside the wide expanse before the rolling surf comes crashing in, is a promenade that is nestled between the sand and the vegetated dunes. The boy found a hiding place for his bicycle so that none of the beachgoers could take home a little present for their own little kiddies. He hid it well amongst the ti-tree bushes far from the gaze of suspicious looking characters.
The concrete promenade was now one of wonder. As the boy made his way through all the happy families he was beginning to soak up their excitement and happiness he began to realise that he would be able to learn from this experience how other families got along so well. He made his way along the esplanade towards the life-saving club. He could meet other boys and girls there who might want to play. The sweat and tears had now gone from his face and he was ready to share himself with anybody who had the time to listen.
His anger had abated and the walk was doing him good. He would go home to his family a new boy because he was beginning to understand that he would need to listen to his brothers some of the time because they were older and sometimes they did know better. He was much happier and it showed. He knew this because other beachcombers, with sand between their toes, returned his greetings. Strangers were always responsive when he felt good about himself. He decided to not go all the way to the lifesaving club because he felt ready to go home and give his family another go.
The walk back to his bicycle was very pleasurable for he was in new spirits. He had worked out most of his problems and he was feeling much better for it. All he had to do now was decide on what he could do to fit in to his family a little better and work through why they rarely took any notice of his feelings. After retrieving his bicycle from behind the ti-tree bushes he mounted it and commenced pedalling towards the Mundy Street car park. The hot summer's day was now producing beads of sweat that slithered down his forehead, along his back and down his pudgy little legs. At about halfway up the steep incline it got too much for him. It was just too difficult to pedal any further. He dismounted the cycle and prepared to push it the extra fifty metres into the car park and home to the family he had decided to give another chance.
The man came out from behind the ti-tree with a child-like grin on his face. He, too, was perspiring from the sweltering heat. He showed appreciation for the boy's effort and said so.
"You must be pretty strong to get this far up" he remarked. The boy was excited for this fellow understood what it took to climb such a hill. The man, who had not shaved for a week, and had a Mediterranean complexion, walked alongside the boy all the way to the car park. They chatted like old friends but never telling each other what they really wanted.
The boy felt as if he had made a brand new friend. He was willing to share himself with this man who was willing to listen to all of his problems. The boy told the man about how his two elder brothers were always picking on him and excluding him from all their games. He wished that they would get on better but he was different because he went to a local Catholic boys' school and they always called him poofter because he did so. The boy told the man about how he loved to read C.S. Lewis books but he also liked to read Enid Blyton because he wanted a reason to talk to girls. The boy was excited because he had finally met someone who seemed to really understand him.
The hot sun had now passed its zenith and was slowly making its way to the horizon. Happy families were now preparing to load their sedans and wagons with damp towels, exhausted children and empty eskies. Mr Whippy had parked his ice cream van at the far end of the car park and there was a myriad of young children all clamouring for his attention. The boy yearned for one of those ice creams but he had run away from home without any money. The man, just out of his teens himself, saw how the boy lusted after one of those ice creams and produced a small leather pouch from the back pocket of his tight-fitting 501's, and offered to buy the boy an ice cream.
"Do you want a choc-top for the heat?"
The boy was ecstatic. This man knew exactly what he wanted.
The man patiently waited for Mr Whippy to serve him while the boy placed his bicycle against the toilet block where lonely men gathered at night to take away the pain of what they were really feeling. The boy was happy now for he had met someone he could look up to and who had said nothing to criticise him, here was someone who was not like his family.
The ecstatic young boy gleefully licked on his chocolate covered ice cream as the two new friends peered over the wide expanse of Airlie Beach. The day was at its hottest and the sun was rapidly descending to the horizon. The boy was happy and he wanted this to last forever. The man made his way through a break in the loosely constructed wire fence that separated the car park from the natural ti-tree habitat. The boy followed like an excited little puppy eager to please his new master.
The man sat on a ti-tree bough far from the view of parked sedans and wagons. The boy was excited and ready to share the world with his newfound friend; he would do anything to make sure that the afternoon continued. The man removed his tight-fitting pink T-shirt and his muscles rippled as though he was preparing for a Mr Universe title.
"Are you hot?" the boy enquired.
"I need to get some extra rays before the sun goes down, why don't you do the same?" the man replied.
"I burn too easily" the boy responded remembering how he had burned the previous summer on Cronulla beach. "But you must have a good body to show off" the man encouraged.
The boy was proud of this recognition but still reluctant to take off the Mickey Mouse Club T-shirt he had only just received in the mail from Sunicrust Bakeries.
"You're getting pretty big for just a schoolboy, you must have plenty of girlfriends?" the man questioned the boy. The boy was quite embarrassed as he thought of his only ever girlfriend; a neighbour's daughter when he was only six years old and before his family had moved to Airlie Beach.
The man was becoming more relaxed and more confident. He was more direct in his approach and the boy was enjoying every second of the attention.
The boy and the man talked about many things. The man was a fabric design student at Art College. He was trying to avoid working in his father's fruit'n'vegie shop. The man believed that ladies fashion houses were calling to him and he just did not want to work with aubergines and zucchinis. The man hated getting his hands dirty. The boy continued on with how his brothers taunted and bullied him and because of that he did not fit in at school, at Scouts and when he was with the friends he did have.
"You must be really strong now that you are in high school?" the man questioned the boy.
"I am getting bigger and soon I will be able to deal with Nicholas and Simon who always call me poofter" the boy replied defiantly.
The man stood to stretch himself as the boy played in the dirt at his feet. The boy gazed in awe at the man's glistening torso. He pondered on the fact that this man came from a different country and had not even told him his name.
"Why don't you show me how strong you are by shaking my hand?" the man asked. The boy whose peers already acknowledged him as being the strongest in his class willingly held out his right hand to clutch the older man's hand.
The boy's hand met his new friend's hand in violent expectation. The boy wrapped his hand around the man's palm and squeezed as if his very life depended on it. The man fell to his knees and cried out in unexpected agony. The boy felt better for he had shown his new friend that he was not going to be too weak to deal with. The boy felt, once again, that his superior strength would be enough to deal with the problems he had in his life. The man raised himself from his knees and regained his composure. The boy stood proudly and wished the whole world to know of his achievement.
"Well, you are pretty strong but I bet you can't do it another way" the man retaliated.
"I bet I can" said the boy who was growing more confident as the afternoon rolled on. He wanted his new friend to know what he was really capable of.
"Why don't you give me a bear-hug?" asked the man.
The boy was ready to do anything for his new friend. This man had known how to listen, had known what to say when he was upset.
The boy was a little unsure. His life, outside of his family, had always been one of excitement. He did experiments all the time and this was just the same; if he did not like it he would just walk away. He had already shown his new friend that he was strong enough to bring him to his knees. He was curious to know what it would feel like to feel that strong all over again.
The boy approached the man cautiously. He did not know how he would feel if he was too strong for the man all over again. The man stood resplendent with his glistening torso. The boy was at about chest height to the man but they were equal as friends and that is all that mattered. The boy brought his hands around the man's chest and joined his hands together behind the man's back. The boy used all his might to give the best bear hug he had ever given. He hugged the man as if his brothers had never teased or taunted him. He hugged the man as if he were his own brother.
It was a moment he would never forget and it was a moment that scared the shit out of the boy. Just as he used all his available energy to bear hug this new friend the man moaned and groaned. It was all too clear to the boy that this man wanted much, much more.
The boy was unsure now. He had always done as he was told. He was in unchartered territory and he wanted to get out. He wanted to reclaim his golden Corsair cycle and go home where he would not be held in such a manner. The boy was in a quandary for he wanted to go back to what it was like before the man moaned but he knew that if he stayed any longer something terrible would happen to him.
"I have to go home now" the boy ventured nervously.
"But I was going to tell you how strong you are" the man suggested.
"No, I have to go home now, I can hear my mother calling"
The man had regained his composure and was attempting to put his T shirt back on. The boy was walking away towards his bicycle and away to freedom. He was coming out of a dream, was it his childhood? and the further away he got from the man, the better he felt.
"See you next week" the man called anxiously.
"I'm not coming back next week" the boy replied adamantly.
The boy returned to his bicycle. The hot summer sun was now touching the horizon and it was near the end of the day. The boy was different now for he had heard that man moan and he had to learn to avoid that type of man. The car park was chock-a-block now. All the tourists were arriving to watch the sun go down and to see how the milky way lit up the sky. His cycle was where he had left it and when he walked up to retrieve it another man, this time in an orange T-shirt, offered him another ice- cream. The boy was clued in now.
"How about an ice-cream before you leave?" the man asked sheepishly.
"No, it is getting late and I have to go home now" the boy insisted. The boy suddenly realised that he would have to learn how to avoid this type of man. He had to be wary now; he knew what would happen. He just didn't understand why anybody would want to do such a thing.
Making his way past this new muscular man he grabbed his shiny, but wonky, Corsair and started pedalling towards Charman Road and back home to the family where he would have to find a new way to fit in again.
The boy rode past the Girls High School on his way home from Airlie Beach. In between the gaping potholes he realised that a remnant of that day's sweat was still running down his leg. Was it sweat or was it something that was a result of that dream he had just had. Whatever it was, he could never go back to Airlie Beach.
The Nowhere Man