Walking backwards from Bourke to Brisbane

After resigning from internet dating, I found myself at the launch of an Art Deco meets Modernists extravaganza, surrounded by creative folk, lots of feathers, and amazing vintage outfits. Mid conversation with some feathered ladies, Ms. Modernist gatecrashed, bubbles in hand, dragging three guys towards us, yelling, “Come on boys, time to meet some girls!” She proceeded to interrogate them as to whether they were married (no), having an affair with the girl they had walked in with (NO!), introduced a fascinating fact about each of us to get the conversation rolling, clicked her heels, and disappeared with a magically refilled glass of bubbles.

I was stunned. What an awesome wingwoman!  The most handsome of the bunch was conveniently closest to me and I took advantage of Ms Modern’s opening. He was a Former Engineer (tick, as much as I love my Dad I can’t cope with dating engineers), passionate about architecture, buff, well presented, eyes you could lose yourself in, and very charming. Within a few minutes we somehow started talking about North Queensland, and discovered that we were of the same vintage, both born in Townsville. Mr. Former Engineer corrected himself. “I only say I’m born in Townsville because no one knows where Ingham is, but I’m from Ingham.” I started laughing. My dad grew up 25k from Ingham; my aunt, uncle and grandmother are still there in cane country.  Purple Frock: “Do you know  Peter and Jane Frock?” Mr Former Engineer shook his head. “I used to work with Brian Frock in Townsville though.” This was just too much. Brian was my uncle, and Mr. Former Engineer had worked with him for five years before escaping engineering for a new start in the Big Smoke. The coincidences kept on rolling – he had just come back from Ingham to celebrate his Nonni’s 90th birthday, I was leaving in two days to visit my Nonni for her 89th birthday. 

The speeches started, and afterwards I was whisked away by the Mr and Ms Modernists for Part Two of the evening, a live Cambodian rock opera performance at the Brisbane Powerhouse (I kid you not). Mr. Former Engineer had other plans (more ticks, leaves the house on a school night, has friends, or possibly hates Cambodian Rock Opera), and we parted with promises to catch up. Meanwhile, the Modernists and I plotted. Mr. Former Engineer was a total catch. A scheme was hatched for a movie night at the Modernist House for us to casually on purpose meet again, with background checks being carried out in the meantime. I stalked him on Facebook, an email notified that he had also stalked me on LinkedIn, and I looked forward to seeing him again.

Shortly afterwards, the Modernists delivered some bad news. Mr. Former Engineer was gay, and had come to Brisbane to put some distance between himself and his conservative Italian Ingham clan. All of our gaydars had completely failed. A beer-drinking, football-loving gay engineer from North Queensland? Seriously!  Looking back however, there were some clues.  Ms Modernist had only asked if he was married or having an affair, not if he was gay. While gay engineers heading towards 40 simply do not exist (confirmed by Dad), he had left engineering. He would never have fit in. As for the rugby league – well, it’s hard to be alive in Townsville and not follow the Cowboys just a little bit. If I was honest with myself, his immaculate presentation and six pack were rare even in a metro type. I was reminded of Bob Katter’s infamous 1989 remark that there were “no homosexuals living in his electorate”, and that he would walk “backwards from Bourke to Brisbane” if any were found. This gay man was safely camouflaged in North Queensland, drinking beer at the footy, pretending he liked talking cars, dogs and sport with the other engineers, and carefully concealing any leads which might give away the game. But they exist.




Rewind, recycle

Some fifteen years ago, I dated a guy who was long on dreams, short on action. I think my flatmates in a falling down old Queenslander unearthed him for me on our one communal household computer.  Mr. Dreamer was funny, good company, and learned very early on that even when I’m way too busy, my evenings can suddenly become free if an Indian curry is mentioned. He had plans to learn an instrument, do some renovations, and to quit the job that he hated, yet he couldn’t really get started on any of those projects. Meanwhile, I was seriously scheming how to get myself to the US for a course of study which would transform my life, and later, many others around Australia. After a lowkey start to whatever “we” were, he suddenly rhapsodised one night over how I had motivated him to change forever, how indebted he was to me, what an inspiration I was, how… As he raved, an instant migraine developed as he tried to hand over responsibility for his motivation and life choices to me. I slunk away.

About five years later, I stepped onto a very full bus, and made my way to the last empty seat at the back. Sitting myself down, I had a strange feeling that I knew this cute guy, and that he would strike up a conversation. Embarrassingly, it was Mr. Dreamer. He was still funny, still easy to chat to, still in the same job he despised, still “just about” to start learning that instrument, do the rennos, and to take on all those other dreams. He noticed my Masters thesis draft I had been correcting, concerning an aspect of my US study that I had been madly planning all those years ago, and noted that I’d made Part One of my impossible dream happen. An awkwardness grew as we realised that while he was still “just about to”, I had taken huge steps forward in changing the direction of my life.

Fast forward another ten years. Flicking through Tinder, I came across a kinda cute guy who looked vaguely familiar. I had a strange feeling that I knew this cute guy, and that he would… wait! Deja vu!  On closer inspection, it was definitely Mr. Dreamer a decade on. His profile was very funny, he had graduated from taking girls out to Indian curries to promising home-made Indian feasts, was owner of a gorgeous dog, and a (presumably gorgeous) son. Perhaps having a child prompted a life change?  My hand hovered over the swipe keys as I hesitated in potentially repeating history. In the end, puppy plus curries plus curiosity dragged my finger to swipe right.  It would be too good a story if we met again, I couldn’t resist.

Thank God he was wise enough not to contact me. Sometimes your past comes back to haunt you. And if that past is now single, chances are that he’s on Tinder, and only an accidental right swipe away.