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53 Getting There!

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About Rupert

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    Still figuring it out

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  1. Rupert

    Chapter 27

    I’m really loving this story.
  2. Rupert

    Chapter 21

    Great story, from beginning to end.
  3. Really enjoyed this series, sad it’s over but well done.
  4. Rupert

    Chapter 9

    Great story. Thanks Sam.
  5. Rupert

    Chapter 1

    I was disliking Kevin in the Becker story but am thinking I may grow to like him after all.
  6. Rupert


    Really enjoyed this, thanks.
  7. We sat there for what felt like an eternity but were probably only a few seconds. “You may well be right” I said in a small voice. “I thought so” Erin smiled at me, “Let’s get out of here and really talk about stuff.” Part of me felt relieved that I was able to admit, for the first time out loud, one of my fears; but part of me felt like puking on the carpet right there. What was I doing? What was I letting myself in for? What did this mean for me and my future? What would my family think – if they ever found out? That’s it! No-one need ever know. This could just be an anonymous conversation with a stranger in a distant transit hotel. It would stay between two people who would never see each other again and be like a shriek in the night – scary and uncertain at the time but gone and forgotten in the cool light of day. I swallowed hard and looking at him said, “Your place or mine?” As the words came out of my mouth I couldn’t have thought of a cornier line. Erin smiled “We have to share rooms on lay-overs so it would probably be best in yours as I’m guessing you are on your own?” We headed over to lifts and waited in silence for one to arrive and take us up to the 24th floor. We both kept glancing and smiling at each other, although I did not feel mine was confident and it showed. I waved my pass card over the lock and opened the door to my suite. I was thankful my Diamond status had put me into a room with a separate living area as at least it meant we weren’t confronted with having to sit on the bed. “Nice room! I wish we got this level of accommodation.” Erin looked around. “A ‘perk’ of too much travel” I grumbled back, although it was nice, “The room service menu is on the desk – order what you would like – I’m just going to get rid of some of these vodkas” and wandered through the bedroom to the bathroom. “Did you want anything?” I heard Erin call from the sitting room. “Just grab me a bowl of fries, thanks” I answered back, finishing up and washing my hands. I wandered back into the sitting room and Erin mentioned that he needed to use the bathroom also, “Straight through there” I waved at him, “Do you want another drink from the mini-bar?” “Just something soft” he said as he went out of the room. He came back into the sitting room and sat on the couch, thanking me for the soft drink I put down in front of him. My conflicted state of mind had not dissipated in any way; I was still torn between the opportunity to talk about my fears or shoving them right back down to where they had comfortably resided for years. “I’ve never really done anything like this” I said to Erin quietly. “I was guessing that was the case. We don’t have to do anything more than talk” he said smiling at me. “You aren’t in a good place. I don’t intend to put any pressure on you to do anything you don’t feel comfortable saying or doing. I just want to see that you are safe and put thoughts of harm out of your mind.” We were shortly disturbed by the doorbell signaling the arrival of the room service food. I got up, let the waiter in and signed for our order. “Tuck in” I pointed at the trolley. We made small talk as we ate the order, Erin had asked for a club sandwich and I had a few of the fries, still not feeling that hungry – more nervous. Having finished eating, Erin sat back against the couch and looking straight at me said “Let’s unpack what’s going on shall we?” Nothing like straight to the point although he had been pretty direct most of the night. “Well…” I said, drawing out a long breath “Where do I start? As I said before I’ve never done anything like this before, and I mean even talk about this with anyone. Sure there were adolescent fumbles, which I enjoyed and made me question my sexuality, but they never went anywhere. My stepfather was pretty religious in an unhealthy fundamentalist kind of way and while he managed to ‘begrudgingly accept’ my complete lack of faith in ‘sky friends’ his stance on homosexuality was clear – no way, not ever acceptable. I knew that I would never be able to even discuss alternatives with either of them. They had clear ideas of who we were and what we were to be. As I said, they wanted me to do medicine and would have cut me off had I dropped out without changing to another acceptable alternative profession like law.” Erin just sat quietly listening to what I had to say. “I probably tried to explore my gay side a bit more when I went to Uni, I went out to a couple of gay clubs in Collingwood and Richmond once or twice, but was always too nervous to do anything other than look around. I had my fair share of girlfriends and the sex was usually ok but became ‘vanilla’ pretty soon. My last girlfriend before I met my wife challenged me when she broke off the relationship to explore her same sex attraction – that was an opportunity for me to look at myself I guess, which I sadly never embraced.” I paused to see his reaction and he still just sat there quietly looking at me. “Go on” he said. “Well, I supposed I just settled into the expected routine of hetro-normality! We got married, had lots of friends, partied, travelled, bought property, and moved around to other countries, blah-blah-blah, but avoided children – because of my fears not hers. My wife always wanted to start a family and have a few kids. It was my fears of being a crap parent – from my poor relationship with my stepfather – and my conflict within myself regarding who I was which made me refuse. It was probably the most contentious issue between us and almost came to us breaking up a couple of times.” “However, now it has all changed.” I sighed. “I’m at a crossroad of sorts. I can plod on with my new ‘widowed’ reality – maybe conform to expectations of finding a new woman after a suitable mourning period; deal with the elephant in my head; or I guess ignore it and make it all go away.” “The last choice is not an option just in case you are getting any ideas” Erin said to me quickly, but smiled. He shifted a little closer to me on the couch and placed his hand on my leg. I looked down at it, but didn’t move out of the way. “I’m not making you feel uncomfortable am I?” He asked me. “I don’t know what to think or feel” I said very quietly. “I know what; I’ll give you a massage,” he exclaimed. “You’re really stressed out by all this. There doesn’t have to be anything in it other than a relaxing massage. I won’t do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable” he reminded me. “I’m pretty good at massage; I’ve done a few programs to learn.” I figured why the hell not. We had gone this far. I had opened up to him more than I had opened to anyone before. He was a nice guy - and a nice looking guy, and he had been open and honest with me. While he had mentioned he was gay, he hadn’t pressured me to do any more than talk. “Ok, why not” I smiled at him. “I’ll pop down to my room and get some supplies. I’ll be back in a second.” As he left to go my fears rose up again. What kind of ‘supplies’ was he off to get? I wasn’t sure I wanted to get any more physical than the proposed massage at this point, despite any fantasies born of fiction and porn. A soft knock on the door alerted me to Erin’s return, opening it I noticed he had changed into a t-shirt and track pants. He was shorter than me by about 6 cm but was stocky and obviously went to the gym and looked after himself. Well defined without being muscle bound he had a good body, flat stomach and round arse. He was obviously a natural redhead as the hair on his arms and peeking over his shirt neck-line matched his head and close cropped beard. He was the type of guy I lusted over in my porn watching sessions. He must have been in his late twenties to early thirties – we hadn’t actually talked about that! I, on the other hand was an unfit 50 years old. I had lost thirty kilograms so wasn’t obese but flabby due to being ill, and lost any muscle condition I had from having been in hospital for so long. I was bald and my normally full beard was patchy due to having fallen out as result of the chemo, in fact almost all my hair everywhere had fallen out with the exception of my eyebrows. I’m not the sort of specimen I would have been attracted to! “Welcome back” I smiled inviting him back in, “how do you want to do this?” “I guess we head to the bedroom, chuck a towel down on the bed and lose some of those clothes” he replied. Wandering through to the bathroom to get some towels Erin followed me. “What do you see in me?” I asked bluntly. “I’ve already told you, someone who is hurting who needs some help – that’s all.” While I may have decided to throw some degree of caution to the wind and despite my acceptance and agreement I was still conflicted and confused. We spread out the towels on the king bed and I turned away to take off my shirt and jeans, leaving my Calvin Klein boxers on. I tried to hide the ugly, angry surgical scar which ran from below my sternum to my pubic bone where they had opened me to remove the cancerous tumors. “Don’t worry about that, it’s part of who you are” he said to me gently. “Some scars are on the inside and some on the outside.” I gave him a weak smile back and gestured should I lie down, he nodded at me and I lay down on my stomach as he climbed on the side of the bed. I heard the cap of a bottle click open and him rub his hands together. “Just going to get this oil warmed up a bit for you” he said. He started slowly massaging my back and down my arms. He really did know what he was doing and seemed to be able to quickly hone in on just where there was tension. He moved down to my legs and feet, slowly and firmly massaging me; occasionally checking in with me that the pressure was not too firm or uncomfortable. Moving back up my legs he said “Let’s lose these boxers; I’ll keep the towel over you.” I hesitated but then allowed him to help slip them down while pulling a towel on. He gently massaged my buttocks and commented on the condition I had lost. “Time to flip you over” he said quietly and I slowly turned to lie on my back. To this point I had managed to keep any thoughts of becoming aroused suppressed, but I wasn’t sure how long that would remain once he started to massage my front. There was this good looking, fit young man – the type of body I lusted after in my fantasies - sitting on the edge of my bed with me now naked except for a towel, massaging me. He started to work his magic over my chest and arms. “You make need to avoid my stomach, it’s still pretty tender” I warned him. He just looked at me softly and said “I know what I’m doing.” “Isn’t that the truth” I smiled back at him. “I’m going to get a bit more comfortable” he said and removed his t-shirt. He was beautiful. A well-defined chest and abdomen with a generous covering of red hair which lead down to a trail which disappeared into his track pants, he was gym fit but not a muscle hound. Powerful freckled arms with the same colored dusting of hair as on his chest, he was a real bloodnut. He smiled at me as he noticed me staring at him but didn’t say a word. He massaged my legs slowly moving up toward my groin. I felt his fingers gently brush against my balls and then slowly move the towel to one side. “Are we still ok” he looked at me? I swallowed hard and just nodded slightly. “The moment you feel uncomfortable you just say so and I will stop” he reminded me. “It’s ok” I managed to squeak out. He put some more oil onto his hands and started to massage my dick. His hands were firm and warm and the oil sensual as he roamed across my groin. Rolling my balls in one hand while jacking me slowly with his other I felt his fingers brush towards my hole. I tensed up and he instantly sensed that. “I don’t think I’m ready to go there” I looked at him. He smiled at me and moved his fingers back. Suddenly he moved his head down and gently took my dick into his mouth, pushing back my foreskin and tonguing around head. Pausing, he looked up and again said “are we still ok?” “Shit yes” was all I could get out. I had not had a blowjob for years. My sex life had dried up following the birth of our son and the only satisfaction I received for some time was courtesy of my own hand. Erin was a master and kept sucking on my dick and swirling on the head with varying intensity for what seemed like ages. His ability to bring me to near climax and then dial it back was incredible. “I’m going to cum any moment” I cried out. “Not yet, I want it to last a bit longer. I want you to experience what you may be throwing away” he said to me. He stopped what he was doing and went back to gently massaging me. He moved up the bed and stared into my eyes. Very gently he brushed his lips over mine, hesitating to see if I would respond. I gave him a light kiss and soon we were both passionately locked in a deep tongue war. “Let me look at you, I want to see all of you” I said to him. He slowly got up from the bed and slid down his track pants and briefs. He was gorgeous, what was perfect up top continued down below. Powerful fit legs and a large cock hung over his ample balls; he must have been at least 18cm long (7 inches), cut and thick, bigger and thicker than me. His pelt continued – this was all man, no clippers came near this body! I reached out to touch his cock and feel his heat; he smiled at me and asked if I liked what I saw. “It’s beautiful; you’re beautiful” was all I could say. I slowly jacked his dick with some uncertainty given the only dick I had really played with was my own. “I’d like to try and suck you off” I said to him “but I’ve never really done this before.” “I’d like that too. Just take it slowly and mind the teeth” he grinned. I turned around to face his cock. It stood proudly from his thick pubes. His nuts hanging below were firm and round. I reached out to grip his dick and slowly put my lips around the head. It was firm yet spongy on my tongue. A small amount of precum was leaking from his slit and I was surprised there was no real taste to this. I started to roll my tongue around his large cock head and went to try and fit more of his cock into my mouth. “Careful of your teeth” he hissed quietly. I looked up and mumbled “sorry” to him. “That’s ok, just don’t try too hard” he answered me. I felt him take me into his mouth again. He was a master at this. He had no trouble taking the length of my dick all the way down to where my pubes would have been had there been any. I felt my orgasm start to build again and this time I was not going to be able to hold back. “I’m going to cum this time” I cried out and Erin just continued to pleasure my cock until I erupted into his mouth. He didn’t break stride taking all of my cum and swallowing it. I must have improved my cocksucking technique to some degree because he made no more comments about being hurt. I could feel he was getting close to his own orgasm. I wanted to return the favor and swallow his load but I just wasn’t sure if I could or not. I felt him tense up and I pulled off just as he began to spew his cum, continuing to jack his dick. “I’m sorry I couldn’t swallow you” I said quietly. “No worries, you did well to get where you got” he smiled at me. “That was wonderful” I said to him. “I hope it’s somewhat restored your faith in humanity or at least the will to live” he replied. While feeling the fantastic afterglow of orgasm, deep down those nagging feelings still lurked. I wasn’t going to ruin the moment with talking about them again however. I turned around to face him and we fell into another long passionate kiss. We lay there in silence just cuddling together and at some stage must have drifted off to a deep sleep. I woke the next morning feeling better than I had for some time. I stretched out in the king bed but there was no-one else there. I sat up and said “Erin?” thinking maybe he was using the bathroom, but there was no reply. I got out of bed and wandered around the room. I noticed a note folded on the desk in the sitting room. Dear Matt You are a valued and valuable person. There are many who have obviously benefited from your ability and should have the chance to continue to do so. You will make the right choices when you are ready; I think you are already on your way. I hope I was able to show you your life is worth something. I enjoyed our time together last night. All the best in your discovery. With lots of love Erin I closed the note and sat on the couch staring at the paper in my hand. I felt quietly calm, for the first time in some weeks. I knew I would not likely ever see him again, there was no email or phone number on the note; yet he had touched my very core, a stranger who had been a friend. I took a shower and made my way up to the Executive Lounge for breakfast. I had a couple of hours before the next flight back to the Middle East; back to ‘home’ and decisions and directions to be determined. For now, I’m still alive...
  8. Rupert

    Chapter 2

    Thanks. I’m glad you’re enjoying it.
  9. As I sat in the Conrad lounge, nursing my drink, I debated with myself the offer of having a drink with Erin. Why not, I thought? What could be the harm? Sure, I’m pretty confident he was being flirty on the flight, why towards me I’m not so sure. What did he see in me? What signals, if any was I giving off? Dark thoughts swirled around my head again. This was all so confusing. What had my life become, what was it about to be? I had my second brush with ‘mortality’ uncertainty in two years; the recent destruction of my immediate family. I’m returning to the Middle East and what kind of life? What kind of life did I want given the changes which had been thrust upon me? While I had made acquaintances in my job, none were ‘good’ friends, the one solid colleague I had met my first day there had returned to his life in Europe. We communicated most days still by text or email, but there were a lot of things we had never really discussed about our lives. I thought about how anonymous this could all be. I was in a foreign city, in a big box hotel, in transit. I had a truck load of narcotics in my hand luggage – all legal, over 200 10mg tablets of morphine amongst others. I could have another couple of vodkas, go back to my room and take a handful of tablets and be the ‘guest’ discovered sometime the next day when housekeeping came to clean the room. A byline in the media – an executive in transit, recently bereaved, no suspicious circumstances – nice and easy, for me at least. Sure, family and friends may grieve for a while, my sisters in Australia would be upset I hadn’t taken their advice to stay and seek professional help for my grief. My brothers in the UK, Spain and Japan would wonder what they may have been able to do from afar, but all the uncertainty, confusion and grief would be over, wouldn’t it? I thought back to Erin’s comment in the galley earlier in the day, “Sometimes it’s easier to talk about things with strangers; we are all strangers before we become friends”, maybe I could just talk to him. Ships in the night, right? He would go his way the next day; I would go mine – whichever direction that may take. I still had all my narcotics; a few more drinks may just help along the way if that’s where I decide to go. Fuck it I thought, what did I have to lose? If it all got too much I could always leave anyhow. I gathered up my phone and room card and headed down to the lobby bar. We hadn’t actually discussed where we may meet up but I figured that would be as good a place as any to look. If he wasn’t there, nothing was lost. As I headed down in the lift I kept going over the thoughts in my head. I had never been this indecisive and confused. I’m a lawyer; I pride myself on being able to critically work through issues in a systematic way, but not this time. Not lately. I was feeling my whole being, my whole self and self-worth had been shaken to the core. I really had no idea where I was heading or even what I really wanted any more. The lift arrived at the ground floor lobby and I wandered out to find the bar. There were actually a couple of venues which may have been an option. I scanned around to see if I could see Erin. Would he be alone or together with other crew from the flight? Would I even recognise him when he was not in his uniform? I walked around the downstairs bar for a bit and was about to head upstairs to check out the other venue when I felt a hand on my arm and a voice say “You came, I was beginning to think you may not”. It was Erin standing there, dressed casually but in a fashionably contemporary way – he looked good. “Yeah, I came” I replied, with a little laugh, “I’m not really sure what I’m doing though”. “We’re having a drink, does it have to be anything more than that? You looked like you needed a friend on the flight today and I’ve been known to become friends with lots of diverse people over the years – from all sorts of situations”. I smiled at him and followed him over to a table. “Are you here with anyone else?” “No the others were here but have headed out for some food, if you hadn’t shown up I was just going to go up to bed” he responded. The waiter came over to our table, “What can I get you?” I asked him, “I’m a man of simple tastes, I’ll have a beer thanks” he said, “I’ll have a vodka tonic please” I said to the waiter. “So, Erin, tell me your story” I decided to start off the conversation. I really didn’t know anything about him and while he only knew me as the sad, teary passenger on the flight up from Melbourne – who had just lost his family, “what made you become a flight attendant?” “Well” he began “I’m Newcastle born and bred, one brother and one sister, parents still alive, a normal suburban upbringing, cricket in the backyard, beach in the summer. I studied to be a teacher and did that for a couple of years after graduating but then decided to change direction and see the world!” “Interesting choice” I replied, “has it been what you thought it may be?” “All that and more” he smiled “I’ve been to places I would never have imagined seeing, and met amazing and interesting people I could never have hoped to meet back in Newcastle – for sure” he added, laughing. Our drinks arrived and we settled in a relaxed conversation about places we had traveled to and enjoyed or disliked. After a couple more rounds of drinks, I was feeling comfortable and a bit more like my ‘normal’ self when Erin said to me “well Matt, I’ve told you a bit about me, but what about you, what’s your story?” I sighed, I guess knowing that there was no way to tell my story without it coming back to where I was now but it was only fair to share. “Well, here goes it’s very convoluted. I come from a ‘blended’ family; I have five brothers – although one died over 20 years ago and four sisters from three mothers and three fathers. I grew up all over the world. I was born in Australia but left when I was three months old and didn’t return until I was 12 and even then only stayed a few years before moving overseas again until I was 17. I went to University in Melbourne and started to study medicine but switched after a couple of years to law. My mother and stepfather wanted me to do medicine but I just couldn’t get into it, at least they weren’t too disappointed that I switched to law. My mother and father split before I was born and my mother moved to Perth from the UK just in time for me to be hatched. She already had two daughters from a previous marriage and then me! She met and married my stepfather in Perth and they soon moved to the USA. My stepfather was Canadian so I managed to wind up with Australian, British and Canadian citizenship. My father married and had a girl and two boys and then his wife died, he remarried and had another two boys so that’s where this big blended family comes from. He and his wife, two of my brothers and one sister live in the UK and one brother lives in Japan with another in Spain.” “Wow, it certainly wasn’t a ‘suburban’ upbringing” Erin exclaimed. “No, far from it” I answered, “but it has been interesting, at times challenging but interesting nonetheless”. Erin raised his eyebrow and said “Challenging? In what way?” “I didn’t have a great relationship with my stepfather, in fact we didn’t speak for the last 25 years of his life. My mother and he split when I was about 19 and she went on to marry a couple more times – Elizabeth Taylor had nothing on my mother” I chuckled. “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that” Erin said. “Don’t be, it is what it was, sometimes what appears exciting can be masking a whole lot of unpleasantness and disharmony, I was glad to be out and away from it frankly”. “How did you wind up living in the Middle East?” Erin asked. “Well, after finishing law and spending a bit of time working for one of the major law firms I decided that working for ‘billable hours’ wasn’t for me. I got a job in government, first in policy positons, and then in writing legislation, some around criminal law but then I branched into health legislation – which covers a broad area from patient rights, public health initiatives, practitioner regulation, food and water standards all sorts of things. I was lucky enough to be seconded for a time on Federal government AusAID projects in the Pacific and Asia helping to develop local legislation and then was head hunted for my current job.” “What an interesting story!” Erin said, smiling again, “but from what you spoke about on the plane that has all changed”. Here it was, I didn’t really want to go here but it was what had caused our connection in the first place. “Yes” I sighed “It has all changed, and where it will wind up I just have no idea”. “I’m a really good listener” Erin said gently “and sometimes just getting things out there takes the sting from the tail”. What did I have to lose? As I thought earlier, we were passing ships in the night, tomorrow he would fly off to London and me? I would either fly back to my empty apartment and my confusion or maybe be a byline in the paper. I signaled for another round of drinks and asked Erin if he wanted to change what he was drinking, “I’ll have what you are having this time” he replied. “two vodka tonics please and make mine a double” I said to the waiter. I swallowed hard; did I really want to do this? The evening so far had been pleasant, lighthearted and good conversation and now, now I may have to go back to thinking about all the crap I had been staggering about in. “Ok” I said “although I’m not so sure why you are interested?” Without letting him answer I launched into what I thought he may want to hear, and what I thought I may be able to divulge without becoming emotional again. “A couple of years ago I was diagnosed with cancer, I had a big operation and the follow up chemotherapy and after one year everything appeared clear, late last year I became unwell again which is when it was discovered the cancer was back with a vengeance, multiple tumors throughout my gut. The treatment wasn’t available in the Middle East so I had the option of treatment in Australia or the UK, as we were spending xmas in Australia anyhow, I elected to be assessed for surgery there. Luckily they could take me and so we went back to Australia in February. As the school year is Northern Hemisphere dates in the Middle East we had to pull my son out of school to travel. My wife and he stayed until I was out of surgery and ICU and then were heading back home when, well you know the rest” I said trying not to choke on my words. “I’m really sorry to hear that” Erin said quietly “that is a whole lot to try and put up with individually let alone when you put it all together”. We sat there in silence for a few minutes, I wasn’t sure what else to say or whether I should just try and wrap it up and leave it at that when he reached over and put his hand on mine and said “It’s awful but there’s more to your story, isn’t there?” “I’m, I’m not sure what you mean?” I said, looking at him. Who was this man? What did he see in me which could bring him to that conclusion? “I see someone who has been touched by tragedy, sure, but there is a deeper conflict in your eyes” staring straight at me, “I have a good sense of people and there is so much pain and confusion going on in your mind right now. I saw it the moment I first came up to you on the plane.” I stared back at him. What was he getting at? “I’m not sure what you mean” I answered, hesitatingly. “There’s harm in your eyes” he said pointedly, “You’re thinking of harming yourself aren’t you?” I stared at him, shocked. How could he have seen that? How could he know? “You are, aren’t you?” he asked again. “I may have” I answered softly. He squeezed my hand which he still held, “There is nothing to be gained by taking that route. I lost a couple of school friends’ years ago; all it does is leave gaps behind which others can’t understand how to fill”. I could feel my fears and emotions rising up again and I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to control them. “I’m not sure I can talk about this anymore, I think I should call it a night, it’s been great getting to know you and thank you for the shoulder.” “I don’t think you should be going anywhere on your own” he said to me, “I don’t want to read about you in a footnote in the paper and I can’t now go to bed knowing the space you are in. I’m not sure more alcohol will help this night along, how about we grab some food to soak up all these drinks?” “I’m really not hungry” I replied “I don’t eat much post-surgery.” “No worries, I’m starving, how about we head upstairs and grab some room service, I can get what I want and if you feel like a little something. I have no intention of letting you be alone with whatever are those other dark thoughts you’re harboring until we’ve had a chance to talk about them and at least get them out into the open – a problem shared is a problem halved as they say.” I was still not sure I wanted to do this, I’m not sure if I want to share any dark secrets of mine, sure they may not be that dark to others but they were my deeply hidden, suppressed secrets. Yes, I had just met this guy and yes we would probably never see each other again, his rhetoric seemed genuine but was his agenda? Did he have one or did he really just not want to see me come to harm. I figured I would just put it out there and ask him. “Why are you doing this? What is in it for you? We may never see one another again. You may talk me through tonight and fly off tomorrow without knowing what happens after this.” He sat for a minute before answering, looking down he said quietly, “I think you are wrestling with your own uncertainty about who you really are, deep down. In case you hadn’t noticed I’m gay and I think you are and have not been prepared to admit it.” I nearly spat my mouthful of drink across the table. “What makes you think I’m gay” I exclaimed, “I’ve just lost my wife of over 25 years!” “I know, but I as mentioned I have a good sense for people and from our conversations on the plane about the monologue in ‘Call me by your name’ together with what you have told me tonight, I think I’m on the money.” I was completely taken aback by what I had just heard. All the conflict and confusion started to well up again, I almost felt like I was going to be sick right then and there. He looked at me again and said “I’m right, aren’t I? Let’s go upstairs and talk about this some more where it’s a bit quieter.” I sat there staring at him. This was make or break I guess. I either admit something I wasn’t sure I was ready to admit openly or force it back down, out of sight but never out of mind. Was I ready to face my own fears? What was I about to do? To be continued.
  10. Let me introduce myself, my name is Matt Howes, I’m 50 years old, Australian and a lawyer who works for a government department in the Middle East. I’m married – or I was until I was recently widowed - and had a nine year old son, who also died in the accident which claimed his mother. I’d just spent the past ten weeks in Melbourne, Australia having treatment for a recurrence of cancer, a recurrence which came far too quickly after my initial diagnosis and treatment just on two years ago. This time, the treatment was not available in the Middle East so I was given the option to travel overseas for fairly radical and specialized surgery and chemotherapy only offered in a handful of centers around the world. My wife and I had been married for over 25 years, in fact my initial diagnosis of cancer had come just after our 25th wedding anniversary when she had finally pressured me into going to see a doctor about why I was sleeping all the time, when it was discovered my haemoglobin was down half of what it should be, and I when I also developed severe abdominal pain, they decided to have a bit of a look, finding a large malignant tumor on my bowel. Twelve months following surgery and six months of chemotherapy, neither of which I would wish on anybody, I had a follow up scan which was all clear – Woo Hoo! One year down, four to go to be ‘cured’. As I have family living all around the world, we alternated our xmas breaks between Australia and the UK. My mother had lived in Australia but had died while I was undergoing the first round of cancer treatment in 2016 so I wasn’t able to travel to her funeral. My father lived in the UK and was our son’s only remaining grandparent. As this year was the Australian xmas year and I was diagnosed with the cancer recurrence in the November, I investigated and was accepted, for treatment in Melbourne. The surgeon was able to see me while we were there over the xmas/NY break and scheduled me to return six weeks later for cyto-reductive surgery with heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy (CRS with HIPEC). I would follow up with six months of standard chemotherapy when I was back in the Middle East. We all travelled back to Melbourne in early February 2018 with me in a physically bad way. I had spent another two weeks in hospital with complications of the cancer, had lost a lot of weight due to not eating and was worried I wouldn’t even be able to travel back to Australia for the surgery. I managed to be discharged the day before I was to fly back, made it by the skin of my teeth! My wife and son stayed in Melbourne for the preoperative period and then the first few days post op, until I was discharged from my three day stay in the Intensive Care Unit, they had to get back to the Middle East as we had taken our son out of school for this trip we, and he, did not want to miss too much. It was on their way back when their plane went down on the flight from Singapore to the Middle East. I had internally struggled with my sexuality all my adolescent and adult life, was I hetero, homo or bisexual? I first had exploratory gay encounters at boarding school in grade seven and a few other encounters as I got older, but most of my experience had been with women. This was in the late seventies and early eighties when there was still a lot of stigma around homosexuality (or at least that what I convinced myself – despite having several gay friends who were proud and out), my parents very negative attitude to homosexuality (although my mother’s attitude changed later in life after she divorced my stepfather and realised she had two gay grandsons), and the specter of HIV and AIDS. I had suppressed any same sex attraction so far down I wasn’t in the closet; I was in the basement in a locked steel vault! I had resisted having children as I had always thought I would be 1) a terrible parent, I had a very poor relationship with my stepfather who I grew up with, and 2) I worried about whether my conflicted sexuality would ever come out and ‘ruin’ others’ lives (again – in my head). My wife was persistent and despite suffering early menopause we decided to go down the donor egg/IVF route. We were lucky, the first go resulted in a pregnancy and we had our son. Despite a very average sex life which became nonexistent after the birth of our son, we were very good friends – in fact best friends and still enjoyed each other’s company. I guess after over 25 years together there must be something there. Did we seek release elsewhere? I certainly didn’t with anyone other than myself and I’m fairly confident neither did she. Three days after the operation, my first day on the general ward, my family and friends in Melbourne, who were supporting me for my three week stay in the hospital and post-surgery wrestled with how to tell me about the accident; however I knew which flight they were on and nothing can stop the relentless media cycle on the TV. My two older sisters, one who lived in Melbourne and one from Sydney came in together with the surgical fellow to ‘break the news’ but by this time, despite the elephant strength pain relief I was on, I already knew the worst and was an emotional mess. The media reported that there was an explosion on board, most likely a bomb, and that there were no survivors found. Most wreckage was spotted in the sea but was limited to fragments of the plane. The ‘experts’ postulated that death would have been rapid for all those on-board. The next few weeks in hospital and post discharge went past in a haze. Not only was there the radical surgery to recover from, but poor physical condition to overcome and regain strength, overcome six months of increasing narcotic use and the fugue of losing two important people in my life. The couple of weeks post hospital had been a seemingly never ending round of doctors and lawyers appointments, first to make sure my health was recovering, second to sort out all of the crap which suddenly appears when people die. Fortunately we had redone both our wills when I was diagnosed and made sure all of our life insurances and superannuation was up to date, in case anything happened to me! Fortunately also, while I held tri-nationality, my wife and son only held Australian citizenship and here I was back in Australia to try and sort things out. As the accident had happened in international airspace, on a foreign carrier things were not to be so simple to sort. Given my mental and physical state, I was glad that our solicitor and executor were going to take over and handle most of the administrivia for me. The week before I was due to return to the Middle East I decided I needed to get some sort of control back in my life, or at least my head. I stopped all the narcotic pain relief I was on – three very shaky days later I no longer had any craving for the morphine, fentanyl, oxycodone and tramadol I had been taking like Smarties for the past six months. It was now time to return to my ‘life’ and try to make sense of what it was to be and what I was to be. There is no point in gilding the lily, I was in a very dark place and not really sure of how or why I even wanted to go on. My two sisters were worried about me, I could tell and they had made it pretty clear, they had both wanted me to stay in Australia and ‘see someone’ to help sort things out. My life, work and home were a third of the way around the world however and I needed to go back to sort all that out, and make some decisions. As I settled into my seat on Qantas flight 35 Melbourne to Singapore, a nice quiet First Class seat, the Flight Attendant came and introduced himself saying “Hi, my name is Erin and I’ll be looking after you today as we head for Singapore. May I get you something to drink before we depart?”. “Sure” I said, “A glass of champagne please”. My wife and I had always celebrated flight departures with a glass of bubbles, even if we weren’t together on the flight. The thoughts of all the travel we had done over the years and places we would no longer see together overwhelmed me and by the time Erin was bringing back the Verve Clicquot La Grande Dame I was sitting there with tears running down my face. “Are you ok?” Erin quietly asked. “Sure” I said “I’m just remembering better times, I’ll be ok”. “Anything I can do to make you more comfortable, you just let me know” he said and gently put his hand on my shoulder. “Thanks” I said as he turned to see to other passengers. On his way past a moment later he quietly handed me a packet of tissues, “Thanks again, I may need a few more packets of these” I said. “No problem, I have plenty more where they came from” he replied. It was soon time for the push back and safety video as we began the journey to Singapore. I had decided to break the journey with a night in Singapore as I had no idea when I booked the return just how physically well I would be to handle the 15 hour direct flight back, breaking it into two eight hour legs seemed like a good idea at the time. Erin came by to collect the glassware “Don’t worry, I’ll be back with a refill as soon as we are airborne.” “Thanks” I said and gave him a feeble smile. “Anything I can do, it looks like you’re not having a great time” he replied and gave my shoulder another squeeze. As I made myself comfortable for the eight hour flight up to Singapore I scrolled through the movies available on the flight. There was a reasonable selection of recent releases many of which I hadn’t seen due to either having been so unwell or they not being released in the Middle East due to ‘content’. One of these which I had read many good reviews about was ‘Call me by your name’ which had also won several film awards. I decided that I would watch it, knowing it may stoke questions which I just wasn’t ready to consider but it did look like a good film. I set myself up as the plane took off and climbed to cruising altitude. Pretty soon the seat belt sign went off and the cabin crew was moving around distributing pyjamas and amenity kits. Erin came by with another glass and the bottle of champagne. “I said I‘d be back with more” pouring me a glass, “I’ll be back to take your lunch order shortly”. Looking over he noticed the film I had started and said ”Oh, that’s a great film, beautifully shot and a great and touching story, I hope you enjoy it”. “I’ve read good things about it” I replied. I started to get the sense that he was being a bit flirty towards me, or perhaps it was just my imagination. Why would a young, fit, handsome flight attendant be at all interested in a middle aged, balding, unfit guy who looked sick? Sure I had lost a lot of weight over the course of my illness, 30kg to date, so wasn’t the obese individual I had been but I was by no means a choice physical specimen. The flight was smooth and uneventful as I watched the film and the lunch service was leisurely delivered. Erin came to set the table and each time he brought a course, he lingered, cast his eye towards the movie and gave me a warm smile. As the lunch service and the movie drew to a close and he returned to take away the service items he asked me what I thought of the film. “I loved it” I replied, “It was beautifully shot, as you mentioned, and a sensitive telling of a story of realisation and exploration. I particularly thought Elio’s fathers monologue towards the end is something everyone should be told as they are growing up – a very powerful piece and one I wish I had heard many years ago myself, it may have made my life a lot simpler, but one my parents would never have discussed”. He smiled at me again “Yes, I found it moving also”. “Is there anything else I can get you or would you like me to make up your bed?” “Yes please, I’ll take a vodka tonic and please put the mattress pad down, I don’t think I’ll sleep but it’ll be a bit more comfortable”. “I’ll be right back” and he shortly returned with my drink and the bedding. I got up to move out of the way for him to do what he needed to prepare the seat and as he passed behind me I felt his hand on the small of my back. I raised my eyebrows (what was left of them after the chemo) and he blushed and said “Oh, I’m sorry”. “No drama” I replied but really did wonder whether this man was trying to flirt with me. Surely there were far more interesting and attractive passengers to flirt with and ones who didn’t spend the beginning of the flight in tears. I settled back down and scrolled through to find another movie to watch. Five and half hours to go to Singapore and while I was still very easily tired I didn’t want to sleep as I needed to start getting my body clock back to Middle Eastern time which meant adjusting to local time as I travelled. I decided on ‘I, Tonya’ another movie I had heard about but not seen. It was entertaining but a fairly typical Hollywood production, ok but nothing out of the box. I got up and went forward to use the toilet and when I came out Erin was alone in the galley. “How’s it going, may I get you anything?” he asked. “Sure, I’ll have another vodka tonic please.” I decided to stand for a bit and have a chat; most of the other passengers in the small forward cabin of the A380 were either sleeping or watching the entertainment, except the one guy sitting in front of me who was banging away on his laptop. “Do you get to stop over in Singapore or do you have to turn around and head back to Australia?” I asked Erin as he made up my drink. “We get to stop the night and most of tomorrow and then some of us take QF 1 on to London in the evening, and have a couple of days there before heading back home” he said. “Where are you heading to? Is Singapore for business or pleasure?” “Just transiting through although staying the night, I’m on my way home to the Middle East, although I’m not altogether sure it’s where I want to be any more”. He looked at me and raised an eyebrow, “You work there?” “Yes, I’ve been there about four and half years” I replied. “Do you have family there with you?” I had to turn away at that point as I felt my eyes well up again and the tears begin to fall. “I’m sorry!” Erin said with a look of concern, “I’ve said something I shouldn’t have”. “No, it’s not your fault. I’ve just been in Australia for major surgery and my wife and son were on the flight which was blown up a few weeks ago while they were on their way back home. I’m still coming to terms with the fact I’ll be walking back into an empty apartment save for the fact it will look like the home we left as a family”. I couldn’t help the tears at this point and was hunting for a tissue. Erin produced yet another packet of tissues and then wrapped his arms around me in a hug; perhaps not standard operating instructions for flight attendants, but it felt warm and welcomed, and maybe it lingered on just that bit? He smelt wonderful and his embrace was strong and firm. “I’m sorry” I said, “I need to get my emotions under control, but life has gone from bad to shit pretty quickly of late. I’m sure you don’t need to hear about it though”. He smiled at me again “Sometimes it’s easier to talk about things with strangers; we are all strangers before we become friends”. I thanked him for his kindness and said I’d get back to my seat, he followed me back with my drink and as I sat said to me, “I meant what I said up there” and gave my shoulder another squeeze as he turned to go. Surely this man is flirting, but he’s a flight attendant off to ports distant tomorrow and I’m heading back, to what? What would I do with a flirting man anyhow? While I may fantasize about having a gay encounter and have watched gay porn and read gay stories (and still do), that’s as far as it went. My previous fumbling explorations were around thirty years ago and I had just lost my heteronormative family. Not to mention I’m living in an Islamic State where homosexuality is still illegal. I tried to push these thoughts from my mind but when I did that I was flooded with thoughts of loss and the stresses I had been under for the past six months. In moments like this it felt like the whole world was collapsing in on me, the black hole just getting deeper and deeper. Everything around me was becoming suffocating and the anxiety and panic rising up to overcome me. I had to get a grip, we would be landing in Singapore shortly and I had to hold it together to clear immigration and get to my hotel. Once there I could allow myself to sink back in to my darkness, at least until the flight tomorrow. Erin came around again, this time with landing cards to be filled in for Singapore immigration, “You mentioned you were stopping the night, you will need one of these” handing me a card and a pen. “Where are you staying?” he asked. “I’m at the Conrad” I said. “Really, that’s where we are put up for the night also, perhaps I’ll see you later” and gave me a wink and a smile. Alright, this guy was definitely flirting. “Ok” I said, “That would be nice” and smiled back. The maelstrom of thoughts that were racing around my head was leaving me even more anxious and very confused. What was I thinking? What was I thinking may even happen? What was I thinking of doing? This was scary and I started to think that I was reading far too much into this. He was just being nice to someone who was having a hard time. The pilot came on the PA and gave us the usual arrival information about conditions in Singapore, local time and thanks for flying with Qantas. The cabin crew came through to prepare the cabin for landing, collecting up service items and asking for seats to be put upright and blinds opened. The cabin manager came through to personally thank us for flying with them today and looking forward to welcoming us again. Erin came by and crouching down said he hoped I was feeling better and that he was actually looking forward to catching up for a drink later at the hotel. “Sure” I said and smiled at him; still very conflicted and now sure it was not a hollow invitation, but unsure if I could actually go through with meeting up. Landing in Singapore was its usual efficient process, clearing immigration and collecting luggage was done so quickly and easily, why can’t other airports do it as well? My car service however was not. I use this service all over the world but the only times I have had problems are when I land in Singapore, they are ok to bring me back to the airport but always late collecting from a flight. The car eventually arrived but soured my mood even more when the driver attempted to make his tardiness my fault (not quite sure how he arrived at that conclusion) anyhow, I had already rung and complained about him not being there and they had adjusted the charges accordingly. After a quick trip from Changi to the Conrad, I was welcomed back and promptly taken up to my suite. The porter reminded me the Executive Lounge was on the 35th floor and that evening drinks had started a little while earlier. I thanked him and moved my things around the room, plugging in devices and logging on to the Wi-Fi. This is when I would have put through a facetime call to home to let my family know I had arrived safely and find out what kind of day they had had, but not anymore. I felt the waves of sadness wash over me again and decided I wasn’t ready to wallow just yet. I would head upstairs and have another drink and maybe a bite to eat, although I didn’t do much eating any more, just no appetite and since the surgery I had completely lost my taste for red wine, something which was unfathomable given my prior love (probably too much love) of it. I went up to the lounge and ordered another vodka tonic and browsed the buffet of canapes, taking a couple of chicken satay sticks and vegetable curry puffs I decided that would do for dinner. My drink arrived and as I sat there gazing out at the city I thought about the offer to have a drink downstairs with my friendly flight attendant. Did I want to do this? What did having a drink with him mean? Was I reading things into it in my conflicted state? Will I, won’t I? To be continued.
  11. A letter a week will take six years! i have a sense this is going to be challenging, but worthwhile, to read.
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