Long before my accident, long before I had even met a guy named Chris and fallen in love and moved into a beautiful house that overlooked a wide river, I had another life.
It wasn’t a great life; it was a life that was just starting out, filled with making mistakes, suffering disappointments, and quite often, loneliness.
I did all the things that most silly young buggers who have just left home for the first time tend to do. I was testing the waters, seeing how far I could go without facing total disaster.
It was fun, but even I have to admit that I wasn’t entirely happy. What I actually wanted, or what I needed, however, seemed so far out of reach as to almost be impossible, so I spent my days, and especially my nights, mostly disappointed.
I’ve told you my life story before haven’t I? Getting a job in a department store at seventeen, then leaving home at eighteen and taking a transfer to the big city, setting out on life’s sometimes wonderful, and sometimes rocky, journey.
Oh yeah, and did I tell you the bit about me being gay? If you didn’t know already, maybe you figured that out when I mentioned Chris.
Okay, so I guess that’s the start of it, but by no means is it all there is to tell. Oh, no sir!
* * *
So, as I said, there I was, eighteen years old, and living away from home for the very first time.
It was around the middle of November when I said goodbye to my parents and hopped on a bus bound for Sydney, where a Management Traineeship with the department store chain I worked for awaited me.
When I got off that bus I knew no one, I didn’t know where the hell I was, and it wasn’t even six in the morning yet. We had crossed the Sydney Harbour Bridge and I was immediately struck by the colours of the city in the dawn light, pale hues of purple and blue, interspersed with bright neon in red and green and yellow and purple. The sight was truly captivating. I had finally arrived in the promised land, I thought.
When the bus pulled into the depot in the heart of the city and the twenty two passengers and one driver climbed down on to the pavement, we soon found that it was a cold morning. At the drivers suggestion we hurried inside the depot then we all waited while our luggage was unloaded onto trolleys to eventually be wheeled in for us to collect.
While I was waiting I grabbed a coffee from the vending machine and cupped the hot container in my hands, trying in vain to warm them up slightly, while also sipping at the murky liquid and trying to warm me up inside as well. Soon the trolley came in through the sliding glass doors, bringing with it another shot of cold air, and twenty one of the twenty two people descended on it like vultures, while I stood back for a few minutes. When most of them were gone, scurrying back out through the doors into the cold summer morning in search of another bus or a taxi, I soon found my brown suitcase and dragged it to the floor beside me, then after swallowing the last of my coffee I picked up the suitcase and headed for the door also.
There was a taxi rank just down from the depot, but at the moment it stood empty, with any vehicles that had been waiting having been quickly snapped up by the first flush of passengers who had hit the ground running.
‘There’ll be some more along shortly,’ this guy said to me as I approached. He had also been one of the bus passengers. There were three other fellow travellers in front of him.
I guessed him to be around thirty, dressed in jeans and a blue and green rugby top, with short black hair and a tanned, almost dark, complexion. I found myself having thoughts about him that I just knew my parents wouldn’t approve of.
‘Thanks,’ I replied.
‘Where are you headed?’ he enquired.
‘Errr . . . Chatswood,’ I replied. ‘Starting a new job.’
‘Ahhh . . . first time in the city then?’
‘Yeah, something like that.’
‘You’ll get the hang of living here pretty quickly,’ he offered. ‘At least you’re not going to be right in the middle of the city, but it’s still close enough for you to have a life and enjoy yourself. Public transport isn’t too bad, there’s always a bus or train you can catch.’
‘I hope so,’ I said.
Just then a taxi pulled up and two of the women in the line climbed in, before it again sped off. Moments later another taxi arrived and the next man in the queue was soon driven away as well.
‘Which way are you headed?’ I asked my companion.
‘Maroubra. To the south,’ he replied, before then putting his hand into his pocket and pulling out a business card and passing it to me. ‘The name’s Dan,’ he said as he looked me up and down. ‘Maybe we’ll bump into each other some place?’
Suddenly my head started spinning. Was he coming on to me? Fuck, I’ve only been in the city five minutes!
‘Nate,’ I said. I reached out my hand and he shook it.
‘Give me a call some time if you feel like it,’ he said. ‘I know what it can be like when you first get here and don’t know anyone. I’ll buy you a drink some time. I often hang out on Oxford Street on Friday or Saturday nights if you’d like me to show you around.’
I had no idea, at the time, just where, or what, Oxford Street was, but as I would find out later it seems like he had me summed up pretty quickly. It was, in fact, the heart of Sydney’s gay community.
‘Errr . . . thanks,’ I replied, as another taxi arrived. ‘That’d be great.’
‘Well, this is my ride. I hope things go well for you here,’ he said, before opening the door of the cab and climbing in.
I watched it as it drove away and saw Dan turn in his seat and give me one last look. I was sure I saw him smile.
I didn’t have to wait too long for another cab.
‘Where to?’ the driver asked in a thick Middle Eastern accent as I climbed in.
‘Chatswood,’ I answered and pretty soon I was on my way.
* * *
The drive through the city and back out over the Harbour Bridge as the morning was coming alive proved an interesting one, travelling through new developments as well as many old and established areas. I sat forward in the seat, looking out the window and trying to take in as much of the city as I could, finding myself surprised at the amount of work being carried out on buildings and roads.
I had a map of the city with me and was checking off in my mind where we were going, finding each suburb and landmark as we motored along. I saw the driver glance at the map several times, which was good, as at least he knew that I had some idea of where I was going and he wouldn’t be able to swindle me out of extra money by taking the long way around.
‘Whereabouts in Chatswood?’ the driver asked as we got closer to our destination.
‘Twin Pines shopping centre, please,’ I replied, to which he gave me a nod.
Today was Wednesday and I wasn’t really due to start work until the following Monday, so I had a few days in which to get myself settled and to have a look around. Maybe my new friend Dan might want to show me around, I wondered.
I had spoken with the Personnel Manager on the phone several times in the weeks leading up to my leaving home and she suggested that when I arrived I should go and see her first thing when I got there. She had apparently arranged some temporary accommodation for me while I found somewhere to live and would give me the details, as well as introduce me to some of the people I would be working with.
After being dropped off outside the shopping centre and paying the driver I headed inside, carrying my suitcase with me, as there was nothing else I could do with it for now. I soon found the store I was looking for, however, as it was still twenty minutes away from eight o’clock it hadn’t opened as yet, so I waited on a seat in the plaza.
Apart from a few people starting to open their shop fronts and set up for the day, as well as some other people entering through a side door, there really was very little activity in the place.
I noticed a small coffee shop open up not too far from where I sat, so I decided another coffee, and perhaps something to eat wouldn’t hurt me. I picked up my bag and set off for the shop, going straight to the counter and placing an order, before then taking a seat at one of the tables outside, so I could keep an eye out for when the main store opened.
Presently a waitress brought my coffee and toasted sandwich to my table, and as I watched the morning come alive I ate my first Sydney meal . . . if that’s what it could be called.
At precisely eight-thirty the main doors of my new workplace opened, so I got to my feet and picked up my suitcase and headed in that direction, eventually finding myself standing at a Service Desk located just inside the main doors.
‘Can I help you?’ the woman behind the counter asked me.
‘I’m here to see Mrs. McNaught,’ I said, while trying to muster as much self confidence as I could.
The woman looked me up and down and I thought I could see the faintest of smirks appear on her face. I guess I probably looked to be something of a sight, having just spent fourteen hours on a bus, but at this hour of the morning I was beyond caring, even if this was my first appearance here. I already had the job, so what could they do?
The woman picked up a telephone and dialled through to what I guessed was the personnel office, only to place the handset back down a few moments later.
‘She doesn’t seem to be in her office,’ the woman said. ‘I’ll page her over the P.A. system for you,’ which she promptly did.
‘Thank you,’ I said to her.
A short time later the phone rang.
‘Service Desk,’ the woman said as she answered it. ‘Yes Julie, there’s a young man here to see you . . . . . . Okay, I’ll let him know and send him down.’
‘She asked me to send you down to her office,’ she said. ‘If you walk straight down this main aisle until you hit the back wall, then turn left, you’ll see the Lay-By Department just in front of you. Mrs. McNaught will meet you there.’
‘Thank you,’ I replied, then picked up my suitcase and started to walk away.
‘Are you one of the newbies?’ the woman asked me.
‘I guess so, yeah.’
‘You can leave your bag here if you like. They get a bit funny about people carrying cases around like that. Wouldn’t want you to get stopped by security before you had even started.’
‘Thanks. I appreciate that.’
‘Just pop it around the side there,’ she said, pointing toward a short alley between her desk and the first in a line of cash registers. ‘I’ll keep an eye on it for you.’
With a nod I headed toward where she directed me and dropped my bag, the headed down the aisle to meet my new boss.
* * *
It didn’t take long for me to settle in to my new life, even if working in a city store was nothing at all like it was back home, with deliveries in particular coming at the oddest of hours – which I had to often be on hand for, much to my chagrin.
As for my workmates, well, they all seemed to be accepting of me and I got on well with them, even if I wasn’t what you could call particularly close to any of them. Of those who I particularly liked, there were a couple of guys that were in a similar situation to me, Simon McIntosh, who had started just after I had, and Garry Raffael, who had arrived just this week. Simon was a typical Aussie bloke, into fast cars and fun times, and I figured he would be a lot of fun to be around. Too bad he was straight. Garry, on the other hand, was quieter and rather reserved, although I could possibly put that down to his being the new boy in a strange environment. It wasn’t that long ago that I was just like him, so I always tried to help him out wherever I could.
It was certainly different to life back in the sticks, but I was enjoying it. Sure, I missed my friends, and my parents of course (despite the reasons for my wanting to leave there in the first place), and I often phoned home to talk to them all; especially in those first few weeks.
I had met some interesting people, including Dan (from my first day in the city), who had, of course, pegged me right when he mentioned Oxford Street on that first day. We had met there that first Friday and I’d had a great night out, yet even after my introduction to that part of town I was yet to do anything more than dance with a few guys and have just one make out session with a cute guy, which was interrupted by others hanging around us and freaking us both out.
There had been several reasons for my wanting to move away from home, which included facing up to the harsh realities of life in the country, where decent jobs were few and far between in small towns. It is a fact of life that we all need to earn a living to pay our own way, and this was brought home to me all too well when my parents started asking me to pay board, even from my meagre part-time wage from my first job, you know, now that I had left school and was earning some money.
‘A man has got to stand on his own two feet,’ my father had lectured me when I protested to him.
‘Your father is right dear,’ my mother had added. ‘We can’t support you forever, you know.’
I couldn’t win, so I figured that if I was going to earn my own money, then I wanted to spend it on me, and not have to hand over a huge chunk of it to someone else every pay day . . . although it wasn’t until much later that I realised I was now actually handing over even more than that each week.
Then there was the fact that my father and I had, for as long as I can remember, fought like cats and dogs. Nothing I ever did was good enough for him. None of my friends were ever anything more than no-hopers, bludgers or poofters. That’s just the way it was. Just the way he was.
I realised that I needed to get out of there and live my own life and be myself, rather than have to conform to the unrealistic image of the perfect son they thought I was, so that was when my plans for my life started to change. Big time.
So, there I was, in the middle of a strange city, living in a single room in a boarding house (at least until such times as I could find — or afford — some place better), sharing a bathroom, working my butt off until the oddest of hours, and with Christmas bearing down on me fast.
Do you get the picture?
Jingle Bells. Urrggh!
Silent Night. Hmmm . . . that one’s not much better!
When A Child Is Born. C’mon, give me a break!
Yeah. I know what you’re saying now. What a miserable son-of-a-bitch this guy is.
Well, you may be right, but let me tell you, when you’re working in a department store for twelve hours a day in the lead up to Christmas, which is of course the busiest time of year, and you’ve been listing to Christmas Carols being piped over the P.A. system since before the start of December, I can guarantee you that by the time you’re starting that final count down to Christmas day the sound of carols are the last thing you that you are interested in.
By the time I made it back to my little room each night I was exhausted, and there very few thoughts of going out on the town even entering my head.
As Christmas drew closer my work hours were getting longer and before I knew it we were just days away from the main event. On the weekend before Christmas I made my weekly call home to my parents. I hadn’t really given much thought about what I would be doing myself at Christmas . . . I guess I figured I would be going home to see my parents, but when my mother asked me what I was doing, then said they would be visiting her sister’s place themselves, who lived even further away from where I now was, I suddenly found myself out in the cold . . . even if it was the middle of summer!
It probably didn’t matter, as I had to work right up until closing time on Christmas Eve anyhow, and I didn’t have any means of getting home anyhow, so it looked like I would be spending Christmas alone.
When that realisation finally sank in I suddenly found myself deeply depressed. I was truly on my own now, with no one to share these moments with.
So yeah, I think that maybe I deserve to be forgiven my Ebenezer Scrooge moment . . . just this once. Don’t you?
Yeah. I thought so. Thanks for understanding. It certainly feels good to be able to get that off my chest.
For the rest of the week I did my job and went home to my little room every night, ate, slept, and then did it all again. Work was frantic, with more people in the store than I had ever seen in my life, yet the fact that I would be spending Christmas alone was never far from my mind. Let’s face it though, what could I do, so I just ploughed on through it and tried my best not to think about it.
When Christmas Eve finally arrived the morning was crazy at work, with everyone trying to grab those last minute gifts, but as the day wore on things finally started to quieten down, and by mid-afternoon it may have still been busy, but at least we had time to catch our breath, start to tidy the place up, and re-stock the shelves, in preparation for the sales that would start straight after Boxing Day.
When we finally closed the doors at six o’clock we were all exhausted, but looking forward to the two day break that the Christmas holidays offered. Most of my fellow employees were going away to visit family, or spending a couple of quiet days at home, and I was kind of jealous of that. When I was asked what I would be doing I simply said that I would be spending it quietly, adding that it would be good to have a couple of days to get over the last week.
I neglected to tell anyone that I would be alone, that I would probably be depressed and that I was really hoping that someone . . . anyone, might invite me to share at least part of the day with them.
Being one of the Management Trainees I was expected to help out the Senior Managers with shutting the store down, so once all the staff had wished each other a Merry Christmas and the general staff had left there were only four of us left in the place – the Assistant Manager, Mr. Chung, one of the Area Managers, Brian Sammon, and two trainees, being me and Simon McIntosh.
We did the rounds and locked the place down, put all the cash away in the vault, switched off everything that needed to be switched off and then finally, about half an hour after we had farewelled everyone else, let ourselves out into the summer evening.
Being the middle of summer it was still light outside and after we finally locked the door and said our farewells we went our separate ways.
‘You want a lift?’ Simon asked me as we walked down through the car park.
‘No, I’m okay, thanks. The walk home will do me the world of good . . . help clear my head a bit.’
‘Yeah, I know what you mean. I have a Guns ‘N Roses cassette that will do that for me, I hope,’ he laughed.
‘Yeah, I guess that could work too,’ I replied.
We came to his car and stopped. It was an old Ford Escort, a piece of crap, but he obviously loved it, judging by the condition it was in. At least he had a car, I thought.
‘Well mate, I hope you have a good Christmas,’ he said to me as he held out his hand.
‘Thanks,’ I replied. ‘You too.’
We shook and then he pulled his keys from his pocket and unlocked the door.
‘See you in a couple of days then,’ he said.
‘Yeah, mate. Have a good one.’
As he climbed in I set off down the road, heading towards where I lived, which was about six blocks away. A few moments later Simon zoomed past, blowing his horn and giving me a wave as he went. I waved back, and then he was gone.
That was when it hit me. For the next two days I really was alone.
When I finally made it back to my room I locked myself inside and lay down on my bed. The empty feeling I had inside me, as I mulled over in my mind the predicament I now found myself in, was really gnawing away at me and it wasn’t long before I could feeling it starting to overwhelm me.
As I lay there in the falling darkness I just couldn’t help it . . . I started to cry.
* * *
The lady who owned the boarding house, Mrs. O’Halloran, had told her few residents that she would supply breakfast for everyone on Christmas morning, but then would be heading off to visit family for the rest of the day, so for lunch and dinner that night we would have to fend for ourselves.
When morning came I awoke early, to sunlight streaming in through my window.
I had fallen asleep still in my work clothes and as I sat up and noticed the couple of presents I had bought sitting on my dresser, being for each of my parents (oops, I didn’t post them) and one for Mrs. O’Halloran, I quickly realised it was Christmas Day.
My first Christmas away from my family. Fuck. What a day this was about to be!
I got to my feet and stripped off all my clothes, before then catching my reflection in the large mirror attached to the back of my bedroom door. I paused and looked at myself. It wasn’t what I thought was a pretty sight. I had lost weight since I had arrived here and while I had never been a solid looking guy, right now I was decidedly skinny. I also needed a haircut, which it seems was one of the many things that I didn’t manage to find time for in the lead up to Christmas.
Pulling a pair of shorts and a t-shirt from my dresser drawer I pulled them on, picked up my towel and toiletries bag, and then headed for the communal bathroom, hoping like hell that no one else had beaten me to it.
The house was quiet and there didn’t appear to be anyone else up as yet, and when I reached the bathroom I found it vacant, so I went in and locked the door, before starting the water and then quickly stripping off.
When I stepped in the feeling of hot water rushing over me was wondrous and for a long time I just stood there, letting the water wash away the worries and the tensions of the past few weeks. Eventually I decided that I needed to wash myself and so I soaped up, building up a healthy lather all over my body, including around my rapidly expanding cock. I loved the feeling of soap on my body, and especially on my privates, and it wasn’t long before I had built up a steady rhythm, stroking myself with one hand, while with my other hand I reached around behind me and started probing at my hole.
That seemed to do the trick, and before I knew it I could feel the tension starting to build deep down inside me. With a few more strokes that tension soon built up to the max, as my body arched and bucked, then with a bang I exploded, splattering the shower wall with rope after rope of my seed.
When I was done, having milked the last drops from the end of my cock, I collapsed back against the wall, gasping for breath, yet fully satisfied, before eventually recovering and using my hand to scrub and wash all evidence of my sins away.
After rinsing myself clean I turned off the water and stepped from the shower, then collected my towel and started drying myself.
I was starting to feel better, but I had no doubt that as the day wore on and the loneliness once again took over, I would probably be feeling down again by the time the sun was setting.
When finally dried and dressed I picked up my things and opened the door, the headed back down the hall toward my room. As I passed the kitchen I noticed my land-lady in there starting to prepare breakfast, so I stuck my head in the door and said, ‘Good morning, Mrs. O. and a Merry Christmas to you.’
She turned around and smiled at me. ‘Good morning to you too Nate. And a Merry Christmas as well. You’re up bright and early this morning.’
‘Well, I crashed early last night . . . so you know what they say, early to bed, early to rise, or something like that.’
‘At least you have a couple of days off before you have to go back though. That might give you a chance to recharge your batteries.’
‘I’m hoping so,’ I replied. ‘I’ll be back in a minute and will give you a hand if you like.’
‘That would be nice, dear. Thank you.’
I retreated the rest of the way down the hall and dropped my belongings on my bed, then picked up the small gift I had bought for her and returned to the kitchen.
Mrs. O. was slicing off some ham when I walked into the room but quickly stopped when she saw me there holding out the present for her.
‘Oh dear, you didn’t have to do that,’ she said to me, as she accepted the package.
‘Of course I did,’ I replied, then stepped forward and gave her a kiss on the cheek.
Not being very experienced at buying presents I wasn’t sure what I should get her, so I settled on one of those small gift packs with scented hand creams and stuff, which one of the girls at the shop wrapped for me.
‘Well, it just so happens that I’ve gotten all my boarders a little something as well, but I think we’ll open them all once we sit down for breakfast. Now, would you like to cut some more of this ham for me please, while I start some eggs and toast, and then hopefully we’ll have everything ready by the time everyone is up.’
‘Sure,’ I replied with confidence, although I wasn’t quite sure just exactly how much confidence I should place in my kitchen skills.
At least this morning after a good nights sleep and a tension relieving shower, I was feeling much better than I had the previous evening, so maybe the day wouldn’t turn out quite so bad after all.
I helped Mrs. O. set the table, to which she added all the Christmas trimmings, right down to the bon-bons, so by the time we heard the sound of the other few residents stirring elsewhere in the house I was actually looking forward to breakfast.
One by one the others came in after washing or showering, to be greeted with a Merry Christmas from both Mrs. O. and me.
First there was David, who was from Melbourne but worked in Sydney in some office in the city. He was in his fourties I think and would be flying back to Melbourne this morning to spend Christmas with his family.
The next one in was Jackie. I wasn’t quite sure what exactly she did, as we didn’t often cross paths, but she too would be heading out to see family today.
Then there has Jason, who said that one of his workmates would be picking him up this morning so he would be spending Christmas day with him and his family.
‘Oh dear,’ Mrs. O’Halloran said to me, once they had told us their plans. ‘I feel so guilty now . . . you’re going to be here all alone.’
‘It’s okay,’ I answered. ‘It’ll mean I can catch up on some sleep.’
‘But . . . but it’s Christmas!’ Jackie exclaimed.
‘It’s just another day,’ I replied, even if deep down inside I could already feel the knots starting to tighten.
‘Well, let’s not mope around. It is Christmas after all, so before we have breakfast there’s a small matter to attend to,’ Mrs. O. said. Crossing the room she opened one of the cupboards and produced a box, which she carried across to the kitchen table and sat it there, before opening it.
I suspected these were her presents that she had mentioned earlier.
‘Now, I have a little custom,’ she began. ‘Every year at Christmas time I like to make sure that those of my boarders who are still here for Christmas don’t miss out, so I would just like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas, before we go our separate ways today.’
She then dipped into the box and started bringing out presents, handing each of us a brightly coloured package, with me also receiving a little pat on my arm and a conspiratorial wink as she did so. We all thanked her for the gifts then each of the other three placed their gifts on the table and excused themselves for a moment, returning to their rooms, only to come back moments later bearing gifts of their own for Mrs. O.
While they were gone Mrs. O. retrieved my gift to her from where she had sat it, and she and I were both sitting at the table when the others returned.
‘Thank you. That’s very sweet of you,’ she said in turn to the others as she accepted their gifts. We then sat down and opened them all.
David and I both received very fancy looking ties, seeing as we were both in the business world as she put it, while Jackie received a scarf, and Jason received a silver key ring, which was for the car he still had at home and was doing up.
Mrs. O. received chocolates and several gift packs, and seemed quite happy with her haul.
‘Thank you everyone for helping make an old lady very happy on this important day, and now that that’s over, I think it’s time for breakfast. Nate, if you would do the honours, seeing as you helped put it all together this morning . . .’
I got up from the table and walked to the wall oven, where everything was being kept warm, which I opened. Grabbing a tea-towel I picked up the plate of eggs and carried it across to the table, followed by the toast and then the ham from the refrigerator.
While I was doing that I noticed Jason get up from the table and grab the coffee pot, which had been gurgling happily away, then poured coffee for everyone.
There was no doubt about her, old Mrs. O. had us all well trained.
After waiting for her to help herself to the offerings the rest of us then helped ourselves, and for the next half hour we ate and chatted in pleasant company, before eventually people started saying they needed to get moving.
As they said their farewells and one by one left us, I volunteered to do the clean-up, starting on that right after breakfast, while Mrs. O. went and got herself ready for her visit to her sisters; after all, I figured, I had nothing else planned for the day.
Mrs. O. came out a few minutes later all dressed up for Christmas dinner, carrying a rather large bag with presents in it.
‘Would you be a dear and take these out to the car for me?’ she asked. ‘I’ll just grab the deserts from the fridge that I have to take with me.’
‘Sure thing,’ I answered, while taking the bag from her, which I soon found out weighed a ton.
I headed out toward where her car was parked behind the house. It was a 1974 Holden HQ Kingswood sedan, just like the one my grand-parents once owned, and was the classic only ever driven on Sundays kind of car.
Opening the back door I placed the bag on the seat and turned around to find Mrs. O. coming down the path carrying a dish of her famous trifle, made from sponge cake, custard and jelly, with just a dash of Sherry, while a pavlova balanced on top (a home made one, definitely not a bought one in a box).
‘Here, let me,’ I said to her as I reached out and took them from her, then placed them carefully on the seat.
‘Thank you dear,’ she said. ‘Now are you sure you’re going to be all right on your own? It’s not right a young person spending Christmas alone.’
‘I’ll be fine. Thank you. I’ll give mum and dad a call around lunch time when they’re at my aunt’s place, then after that I’ll simply relax.’
‘Well, you enjoy yourself. There’s plenty of food in the fridge, including another trifle, so you just help yourself.’
‘Thank you very much. I will do that!’
With a nod she climbed into her car and started it up, then a few moments later she drove down the driveway and was gone.
When I went back inside I switched on the radio while I started the dishes. It was a talk-back show, with people ringing in from all over the country to send Christmas greetings to their friends and relatives, and I found their stories, recollections and tall-tales all quite interesting and enjoyable.
When the announcer came back on after playing a song he said that he had a special guest on the line, who proved to be someone from the Salvation Army. As I listened I found out that there were many people who would be spending Christmas alone, which immediately caught my attention and caused me to stop what I was doing for a moment and concentrate on what was being said.
‘It doesn’t matter whether you are rich or poor, or old or young, but there are many reasons why people spend Christmas alone,’ the man was saying. ‘For some it is because of family breakdowns. For others it may be because they have no families left, or they might simply be new to an area where they don’t know anyone yet, such as people who transfer because of their job.’
Oh wow! That’s me!
‘So, how about these people then?’ the announcer said. ‘Is there somewhere where they can go for Christmas so that they aren’t spending it alone?’
‘Absolutely,’ the Salvation Army guy said. ‘Every Christmas the Salvo’s open up a number of centres across the city on Christmas Day and invite those who are less fortunate, or have no one to celebrate Christmas with, into our hearts to supply them with a proper Christmas dinner and some companionship, and all free of charge.’
‘That’s wonderful,’ the announcer said. ‘And where exactly are these centres?’
‘Well, there is the citadel in the centre of the city, in George Street, but there are also centres that will be opening today in Blacktown and Campbelltown and Chatswood . . .’
At the mention of Chatswood my ears really pricked up. I knew where that centre was, as I had passed it quite a few times on my walks around the area after work.
Maybe my Christmas wouldn’t quite be so lonely after all?
* * *
After finishing the cleaning up I checked the time and found it was still only a little after ten, so I thought I would try my aunt’s place to see if my parents had arrived yet.
Using the phone we all shared in the hallway, I sat down on the stool that was there for that purpose and dialled the number. It was answered on the third ring by one of my cousins, Thomas.
‘Hello, Thomas, Merry Christmas!’ I cheerily said to him.
He was a few years younger than me, I guessed he would be about fifteen or sixteen.
‘Errr, Merry Christmas,’ he replied somewhat tentatively. ‘Ummm . . . who is this?’
‘It’s Nate, doofus. You know, your cousin!’
‘Oh, hey! How are you?’
‘Not bad thanks. How about you? Was Santa good to you this year?’
‘Yeah, all right I guess.’
‘Have mum and dad arrived there yet?’
‘Yep, about ten minutes ago. Hang on and I’ll get them for ya.’
I waited for a few moments and then heard him call out to my folks, then shortly afterwards I heard the phone get picked up and my mother say, ‘Hello dear. Merry Christmas!’
‘And a Merry Christmas to you too mum. Did you have a good trip to Aunt Rose’s place?’
‘Oh yes dear . . . you know your father, slow and steady wins the race. My, there were some ratbags on the road though.’
‘I can just imagine.’
‘So, how are you? We have your presents at home . . . I just didn’t get them posted, I’m sorry.’
‘That’s okay,’ I replied. ‘I haven’t had a chance to post yours yet either, I’m sorry.’
‘Has your work been busy?’
‘Very. I’m so glad I have a couple of days off now.’
‘And what are you doing today? Are you going any where?’
‘I’m not sure yet. I’ll probably just stay here. Everyone else has gone for the day.’
‘That’s nice dear,’ she said, most probably without even realising what it was she was saying. She could be something of an airhead at times, my mother.
‘Yeah, well, you better put dad on please so I can wish him a Merry Christmas, then I had better get off the phone, otherwise the land-lady might get upset about the big phone bill.’
‘I’ll just get him for you. Hang on a minute.’
I didn’t bother to tell her that I sure as hell didn’t have any place else to go.
I waited for a few moments more and then I heard the receiver get picked up again.
‘Hello,’ said the gruff voice of my father.
‘Hello Dad. Merry Christmas,’ I said to him.
‘Errr . . . yeah, and a Merry Christmas to you too Nate. How’s things in the Big Smoke?’
‘Busy,’ I replied, then adding, ‘Your presents are on the way. Did you have a good trip down to Aunt Rose’s?’
‘Oh, you know, your mother never stops complaining about my driving, so it was fun.’
‘I can imagine.’
‘Anyhow, this call must be costing someone a fortune, so we better not talk for too long.’
‘No, I don’t want to get in trouble with the land-lady.’
‘Okay then. Well, you have a good day, and we’ll talk to you soon,’ he said, then before I could say anything else I heard the sound of the receiver going CLUNK back down onto the phone.
‘Okay then, I’ll try,’ I said into thin air, then dropped the receiver back down onto the phone at me end as well.
For a long time I just sat there, not really knowing what to do. I couldn’t believe that my own folks would just fob me off like that, without hardly even enquiring about what I was going to be doing, or if I was well, or sick, or . . . or . . . any fucking thing!
Years later, when I would be thinking back on just what happened between me and my parents, I put this day down as being a turning point in our whole relationship. I mean, before that Christmas day we had never really had that great a relationship to start with, but after that Christmas it all seemed to go downhill from there . . . not in a physical sense, like we had a fight or anything, it was more like we just drifted apart, and the more time that passed, well, the further apart we seemed to get. It would end up taking something of a big-bang to get us back together, but that didn’t come until later.
When I eventually snapped out of my little daze and dragged myself to my feet I made a decision. I was going to go to lunch with the Salvo’s, I mean, even if I didn’t know anyone it had to be better than sitting around here doing nothing at all.
I went down the hall to my room and fished out some decent clothes, thinking that the shorts and t-shirt I had on just wasn’t going to cut it, then after stripping off I sprayed on some deodorant and then dressed, in dark blue trousers and a white polo shirt with a dark blue collar.
Looking myself up and down in the mirror I didn’t think I looked half bad, all things considered, though I realised that the chances of me meeting some cute guy there were about a million to one.
Rummaging through my drawers I found a clean pair of socks and pulled those on, then wiped the dust off my work shoes and laced those on as well.
One more glance in the mirror told me I still looked okay; not flash enough for a formal dinner, but still presentable enough for a social event like this, I thought.
After leaving a note on the table for Mrs. O., just to let her know what I was doing, in case she came home before I did, I made sure that the house was secure, then set off for the Salvation Army hall at a little before eleven o’clock. I figured that should give me plenty of time to get there, as it was only about four or five blocks away.
It was a beautiful summer day, with not a cloud in the sky. Birds were singing. Traffic was light. And as I strolled along in the morning sunshine I was feeling in a much better mood than I had been a short time ago. I came to the city to live my own life, I decided, so I wasn’t going to fret over the way my parents acted toward me, I was going to go out and enjoy life, one way or another.
As I drew nearer to my destination I started to grow a little nervous, as I didn’t quite know what to expect. When I reached the end of the block where the hall was I could see people gathering up ahead, with some milling around on the footpath and others heading inside already. I stopped and took a good look at what was going on, then I started forward again.
When I reached the front of the hall a few minutes later I was greeted at the gate by a woman dressed in Salvation Army uniform.
‘Hello there, and Merry Christmas,’ she said to me.
‘Merry Christmas to you too,’ I replied.
‘Are you on your own?’
‘Yes. I’ve only just moved here from the country for work, and I couldn’t get home to visit the family. I only heard about this on the radio a little while ago, so seeing as it was close to where I was staying, I thought, what the hell . . .’ then quickly covering my mouth when I realised what I had said.
The lady just smiled and patted me on the shoulder.
‘That’s perfectly okay dear. I guess you must be really feeling it today then?’
‘Yeah, something like that,’ I answered, with a wan smile.
‘Why don’t you go inside and get yourself a drink and mingle with some of the others who are here already. You might find you have quite a lot in common with some of them.’
‘Thank you,’ I replied.
Leaving her there to welcome the next person I walked up the path to the hall and went inside. It was quite a large hall and I saw that at the far end, in front of what looked to be a kitchen where there was quite a bit of activity going on, there were five rows tables, all set up ready for the diners.
Off to one side, along a wall, there other tables set up with drinks (only tea, coffee and juices by the look of it) and nibblies, around which there were already a few people standing and talking amongst themselves, with drinks in hand.
I wandered over to the drinks table and poured myself an orange juice, then just as I picked up the cup I felt a nudge to my elbow. Spinning around I saw a familiar looking guy of about my own age smiling at me.
‘Hi, Nate. The people you bump into in these places, eh?’ he said as he stretched out his hand toward me. ‘Merry Christmas to you.’
‘Hey Garry. Yeah, and a Merry Christmas to you also. But what are you doing here? Don’t tell me you’re all alone too?’
‘Yeah, that’s it. No real place to call home here, seeing as I’m from Brisbane and all my family are back there, so when I heard about this on the radio this morning I figured, what the hell!’
‘Ha. That’s exactly what I said to the lady on the front gate as I came in.’
He was the most recent of the new Trainees at the store, although I did remember him saying that he was just filling in for the few weeks over Christmas, and would most likely be moved on shortly.
He was about the same age, height and build as me, with brown eyes and hair, which was cut short. Over the past few weeks I had often found myself staring at him and wondering what he really looked like under those clothes, not that I figured I would ever get the chance to see that.
He poured himself a drink also, then we picked them up and wandered over to an empty table, where we sat on opposite sides in the two end seats and started chatting.
It was almost like we were two old friends who had grown up together, so similar were our experiences. The only difference between us was that he had grown up in Brisbane, albeit in one of the smaller outlying suburbs, while I was truly from the bush.
I liked the guy and found myself hoping that I would get to know him better while he was still stationed here.
By the time twelve-thirty had almost come around, which was the designated time for the Christmas Dinner to start, the hall was almost filled, and had the background noise to match. The seats next to us had been filled by an elderly couple whose family had all moved away. Normally at least one of their kids would come home for Christmas, or they would go visit one of them, but this year things just didn’t work out for them.
We heard other stories from some of the people who were also at our table, or the other tables close by, some of which were quite heartbreaking, such as the family where both the parents had lost their jobs just before Christmas when the company they had spent close to twenty years working for went bankrupt.
If Garry and I had been feeling down about being alone today, or only for part of the day, hearing tales like that soon changed our state of mind. We were the lucky ones, especially when compared to what some folks were having to go through at this time of year.
At exactly twelve-thirty we heard the sound of a dinner bell of some sort being rung and the room suddenly fell silent. All eyes turned toward the back of the hall, near to the kitchen, where we could see a small group of the Salvation Army officers gathered.
‘Merry Christmas everyone, and it’s so wonderful to see so many smiling faces here today. My name is Ted Banks and I would like to welcome you to our annual Christmas Friendship Dinner . . .’
This was the guy I had heard on the radio this morning, I was sure.
‘We understand that everyone here has a different story today, and some of you are no doubt sharing your stories. We would just like to say that today it doesn’t matter what your story is, we are all gathered here as one to share in each others company and this wonderful bounty that has been supplied to us by so many generous donors and prepared with loving hands by so many wonderful people who have given up their own Christmas dinners, so that you all can enjoy the friendship and the joy of Christmas.
‘When the dinner bell is rung again, we would like the first table to make their way to the serving tables near the kitchen, then once everyone has been served then the second table may get up, and so on. There’s more than enough food to go around, so don’t rush, and we all hope that you have a wonderful day and get to know some of the other people with whom you are sharing this meal.
‘Now, before we do start, we would just like to say a few words. Father Francis from the Uniting Church just down the road has graciously agreed to lead us in saying Grace. Also, as we have always said, there is no cost or charge for this meal, however to those of you who feel you would like to contribute towards the work we do, a donation box will be made available. Now, Father Francis, if you will be so kind.’
At this point another man stepped forward, although to me he didn’t exactly look like a priest, as he was dressed as casually as the rest of us seemed to be. And where the bloody hell was his white collar?
‘Thank you Ted,’ the priest said. ‘And may I just say how wonderful it is to see so many smiling faces here today to celebrate this holiest of holidays. Jesus was born . . .’
I didn’t really hear the rest of what he said, as I’m afraid that’s about where I started to zone out. Religion and me . . . well, lets just say I’m not exactly the good little Catholic boy that I was supposed to be.
I knew that Father Francis was finished by the resounding ‘Amen’ that seemed to echo around the hall, which snapped me back to attention.
The dinner bell rang again and then Ted Banks went to the first table, which was the one next to ours, and motioned for them to make their way to the serving tables. That meant we would be second up.
I guess it was the logical way to keep some semblance of order in the room, but looking around the room I felt certain that there were a few people here for who the wait would be difficult, such was the hunger that I believed I could see in their eyes.
The sound of chairs being pushed out from the table seemed to echo around the hall as the people from the first table rose and headed for the servers. When they were almost through one of the Salvo’s came over to our table and suggested that we could start to go up to the serving tables as well, so we rose up and followed the crowd.
The meal proved to consist of cold meats and salads, with ham, chicken and turkey being in plentiful supply, along with just about every type of salad imaginable. The ladies piled our plates up well as we passed them and both Garry and I soon found ourselves struggling to get through it all.
We chatted to each other and to the others at our table who were within earshot, and had a quite enjoyable time. There was plenty of noise and laughter in the room, and it appeared that everyone else was enjoying themselves as well.
After we had finished the main meal the tables were cleared and then the deserts were rolled out. You should have seen Garry’s eyes . . . they almost popped out of his head when he saw them all. I just laughed at him.
We both managed to fit in some pavlova and trifle, then afterwards we all continued to sit and talk. I was really moved by the young family who had both lost their jobs. They had three young kids and no other family living in this city. Man, that must have been tough for them.
Gradually as the afternoon wore on people started to drift off and the crowd thinned. I excused myself for a moment and walked over to see the Salvation Army lady that I had spoken to at the front gate.
‘Excuse me,’ I said to her.
‘Yes dear,’ she replied.
‘I just wanted to say thank you very much for the meal. This morning I was really down in the dumps about today, but as it turned out, I think this has been one of the Christmas days I’ve had. It has really been an eye opener for me.’
‘I’m so glad dear. And we were glad to have you here.’
‘Errr . . . they made mention earlier of a donation box,’ I said.
‘Yes, it’s right by the door. There are envelopes on the table beside it if you would like to leave details for a receipt to be sent to you.’
‘Oh, I don’t think I need that, but I would like to make a donation. You do a great job here.’
‘Thank you. It’s so nice to see someone so young who appreciates what we do. We’re here all the time, so if you ever want someone to talk to or need anything, you know where to find us. I know how hard it can be for some of you young people when you first come to the city.’
I nodded my thanks and then headed back toward the table where Garry was still sitting, chatting with one of the others.
When he saw me coming he excused himself and got to his feet, meeting me half way.
‘Are you about ready to head out then?’ he asked.
‘Yeah, I think so.’
‘Feel like a beer?’
‘A beer? This afternoon? There’s no place open.’
‘I have some back in my room if you feel like one.’
For a moment I thought about saying no, and heading home, but something told me not to.
‘Yeah, sure, that’d be great,’ I said, so together we left the hall, each dropping some cash in the donation box on the way out and headed down the road toward his diggings, which proved to be the local Hotel.
* * *
We climbed the stairs at the back of the hotel and walked along the verandah on the second floor, until we reached a white wooden door, with brass numbers screwed to it. It was room number seventeen.
‘Welcome to my humble home,’ Garry said to me as he unlocked the door and pushed it open. ‘Well, at least until the company sends me to some other hell-hole.’
‘It’s not quite that bad, is it?’ I asked.
‘Oh no, I actually quite like it here. But they tell me that some of the stores are real dives, and if you get sent out to the country there’s fuck all to do.’
‘Yeah, I know what you mean. Are you forgetting that I’m from the bush myself.’
‘Oh shit, now I’ve insulted you twice in two sentences,’ he joked.
‘Want to go for third time lucky?’ I laughed.
‘I think I’ll just zip it for a while,’ he answered.
I followed him into the room, which was pretty much as I expected it to be. The hotel was old, so there was nothing fancy about the room. The walls were painted off-white, while the ceiling was the old style pressed metal type. In the middle of he room there was a large double bed — one of those old style wrought iron jobs — with a lounge seat against one wall, and between those two pieces of furniture that took up most of the space in the room.
On the opposite wall to where the lounge seat was there stood a bench, on top of which there was a television set, and below which was a cupboard and a small bar fridge.
I noticed that there didn’t appear to be anywhere to hang clothes, and I saw that Garry had some hanging on the back of his door as he closed it.
I also noticed Garry had his suitcase sitting on his bed and when he saw me look at it he moved quickly to pick it up and put it out of the way. My first thought was that he might be worried I might see something in it, but I quickly dismissed that.
‘You don’t have to. . .’ I started to say, but he was already moving. I saw that the lid wasn’t fastened or zipped up and as he grabbed it and spun around, as if he were looking for somewhere to move it to, something slid out of it, landing at my feet.
It was a magazine, and I could tell at a glance what kind it was, even without picking it up.
‘Oh . . . fuck,’ he said. ‘Fuck, no.’
I bent over and picked it up and drank in the picture on the glossy front cover. The name of the magazine was HONCHO, and the cover showed a picture of one of the most perfect naked men I have ever seen (not that I had in fact seen that many!).
‘Oh, wow,’ I said, as I flicked through a few of the pages.
I glanced at Garry a couple of times and his face had just gone as white as a sheet. He sat the suitcase back down on the bed, then collapsed himself down on the two-seater lounge, burying his head in his hands.
‘Oh god, ummm . . .’ he started stammering. ‘I . . . I . . .’
‘Garry. It’s okay. Please stop panicking,’ I said to him, trying to reassure him that it really wasn’t the end of the world.
‘W-what?’ he asked, almost incredulously as he looked up at me.
‘I said, relax. Chill out, or whatever. It’s okay. I’ve actually got a few of these myself,’ I said, while giving him a wink and waving it in front of him. ‘I haven’t got this issue though. Man, this stud is hot!’
‘Are you being serious? You’re not just yanking my chain, are you?’
I quickly sat down beside him and placed a hand on his knee. ‘I’ll yank it if you want me to,’ I said, which only served to crack him up.
‘Oh, man, I thought my life was over there for a minute. I had visions of you running out of here and then telling everyone in the shop what sort of a freak I was.’
‘Mate, you’re not a freak, trust me. I haven’t had much experience with this stuff myself, but I sure as hell won’t be running my mouth off about you to anyone . . . just like I know you won’t go blabbing about me. Is it a deal?’
‘Absolutely,’ he answered.
‘You know, while we were having lunch today I had this thought. I wondered what if you were actually like me, and then when you asked if I wanted to come back here for a drink my head started racing again. I just thought it was my imagination running away with me, as it always seems to do . . . I had no idea that you might actually be . . .’
‘Gay?’ he asked.
‘Yeah. Shit, I still have trouble even saying the fucking word.’
‘I know. For a long while I just couldn’t get my head around it myself. I knew I wasn’t the only one out there, but I had no idea where to start looking for someone else like me.’
‘Yeah. Me too.’
‘So . . .’
‘Here we are . . .’
‘Do you want a drink?’ he asked.
‘Maybe later?’ I replied, more of a question than an answer. My hand was still resting on his leg, so slowly I slid it up toward his lap. I could feel his leg shaking beneath my touch, or that could have been my hand shaking, I wasn’t too sure.
‘O-okay,’ he whispered.
‘I haven’t had much practice at this,’ I whispered back to him.
‘That makes two of us.’
When my hand reached his groin I could feel his hardness beneath the taught fabric, so I started rubbing it. He moved his hand to my groin and did the same, and it felt wonderful.
Twisting my body slightly, so I faced him a little better, I used my other hand to cup his face, then leaning in to each other we let our lips brush together, at first just tenderly and for the briefest of times, then adding more feeling with each additional touch.
‘Can we stand up?’ Garry whispered between kisses.
I did as he asked and he stood directly in front of me, placing his hands on my hips and bringing out bodies together, allowing our hard-on’s to rub against each other, while we resumed our kissing, now letting our mouths open and our tongues invade and battle with each others.
As our actions became more heated I felt him start to tug at my shirt, pulling it from my pants, so I did the same. Pretty soon we both had our shirts off and were now fumbling with each others pants. It wasn’t doing us any good though, so I stepped back and kicked off my shoes, then undid my pants and dropped them to the floor, quickly stepping out of them, while he also did the same.
We looked each other up and down, each of us drinking in the sight of the other. By the look on his face I could tell that he liked what he saw, he looked hungry, like he wanted to devour me whole. I knew instantly that I liked what I saw of him, his body was faultless, with a nice tan and a beautiful cock standing upright, almost back against his stomach and reaching to his belly-button.
‘Oh, wow, you’re beautiful,’ I whispered.
‘You ain’t so bad yourself, country boy,’ he replied, as he reached down and wrapped his hand around my shaft, which sent a shiver through my entire body.
I reached out and touched him also, feeling his firm, uncut cock, which felt so different to mine. It was like a hard rod, yet it was also as if it were encased with velvet . . . so soft to the touch, yet as solid as steel.
‘Oh god, I so want to taste you,’ Garry whispered to me between kisses.
‘Sixty-nine?’ I suggested. ‘On the bed?’
As one we shuffled toward the bed, neither one of us breaking contact with the other, until I found myself with my legs backed against it. Garry pushed gently against me and I sat back onto the bed, then bringing him with me I lay back on it, with his body on top of mine, grinding and humping against me.
Pushing against him I rolled him over, so I was now on top of him, then I quickly scurried around on the bed, so that my head was level with his hard cock, and his was level with mine.
Neither of us wasted any time in setting to work, and soon I felt the most wondrous feeling of my young life, when his warm, moist mouth completely enveloped my manhood.
I tried to return the favour to him, but he was larger than me and I found myself gagging slightly when I got about three-quarters of the way down. That didn’t stop me from trying though, and pretty soon I found the top of my throat starting to open up a little, allowing me to take in more of his wonderful cock.
‘Oh, god, that feels amazing! You taste amazing!’ he said.
‘So do you,’ I replied, between slurps.
Pretty soon we both started to get into a rhythm, sucking on each other, swirling our tounges around the head of each others cocks, then taking all that we could into our mouths. I was in seventh-heaven. I had never experienced anything so wonderful, so intense, so mind-blowing.
‘I can’t hold out much longer,’ he soon said.
‘In our mouths? Or out?’
‘In is fine with me. I want to swallow every drop of you,’ I said.
‘Then in it is, and here it comes . . .’
I suddenly felt his body tense and the head of his cock expand in my mouth, then immediately following that his cock jerked once, then twice, then it erupted, flooding my mouth with shot after shot of his tart, yet still quite pleasant cum. I swallowed down all that I could and as fast as I could, not wanting to let any escape me, but I could feel some dribbling out around my lips and down my cheek.
It seems that his eruption was all that I needed as well, as I soon felt my balls get sucked back into the base of my cock, before I too let go, flooding his mouth with my sweet juice.
I felt bad that I couldn’t warn him, as my own mouth was full at the time, but he sucked and sucked like a professional, draining every last drop from me and leaving my balls empty and aching.
‘Fucking hell!’ I exclaimed as I collapsed back on the bed. ‘That is the most intense thing I have ever experienced.’
Garry scrurried around and lay next to me, propped up on one elbow and gazing into my face.
‘Are you sure you haven’t had much practice?’ he gently teased me. ‘You were fucking amazing.’
‘First time for me,’ I said to him, grinning. ‘The only thing I’d ever done before that was get a hand job in a toilet.’
‘Me too,’ he replied.
‘Do you think it’ll get better the more we practice?’
‘Only one way to find that out, isn’t there?’
‘Yeah, I guess there is.’
‘Merry Christmas, Nate.’
‘Merry Christmas, Garry.’
‘You want to stay the night?’
‘Abso-fucking-lutely!’ I replied, before I then dragged his face back onto mine.