Tuesday 2nd December. – I woke up this morning with a throbbing head, fluffy teeth and inexplicably filthy hands. Last night’s escapades at the bowling alley are all a bit vague.
I remember downing Fliz’s drink when she went off to pick up her hideous rubber shoes, and then legging it before she returned. I was so happy to get away from her that there’s a chance I did cartwheels on the way back to the hostel, which I guess would explain the dirty hands. What a horrible person. Her, not me, obviously. She totally deserved it.
I also remember staggering through the door and seeing a sign at reception saying, ‘Male Models Needed For Hairdressing Students – 8 am’ . I’ve been desperate for a bit of barnet-love, having sported a fusion of bed-head and lesbian-mullet since I got here (I call it ‘The Sleepy Dyke’), and so I signed it eagerly. In fact, I was so tipsy I think I might’ve signed it twice. Not only was I much in need of a mop-chop, there was the added bonus of future-me being able to say, “I did some modelling whilst I was in Australia”, and that was an opportunity not to be missed.
Despite only four hours sleep, I dragged myself up in time to meet the trainee at reception, fully expecting some gum-chewing wannabe called Sharon (or rather the Aussie equivalent, Sheila). Instead, I was totally thrown to be met by the gobsmackingly dreamy Dario, a half-Aussie, half-Hawaiian stunner, with deep-chocolate eyes, flawless caramel skin, fashionably-messy hair and lips that at that particular moment I could happily have used as pillows.
“So, you’re gonna let me fondle ya locks then?” he grinned, flashing a set of perfect teeth and dimples.
I stared wide-eyed at him for a moment then scurried back downstairs to brush my teeth and swamp myself in aftershave.
Dario led me to Victoria University, which turned out to be next-door, and I stumbled along behind him having apparently forgotten how to walk. He had a cracking set of buns and it seems I’m an arse man. Who knew. He took me up to the fifth floor where he sat me down in a classroom done up like a hairdressers, and he struggled to run his fingers through my greasy locks whilst I cursed myself for not washing it beforehand. Although there were no obvious signs to indicate it, his chosen career hinted at the possibility he played on my team and I wanted to impress rather than depress.
Under normal circumstances I knew I’d have no chance with a total fitty like him, but today I had him over a barrel (and for a while I was daydreaming about having him over an actual barrel). He had no choice but to spend an hour or so in my company, and I was doing him a favour just by being there, so maybe, just maybe, if I concentrated really hard not to make a tit of myself, he might feel sorry for me and agree to a drink afterwards. There was just one tiny thing holding me back. He was so stunning, I couldn’t even bring myself to make eye-contact with him, much less speak.
Ten long minutes later, tilted backwards with eyes squeezed tightly shut as he shampooed my hair, the awkward silence was proving so painful that I realised saying something, anything, would be a huge relief to both of us. It helped that I couldn’t see him.
“So did you watch the rugby the other day?”
THAT was my opening line? To a potential-Gay potential-hairdresser? Rugby? But surprisingly he had, and for the first time in my life I found myself having a conversation about sport that I could actually follow.
The conversation moved on to the bars we’d been in at the time, other local hang-outs we liked and the women within them, and the chances of him being a fellow homo reduced with every passing comment. We covered Sports, Drinking and now Birds, and all that was left was TV and Cars before the five well-established ‘Safe Conversation Topics for Straight Strangers’ were covered. I’d been fooled by the Curse of the Metrosexual once more. But it actually felt like a relief because the pressure of trying to make a good impression evaporated, and suddenly my self-consciousness faded to the level I’d normally experience when sat in front of a giant badly lit mirror staring at myself.
He asked me what sort of girl ‘got my juices going’. That was a bit awkward. I didn’t freak out or clam up like I might normally do, but nor did I confess the truth either. I was quite enjoying just being one of the guys for a change, and I didn’t want to have to out myself if I didn’t have to. Besides, the poor bloke would have felt mighty uncomfortable snipping away with his bits pressed against my shoulder if I’d replied, “Actually, I love a good cock”, so technically I was doing him a favour. Instead, I described my ideal man, mentally added a fanny, and tried not to vomit in my mouth.
“Geez fella. Betcha pick up some real show ponies with that voice a yours,” he said as he leaned in close to do something artistic with a pair of clippers.
My heart did a little jump as I felt his breath on my neck, and it took me a moment to translate what he meant. Yes, I eventually nodded in agreement. Beautiful women do indeed love me and my British accent, and they want me to take them home and do sex stuff with them.
“Betcha get a lot of action, ay.”
Bloody Aussia accent. I couldn’t tell if that a question or a statement.
“Whatcha tell ’em to git their legs open?”
So much for looking cool. I sprayed my complimentary tea all over the mirror.
This was proving to be the longest conversation I’d had with an actual Aussie, and I didn’t realise they asked such personal questions. No boundaries, no respect for privacy, and it was all so… un-British! I blushed and mumbled like a Hugh Grant cliché, and in the end was grateful when he was done. Dario brushed me down and waved a mirror around the back of my head, and I have to say he’s done an amazing job. The new look actually makes me feel vaguely attractive, all funky with shaved bits up the sides. It even makes the piercing work on my face. Whilst his conversational skills may need a bit of toning down for us Brits, Dario has an excellent future as a hairdresser and seems like a really good guy to boot. It’s just a shame he doesn’t play on my team because I would have totally misinterpreted his offer to ‘take me up the Gatehouse Road’ later. Turns out it’s a pub, not a euphemism. I said I’d think about it and gave him a clumsy handshake goodbye, feeling secretly and unashamedly smug that I was still able to pass for straight in the first place.
Back at the hostel, I discovered Dario’s list wasn’t the only one I’d signed.
“Where’ve you been?” a frazzled man in reception asked. “They all went over half an hour ago. Hurry up and get in ya harness. Think of those kiddies with tumours!”
Confused but not wanting to appear rude, I took the strappy device he was waving in my face and allowed myself to be led back next-door. Only this time I noticed the over-excitable backpackers bouncing down the university’s walls.
This was how I found out about the abseil.
At fifteen storeys, the University is apparently perfectly proportioned for amateur thrill-seekers to drop down the side of it for charity, and as I was escorted back over someone official in a blue bib thanked me for the generous donation I’d offered last night. I nodded and smiled and tried desperately to remember doing it. I sat numbly through some kind of demonstration, stood blankly as a lift took me up to the roof, and my attention only snapped briefly back into focus when someone clipped a rope to my crotch and threw a helmet onto my lovely new barnet. But before I could say, “Oi, watch me bush,” I was being pushed towards the edge of the roof and helped over a railing, at which point my focus decided to fuck off again.
I hadn’t felt scared. I must’ve been in shock. Not surprising, really. Not five minutes earlier I’d been getting a rub down from a sexy student, and now I was holding the wrong side of a safety rail with the back of my feet hanging over a drop that would kill me.
“Ok, son, you’re all set.”
I smiled vacantly at an instructor. “Hmm?”
“I need you to lean backwards, out over the side of the building.”
My brain began to wake up. “Er…”
“Just feed that little teeny-tiny rope through your fingers, let it take your weight.”
“Um…” I was suddenly alert again. “Excuse me, but I think there’s been some sort of mistake.” My voice seemed higher than normal. It must’ve been the altitude. “You want me to let go of this railing and almost certainly die?”
The instructor rolled his eyes.
“Are you actually fucking kidding me?” I began spluttering. “Do you really think this helmet is going to save me if I fall?”
I clung to the rail as strong winds billowed under my clothes and pulled at me, and I made a conscious effort to keep my wee in. There were so many things that could go wrong! What if the rope snapped? What if the harness broke? What if I DIED! How would I explain that to Mum?
The instructor waited patiently for a moment, waited impatiently for a moment more, and then…
“Actually, you may have a point about your helmet. Couldya tighten your chinstrap a bit? It does look a bit loose, now you mention it.”
I fumbled with the strap, releasing my death-grip on the railing, and as I did so he fed through the tiniest bit of rope. Somewhere in the distance a small girl let out an almighty scream as I fell backwards over the edge.
“Whoops,” he grinned.
Heart racing, ears roaring and my legs shaking, I suddenly found myself staring at my shoes. They were standing on the University wall. I gripped the rope tightly to my chest and watched my knuckles turn white.
You’re NOT falling. You’re NOT falling.
I forced myself to breathe.
Don’t look down! Down look down!
I looked down.
The shock of what I saw made my legs buckle beneath me, but as I was already standing at right-angles it just looked like I was squatting on the wall like a terrified Spiderman. It seems that putting your trust, and your actual life, into someone else’s hands is REALLY FUCKING SCARY. Who’d have thought it.
I realised that the only thing I could do was reach the ground as quickly as possible before anything had a chance to break, so I pulled myself together, counted to ten and got on with it. After a few uncontrolled downward spurts I got the knack, and soon I was bounding down the building like some kind of porky ninja.
About halfway, I realised I was looking through the windows of the hairdresser studio I’d just left a few kilos of my hair in, and as I sailed past I caught a glimpse of Dario showing his next client into the room. They hugged enthusiastically and did the double-cheek kiss, and it took me a moment to register HE WAS KISSING A MAN.
As I continued my descent, my brain began reprocessing our earlier conversation. Had Dario been undercover too? I had heard that sport-loving gays existed, but I’d never met one. Had he been talking about girls for my benefit, or was he just digging for info because his Gaydar was going off? Now I think about it, I knew that getting a head massage was fairly standard during a professional hair wash, but that hadn’t explained the shoulder massage afterwards. Or the foot rub he offered at the end. Maybe he had been on my team.
Seconds later, I arrived at the pavement sideways, to a round of applause from onlookers, and to the realisation of two life-changing facts. Firstly, that I was capable of doing absolutely anything I put my mind to, and secondly – and most important – was that a really fit guy had asked me out for a drink.
And I’d said no!
The charity presented me with a photo of my abseil and I was shocked to see that, despite the fear running through me at the time, I am smiling and looking composed and in control. No one can tell how scared I was, and from this evidence it appears that I am more than capable of blagging confidence if the occasion calls for it. You know what that means.
I’m going to a sodding gay bar.
Tonight, with or without the girls, I will visit a drinking establishment for benders safe in the knowledge that I won’t look as petrified as I feel. I might even try and take Dario ‘up the Gatehouse Road’ if I can find him. This is my last night in this awesome city, and if I can leap down the side of a bloody building then heading out on my own and chatting up some bloke will be a walk in the fucking park. I might as well go out with a bang!
6am – Royal Melbourne Hospital
‘Out with a bang’ I’d said. How ironic. I hadn’t expected that bang to result in this much blood or an ambulance ride to the casualty ward.
I’m supposed to be on a bus in a couple of hours, but that won’t be happening…
Doctor says my journey might be ending here…
He told me I’m not going to make it.