The Fiend and I were shopping for knickers.
It was a conflicting moment for me. She had figured out my girly side after invading my closet and at this stage she was still gentle about it, she wasn’t yet leveraging my gender anxiety to manipulate me. So when she offered to take me with her when she went shopping for bras and underwear the next day, I cautiously agreed.
I was twenty one.
We were in the Bathurst Big W. While I was still a big guy at the time, I was only a shadow of the massive weight I would later balloon to after my time with The Fiend. We spent some time looking at underwear, she chose a couple of pairs of boring brown and white bikinis she liked; her taste in women’s undies was much more conservative than mine. They looked like granny panties to me.
Little did I know that only two aisles over, my grandmother was shopping for underwear too.
The Fiend didn’t take the time to explain women’s clothing to me the way my friend Nattie had during high school – it was less an education and more an invitation to join her. We walked down the bra aisle and she reached out and touched several of them, felt the fabric, the weight of it on her fingertips. I wanted to feel them too, but I was sheepish, reluctant.
“They probably won’t have anything here in my size,” she said.
“It’s my shape. I wear anything from a 14DDD to a 12G cup.”
I had never heard of triple D, much less G cups! I knew very little about bras at that point, other than I craved them and wished sorely I could wear them myself every day.
“Come on, let’s go pay,” she said, and we walked towards the registers.
I stopped as I saw people I recognized, immediately worried they’d seen me stepping out of a bra aisle. They were leaving intimates and walking into the homewares section.
“Hey,” I said, “it’s my nan and pop!”
“Really?!” she squealed, without outlandish curiosity.
And then she took my hand. I was shocked.
“Come on, introduce me to them.”
I didn’t know what to do. I was holding hands with a girl, something I’d never really done before, save from being drunkenly dragged to the dance floor on occasion. Holding a girl’s hand was something I’d long craved to do. Yet today it seemed – forced, unnatural.
I felt as though she was parading me, dragging me through a pantomime.
This isn’t how it should feel. I thought.
This isn’t right.
Fuck You, Bird!
It was Monday morning. I was on the first of my daily cardio hikes. I climb Three Poles mountain on the edge of Mudgee 8 times a day – four in the morning, four at night. I was at the peak of my second lap. I had spent the duration of the hike doing sums in my head, both of the mathematical and the existential variety. The whole weekend gone I had wondered… could I do it?
Several weeks earlier, I reached out to a girl on the transgender forums on Reddit. I’d first come across one of her transition update photos on r/Transtimelines the month prior. Transtimelines is a subreddit dedicated towards progress photos by transgender people, and it can be an incredibly inspiring resource for transitioners to see the journeys of their ilk.
The first thing I noticed about her update photo was her enormous amount of weight loss. It’s not uncommon for people who transition to completely turn their lives around, including with massive weight loss, as I had done. When we accept our gender identities, we accept ourselves. Arale-chan, as I knew her by her handle, had lost a stack of it from her prior time as a boy. She was also very pretty, and I was immediately taken by her.
So I stalked her profile.
A photo of her in a denim jacket under the Sydney Harbour Bridge told me she was an Aussie, and I enjoyed flipping through her post & comment history and subscribed to her profile. There was something about her…
I reached out, commented on her post, congratulating her on her progress and a particular skirt she’d posted in another photo.
A month later, I saw another update from her, and this time I sent her a private message. We began talking, at first intermittently, and before long it was every day, for hours at a time. Her name, it turned out, was Amanda. We discussed everything from her love of Japan to similar experiences in transitioning. We bonded over the strangest of things – such as some of the dark fantasies we shared growing up, dreaming of accidents which might give us the superpower of girl.
At first, it was a relief to share experiences with another trans girl. But before long, I was completely smitten by her. I told her that the week prior, before we’d started chatting, I had been in Sydney, and while I had no idea where in Sydney she lived, I had been secretly looking out for her the whole day.
“This’ll sound dumb, but I went to Burwood to buy some Pop! Vinyls,” I said, “and I was looking for you everywhere I went.”
“I live in Burwood,” she said.
As it turned out, I was walking less than a block from her house, wondering about her before we’d even shared a private conversation.
“Next time you’re in Sydney,” she said, “we should meet up.”
I checked the lap time on my pink & rose gold FitBit Versa. I was slightly behind time, no doubt distracted by the schemes running through my mind. I stopped at the base of the mountain to have a drink of water, and decided to pull the trigger.
I pulled my phone from my pocket. Warm electricity ran through me. My fat fingers fumbled as I typed.
“What time do you get off on Friday?” I asked her.
And then I waited for what felt like an eternity. I began my next lap of the mountain, the sensation of the phone in my pocket vivid and heavy. My mind raced. I wondered if I’d been too forward, if I was jeopardizing our barely month old friendship. She’s going to think I’m a stalker!
A bird cried out nearby. In my heightened state, it sounded not dissimilar from a Messenger ding, and I went for my phone before realizing the proper source of the sound.
“Fuck you, bird!” I yelled into the eucalypts.
I came to the apex of the mountain, about 12 minutes after sending my question to Amanda. I slowed down to have another drink from my water bottle.
And then my phone dinged.
I swallowed the water through my nose, ears and eyeballs. My heart spasmed. I put my claw hand into my pocket and extracted the phone, turned it over. There on the lock screen was her reply:
“I finish work at 4:30”.
Okay… this is… data. I have information now. She gets off work at 4:30 of a Friday. Cool. Coooool. Good data. Hey – look, a cloud! Okay. Data. Gooood data.
“Wanna do dinner and see Deadpool 2 with me?”
My laser focus stayed fixed upon my phone’s screen. The little tide of dots which indicated a reply was pending rose up and down in a wave about one tenth the cadence of my beating heart.
“Sounds good. I’d love that 🙂”.
The universe drew to a narrow slit around me. Shit existed, I was sure of it, but what and where it was, I had no idea. In that moment, all I saw was her reply – her yessing. My cheeks went the colour of a radish beaten with a sack-full of cat’s eyes.
“Scalambor! Ripmonker shoooooop muuuungh, waadeeeeeee” I scrankled in the language of a smitten aartard. I pumped my fist in the air like I was starting a gilded generator.
And then I rolled the dice one more time, pushed the envelope just that little bit further, to let her know – this wasn’t merely a friend’s outing, I’m asking you out girl.
“Awesome sauce! It’s a date 😛”.
Sweet kidneys of Zeus™ – I was going on a date!
A Boy, Asking out Girls
By my 25th year of orbiting the sun, I had only asked out two people in my life. Both occasions ended in comic tragedy.
The first girl was Lindsay, in year 5, when I was 11. This was significant as I was the first boy in school to ask a girl out. I did so in the library, my tummy squirming with butterflies, and to my delight she said yes! I ran outside riddled with excitement, jumped up and slapped the low hanging gutter of the corridor on my way.
Dating at this point was not an issue. As many transgender people will tell you – it’s not until you hit puberty that confusion really sets in. Until this point boys and girls aren’t separated by their biology so much as by social conditioning. Sure, they have different genitals, but hormones haven’t started their thing yet, and so how kids dress, act, shape their hair and present themselves, what toys they play with and who they choose as friends largely comes down to learned gender roles. Even if it may be confusing at that time as to why you shouldn’t play with “girl’s toys” (or “boy’s toys”), at eleven you haven’t learned to start hating your body yet.
On our first date, we saw The Lion King at the Mudgee Regent Cinema. She’d already seen it twice, so I took it either as a good sign or a good film that she was willing to see it a third time. My mum fussed over my appearance, insisting that I presented as a proper gentleman. She did her best to teach me how little gentlemen should act, but as usual mum’s advice was a little – strange.
Around this age she had once explained to me very loosely and without important details that I should keep an eye out for bleeding girls any day now. She explained that girls will start to bleed around the age of 12, and if I was to spot blood on their bottoms I should take them aside, explain to them that they’re getting something called a “period” and instruct them to head to the bathroom, that it’s nothing to be ashamed of. I remember being terrified at the prospect – why were they bleeding? Why was it my job to look out for girl blood? How much blood would there be?! Was it contagious??!
Dad’s advice on things was far more spartan:
“Dad, how do I shave?”
“With a razor.”
Mum and I picked Lindsay up at her place. Her mum and dad fussed over us, my mum fussed over us, and she did a fantastic job of embarrassing me on the way to the cinema.
“Have you told Lindsay she looks nice?”
“Yes mum. Lindsay – I told you that, right?”
“He did, Mrs Lynch.”
“Well, you should tell her again.”
“You look really nice, Lindsay.”
The Lion King was fantastic. I could see why she would want to see it three times. We had a blast. My favourite part of the experience wasn’t the film itself, it was sitting on the steps of the Mudgee Regent Theatre waiting for mum to pick us up after the film. I sat as close to her as I dared, and we chatted away, exchanging likes and dislikes, and revisiting the parts of the film we liked best.
“That Scar was really mean to Simba!”
“Yeah! But I guess – Hakuna Matata.”
Our second date ended in blood.
I asked Lindsay to come with me to the school fete, which she was really excited for. We wandered around together at the stalls, watched as our fairy floss was spun into sweet pink clouds, bought candy corn (which I’ve never seen since) and played various low-key sideshows, like hoop-a-fish (I won her a live goldfish in a bag!).
Next, we lined up for the pillow fight. This game consisted of a balance beam suspended above gym mats, and it seemed like the perfect thing to do with a new girlfriend – a chance to beat the living shit out of her with a school pillow. Ahead of us in the queue stood a local feral kid from one of the renowned rough families. He and his brothers had reputations as poster children for ADHD, his parents were obnoxious town drunks, and his clothes were always torn & riddled with mud and snot trails and ink. He was a tornado in a school uniform and, curiously – he’d brought his own pillow to the event. It was a defeated looking thing, lacking padding, sagging at the end.
I took the opportunity to rib him, eager to impress my girlfriend.
“You uhh, gonna pillow fight yourself mate?”
“What?!” he said.
“You’re all on your own – no partner. You realize you need someone to pillow fight in a pillow fight?”
“That’s a pretty sad looking pillow you got there… what’s in it?”
Rocks, as it turned out.
He spun his rocky pillow up and broke it into my face at full tilt. My nose erupted into a geyser of blood, and as I turned away from the impact, I gushed my face blood all over Lindsay. She was drowned in it, covered. I stumbled and tripped into her, both of us falling over onto the concrete for me to do some more bleeding on top of her. Her victory fish skittered along the concrete, popping the bag.
The Tassie devil made a quick exit.
It was my last date with Lindsay.
The second girl I asked out came long into puberty having set in. I was in year eleven, seventeen years old. Her name was Kerryn. We had skirted around one another for years, first figuring out in year 9 that we liked one another when we used an internet service called eCrush, where you entered the name and email of someone you liked, and they were sent a message. If they liked you back, they entered your name and email and you were notified of a match. It was, in essence, a data mining scheme – but it worked! We matched.
It took me two years to make a move, having spent much of that time flirting, with me wondering what the hell I should do next. What do boys do when they like a girl? What should I do? Eventually, I asked her to see The Lord of the Rings – The Fellowship of the Ring with me. It would take the Mudgee cinema months to get the film, and she was a big fantasy fan, so our best option was to make the 90 minute drive to Dubbo; the bogan capital of the Central West. By this time, I had my P-Plate driver’s license, so I didn’t need to rely on mum to drive me on my date. But there was a hitch – she had a provision if she was to lend me her car:
“You have to take Daniel with you,” she said.
“What?! I can’t take my oaf of a brother with me on our first date! Are you kidding me?”
“He’s not an oaf!”
We looked over to Daniel who was smashing beetles with a phone book.
“Benjamin! If you want to use the car, you’re taking him with you. No Daniel, no date.”
As I pulled up to Kerryn’s house, she was surprised to find Daniel sitting in the front passenger seat.
“Daniel, will you let Kerryn sit up front please?”
“What?! No! I had it first. She can sit in the back, screw her.”
This date was off to a good start.
When we arrived in Dubbo, the queue to see the film was enormous. We’d arrived with half an hour to spare, but by the time we snaked up to the ticket booth the film had already started, and tickets had sold out to the first session. We would have to wait several hours for the next.
We sat in the packed lobby of the cinema, waiting. Daniel did his best to express his boredom. I bought him some snacks for the film, but he ate them within minutes, then complained that he was hungry.
“I’m not buying you any more. They were for the film.”
“But I’m hungry.”
“How is that possible?! You literally just ate!”
“I just am. And I’m bored.”
“Here, have mine.”
He wolfed my snacks down as if he had never eaten before. Kerryn’s temper grew hotter and darker as each waiting minute passed. She left for the bathroom.
“Mate – fuck!” I said. “We’re on a date, can’t you give us some alone time?”
“Because… it’s a date. We came here to be together.”
“But I’m bored.”
“Fine – here,” I gave him the last of my money to play arcade games. He left.
When Kerryn came back, she was relieved to see he’d gone. She took a deck of playing cards from her purse and we sat on the ground to play poker. No matter my hand – win or lose – Kerryn used it as an opportunity to slap me, inching closer to me with every hit. Things were looking up.
Then Daniel came back from the arcade.
“I’m out of money,” he said.
“But… that was $25!! It should have lasted you ages.”
“Yeah, but I put it on the table and I lost it. I think some kid stole it.”
He squeezed in between us, smacking Kerryn in the head with his fat arse as he sat down, becoming an infinite pillar between the two of us.
“Ooops. Sorry. What are you playing?”
“Poker,” I seethed.
“I want to play. How do you play?”
Kerryn packed up her cards, put them back in her purse. We sat there in near silence until –
On the drive home I tried to break the silence with optimistic commentary about the film. Kerryn was again in the back seat because she’d lost the race to the front. I talked about the large swathes of soldiers in the battle scenes, about the incredible special effects and the elaborate costumes. I remarked on how amazing it was that they managed to make the Hobbits look so small next to Gandalf (I delight of trick photography I still marvel at to this day).
“The book was better,” Kerryn said.
Back to silence.
When we arrived at her house, Kerryn got out of the car without saying a word, closed the door with a determined thud, walked up to her front door alone and disappeared inside.
“What’s her problem?” said Daniel.
The summer break had given Kerryn a chance to get over our disastrous first date. She and her family had gone to a beach down south. When we met up at school after the holidays, she showed me photos from her trip. I sat at a desk in the computer lab. She sat on the desk in front of me, legs crossed, arms back, her chest pushed forward.
There was a common theme in the photos which she showed me – they were mostly of her in a blue bikini. She had amazing breasts, and she knew it. I was envious of her, I wished they were my own, but I’d happily settle to see them.
“I love this one,” she said – a photo of her leaning back on the sand, “and this one” – a photo of her leaning over a railing with a seductive gaze.
“You’re gorgeous,” I said, surprising myself.
She giggled, lit up, slapped me on the arm.
“Stop it! Do you like my bikini?”
“I love it. It uuuh, it looks good on you.”
“It’s a 12D you know? If you like it – we could get you one. It looks like it would just about fit you”.
Then came the party foul. She grabbed at my chest, shook my gynocomastic man boobs.
I seized up, became rigid and terse.
Does she know I have boobs? Are they boobs? Does she know I wear bras at home? Shit she’s onto me! Abort! Abort!
Thus ended my relationship with Kerryn.
The simple truth is – I don’t know how to be a boy dating girls. It just doesn’t compute for me. It’s like trying to imagine shaking my tail – it’s not something I can do. Then the Fiend slithered into my life from a place of shadow and upended me, scaring me away not just from being with women, but from becoming one. It made what was an already difficult relationship landscape impossible.
I became convinced that I would never find someone. I entered what I called “rock mode”, where I accepted the inevitability of my singledom and tried not to think on it, tried not to feel, as though I had become a boy of living stone.
I joked that all I really needed was a cat army:
“The thing about cats,” I’d say, “is that when you keel over, they’ll eat you. You have companions and a coffin in one!”
I was and always would be a boy, unworthy of love.
Kentucky Fried Turds
I woke, reached for my phone from its charging pad. I lay in bed with the phone hovering above me. I fired off a message to Amanda:
“Good morning sweetheart,” I said.
“I woke up with the strangest sense I have something on today… Washing? No… Work the cats? No… Overthrow democracy – no, I’ll do that Tuesday… Never mind, it’ll come to me 😛”.
Keep it light, I thought, because my tummy was a butterfly farm that morning. I wondered – did she feel the same way?
“How are you this morning?” I asked.
“You got me just as I was leaving the house. Normally I leave earlier, but the true moment you regret binge eating KFC is when the bowel movements hit, so I spent some extra time on the can.”
I… uhhh… what?!?
Did she just tell me about her KFC turds?! Her morning nuggets from her evening nuggets?! The dawning mental imagery for my first date in nearly 15 years is her taking a groganous shat?!?!
The phone slipped out of my hands and smacked me between the eyes.
Later that day I would ask my friend Leigh if her telling me that was a bad sign, and she would explain Amanda was probably just nervous. As it turned out, Amanda said it was actually a sign she was very comfortable with me, and had only eaten KFC the night before as a stress release from a rough day at work – a little colonel to calm the nerves.
Friday would test my nerves. I had a sore throat and the early signs of a head cold. I had a morning laser hair removal appointment in Bathurst, arriving in the knick of time after roadwork delays outside Sofala. The session left my face red, as usual, but this time it also burned my cheeks, leaving a rash of angry volcanic bumps up the sides of my face.
With forty minutes extra up my sleeve that morning, I headed to Zambrero for an early lunch. I held the door open for a fella who took his place in line ahead of me, and then he proceeded to order several hundred dollars worth of burritos. It took the staff fifteen minutes to prepare the order, and another ten minutes to enter it into the register.
“Did burrito number seven have B.B.Q. sauce or chipotle sir?” said an employee as she entered it into the touch screen.
“Does it matter?” he said – a very valid question, I thought.
“Head office likes us to track every detail.”
“B.B.Q. I think.”
“And the sixth nachos… did they have guacamole orrrrr..”
I stopped in to grab a few bucks of fuel on the edge of Bathurst – I still had fifteen minutes up my sleeve. Conveniently, all the regular unleaded was out of service. But I could buy premium at only an extra 28c a litre!
Unscheduled roadworks between Bathurst and Lithgow held me up for five minutes. And then when I made it past that, I encountered an even longer line of cars doing a meandering 40klm/hour along the highway, with the next overtaking lane some ways off. When I eventually made it to the obstruction, it turned out to be an ancient farmer in a white ute with the expression of a foxed lemon doing a speed he considered to be just fine, thank you very much. The kelpie chained to the back of the cab looked as though it had given up on life, peering towards the edge of the tray with hopeless desire: if only my chain was longer…
I arrived at the Springwood parking station and found the last available space up on the second level. I ripped my little Nissan into it and scrambled to get my gear out of the car, headed off. Did I lock the car?! Shittenfuckin’! Screw it – they can steal my spent coffee cups if they really want ’em. I made it to the platform with a teeth licking three minutes to spare. After a quick trip to the ladies’, that time had narrowed to sixty seconds.
I boarded the train.
Within minutes, I received emails from clients. One of them had their website go down, something which had never happened before. Another had found a bug on their site. Another needed copies of their logo urgently. While I’m on sabbatical this year, to focus on my transition and writing, I had promised a handful of the clients I retained that if they encountered any troubles, I’d help them out. I took out my mobile debug laptop and did my best to fix everything on the bumpy train, my internet reception blinking in and out between mountains and tunnels and flocks of geese. I didn’t have my security keys with me and I was locked out of a server, I didn’t have artwork with me and I couldn’t figure out the source of the bug (a browser update, it turned out). I could help no-one that afternoon, and it peeved them off.
I arrived at Central and disembarked. As I made my way onto Eddy Avenue my rolling luggage bag became caught in a maintenance grate, slipped from my hands and tumbled. My favourite Bluedio headphones fell off the back of the bag. A guy in formal Muslim dress altered his trajectory and headed towards them, and I felt gracious that he was going to pick them up for me… except, he didn’t. He kicked them away from me with a satisfied expression. They scuttered along the asphalt, scratching the enamel and plastic.
I arrived at the Sydney Travelodge to an enormous check-in queue of tourists eager to get selfies at every metre of progression towards the counter. The big guy in front of me seemed to be in a worse mood than I was. He farted audibly, then moved his luggage behind him, to create a belated moat around his bumhole. I closed my nostrils and breathed through my aching throat.
I flopped down on the hotel bed. I wanted to cry. The day had slowly, inch by inch, sapped my energy, my patience and my optimism. All I could think was – I’m going to fuck this up. She’s going to hate me. For a brief moment, I thought about calling the date off. I laid on the bed for half an hour, gathering resolve. Then I received a message from Amanda. She was half an hour early and heading into the city to meet me. I quickly changed into an outfit. Then changed out of it. Then changed into an outfit. Then out. You put your left boob in, you put your left boob out…
I ended up wearing one of my favourite pink striped jumpers with long denim skirt, red magnetic necklace, my trans flag coloured bracelet and a bitchin’ brown leather jacket I’d picked up that morning in Bathurst. I looked pretty good – except for the beetroot skintones and angry welts on my face from the laser.
“Now, don’t put on any heavy make-up tonight,” the laser technician had told me.
Unleash the foundation!
I quickly cobbled together a look with some of my favourite make-up palettes. Nothing drastic, just a Maybelline Dream Mousse foundation with golden eyeshadow, Babyroll mascara, Model’s Choice holographic blush, Rimmel contouring and my favourite holographic pink lip-topper, which gave my lips a gorgeous cherry glow to match my outfit.
I was ready.
I was shitting bricks.
The Girl Beneath the Golden Arches
My throat was screaming.
“The man on the moon is nimble,” I said, repeating my calibration phrase, trying to bring my girl voice to life against the pain in my neck. “The man on the moon is nimble…”
I left the hotel. It was 5:45pm and the sun had escaped for the day. The city was buzzing with peak hour traffic.
“Just arrived at Town Hall Station. Where you at?” Amanda messaged me.
“Hyde Park – not far away! I’ll be five mins?”
I skirted along the edge of the park, saw a glowing Chemist Warehouse on Elizabeth Street. I ducked in, grabbed a pack of Butter Menthols and chucked two of them into my gob. I walked along Elizabeth Street, awkwardly dodging crowds of Friday night pedestrians eager to leave the C.B.D. A bus zoomed along beside me and I tracked the blur of expressionless riders illuminated in a fluorescent glow. A woman in a gorgeous black dress and impossible heels overtook me. I wondered where she was off to so expeditiously, and how she could do it without going bum over tit in those heels!
I turned left into Bathurst Street.
I was in Bathurst this morning. Aaargh, is my face still red? Of course it is… shit, she’s dating a beetroot. Shit shit shit.
My phone dinged. A message from Amanda.
“I’m on George st,” she said, “meet you outside Woolies?”
“Sure! Not far now.”
Shittenfucken! She’s so close now… Did I close my motel door? Dipshit, they close automatically. But… did I bring the keycard with me?
A block to go… shit shit shit.
“Actually, I’ll meet you outside McDonald’s on George St,” she said.
Mmm… Mmm it’s mac time… shiiiiiit. Ooh – there’s a Hungry Jacks. Ironic. Wait, is that irony? Am I irony? Where the hell is McDonald’s on George St. Well, it’s on George St…
I turned into George St.
I headed the wrong way up it, started towards the Woolworths. Where’s the McDonald’s?
As if reading my mind (a dangerous talent given its present nerve addled state) Amanda messaged me:
“It’s opposite the Event Cinemas.”
I know where they are! Okay, okay….
I stopped at the intersection of Bathurst and George Streets. The red man upon the traffic light shone above the throng. George St was being ripped up for the installation of the new light rail. What was once a busy traffic corridor was now a construction site. To my right, people crossed by plastic barriers and took queue around me. I closed my eyes, tried to breathe. Forgot how. Remembered, nearly swallowed my Butter Menthols. The noise of the city focussed to a single bleek – bleek – bleek – bleek as the traffic light instructed us to wait, just a little longer.
“The man on the moon,” I whispered among the crowd, “is nimble.”
And then the traffic light broke into a staccato bleating.
The red man vanished and his wandering green counterpart appeared beneath him. The crowd moved, and I moved with it. I felt pulled along in its chorus, a leaf drifting in a river strong. Above me, I saw the yellow glow of Maccas, it bathed the swarming crowds ahead in golden light. I stopped and spat my Butter Menthols into a bin.
Hope she didn’t see that…
I took a deep breath and walked towards the gold. The sound of the city muted around me and I could feel my heart beating in my ears. And then the crowd parted, and I saw her…
The girl beneath the golden arches.
Ten Thousand Steps
There she was.
She was leaning against the wall of the George St McDonalds, holding her iPad, looking the other way down the street. The top of her head was a golden glow, her face lit up in ghost-story blue from the screen of the iPad. She was wearing a denim Jersey jacket with black ruffled skirt and black leggings.
I broke free of the meandering crowds and snuck up beside her, leaned on the wall with my hands behind me, warm upon by bum against the cold of the brick. I waited for her to turn. She did, saw me, and her face lit up. And then everything bullshit about that fucking Friday melted away.
There was only her.
“G’day girlo,” I said.
As we walked down Bathurst St towards Darling Harbour, I struggled to keep up with her. She had wisely chosen to wear sneakers, while I was rocking chunky block heels. Moreover, she was a seasoned pro at dealing with pedestrians, a city girl born and bred. I’m a country girl, and weaving in and out of throngs of meandering people feels like a game of drunken Tetris for me.
We stopped at an intersection, I felt an excited vibration on my wrist. My FitBit Versa was telling me I’d made my ten thousandth step for the day. Amanda looked at her wrist too.
“Ten thousand steps,” she said, showing me her FitBit.
“Are you serious?! Look!” I showed her my screen.
With her having walked around North Sydney, me around Mudgee and Bathurst, we had made our ten thousandth step for the day together.
I was giddy.
Darling Harbour was its usual beautiful self. It had changed in the four years since I’d last seen it, and I enjoyed looking at all the different screens and artworks and architecture. What was pedestrian for Amanda was fascinating for me, and she often turned back to find me looking upwards at something shiny.
She stuck her tongue out at me.
I stuck mine out back.
We had dinner at Grill’d. She’s a fan of burgers, and it was her first time eating there. Stupidly, I convinced her I could eat a large Zuchinni fries, that she’d regret ordering a small. When we finished our burgers I’d barely made a dent in my fries.
“Right – you’ve gotta help me defeat these bastards,” I said.
“But I’m so full!”
“Me too! But I believe in us!”
We ate the shit out of them.
Darling Harbour was packed with meandering people on our way back. Tourists, business people, families trying in vain to keep their kids dry from the illuminated water fountains. Ahead, I saw something white on the ground – it was a USB tri-plug, with a single standard USB plug branching off to a Type C, Micro and Lightning tip, for the charging of different phones. I kept a cable just like it with me at all times. I checked my purse.
“Holy shit – that’s mine!” I said, picked it up.
“Wow! It’s sat here this whole time and no-one’s stolen it,” she exclaimed.
She stuck her tongue out at me.
We made our way back to George St, full as googs, and picked up our tickets for Deadpool 2. With twenty minutes to wait until the start of the film, we headed to the Timezone and I shelled out six hundred thousand yen and a kidney for a Timezone card – enough for about 3 games. We raced each other in Mario Kart, and she won both races, overtaking me each time right on the finish line. I hate losing Mario Kart. It’s better to lose your grandma to a shark. But seeing her giggle and fist pump after each victory made the losses… unbearable, I’m still pissed I lost.
Deadpool 2 was a blast. It had pacing issues, some scenes seemed to overstay their welcome. But when one of the main characters died in the opening, I “nawwed”, and briefly put my head on Amanda’s shoulder. She put her head against mine, and my heart flipped. I was filled with warm goop.
The whole film, I had only one singular thought:
How the fuck could I lose Mario Kart?!
I want to hold her hand.
I had spent the week leading up to the date wondering how I could achieve this. I strategized the possibility with my friend Leigh.
“How do you hold a girl’s hand?” I said.
“I dunno, with yours?”
“Yeah, but… do I just ask her or…”
I asked my psychologist.
“So I want to hold her hand… should I like, text her – ‘may I hold your hand'”?
“Well, that’d certainly give you consent,” he said formally.
The film went on as Firefist and Deadpool ended up in the mountain prison. Every now and then, Amanda or I would sway into one another, giving a deliberate little bump, and we’d bump back. It felt like two vehicles touching in Mario Kart. It was fun, cute, a silly seated dance in cinema four.
How do I hold her hand? Do I text her now? Her phone’s on silent… should I type it and show her my screen? Would that piss off the people around us?
When Deadpool began amassing his X-force, I sat up in my seat. I’d told Amanda that I’d anticipated Peter to be my favourite character of the film, based upon his sweet nerdy skydive in the trailer.
Amanda shifted in her seat. I shifted.
Our fingers touched.
And I took her hand.
Our fingers interlocked. She was warm and soft and everything I had dreamed I would feel. I rubbed the thick of my thumb along her index finger, and she rubbed back. In front of us, a giant screen and a stadium seating crowd of movie goers were doing stuff, I guess. I think they were laughing, maybe. Stuff was happening on screen, too, probably. The plot was advancing, the silver screen was gleaming, I dunno.
All I knew was that in cinema four of the George St Event, for the first time in my life proper, I was holding a girl’s hand, the warmth of her rushing into my body with an alternating current of unabashed joy.
She Took My Hand
After Deadpool, I tried to regain my honour at Mario Kart. I won the next two games, taking us to an even two all. Then, in the International Super Cereal Date Night Grand Finale, we raced for keeps. The battle was fierce, and tight. The stupid outcome didn’t matter, so you don’t need to know what that was, stupid fucking game.
We wandered through George St.
“What do you want to do next?” she asked.
“I’m kinda thirsty, can we go somewhere for a drink?”
“Well… Woolies is up the road, it’s probably cheapest.”
And there it was… she was a tightarse, too. Had she suggested a bar she knew, a late night romantic coffee shop? Nope! Woolies. Where liquid is sold by the litre for a song.
I grabbed a 1.5L water and she grabbed a 1.25L Mountain Dew. As I watched her pick the oversized bottle up she said:
“This is cheaper than one of those poxy little bottles, and you get so much more!”
We walked through Hyde Park, drinking from our mammoth bottles. Groups of people gathered on benches and talked and played music through bluetooth speakers. Streams of drunken Friday night revellers stumbled through the park around us, screaming into the cold night.
We found a bench, sat upon it overlooking the under-construction war memorial. The reflecting pond rippled gently ahead of us and pulled vibrant city light across its puckered surface. A group of young peeps sat a few benches down and played music through their bluetooth speaker – how many people carry bluetooth speakers in Sydney?!
The song which came on was slow and romantic. It felt as though they were playing it for us. I put my arm around Amanda and we leaned into one another, shivering against the chill of the Sydney eve. We stayed together like that until just before midnight, when I left for fear of turning back into a pumpkin.
The next morning, I met up with Amanda at her place in Burwood. She rented a small bedroom in a terrace house by the railway station. I had indeed walked within metres of her home, wondering about her long before we’d thought of dating one another, only weeks earlier on my Pop! Vinyl trek – my first successful outing while presenting as female.
The room was cramped and piled with anime, Pokemon, a shelf of bras & undies and a box of transdermal estrogen patches.
“Hey – I’ve seen these before,” I said.
I found a new respect for her in that moment. Barely 7 months earlier, Amanda had come out as transgender to her family, and they had rejected her. She moved out of home for the first time in her life and landed in this tiny room in Burwood. She was so fucking determined to make her life as a girl work that she was willing to do whatever she had to, and she was proud to do it.
We spent the morning in the city, bought Peanut Butter fudge at Darling Harbour and ate it by the waterfall in the Chinese Gardens. I was at peace to its tumbling energy as Amanda put her head on my shoulder, her jaw bouncing as she munched on fudge.
We headed to the Event cinema at Burwood and saw A Quiet Place – a masterpiece of a film from actor and director John Krasinski and evergreen Emily Blunt. It was my second time seeing the film, and it did not disappoint on repeat viewing. Throughout the film, Amanda gasped and spoke to herself:
“No… what’s she doing… no don’t do that… look out for the nail! The nail!!”
Oh my sky monster. She is such a girl!
After the film we headed through the Westfield towards the joint Zing! slash EB Games. Weeks earlier, I had dismantled a mountainous pile of Pop! Vinyls in pursuit of my chosen few. As we wandered along the shiny marble floor, the artificial light of a hundred shops touched us and music faded in and out in boppy rows from the stores.
Then she reached out, I felt her fingers touching mine, and she took my hand.
We walked hand in hand together along the concourse, our stepping but a trundle against the rhythm of my stolen heart.
My time in Sydney was up.
Amanda walked me back to the Burwood train station and I checked the portrait screens for the next train back to the mountains via Strathfield. Platform four, in 3 minutes.
I turned to her. She seemed sad, a little anxious. I pointed at the two of us, my fingers ping ponging between our bodies.
“We’re good together, right?”
“You wanna be my girlfriend?”
“Only if you’ll be mine.”
A train passed on the line above us and the station rumbled. I stepped forward and we cuddled, the warmth of her body soothing into mine.
“I’m yours, little one.”