Close to You, Part III
Updated: Mar 8
Click for Part I.
Click for Part II.
Withdrawal from anti-depressants or not, my concert pianist was always passionate about enjoying the best coffee. We'd obliterated the civet coffee I'd brought for his birthday, but I think we brewed it to be too weak. So he set out on taking me through a tour of his favorite Campos Coffee locations in Sydney.
We sat at a long natural wood bench eating our decadent brunch, next to a mother with young children. My man hardly had a word to say to me, and the rejection sat like a brick on my chest, but one child delighted him, and he suddenly came back to life.
"Don't you like your eggs?" and "How old are you?" and "What year are you in school?"
She was charmed in her six year old way, and answered his questions with an adorable shyness, and a baby-voiced Aussie accent, while her mum looked on with a smile of approval.
Oh my heart strings... He was obviously well practiced in conversing with kids because of his gorgeous niece and nephew. I love a man who's good with people, especially children, and by all outward appearances, this one was.
I watched, tongue tied with emotion, until his little admirer was done with their chat.
Back at home, we sat on his bed. He shared a book that his father (famous in his own right in the Australian government) had published about one of Oz's most curious criminals. Then we began talking of the rest of his family, and his brother's kids.
He fidgeted and stood up beside me, facing the bed.
"Do you want to have children someday?" he pressed anxiously.
"Uhh..." I was caught by surprise. But I'd wondered if we'd revisit this topic during my visit, and had thought this outcome through, as it pertained to him and me. Now I just needed the courage to be honest.
"I know we've talked about this before..." he trailed.
We had -- almost a year and a half ago, and we'd both agreed of our own volition that we had no desire to be parents.
I wanted to give him my complete answer without seeming like I'd say or do anything to manipulate him into being with me. What I felt was as genuine as anything I'd ever experienced.
I took a deep breath.
"No..." I began. "Do you?"
His eyes faded from me as his head slumped down.
My heart smiled. Finally I knew I'd have the chance to say something that would bring him happiness.
"Your niece and nephew?" I asked. I sensed I should hear him out before I began my whole spiel.
"Yes," he mumbled. "I see what my brother and his wife have with them, and it's incredible. I love them so much and can't picture the world without them, and I'm only their uncle. It's changed me."
I breathed and smiled -- then as abruptly as he'd presented the question, he left the room. Evidently the conversation was over?
Wait! my inner monologue shrieked. I have more to say, oh please... My mind raced to find a way to continue the talk without sounding manipulative.
I've never needed to have kids for ME, I've never felt like my genetics needed to be passed on. And most men leave parenting to the mother while they go about living their normal lives. That's not something I'm interested in -- in fact, that's my version of hell.
But you -- you're different. You have an unbelievable mind, the highest emotional intelligence, and unparalleled artistic virtuosity. The future of humanity would be so much less bleak if there were more brains like yours in the world. And if you decided to have kids, I know you would be SO into them, and it would kill you if child rearing were something you didn't share 50/50 with your wife. I've known since almost the beginning: should you decide you want to be a father, then you absolutely should be. And if I should be so lucky as to be your wife, I'd be morally obligated, for the sake of the human race, to have children with you -- and it would be my honor. It would be a beautiful adventure to experience together, instead of a prison where I'd suffer alone, like it would be with every other man I've dated.
He was long gone, into the kitchen for a snack, then into the loo for a shower. The moment had passed.
I need to tell him! How can I just SAY something like that and have him believe my sincerity? I'm sure every woman he's ever dated has fallen in love with him and offered him children. How could I be different from the hordes? We would have heavily muscular, ranga-headed little weirdos that you he'd adore...
Just breathe. Maybe you'll get another opportunity. You still have more than two weeks.
I held back tears. I felt his cold disappointment like yet another complete rejection.
If I never tell him, the only answer I gave is the biggest nail in this coffin.
I thumbed through his father's book and composed myself, then realized I needed to use the restroom.
I wandered into the bathroom as he showered -- at least peeing in the same room was an intimacy boundary that hadn't yet been revoked.
He tapped on the glass shower door as I passed by, wearing a mischievous grin. When I looked at him, his new weight lifter's physique gloriously rippling in the steam, he beckoned me with his finger.
My brain was still racing from the incomplete conversation. Who was this Jekyll and Hyde? I'd been here for almost a week and he's barely touched me. He wants me now? After the look on his face that said he was done with me just minutes ago, when I said I didn't want to have kids?
"Your hot water..." I stammered despondently.
That concern was legitimate. His apartment had the smallest water heater in the world. If you got a four minute hot shower out of it, you were lucky. And he'd already been in there for a bit of time.
"Hurry..." he smiled wickedly.
If he's finally in the mood I'd better rally... I fought back tears again as I stripped to join him.
He began kissing me passionately -- impersonally. The water heater decided in that moment, not 15 seconds in, to quit, and I instantly began to shiver. He sent me to the bed with a towel while he rinsed off the last of the soap, then joined me.
We began to couple, but where was he mentally? Where was the explosive sexual compatibility that had transcended time and space, and why was it impossible to achieve again? I clung to him in hopes of finding comfort, but that was something he was no longer able to give.
After the prematurely finished conversation, he was more neutrally detached, but seemed more at peace. He toured me around the Rocks, and enjoyed showing me the shops, buying chocolates, and eating at the cafes. He knew a plethora of interesting local history that I could barely process because it was so foreign to me.
I may have pushed my luck asking him to jam with me on a Schubert piece I'd purchased and hadn't yet studied, but he indulged me dutifully, if not joyfully like the man I'd known.
One night I put on my iPod through his stereo while I continued cleaning up mold. He sat in his bedroom replying to emails, then popped his head out of the door frame, suddenly excited by something in the music he heard. He engaged me in light hearted, curious conversation, just like his old self.
If that's all it takes I would've had this playlist on the whole time, I thought. He just bounced back to normal like a dementia patient.
One night we headed out to Maroubra Beach, which he said was his favorite. We shagged in the sand dunes like naughty teenagers, while nervously hiding from innocent passers-by.
And then, it was time to pack to fly to New Zealand, where we would join a ship for his next guest entertainer contract. I was excited to see him on stage again, and hopeful that perhaps I could join him on a show. But I was also looking forward to watching him at another concert back in Sydney, immediately upon our return from the ship. On land, in the country of his fame, he could play more like his authentic self, and not like a pre-packaged cruise ship entertainer, and that was an act I hadn't been able to see before.
The second leg of my journey down under was about to begin.
Stay tuned for Part IV...