“your love’s more present
here now that you’re nowhere
Nate (not his real name) was one of them from the media it looked, taking photographs of the naked few being body-painted on stage by various artists for a prize. Minus my flesh-coloured g-string, I was one of the naked few, my artist painting me into a harlequin. I was immediately drawn to Nate. He looked comfortable in his skin. He had mid-length hair and the type of face I noticed I was drawn to. This face was usually of the rugged and romantic variety, English-European, classic strong jaw. Now Nate was also fair-haired. I’d earlier determined fair-haired men were not for me. But my attraction to Nate went beyond hair colour. His sensitive face, bearing and gait together pleased me. I called out to him “hey what’s your name?” and maybe something else like “who do you work for?” to which Nate would’ve given his name and replied “I’m a freelance writer”. (I realised later the son of a gun had plotted to photograph me, no body-painting writeup for any paper!)
Nate had an accent that was new to me. He explained it was Welsh, and he from Wales come to explore Australia. We agreed to find each other once the competition brouhaha was over. Nate and I clicked. We decided to paint the town red, immediately holding hands like we’d known each other since childhood, spontaneously engaging in one happy, pure thing after another: joining a table tennis party here, dancing and being generally merry with others there, ending with Nate carrying me (I am dainty) in his arms half-way back to his temporary share-house arrangement with locals.
By this time with Nate I’d graduated from my nun-like demeanour around men. I was still pretty modest but was no longer stupidly academic or (Catholically) afraid about attraction and how it affected my insides, how I’d respond to it, where it could lead and all sorts of other (unnecessary) extrapolations. I had graduated to the liberating point of no longer being painfully shy about liking and being liked by someone in return, and expressing my liking someone more directly. In any given moment. These moments, I observed, were rare. I had to recognise a pretty moment when I connected with somebody and grab it.
That night Nate and I were drunk on nothing (I’m not a drinker, Nate drank little) but each other. We were lovers for some three weeks before he flew back to the UK. At the airport Nate and I fell back like hippies on his massive adventurer’s backpack. Waiting for his boarding, we were silent for the most part. Though we had more to say besides Nate’s “I’m glad I met you” and my “Me too.” But saying wasn’t necessary; we spoke with our quiet. I understood Nate was a soul mate. But I didn’t see myself away from family in Australia and questioned the timing of seriously getting involved with anyone while in the middle of a music project I thought might settle my creative direction. I would give up this project the year next when falling for a Nate-like lover who was going to be a significant other-half.
Other-half. I thought little or not much of that concept earlier, while my romantic self might have been touched by half-heart jewellery pieces signifying another carried the wearer’s heart. Leaving Nate at the airport and driving home teary, I felt the strongest pain in my middle : like I was being sawed in two parts.
+ Magdalene Carmen photographed by Damien Smith