R.I.P. Macini

My laptop has perished. I can’t say I’m sorry. He was always slow and disobedient. Quite frankly if he weren’t so good looking I would’ve ditched him for a different model ages ago. I’m leaving tropical paradise and heading back to Australia to get my spare but can’t do any writing til then.

Have a few people who contacted me via FB message that I still need to reply to. I’m sorry it’s taking so long! I want to have the time and head space to respond thoughtfully. Throwing myself into the paws of my animals and the arms of my friends will get my head and heart back to where they need to be. I’ve been so homesick since the incident with Ze German. Was too overwhelmed last week to respond to a lot of the words that came my way over the last 8 days. My hands are so sore they are crip typing. So it’s just as well I’m getting the enforced break.

Thank you so much for all the support and sharing of your sorrows last week. It helped me immeasurably. It was absolutely not expected to have so much interaction with this blog. I feel a little sheepish to admit that I just write to help myself. But it makes me really happy to think I helped so many people by sharing that story. It had over 4000 readers and I had close to 80 personal emails to reply to so I think it’s safe to say that, unfortunately, sexual harassment and assault – whatever you wanna call it – is really trending right now. Off the charts!

See you next week sometime.

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Soft Touch With A Hard Cock.

I’m up in the mountains in Bali. My curtains are drawn. My window shutters closed. My hair is wet and I’m sitting wrapped up in a towel on my bed. Hiding. Probably still a little bit in shock but I think writing this is helping me be numb again. I don’t have any alcohol, or cocaine, or weed to take the edge off. Writing this will have to do. I have a couple of close friends here already but I don’t want to go out to see them. I don’t know if I can handle having anyone tell me I need to take any course of action right now. I don’t know if I can cope with something as simple as a kind embrace.

I just returned home from a massage. The guy had a firm but soft touch. No pain, not much pressure. I was super relaxed and it felt good. I didn’t sleep much last night. Was up skyping and writing emails, cause I’ve been a little lonesome. I don’t want to go into the details of the rub down. In essence, the same old story as many others. The guy went to town on my breasts and at some point was brushing his hard and undeserving cock, encased in damp underwear, against my hand. Starring in his own sexual, and might I add unimaginative, fantasy. Manipulating my arm so that my half unfurled fingers were skimming firmly over it. He walked the line between ok and other. Incorporating some movements that were common, with some that seemed legit but that I didn’t know, and then just lightly dusting the cake with something putrid. I was so out of it, so foggy and hot, half asleep and drunk with client/practioner trust. And to be shamefully honest, the massage felt good. In a dream like state I convinced myself I was getting it wrong, and berated myself for being grossed out by him. Because he was kind of a fucking freak, fat gut, short curly brown hair, one wonky milky eye and an accent like a German villain in a poorly acted film. I thought I might just be being unkind.

When it came to the damp hard cock, it took quite a few strokes for me to become closer to consciousness and click that something might not be right. Then I thought it might just be his pants and you know, sometimes in a massage that happens. The whole time through him working on my butt, my thighs, my pubic bone, I thought it was just something that could have been interpreted as sexual but could also have just been legit. It felt overly familiar but the woman who owned the place had been working on me at the same time for the first 15 minutes and was using me to show him techniques. I just thought he wasn’t very good. That his touch was different to hers, cause she knew what she was doing. After the cock, still in between asleep and awake, I pretended to be dead asleep so I didn’t have to deal with what might be happening. I wasn’t sure. I still wasn’t sure. I remember thinking, “This isn’t happening. I’m getting it wrong.” I definitely remember thinking that. It was only 3.5 hours ago.

Even now I feel disconnected from this whole experience. Wondering if I am running hard in an over-reactathon. He left the room not long after the cock. I lay there. Pretending to sleep. I still didn’t know that I knew what had happened. In hindsight I know exactly what happened and that he most likely left the room to go bang with his own banana. In real time, I thought I might be wrong. I wasn’t upset yet. I was just wondering. I was still half asleep, still quite relaxed. Just turning it over, around, up and down in my head. Just telling myself to be calm. Don’t be cynical. Don’t be hysterical. Don’t be rude. I lay there, and I lay there. It was unbearably hot. He’d turned the fan off when he left. I half opened one eye. No sign of him. Then I heard him on the phone to the owner, saying he would see her soon. He’d known that he had time.

I got up. I went outside. I glanced at his pants. He was wearing thick cargo styles with a zipper on the crotch. When he’d rubbed my hand against his cock, there was no zipper. The lech had pulled his pants down especially for me. I paid. He tried to thank me for the tip I wasn’t giving, to steam roll his way into not giving me my change. In the end I fucking tipped because he didn’t have enough change. I took a pricelist and smiled like a normal customer. I pretended I had just woken up from sleep so that I didn’t have to look him in the eye. I accidentally did look at him, in the eye and was reminded again of how hideous he was. I had the same thought that maybe I was being rude, but then he told me I had fallen fast asleep at the end and that he’d tried to wake me but couldn’t. He hadn’t tried to wake me. I asked him if he’d done my hands as I’d requested at the start. He said yes, yes, that he’d done my hands. He hadn’t. He was lying. I felt like I was in a scene from a movie. The part where the audience gets a fucking clue but the protagonist isn’t quite there yet….

I walked down the road, went into a shop, bought a coke and some water, ordered some food. I stood and I chatted to the woman as she made gado gado. Mesmerised by her mortar and pestle grinding away at peanuts in a circular motion, breaking them down to mush. I teetered on my feet, it was creeping up on me. I had to get out of the shop. I walked with my food and drinks down the garden path, past my home stay mumma and the housekeeping girl, they called out to me and I smiled with my whole body and my whole face just like I always do as I sung a hello that floated on the breeze over to them in their kitchen. I got to my porch and put my things down. Texted my friend to see if he could skype me cause something shit had just happened. I said that I had to shower. I left my phone behind, outside on the table. I left the food, my wallet, my disbelief my everything out there. I looked at myself in the mirror and said, “Billie, don’t get upset. You don’t have to get upset. You are ok with what just happened.”

As soon as I turned the water of the shower onto my body, my tears began to cascade from my eyes. I turned my face up to meet the stream of cold water. The tears ran into the arms of their brethren and amongst the fold, they all made their way down the drain together.

It was impossible for my friend to talk. I know he’ll feel bad when he reads this (please don’t A). My other friend thought my text was a joke but with my tawdry sense of humour I can understand why. My gf’s all had stuff on today. I ended up skyping my exboyfriend. He is my best friend these days but I didn’t want him to be the first one I told. I wanted him to get the later version, the one with less detail in the telling because the story had been told before and the corners are rounded, the edges softened. And that’s when it really hit me. Putting it all into words, going through the whole thing from start to cock. All the questions I’d asked myself, I asked again, but with the torturous clarity of hindsight. I cried so ugly that my mouth turned square and I couldn’t breathe. Half an hour later and I’d resigned myself to being alone in my room eating the closest thing I could find to cheesy poofs and drinking a coca cola. The irony of the cheesy poofs being called “Chiki Snack Balls” wasn’t lost on us. The sheer ridiculousness of this made us both laugh before we hung up. My ex-bf saved my day. As only he can.

I have to move forward. At the end of the day, I will be fine if I let myself be fine. If I just accept what has happened and get the fuck over it. I don’t know. I do know. I know that I’m full of shit. And that my head is toying with me because I’m in tears again thinking about what a fucking idiot I am. I’ve been like this my whole life. Polite to the point of delusional. Never supposing that people who aren’t supposed to do things like that, would actually do them. Convincing myself in the moment that what I think is happening isn’t really happening. Having conversations with myself where I talk myself out of what is real and into what should be real. As an 8 year old thinking it must be ok for the neighbor from down the road, to have me sitting on his lap, embracing me from behind with his hands up my shirt and rubbing up and down my chest. I thought it was ok because he was our family friend and because my dad sometimes did the same thing. Even now I think to myself that it must not have been sexual. With what I know now, I understand that this isn’t the truth, about my neighbour, but my first inclination is to explain his way out of it for him. It’s nothing I’ve ever lost sleep over.

In the context of men overstepping their boundaries, when the truth and I disagree, I always win the argument in my head. I don’t think I’m the only one who does this. From a young age we are taught not to question people in certain positions of status. To respect without exception our teachers, priests, parents, family friends, elders, customers, even perfect strangers. Our parents tell us “Because I said so, that’s why.” We are trained not to ask questions, not to speak up, not to be contrary, not to be difficult, to do what it takes to please the other party. This way of thinking, of not being taught to trust our instincts and value our feelings as children has pretty fucked up consequences when we grow up.

Even now, after working in strip clubs for 9 years, something like today will happen and all my assertiveness and street smarts dissolve in disbelief. All the things I should know better are once again, not known at all. I’m so indignant at work when men ask me to let them suck my tits, or finger me, or lick out my ass or fuck me til I break in two, or put their dick in my mouth. I’m so indignant that there is NO time or place that a person who is uninvited should talk to anyone that way, let alone actually make the moves to manifesting any one of those things beyond that infantile, socially unaware, power tripping douche bag’s bland sack of shit imagination. I’m so assertive with setting the boundaries and not allowing anyone to cross them. I don’t know why this falls away so completely in real life.

I deleted about 4 big paragraphs from the first section of this post. Because I realized that I was including all that detail because I wanted every one to know every little thing so that they could see I was being 100% transparent. So they wouldn’t think I’d done it on purpose, or that I’d asked for it, or implied that it was ok or in some way manifested what that wonky eyed, predatory, lascivious German toad did to me. I deleted it because I don’t want to be defending myself for something I shouldn’t be defending myself over. I don’t want people to see my shame and guilt and foolishness become clichés in the details. I feel as though I have to say “It could have been worse. There was no penetration, there was no ….” There was no what??? There was enough. And that should be the end of it.

2 DAYS LATER

 

A good girl friend and kindred spirit that I’ve met here in Ubud has offered to go back to the massage place and tell the local Balinese woman who owns the joint that something happened. I can’t face it, I don’t want to see that man. When I told her, she relayed several stories to me of sexual harassment in her life – massages, men masturbating next to her on the bus, in a park across the way, groping her arse or breasts from this country to that country. We had some laughs, I shed some tears as we juggled the questions of the why and the who? My other good friend and saviour of sorts offered to go and throw the fucker out the window. I’m sure he could manage it. But I don’t want him seeing the face of my shame. There have been a myriad of inappropriate jokes made and stories told to lighten the mood for me. It’s good to laugh. I don’t want to let the memory of his sweaty dick wrapped up in cheap underwear come between me and my love of drawing cartoon dicks on things. I feel lucky that I can still laugh, but it’s not an event I’m sailing through. It’s had repercussions already.

I feel alone. I feel dirty. There’s heaviness on my shoulders and a fog in my mind that won’t lift, even after my 4th coffee in the morning. My head can’t process this beautiful paradise as it is and everything is overlaid with a grotty sepia hue. I feel like some of my friends at home don’t want to speak to me, when usually a changed skype date or unreturned email or tardy reply to a message wouldn’t be a blip on my radar and I know my mind is trying to trick me into feeling like a bad person. I feel unworthy of friendships I have never doubted until now. I’m really angry. Every now and then I can feel that guy’s cock in my hand. I see the sneaky, gratuitous sideways glance of his milky blue eye as he thinks he got away with it when I leave the shop front. I feel a little trapped in my own head and I don’t quite know how to get out. I guess it will just pass. Like any other cloud.

I woke up to a series of emails from a beautiful pixie friend in NYC who put it perfectly when she said, “It makes me really angry because it is the sort of thing that I fear happening all the time, as a woman, and a small one at that. I am so tired of feeling constantly cautious, constantly untrusting, constantly scared. But this is the reason why.”

I’m comforted but also revolted and so very upset that I am not alone in this experience.

Soft Touch Hard Cock

This is how it feels when you do this to someone. Just in case you think they may have enjoyed it. Just so you know. This is how it felt for them.

My pixie friend is on twitter AND tumblr @tinyprofessor. Follow her.

The Girl Had Wings

I was recently reminded of a glamorous stripper girl I worked with a couple of years ago. She was sweet as sugar and nice to talk to, until she started talking smack about my best mate. But that didn’t come to pass until a long time after her labiaplasty.

She had a voice like the gravel rubbing itself up and down the back of your throat after a hard night on the ciggies, and a dry sense of humor that suited her voice perfectly. She would arrive at work without makeup dressed in a hoody and pink velour tracksuit pants, looking like a day-to-day girl. Then the 2 hour transformation would take place….

Her falsies were in the top 5 biggest I’d ever seen. I’m talking about eyelashes…. She wore an excess of glitter and so many sequins and rhinoplasties, I mean rhinestones, that I felt absolute wonderment that such a stunning toothpick of a girl could manage all that extra weight without teetering over in the super tall sparkly platform stilettos that she wore around the club. She always wore white and shined bright like any diamonte being sold as a genuine Swarovski that I’ve ever seen. She was the sort of girl who’s favourite quote would be Marilyn Monroe’s “If he can’t handle me at my worst, then he doesn’t deserve me at my best.” Ugh. Pretty well suited to the kind of guy who would have “No woman no cry” as his life motto.

She did a little military drummer girl show that I actually really enjoyed. She was excellent at beating her own drum to the rhythm of somebody else’s song. There was something so sweetly aggressive about her performance in this particular Halloween outfit. As though she were really trying to bang it out there and show everyone that she didn’t give two fucks about anything except owning who she was and being a loud and proud stripper in a super hot fictitious civilian services costume. Here to fictitiously service you civilians and service you good. In a dancy way. I never saw that girl jump the gap between the two sex industries. And it is a HUGE gap for most girls to jump. But that’s a whole other chapter in itself.

Some girls dance like the devil in the pale spotlight so that they can travel. This girl liked to travel too. Thailand was her Number One, ichiban daisukidesu destination. Every time she returned she was loaded with goodies. One time at band camp, a plastic surgeon in Australia refused to perform the super size me, level up! augmentation she was craving so she was forced to take a tropical hospital vacay in trusty Thailand. She returned with tits so enormous that from behind she appeared to be a bronzed prepubescent girl dressed up in her mum’s heels holding basketballs close to her chest so that they bulged beyond her snowy egret frame, creating the silhouette of a fantasy cartoon of any Comicon attendee.

She told me in conversation that she had also had her labia trimmed and that it was the most painful thing she had ever experienced, and that the doctor gave her the option to keep the wings of her vagina in a little jar of solution. I was stunned. I wasn’t even offered my wisdom teeth when I got those fuckers hoisted out of my face. No one ever offered me the left over pieces of myself! Well, they offered them to her. And she graciously accepted her labia in a little plastic jar. Like the ones you pee into for a urine sample. The one with the yellow lid.

Forever more when I think of her, I will imagine her going home after the club closes at 7.30am and chucking her work bag on her bed with the frilly pink and white covers. I will imagine her peeling off her Top of the Charts lashes and beginning to ritualistically remove all signs of the night. Gently cleansing her body and face, soaking her white and tan-stained clothes in a bucket by the shower for the night. Going into her bedroom and getting down on her hands and knees to reach into the back left hand side of her wardrobe retrieving an old shoe box from the floor. Gently unfolding the tissue paper wrapped around her jar of vagina and holding the jar in her hands for just a few moments before she shakes it up a little. And as the glitter softly falls around the snow globe encasing the angel’s wings she used to have, she sits, counting her money.

The Big O

  
People often feel a little guilty about objectifying us girls when they visit a strip club. I guess that’s one thing to feel bad about if you’re an asshole about it. But it’s also condescending to think of strippers as victims of objectification. I mean really, no one seems to feel sorry for the 14 year old Kate Moss in that Calvin Klein campaign. It’s the very thought that turns it from an appreciation to an objectification.

It’s what a lot of women like to think so they can feel sorry for us and be safe because obviously we are all fucked in the head, which therefore makes us less appealing, and therefore less likely to steal the husbands or boyfriends of theirs that we have absolutely no interest in stealing. These concerned girlfriends and wives obviously haven’t heard that thing about how crazy girls are the best fucks in the forest because if they had they’d be increasing their benzodiazepine intake to allay their fears of members of orthodox or born again church groups; women living in isolation on self sustaining farms in bum-fuck-no-town-no-where bunking on mattresses stuffed with sustainably farmed organic straw in shipping crates collecting the hair shed from their bodies to reverently stuff the pillow of their long haired guru; and of course girls in mental hospitals who can be unpredictable and on all kinds of meds. And they certainly would not see the correlation between the benzo use of themselves and the latter. No need to worry so much about the strippers or the crazies. The kind of bitch who will go after your hapless man, powerless like a deer in tit lights, will not be contained to just one industry. That kind of bitch, is that kind of bitch, no matter how she makes her money.

It’s what a lot of men like to think so they can feel like nice guys when they ask you “What are you doing in a place like this? Doing a job like this? You’re such a nice girl. Funny. Smart. Beautiful. Sweet…” As though they are really, no I mean really seeing us as humans. As if you can’t be all of those things and take your clothes off for money. As if you can only be all those things if you star in Disney kids shows (ja cause Britney and Lindsay are such awesome idols for your children), or work with special needs kids, or work behind the counter at Baker’s Delight getting paid $12 an hour and stuffing your face with samples of sundried tomato pull apart bread all day long – I only say this because that’s what I’d be doing…. No offence intended for anyone who actually does work at Baker’s Delight. OMG and shit quality custard tarts!!! I would smash those all day every day til I was sweating sweet gooey custard that I could collect from my arm pits and scrape back into empty pie shells I bought from Woollies on a Saturday morning, refrigerate and then eat all over again in the afternoon.

On the nights that my humour is still in tact and guys ask me what I really do for a living, what income in a respectable trade I need to subsidise, I often tell them I work with people with special needs. People who dribble and sometimes even vomit on themselves, don’t understand social etiquette, have addiction issues, anger management problems, mental retardation coupled with sexual perversions, autistics from across the entire spectrum and people with Aspergers disease who don’t understand emotions and how their words and actions effect others.

“Wow! Really?? That’s so saaaaad. Those poor people. How long have you been doing that for?” Sometimes they get it. Sometimes they don’t. Sometimes I let them in on the joke. Sometimes I don’t.

“Yes, I really do work in community services…..in a way. Yes, sometimes it really does bring me down. It can be pretty intense. Yeaaaaaah.”

Sometimes nasty ladies of the 9-5 circuit come in and objectify us too. They sit at our podiums specifically to snarl and snigger at us and talk about our cellulite, or how their bff 4 eva sitting next to them is waaaaaay hotter than that girl on the stage, or how she has been going to Pole Divas for nearly 2 years now and is totally so much better at that descending angel inversion than that girl is…oh, and waaaaay hotter too. I imagine this last type of girl actually ends up demonstrating this inversion on a pole at 1 Oak in New York’s west side, or any which one of Melbourne CBD’s unsuspecting sign posts in the wee drunken hours of her “later that night” montage. Unashamedly displaying her g-banger and the half of her butt cheeks that drew the short straw and didn’t get to hang out the bottom of her skirt that night. This epidemic of pole rape is sweeping its way across many nations like wildfire. And it’s not due to globalization or climate change. I hope it never stops because it’s insanely entertaining and hopefully therapeutic cause these girls obviously have something they need to express that isn’t seeing the light of day or the dark of night frequently enough.

On the flip side of that female market there are also many feminists out there defending our rights as real people with real feelings and to them I’d like to say thanks for the sentiment of care but without delving into a muff that I don’t know that much about having never done that myself, us kids are alright! And if we aren’t, it’s not due to being objectified by strangers. If this were the case I’m pretty sure every girl who walks the street out there in pretty much every country, fat or thin, short or tall, would also be in a high risk category and worthy of an armed defence force and pamphlet literature containing A LOT OF UPPER CASE BOLD text.

To be honest, sometimes it’s a relief to be the object of my own heart’s desire. To just be a shell of a girl. Shiny and bright. Under lights that erase the imperfections of my body that I notice daily. Languid limbs dancing slowly to my own song on a pole in the middle of a snow globe. Suspended in time with glitter falling all around until the floor is covered in a life that seems brighter than the shit day you just had, the Aunty you visited in a hospice last week who’s skull is the most prominent feature of a face that once had a sparkle you’ll never forget. It can be your 20 minutes of peace that set, or your one accumulated one hour of happiness that day. Unless they play top 40 Katy Perry, Skrillex or any one of the empowering Pink ballads on the system. In which case your day is still fucked and the soundtrack to your nightmares has been decided for you by the DJ who is too busy getting a blowjob in the booth to care what kind of ear violation he is subjecting you to.

Objectification is in the eye of the beholder. Hold onto it, or let it go but please don’t spoof into my sparkle globe with your condescending cunt or cock confetti.

   

Saigon Sorrows

I wrote this in Febuary 2013.  It’s taken almost 2 years for me to hit the button that will force me to take just one more tiny step in processing the suffering that has coloured my blood since I was a very little girl. Dedicating it to my dad, from his youngest. I truly hope he never ever reads it.


For my entire adolescent and adult life I’ve felt sad and disappointed by my dad’s performance as my father. I felt as though he failed my sister and I. Often it was us who played parents to him as we traversed our way through his depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. His inability to happily exist within society and our family hurt me. Our adoration and love as children was never enough to make him happy. As a child of the 80’s, raised on Disney, and a teen of the 90’s and avid watcher of old romantic films, this was devastating. My sister idolized him well beyond the point where she realized he was not the man she thought he was. She moved to Sydney to live with him and my step-mum when she was 14. It didn’t work out. She was living in a half way house run by a kick ass nun (thanks for caring for my sister Sister) from her school by the age of 16.

Dad left Australia in 1997. He wanted to give back something to the region he felt he had helped to destroy. Vietnam was too much for him so he has lived in either Cambodia or Laos ever since. I was 17 when he left the country and I felt abandoned. Didn’t he know he was going to miss everything? Didn’t he care? He came to see me perform in a school production of West Side Story just days before he left. I was embarrassed for him to see that side of me. It seemed too personal for him to get a glimpse of me doing something I loved when he was about to up and leave us. It made me want to cry to think of him standing there and being proud of me. Having that moment where he saw his little girl through the eyes of hundreds of other people, but got to feel special, to enjoy the feeling of his heart swelling, because he was my dad. He didn’t deserve it. I wanted to cry at my own bitterness. I wanted to flip the bird and tell him to get fucked. I wanted to scream because I didn’t really want to tell him to get fucked. I really longed for him to show us that he was our dad who loved us more than anything, and to stay in the country to be close to us.

When I was 21, I moved to Sydney for uni. He had given a list of orders written with military precision to my mother and my ex-stepmum to sort through his things from his storage unit. My sister and I were to distribute everything amongst us women and set some things aside that dad particularly wanted. Some of these were obscure….antique silver mandarins, antique daggers, my grandfather’s war medals. We didn’t know where they were and couldn’t find them. He came home to Australia and accused my mother and stepmum of conspiring to steal his belongings. I told him he was being ridiculous. That mum had never asked him for, nor had he given her anything. He lost his shit in the middle of Oxford Street at lunch hour. Shouting that I was a nasty little bitch and that we were all against him. I turned around and walked away. A few days later he called mum to tell her that she had done a bad job in raising us, that my sister and I were not good people. Deceitful and selfish, horrible little women, a far cry from Louisa May Alcott’s cherubs. These incidents, his absence of 15 years and his tendency to flip out when he returns home have all contributed to the demise of our relationship. From that day on Oxford Street, I was no longer daddy’s little girl. He doesn’t even know the half of it.

As I type – tappy tap tap – I am in Ho Chi Minh city. The streets are overflowing with civilians buzzing with festivity for Tet, the New Year celebrations. Years ago my dad told me he had returned to Vietnam in the hope of tracking down some of the Vietnamese people who had befriended him during his time here in the American/Vietnam War. He came from a fucked up 1950’s nuclear Australian family. Standard. My grandmother was a tortured soul who needed attention more than anything else. She would walk my dad and uncle to the country bus stop and in floods of tears she would tell them that when they returned from school, she might be gone. Forever. What a gal. My grandfather had been in the navy in WWII and was a violent drunk. He busted my grandmother having an affair and thought my father was the child of another man. He picked on my dad. Dad had brown hair, sad brown eyes, and big ears. He didn’t like sports like his younger brother, he liked books and languages like some fucking faggot. My grandfather had an ill temper and once flew into a rage and knocked my 12 year old dad out cold. It wasn’t until I was born, with blonde hair and blue eyes, just like Poppa, that he believed my father was his son by blood.

I have always known that my dad treasured the bonds he made in Vietnam. The Vietnamese taught him their language and they got along great. I have the photos of his time in the War. Serious children with rifles almost as tall as they are. Him smoking ciggies and playing cards with other soldiers. I’ve always known he was damaged goods. At times as unpalatable as the 14 year old cans of tinned tomatoes we found in mum’s cupboard last Christmas.

Just before he left Australia he wrote me a letter telling me that he had had a Vietnamese lover. Dad had held him in his arms as he died. I can’t remember exactly what happened. I only ever read the letter once and then buried it in a box with all my other letters from over the years. The shock of finding out my father had had a male lover was overwhelming. The pain of knowing what he had suffered and lost was even greater. I chose not to acknowledge it. We have never spoken about the letter he wrote me and sometimes I wonder if I imagined the whole thing.

A few years ago dad told me that he came back to Vietnam in the hope of finding some of the locals who had befriended him. He went to the War Museum and there he saw the names and faces of every single person he was looking for. They had all been murdered in various horrifying ways over the course of the War. Men, women and children. Today I visited this museum and I was quickly reduced to tears. The pressure from the heat and my heart left me struggling to breathe as I floated my way up stairs and around rooms walking through the terrors that woke my dad every night that I remember with him. I looked at photographs and read captions. I saw faces contorted by suffering and also hope. With each name and face I couldn’t help wondering who my dad had been looking for? Which faces did he find on those walls? I imagined his heart racing as he wandered the exhibits, breaking over and over again with every familiar face he saw. I finally understand the weight of my father’s sorrow. And it is as heavy as fuck. I finally understand that tenor in his voice when it used to fall really low, low, low. Down to a whisper. The film of water over his eyes that was sometimes inexplicable. The heaviness of his spirit.

I’m glad I finally faced my own fears and came to Vietnam. I’ve always wanted to come, but never have. I’ve kept it at a distance, knowing that it would be a very personal experience. I have found and placed another piece in the puzzle that is my father. Dad gave me all his old albums from the storage unit and they are filled with photographs that he took of my sister and I as children. You can feel his love shining at us through the lense. He was not perfect. He often was not there, even when he was in front of us. He didn’t cope with us growing up and holding him accountable for his failings. But he loves us and deserves forgiveness and a real chance to bear witness to our lives and to be a proud father. Cause actually, my sister and I turned out alright and I know that might make him happy to know.

Except for the whole job thing. I don’t want him to see his little girl through the eyes of the thousands of other men who have gazed upon me. A lot of them have known me better than he ever will. I’ve spoken to some of them about the things that matter most to me, that make me laugh or break my heart. He’ll always be my dad. I will always love and respect him. I accept him as he is. But he will never know me as I am.

Dad pic