The boy in the beanie is a vapour, a smoke ring, a dream thought… dissolving upon waking.
The boy in the beanie, when I first saw him from my hidden window in the secret room of our grand State Library, turned my breath into hiccups and my novel to soup. Even then, from three flights up, I could see he was of the order of angels too pure, usually, to make it with me. But love sent out her wild daisy anyway – a determined blossom nursed on the strange euphoria of ten million books, gossiping.
I went to his house one day that summer and found him reading the paper on a disemboweled sofa in a garden blooming rubble.
That night he drizzled his desolate courtyard with fairylights and we danced to Bob Dillon, turning wonky vinyl poems on a Fischer Price turntable.
He lived in a strange body. There were places where wings should be, signs of amputation. He was wiry, with peaked shoulders that escape their hinges when he played football or danced too long.
He had the most incredible hands I had ever seen. Giant hands. Hands of soft coral and ancient timbers. Stone hands. From above, they were like the hands of angels, the way they floated about him, caressed him, and whispered him things. He, from the lofty arc of the Library steps, where I sometimes went to watch him write his book – (just for a moment, until he made a song rise up in me and spill over, begging me to call him) – he, did not look like a writer so much as a farmer, growing a story.
I should say then, in fact, that he was a perfect writer then.
He was a cultivator of pages, a tenderer of thoughts. A digger of the earthy furrows of blue lines and ink.
The boy from the Library kissed me on a wet Sunday, under a broken umbrella. He kissed me slowly, and carefully, like you might ease into a too-hot bath.
We were aware of every tiny moment. He kissed me in the way of those who have not kissed a lot. He had no expertise. No cunning. I could tell from his trembling that he was slightly afraid, and fully awake – terrified of the beauty of it. He kissed me in a way that made me crazy, all that summer, to dive into him, and weak as a dewdrop all at once.
He had jam-red curtains in his room and wings on the end of his magic old bed. When he took me there he would rub me and squeeze me and tell me everything he knew about Hip Hop. He would press me, firm but gently, like a mango, and find me unripe. “More days in the sun!” he would laugh, and fall asleep with a Sydney moon powdering his eyelashes
The boy from the Library said he knew that he loved me because he was always just about to say all the things that I said. We wanted to practice sleep flying. To travel the Americas. To write a love story about trees and translate hymns sung by seashells at Manly.
As the Australian sky turned us juicy shades of hot fruit that year, we lay in our innocent bed on long and early nights, drifting between dream and desire. He said once, “So, what do you think about the love making thing?” And I wriggled and blushed and summoned the busiest silence I could think of.
On the day of our first real expedition in the Kingdom of Kiss he discovered a blood-red and orange rose on the espresso machine at his work in the bookshop café. A beautiful girl knocked on the big glass door and told him that she loved him. She pressed her lips against the invisible wall and left the bones of a letter there, the fossil of her kiss.
He went to the art gallery to consult with angels, and the pictures made him turn to tell me things, even though I wasn’t there. When he came home he said he wanted to lie on the carpet with me… for 36 hours. We lay there all night, holding hands, but by morning he was gone…chasing a bird.
The boy in the beanie and I went swimming. At Reef Beach. He would dive into the glittery blue, and come out dripping rainbows. He would find us the hottest rock and lie on it naked, shivering all over, forgetting to notice the fragrance of wet body on sandstone – but his eyes were all alight with sunlit ponds and special creatures. His eyes were all alight.
Something, perhaps it was the silences we made – cleverly, between sprays of twigs and stray thoughts, made me crazy all that summer for kissing. I craved his kiss like a spoon of honey longs to be licked. I craved the breath inside him like a desert craves rumours of rain. With each embrace our quiet lips exchanged rhymes and syllables of a secret language that could describe the pulse in a rose petal. We knew which harmonies made love out of oblivion. We caused storms and tempests and disoriented fairies. We stired strange seeds in our sand dunes, ones that had waited for the lick of such fire, for the music of such rain, for the caress of innocent words to conjure up the blooms inside them
They were not the kisses of ordinary stories, but rare ones – like orchids, shy and soft-petaled under mossy ledges. They were heavy with cinnamon and light on their feet – like hummingbirds, all drunk on the dew.
The boy from the Library smelt like honey and frankincense. He chopped things very, very carefully and was cruel to his toenails. He had such a tender way with things it was easy for a lumberjack like me to miss him at times, but I caught his wonder too – an ordinary beauty… like a branchfull of autumn leaves, a pond composed entirely of raindrops, a spicewind sewn of a thousand sighs.
He could make a song out of a latte, and make it so good I would not dare to drive afterwards. If he made wine, I thought, it would have the blood type of Dionysus. The grapes would shout poetry as he crushed them in their vats. If he made macramé baskets the spirits of Babylon would come to hang there, leaving their scent of spice markets and Mesopotamian sandals.
His shirts smelt like the inside of teapots, used to make love potions.
When he laid out the baby bok choy, all their little arms reached to touch his face. When he opened oranges, they bled.
The boy in the beanie liked to kiss my forehead, but not exactly. When the boy in the beanie put his mouth to my forehead he would whisper something, something that poured slow, like honey, through every inch of me. He kissed me and reminded me of a kind of paradise where strange things are suddenly born; bright and crystal-winged in a never-ending rose garden.
I would close my eyes under his lips and see strange things sup on invisible flowers, dance on invisible ponds, plunge over invisible waterfalls. Strange things would stare at themselves in invisible dew drops and be utterly amazed. Strange things were born between us, laughing so hard that all their tiny hairs would ripple.
If I could have done anything that summer, anything I wished, I would have taken that boy and his beanie, I’d have sailed them in a wooden boat across all kinds of oceans.
I would have sung them songs for every colour, and learned all the tunes of water to whistle that boy waves, to whistle him ripples, to whistle him rainbows and tadpoles and showers of little fish.
I would have found a place to grow him a garden full of bells and butterflies, to hear the language of clouds and watch those dances of angels who wear skirts of long grasses, shoes of stones and rivers, and shake mountains and forests on long belts across their hips.