Disclaimer: The following is a work of fiction.
I’ve been confused about sexuality ever since I caught my Uncle masturbating to tranny porn. Uncle Charlie, my Dad’s brother - had been staying with us ever since Dad disappeared to Thailand when I was a baby. I was 10-years-old when I saw Uncle Charlie furiously pulling himself off and too young to know what ‘barebacking’ meant. It scared me; I thought there was something wrong with him. I was too young to know that sexuality was multi-faceted. I wouldn’t work this out for many years. I wasn’t sure if it had something to do with why my Dad stopped speaking to him a few years later. I knew something was up when one morning, on the way to my Sunday football match, my Uncle burst into tears in the carpark of the football oval. I didn’t know what to say. I just kind of stared.
My foray into the complicated world of human sexuality continued when I slept over at Ricky McBride’s house in Year 8. Ricky and I had a complicated relationship. He could be a bully and grossly over-competitive. I used to rate how good I played each football game by whether or not Ricky asked me to stay over at his place afterwards. If he asked one of the other boys, then I must have had an average game. I only had myself to blame.
One night, mid-way through the school year we were in bed talking about girls at school. There was one girl in particular that all the boys liked: her name was Samantha. Samantha was the head girl and faction captain. Girls envied her, older women wanted her as their daughter, and older men wanted to fuck her. Anyway, it was late, and we were talking like boys do. Something along the lines of all the naughty things we’d like to do to Samantha given a chance. We showed each other by humping our mattresses and making out with our pillows. My 13-year-old penis was rock hard; I was aroused to the point of hysteria. However, what struck me was I couldn’t work out if I were turned on by what we were talking about, or whether it was because Ricky was turned on as well.
As a kid, football was life. My bedroom wall was adorned with famous AFL players from the West Coast Eagles; Judd, Cousins, and Kerr. I lived and breathed it like a kid with sub-par talent does. The road to being an AFL player is something akin to smoking crack professionally for a living. You get an unlimited supply for awhile and then when your body gives up and rejects it, the crack is taken away from you and you are shut away out of sight and never spoken of again. I sometimes see them at the local kebab shop; premiership players with their eyes on the ground, wiping mayo from the lips of their Friday night fling. The blonde hyena they're with hungrily devouring, desperate for any last morsels of fame left on the bone.
But I refused to see football as anything other than a game that brings people together. I was addicted to the anticipation that sits deep in the belly on the early Sunday morning car ride on the way to the ground; when you hop out and smell the dew and freshly mowed grass. And then you join your mates, some of which you don’t like but you don’t care; today none of that matters. We’re coming together for the common interest: to beat the shit out of the opposition. We enter the change rooms pumped and excited, eager to show our parents we’re marginally talented at something.
Ricky calls me over. It looks like the twins got to stay at his place last night. They smile at me like demonic garden gnomes. Ricky is lacing his Puma Kings; the best boot money can buy. He’s already removed his tracksuit, and my eyes find the bulge in his footy shorts. I quickly avert my gaze and tell myself I only looked because he had his leg up and it was staring me in the face. The coach enters; a balding middle-aged man starved of sex and hungry for one area of his life he can dominate in. He barks some hollow directions about being the first to the footy, tackling hard, forward pressure, etc. He gets more and more passionate, like a poor mans General Patton rallying the troops. He’s yelling now, exorcising demons from his childhood and most likely from his marriage. Ricky looks to me, his eyes glistening with excitement. And the pre-game siren sounds, and we burst out of the change room like gladiators ready to do battle in the arena. I look for Mum but can only see my Uncle smoking a cigarette with Ricky’s Dad.
The opposing team is huddled near the centre square. Ricky loses the toss, and we’re kicking into the wind. We huddle, our skinny bodies joined like a white picket fence. My insides are gripped with fear and excitement. I feel like if I’m squeezed, I’ll shit out my intestines. Ricky barks some last minute instructions. We put our hands in the middle, mine resting on Ricky’s. We yell our war cry, and it’s time.
The half-time siren sounds, and we’re down by 30 points. We shuffle towards the change rooms, sweaty and sore. We wear our scuffed knees and bruised arms with pride; the dirtiest and most injured have fought the hardest. Parents line the path into the change rooms, trying not to appear too disappointed at our lack of fight. But we barely notice, there’s a familiar scent in the air. We’ve smelt it before at school near lockers and inside classrooms. The sickly sweet scent of promise, a scent that strikes fear into our chests. The smell of teenage girls.
Our heads turn left, then right, then left. We’re like wolves sniffing out our prey. Ricky thumps me in the arm and points. Behind the dugout is a group of girls from school; one of which is Samantha. All 22 of us clench and flex instantaneously. We push our chests out and pretend as if the cold wind doesn’t bother us. The girls watch us enter the change room, giggling, gossiping and pointing. I see Mum arguing with Uncle Charlie in the parking lot. It wasn’t unusual; they argued a lot at home. As soon as I entered the change room, any anxiety I was feeling disappears completely.
Inside, while we suck on oranges and rehydrate, our coach loses his shit. Something about a lack of intent, have we come to play or spectate, etc. He kicks a bin, rants, and raves and gives an all out Oscar-worthy performance. None of it sinks in though. We’re all preoccupied with thoughts of the girls outside here to watch us play. Ricky’s face is sweaty, especially his upper lip, where a few black hairs grow haphazardly. His jumper is stained from the grass, and his knees are black. He has had a good game so far, easily the best on the team. His Adam’s apple ripples as he sucks back his red powerade. He smiles and winks as if he knows what I’m thinking. He doesn’t.
The siren sounds indicating the end of half time. We stand and huddle together once again, the air thick with sweat and hormones. Ricky moves his fringe out of his eyes and tries to style it as we run back out onto the field.
And like a circus animal in front of a paying audience - we perform. Big time. We kick ten unanswered goals to win the game comfortably. The coach smacks our backs with an opened hand as we leave the field: thinking his halftime pep talk was the key to victory. The parents applaud our efforts as we enter the change rooms. We ignore them, too busy looking for the girls. We spy them standing in a group near the goals. They giggle amongst themselves and point in our direction. And we’re no longer boys.
We sing the team song with all the gusto our developing lungs allow. I pull my tracksuit on and grab my sports bag when Ricky approaches. “Hey. You wanna sleep over mine tonight?”
Yes, I do Ricky. Yes, I do.