I haven’t slept. My brain won’t stop long enough to let me. I keep thinking of the phrase ‘happy and gay’. Why do people so often use the words together, when they’re such a contradiction in terms? I don’t remember ever being both at the same time. It must feel amazing to be comfortable in your own skin, at peace with yourself, but I suppose if you’re told you’re shitty enough times you can’t help but believe it. I wonder if this trip will change that?

Australia. I still can’t believe it’s happening. I can’t remember the last time I left Essex, let alone the country, and tomorrow I’ll be leaving the flipping hemisphere. It’s all happened so fast! A few weeks ago I was still investigating mortgages and planning for our future. Then, even post-dumping, the idea of going backpacking on the other side of the world was as alien to me as car mechanics or cunnilingus. At least until, without warning, Bev and Rachel had turned up. At first I’d thought they’d come to see how I was doing, but instead they were dropping a bombshell of their own. My bestest girlfriend, my drinking buddy, my shoulder, my rock and my confidant was telling me she was off to travel around Oz for a year. With Rachel. It felt like I’d been dumped for a second time that week.

“Oh, don’t cry babes!” Bev had said, smothering me with her chesticles. “You’ll be fine! You’ve just gotta get back out there. Live a little!”

“But we’re ‘Bev and Kev’! We’re a team!” I whimpered. “I need you now more than ever!”

“Oi! Snap aht of it!” Rachel had rolled her eyes, and I cringed as she put her phone away and joined the conversation. She was always a tad louder than she needed to be, and that voice needed no help to cross a room. Not that it needed to. She was sitting right next to me.

“Ya know ya gonna be better off wivout him anyway, so don’t sit ‘ere wiv a cob on. Why doncha do what we’re doin? Get aways for a bit too?”

The offer had come out of nowhere.

“Er, wow, okay.” I replied, before I could think myself out of it. “Nothing keeping me here, I guess. Sod it, I WILL come! Thanks!”

They’d looked gobsmacked. No wonder really, I’d surprised even myself.

Better tell a few people I’m going, I suppose.

4.30am

Still can’t sleep. Who knows when I’ll next be lying in this bed? It’s making me feel quite nostalgic. After all it has seen a lot of action – late night snacks and movie marathons mostly. For a Gay I’m practically virginal.

My initial bed-based shenanigans may have been with the moist bikini-areas of lady-folk, but I’d never enjoyed them. They never felt natural, more endured, something to get through as quick as possible and with the minimum amount of gagging. Deep down I knew which side my bread was buttered, but I was doing my damn hardest to ignore it. The only gays I knew of were on the telly, and none of them were like me, so I kept my head down and tried to blend in, hoping the feelings would go away. It wasn’t until I turned twenty that I finally accepted that they wouldn’t, by which time I’d wasted several years of my life, put myself through some pretty significant mental anguish, and through some kind of psychological-association had developed a seafood allergy.

My existence had developed glorious new meaning when I’d finally relented and discovered… well… cock, to put it bluntly. I’d given myself a thorough online education, then dived in with New York Nick, a one night stand that lasted four energetic months. A few brief encounters followed (well, technically they were more boxer-brief) and then Phil had walked into the bar. And we know how that ended up. We’d only chatted for an hour or so before he’d given me his number, so he must’ve seen something he liked back then. He’d been a bit of a sex-text-pest at first, but I have to say there was something quite thrilling about being sent a knob shot whilst you’re sat watching the X Factor with your Gran. I had got caught up in the whirlwind of it all and we were ‘official’ by the time we met up again a week later. Worst. Mistake. Ever. He’d almost immediately lost interest, and the most excitement I’ve had since is down to eBay.

I’ve lost nearly two year to him, but what makes me most upset isn’t the waste of my life, it’s breaking the promise I made to Gran. Not long before she died, she’d asked one thing of me.

“Don’t waste a single day of your life, you hear?” she’d said quietly from her armchair, her favourite butterfly-covered blanket tucked tightly around her knees. “Life is like a toilet roll, you see?”

I hadn’t.

“The closer you get to the end, the quicker it runs out!” She’d giggled to herself despite her issues. She was amazing.

“Will you promise me something, dear? Experience something new every day. That way, when you get to my age you’ll have lots of lovely memories to look back on and you can enjoy them all again and again.”

I feel horrible because I broke that promise. So tonight I am making a new one.

“Gran, I will experience something new every single day I’m away. I promise.”

And I mean it. A day without seeing something I’ve never seen before or doing something I’ve never done will be a day wasted, and I won’t have it. Because I promised my Gran.

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