I woke up with a throbbing head, fluffy teeth and filthy hands. I drank so much gold-leaf vodka last night that my morning poo looked like a Ferrero Rocher.
Details of last night’s escapades at the bowling alley are more than a bit fuzzy, but I’m pretty sure I legged it when Fliz went to pick up her hideous rubber shoes. I was so happy to get away from her that I actually did cartwheels on the way back to the hostel.
I remember staggering back into reception in the wee hours and seeing a sign saying, ‘Male Models Needed For Hairdressing Students’ . I’ve been desperate for a bit of barnet-love, and have sported a fusion of bed-head and lesbian-mullet since I arrived. I call the style ‘The Sleepy Dyke’. I’d put my name down eagerly. In fact I was so excited by the prospect I might’ve signed it twice. Not only was I much in need of a mop-chop, there was the added bonus of being able to say when I got home, “I did some modelling whilst I was in Australia”. An opportunity not to be missed.
Despite only four hours sleep, I dragged myself up in time to meet the trainee at reception, fully expecting some gum-chewing hairdresser wannabe called Sharon (or the Aussie equivalent, Sheila). Instead, I was totally thrown to be met by the gobsmackingly dreamy Dario, a half-Aussie, half-Hawaiian stunner, with deep-chocolate eyes, flawless caramel skin, fashionably-messy hair and lips that at that particular moment I would happily have used as pillows.
“So, you’re gonna let me fondle ya locks then?” he grinned, flashing a set of perfect teeth and dimples.
I stared wide-eyed at him for a moment then scurried back downstairs to brush my teeth and swamp myself in aftershave.
Dario led me to Victoria University, which turned out to be next-door. I stumbled along behind him having apparently forgotten how to walk. There’s no question, I am definitely an arse man. Cracking. Buns. He took me up to the tenth floor, and sat me down in a classroom done up like a hairdressers. He struggled to run his fingers through my greasy locks and I cursed myself for not washing it beforehand.
Although there were no obvious signs to suggest it, his chosen career suggested a chance he may play on my team. A stereotype for sure, but stereotypes exist for a reason. Under normal circumstances, it was clear I’d have no chance with a total fitty like him, but today, as he had me over a basin, I had him over a barrel. He had no choice but to spend an hour or so in my company, and I was doing him a favour just by being there, so maybe, just maybe, if I concentrated really hard not to make a tit of myself, he might feel sorry for me and agree to a drink or something. There was just one tiny thing holding me back. He was so stunning I couldn’t even bring myself to make eye-contact, much less speak to him.
Five long minutes later, tilted backwards with eyes squeezed tightly shut as he shampooed my hair, the awkward silence was so painful that saying something, anything, would be a huge relief to both of us. It helped that I couldn’t see him.
“Did you watch the rugby the other day?”
THAT was my opening line? To a potential-Gay potential-hairdresser? Rugby? But surprisingly he had, and for the first time in my life I found myself having a conversation about sport that I could actually follow.
The conversation moved on to the local hang-outs we liked and then the women within them, and the chances of him being a fellow homo were reducing with every passing comment. We’d covered Sports, Drinking and ‘Birds’, and so we were more than halfway through the five well-established ‘Safe Subjects for Straight Strangers’. All that was left was TV and Cars. I’d been fooled by the Curse of the Metrosexual once more, but it meant the pressure of trying to make a good impression evaporated, and suddenly my self-consciousness faded to the usual level of anxiety I felt when forced to sit in front of a giant badly lit mirror staring at myself.
He asked me what sort of girl ‘got my juices going’, which was awkward, but I didn’t clam up like I might normally do. Nor did I confess the truth, because I was quite enjoying just being one of the lads for a change. The poor bloke would have suddenly felt mighty uncomfortable snipping away with his bits pressed against my shoulder if I’d replied, “Actually, I love a good cock”, so technically I was doing him a favour. Instead, I just described my ideal man and mentally added a fanny. Then tried not to vomit in my mouth.
“Geez fella. Betcha pick up some real show ponies with that voice a yours,” he said as he leaned in close to do something artistic with a pair of clippers.
My heart did a little jump as I felt his breath on my neck, and it took me a moment to translate what he meant. Yes, I eventually nodded in agreement. Beautiful women do indeed love me and my British accent, and they want me to take them home and do sex stuff with them.
“Betcha get a lot of action, ay.”
Bloody Aussie accent. I couldn’t tell if that was a question or a statement.
“Whatcha tell ‘em to git their legs open?”
I sprayed my complimentary tea all over the mirror. So much for looking cool.
I realised this was the longest conversation I’d yet to have with an actual Aussie, and I was discovering they don’t have the same boundaries as us Brits. Less respect for privacy. Less hang-ups. Less… British! I blushed and mumbled like a Hugh Grant cliché, and in the end was grateful when he finished. Dario brushed me down and waved a mirror around the back of my head, and I nodded and smiled like you’re supposed to. He’s done a good job, actually. The new look actually makes me feel vaguely attractive, all funky up top with shaved bits up the sides. It even makes the piercing work on my face. Dario has an excellent future as a hairdresser but he could do with toning down the lingo just a bit. It’s a real shame he doesn’t play on my team as otherwise I might have totally misinterpreted his offer to ‘take me up the Gatehouse Road’ later. Yes, the straight guy had asked me to join him for a drink, and yes it’s a pub, not a euphemism. I said I’d think about it and gave him a clumsy handshake goodbye, feeling secretly and shamefully smug that I was still able to pass for straight in the first place.
Back at the hostel, I discovered Dario’s list wasn’t the only one I’d signed.
“Where’ve you been?” a frazzled man in reception asked. “They all went over half an hour ago. Hurry up and get in ya harness. Think of those kiddies with tumours!”
Confused but not wanting to appear rude, I took the strappy device he was waving in my face and allowed myself to be led back next-door to the university. Only this time I noticed the over-excitable humans bouncing down the walls.
And this was how I found out about my abseil.
At nearly twenty storeys, the University is perfectly proportioned for amateur thrill-seekers to drop down the side of it for charity, and as I was escorted through the building someone official in a blue bib thanked me for the generous donation I’d given them last night. I nodded and smiled and tried desperately to remember doing it. I sat numbly through some kind of demonstration, stood blankly as a lift took me up to the roof, and my attention only snapped briefly into focus when someone clipped a rope to my crotch and threw a helmet onto my lovely new barnet. But before I could say, “Oi, watch me bush,” I was being pushed towards the edge of the roof and helped over a railing, at which point my focus decided to fuck off again.
I didn’t feel scared. I must’ve been in shock. Not surprising, really. Not five minutes earlier I’d been getting a rub down from a sexy student, and now I was holding the wrong side of a safety rail with the back of my feet hanging over a drop that would kill me ten times over.
“Ok, son, you’re all set.”
I smiled vacantly at a grissled instructor. “Hmm?”
“I need you to lean backwards now, out over the side of the building.”
“Just feed that little teeny-tiny rope through your fingers, let it take all your weight.”
“Um…” I was suddenly alert again. “I think there’s been some sort of mistake?” My voice seemed higher than normal. It must’ve been the altitude. “You want me to let go of this railing and almost certainly die?”
The instructor rolled his eyes.
“Are you kidding?” I laughed and it kinda turned into a choking sound. “Do you really think this helmet is going to save me if I fall?”
I clung to the rail as strong winds billowed under my clothes and pulled at me, and I made a conscious effort to keep my wee in. There were so many things that could go wrong! What if I DIED! How would I explain that to Mum?
The instructor waited patiently for a moment, waited impatiently for a moment more, and then… “Couldya tighten your chinstrap a bit? It does look a bit loose, actually.”
I fumbled desperately with the strap, releasing my death-grip on the railing, and as I did so he fed through the tiniest bit of rope. Somewhere in the distance, I think a small girl let out a scream as I fell backwards over the edge.
“Whoops,” he grinned. “My bad.”
Heart racing, ears roaring and my legs shaking, I suddenly found myself staring down at my shoes and it took me a minute to realise my perspective had shifted ninety degrees. I was standing on the University wall. I gripped the rope tightly to my chest and watched my knuckles turn white.
You’re NOT falling.
I forced myself to breathe.
Don’t look down!
I looked down.
The shock of the tiny people made my legs buckle beneath me, but as I was already standing at right-angles it just looked like I was taking a squat on the wall like a shitting Spiderman. Who knew that putting your trust, and your actual life, into someone else’s hands was REALLY FUCKING SCARY?
The only thing to do was reach the ground before anything had a chance to snap, so I pulled myself together, counted to ten and got on with it. After a few uncontrolled downward spurts I got the knack, and soon I was bounding down the building like some kind of porky ninja.
About halfway down, I paused for breath and realised that I was looking through the window of the hairdresser studio I’d just left a few kilos of my hair in. I caught a glimpse of Dario showing his next client into the room, and watched them hug enthusiastically and kiss each other on both cheeks. It took a moment to register HE WAS KISSING A MAN, and when it did I dropped about 4 foot in shock.
As I continued my descent, my brain began reprocessing all our earlier conversations. Had Dario been undercover too? Had he talked about girls for my benefit? Perhaps he was digging for info because his Gaydar was going off. Now I was thinking about it, I knew that getting a head massage was fairly standard during a professional hair wash, but the shoulder massage that followed had come as a bit of a surprise. The foot rub he offered at the end even more so. Maybe he had been on my team.
Seconds later, as I arrived at the pavement sideways and to a round of applause, I had two life-changing revelations. First, that I was capable of doing absolutely anything I put my mind to, and second – and most important – was that a really fit guy had asked me out for a drink. And I’d said no.
The charity presented me with a photo of my abseil and I was shocked to see that I was smiling, looking confident and in control. You can’t tell that I was terrified. Despite what I may have been feeling on the inside, it seems the outside can fool anyone.
You know what that means? I’m going to a sodding gay bar.
Tonight, with or without the girls, I will be finding and visiting a gay drinking establishment safe in the knowledge that I won’t look as petrified as I feel. If I can find him, maybe I’ll take Dario ‘up the Gatehouse Road’ after all. It is my last night in this awesome city, and if I can leap down the side of a bloody building then heading out on my own should be a walk in the fucking park. I might as well go out with a bang.
‘Out with a bang’ I’d said. How ironic. I hadn’t expected that bang to result in this much blood loss or an ambulance ride to Casualty.
So… this is it. It seems my journey is over. I can feel everything going dark. As I write my final words, I’ve just heard the doctor say that… I’m not going to make it.