Tanya Alex Murray

Lit-Mag #37 
Myself & Others

True Accounts

The End Of Love

One year ago. Our last breakfast together. We sat at the counter, in the sleek modern kitchen of his sleek modern house. Outside, a flat white sun hammered down, eye-scorchingly bright, and it felt all wrong. It was 9 a.m, thirty degrees in the shade. In January.


This whole country was wrong. Hot when it should be cold. Parched, no green anywhere, just shades of red. A bunch of loud, sporty white people clinging to a semi-verdant fringe; and a big, blank, red desert for the rest, inhabited only by invisible black people, rumoured to still be around there, somewhere. Probably getting drunk, according to the whites, if they ventured any opinion at all.

No wonder they got excited about that big rock in the middle. It was the only thing amounting to a view.

On a local scale: Adelaide. Main claim to fame: the first Australian city not founded by convicts. Oddly, this made it worse. It meant that Adelaide’s city fathers had chosen to come here.

Out of one impressively huge picture window, acre after acre of grid-squared, tin-roofed bungalows, rising to distant hills, where smoke wisped, and helicopters flitted; they had been fighting forest fires up there for a week now.

Out of another, the pocket Manhattan of Adelaide’s downtown business area, one square mile of not very commanding office blocks. It took twenty scorching minutes to walk there. In another twenty, you had seen everything, and wondered why you bothered.

It was three hundred miles from Adelaide to the next place of interest. And that was Melbourne.

Why had he abandoned me, and England, for this damned place, after twenty four years together?

Well, it was obvious, wasn’t it? He never had to explain himself to our friends. Just tell them the facts. They would nod, and sigh, and agree with him. Feeling sorry. For him.

How had he put it? Bluntly. David always did have a streak of ruthlessness. This was what had made him a success.

“Look, it’s simple. I’m a Gay man. I don’t want a relationship with a woman. Not even…”

Not even a freak like me.

I ‘filled him with horror’, he told me, once, in a rare access of truthfulness.

Never mind that we had lived together, and loved one another, and shared the adventure of our lives together, down all the years since we met in 1980. Just two horny, wide-eyed working class kids away from home for the first time then, out of our depth but paddling frantically in the scary, sexy waters of the GaySoc freshers’ disco, Strugglers Rest bar, Sussex University.

Ironically, the first thing we ever spoke about, the reason I summoned the courage to self-consciously shuffle my way onto the dance floor, to meet the first cool gaze of his beautiful blue eyes, was the thing that later destroyed us. In our beginning was our end.

Remember. It was the 1980s. Curly perms were in. Big flappy trousers. Make up on boys. New Romantics. And he looked the spit of someone I’d seen on telly. A grim slice-of-life documentary that scared the bejesus out of me, and for the first time put a name to the lack at the centre of me. ‘George & Julia’ it was called. A show about a rare, wonderful, sad thing. It was about a transsexual.

Weirdly, David was Julia’s doppelganger in those days, down to the bubble cut and curves. Operating on a principal of sympathetic magic, I concluded that if he looked like a transsexual, he probably was one…

…Magic, of course is a flawed belief system. And so it proved.

But not before he had taken the semi-rent boychick I’d been, the sexually experienced, emotionally crippled hustler I thought I was, and opened me up, seducing me with gifts of macaroni cheese, and other things I couldn’t cook, (which was pretty much everything). He fed me, made me laugh, and, eventually, made me love.

So for love, I spent the next quarter century burying my strangeness. I very nearly got away with it, too.

Until, one day, while he was away on business, I found myself on the Downs, belt in hand, testing tree branches for one that could take my weight.

Something had to change. It turned out to be me.

I tell people: “David took it well; He moved to Australia…”

It usually gets a laugh.

…So now it’s the last day of my first visit after my change. My flight leaves in a couple of hours.

David has a new boyfriend now, Desmond, a man apparently intent on keeping his cock, something for which David is clearly grateful. Desmond, out of deference to my feelings, is not here this morning.

It’s just the two of us. The radio is on. Leonard Cohen, ‘Dance Me To The End Of Love’.

David, never one for lyrics, catches only the waltzy beat.

“Let’s dance,” he says. “Now you’re a girl, it’s allowed.”

It used to be a joke between us. Back when I was trying, so hard, to be a boy, I never danced, not even when drunk, which was often.

He gathers me in his arms, and holds me close, and we stumble through a sort of waltz, on the polished wooden floor of his shiny, me-less home.

And I’m glad he holds me close, because I’m remembering all the other times he held me. Not dancing, just holding me: watching old movies on the sofa on a wet Sunday afternoon; at the end of a shitty working day; next to me in our bed. His arms, around me.

I feel his male strength, the promise of security, that turned out to be a lie after all, and I bury my face in his shoulder, and stifle my sobs, as the music plays, and Leonard sings:

“Show me slowly what I only know the limits of,
Dance me to the end of love.”

Finally, after all this time.

We’re dancing.


I don’t need a friend in Australia.

I don’t need a friend in Australia.

Ten thousand miles is too far to reach out and touch a warm hand, after a hard day in a cold country.

What I need is:
A soft body next to mine, a hug, a kiss and a kind word;
Not this emptiness on the sofa, or in my bed;
Not this echoing silence in my home.

I don’t need a friend at all.

What I need is:
The lover I had, the soulmate, the companion, the teller of tales; the man who went on adventures with me, and made with me an adventure of the whole world, and everything in it.
I need the sharer of rocking chairs and good wine.
I need the man I was meant to grow old with, and die with.

Instead, you offer me a friend in Australia.

A dwindled-down, degraded thing, one friend among many.
As if the third of my life I gave you, the best and freshest of it, could be traded in so cheaply, for something so small.

I fear our stilted conversations now, by phone or webcam; my frozen smile the mirror of your own.

We skate cautiously on fragile filigrees of chat about nothing, over ice-chasms of silence and regret; sensing always your new boyfriend, lurking just out of shot.

So, please, don’t call me any more.

I don’t need a friend in Australia.

– To David, on your birthday, Brighton, UK, Jan 2007

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