The conversation went something like this:
Goran: Hey Rick, it’s Goran. You cannot imagine what just happened to me. The people from the DHHS
Rick: What do you mean, mate?
Goran: I was in Sydney on holiday. They found several COVID cases in the suburb I visited and now I have to go into quarantine for 14 days. I can’t believe … I’ll be alone for Christmas.
Rick: All right, bud, it’s going to be over soon. Keep yourself busy and I will speak to you once you are out.
Rick’s generic response to my tragic circumstance hits me like a bullet train that went off the rails and collided with my forehead.
Yet, I finish the call with a courteous “thank you” and then bang my fist at the kitchen table before I do something crazy, like jumping naked through the window of my apartment on the 20th floor. Rick is the only friend who bothered to pick up my call on Friday night when everybody else is busy getting laid and pretending to have a life. He also knows I live alone, that my closest family member is 15.500 km away in Bosnia, Europe and that my support network in Australia has been notoriously thin, to put it mildly. And yet, not a considerate “do you need anything?”
The other friends I have made in this city, mostly gay men I can count on the fingers of one hand, disappeared the minute the lockdown started, and they realised we wouldn’t be doing drag queen bingo anytime soon. Gay friendships are often transactional. But not all of us are like this. And this is the story about those who make a difference in our lives.
The prospect of spending Christmas on my own in isolation has laid bare my loneliness. I struggle to come up with places where I could hide. I am just as lonely in my tiny kitchen as I am in the bathroom in the shower. Even my refrigerator seems lonely with only three smelly potatoes rotting in the corner. No Rick hasn’t suggested, not even formally, to get food to my door until I find a way to order stuff online. He did mention, though, to give him a buzz if I want to talk, as if that’s somehow going to fill my stomach.
To calm myself down, I decide to cook an old bag of instant pasta. My favourite carbonara sauce with fake bacon bought for $2 at the start of the pandemic that I still didn’t get to eat. As an appetiser, I will have Scruff, for a change. Compared to Grindr, Scruff is far more palatable. It is mostly the place for lonely old men who are capable of saying more than: “looking?” “pics?” “more pics.”
I start with the usual stuff. I am pretending I’m hungry for a dick, telling everybody how much I love all the crazy kinks I see on porn, acting like a rough, dirty motherfucker: ready, always ready.
You put up this mask hoping it will bring you more attention, hoping that attention will last, hoping for connection, no matter how meaningless and brief it is. And quickly you realise that even sex doesn’t sell forever. Others have better dick shots or a richer imagination.
Suddenly, I get a message from this guy with a profile name «Kind». I am sure you’ve seen those profiles from time to time. App users with names “Kind”, “Nice one”, “Decent” have become quite common. Gay men come up with these names not so much for being seen as different, as much as they hope to be treated kindly. Not everyone has thick skin and can handle the cruelty that is the staple food of the gay meat market. I mean we are proud of having an attitude. After all, one of the most renowned gay magazines is called Attitude. We call each other bitches. We adore rude, big-mouthed women like The Golden Girls. We even invented the phrase for being mean – it is called “throwing shade”.
In gay culture, drag queens are known for their takedowns and it’s all ha ha ha. But that meanness is almost pathological. We are so uncomfortable to show our vulnerable, authentic self to other people. So, we show other people what the world shows us, which is nastiness. Every gay man I know carries around a mental portfolio of all the shitty things other gay men have said and done to him. So, when I receive a message from this supposedly kind Scruff user, I am cynical. Of course, I am cynical. His message reads the standard “How are you?” and instead of my usual “horny”, I reply by telling him truth.
Goran: I’ve known better days. I was asked to isolate for 14 days. I don’t know anyone in this city. I am panicking I will go mad.
Gavin: Tell me what u need and I’ll be there in 15 min. I live in the city and it’s really not that difficult. My name is Gavin, btw.
Goran: Thanks, Gavin. I am Goran. You are kind, but I am fine. I just need someone to talk to. It’s all good.
Gavin kept insisting on bringing food to my doors. I asked him why is that important to him and then he told me his story reluctantly. By the age of 28, Gavin was a corporate lawyer who hadmade a lot of money and had the world at his feet. He was in a relationship with a hot Arab who loved expensive things and partying. And when I say partying, I mean drug-fuelled partying. They both quickly turned into ice addicts. Gavin soon lost his job, his home and ended up on the streets. He was homeless for nearly seven years and was able to regain control of his life only because of his stubborn mother who never abandoned him.
Gavin: Now I work as a baker and I have never been happier in my fucking life.
Goran: What happened to your boyfriend?
Gavin: Oh, him. It wasn’t long before he found someone else to pay his bills. I haven’t heard from him since. And that was the case with most of my friends. I promised myself back then that I would never let anybody feel how I felt. Alone and forgotten like a stray dog. Come on, Goran, let me live up to my promise.
Gavin delivered a box of the tastiest nachos, eggplant dip and artisan chocolates to my door that day. And a pair of colourful socks. It was Christmas time after all. He kept leaving the food at my doorstep every single day until my isolation was finally over. And then he disappeared, both from my life and Scruff. I never met Gavin or had the chance to thank him in person. Unlike many gay men I have met in my lifetime, this beautiful soul from western Brunswick was not interested in validation or self-promotion. He was way past that point in his life. He was kind.
So I have a proposal for you. The next time when you go on a gay app, please change your name to “Kind”. Let us use it as our trademark. As our own kryptonite. Or tag yourself as “kindgay” on Instagram. It will not only help us find each other more easily but it will also act as a beacon for those still lost on stormy seas. Let’s make our own gay revolution of kindness.