It was 1970, an outer suburb of Melbourne. A cold winters night.
“Hi Marie, it’s me, Lloyd” I was ringing from a comfortable apartment in East St Kilda owned by an older man. I was in my late twenties, a teacher, and a gay man. Ossie had befriended me and we had done ‘the thing’…He was suave, sophisticated from a Jewish background. I was living alone in my very first apartment, to be more honest, it was a one bedroom flat in leafy Armadale, for 18 dollars a week. He was great entertainer and dinners were his forte. He had a vast record collection, smart clothes, a car, and some interesting friends. I had only been in Melbourne a few years from teaching in remote Victoria. It was as though I had arrived in New York. His home seemed luxurious to me. The age difference, around 20 years, was new to me. Most of the men I had relationships were around my same age. He was gentle and intelligent so there was little discomfort.
‘May I use your phone, I want to ring my mother” We had discussed the fractious relationship that I had with her and her continual references to my possibly being homosexual. I guess he was a mentor and I was asking his advice.
‘Why don’t you ring your mother and be honest with her” Bloody easy for him to say I thought. She often made homophobic references to my life style, not a favourite phrase of mine to this day. As the years went on it became difficult for me to live a ‘double life’. Not coming home till the next morning, telling her I had stayed with friends. But she knew. I had to bite the bullet and tell her what she had always thought. There was no gay support groups or help lines. There were no gay clubs, just a few hotels in Melbourne that had a gay clientele which became a refuge for many a suburban boy.
‘You know how you have always accused me of being homosexual, well I am” Talk about coughing up a huge fur ball.
‘Oh no!’ ‘What do you want me to do?” “Do you want me to come out to the house?”. I asked
‘Yes!” “O.K, I will have to borrow a friends car” I hung up and Ossie could see that I was distressed. “Would you mind if I borrowed your car, I need to drive to Mulgrave as she wants to see me” ‘Sure” I cant recall what my physical state was that night other than I was able to drive the 40 minutes to the family home.
It was cold when I knocked on the door. Marie answered and it seemed that Dad was not home. It was a Friday, that much I recall.
She was sitting. as usual, close to the oil heater. The house they had bought was one of those display homes with faux colonial windows and fake marble bathrooms with fake gold taps. I had only ever lived there for a year and never felt comfortable. Nothing grand but totally different from the smaller, 1940’s brick bungalow that I was brought up in much closer to the city. I had been the only child for 10 years before the birth of my brother. We needed to move as our other home had only two bedrooms.
‘Well you have been going on for years about it, Marie, so now you know, I am a homosexual” Her body became more tense with each moment. Her bright red lipstick, her perfectly coiffured hair, the pearls, the matching twinset…funnily enough she was apolitical when I look back.
‘Oh my god, I think I am going to have a heart attack”. she spat out. ‘But you have not asked me if I am happy?” ” You never ask me” I cant recall the next few minutes until my father arrived. He worked for a Woolen Mill. I think it was something about wholesaling fabrics. He always came home with a copy of The Herald which was wrapped around two bottles of beer. That was their evening indulgence. A gentleman, cold, with an army background. They were a stylish couple Marie and Bob.
He said “Hon, sorry I am so late, you have no idea the trouble I have had with the car”
‘You’ve had trouble with the car, do you know your son has come home to tell me he is a homosexual”, she screamed.
‘Jesus Christ, what’s a man done” he blurted out. And in my defiance I said to him, ‘Do you want me to take a tablet and I will be alright in the morning” She had always called me defiant and disobedient so I guess I was living up to her description in a funny kind of way.
The rest of the night is a blur. I cannot recall if I stayed the night in my room or if I drove back to Ossie’s apartment. It doesn’t really matter I guess. The next 20 years were tense for the three of us however I was able to make peace with both of them before they died. They did the best they could. They were of their generation. And there was love, at times.