Achilles heel

He moves from the country to the city
thinking, ‘Finally, I will be free’.
After the whispering and pointing
through high school, in a standard fashion
with the occasional thrashing
he’s looking forward to the anonymity
of a dormitory.

He will be one unknown face among many unknown
first year faces
and he doesn’t much give a fuck
about what he’s studying.

He’s looking forward
to leaving behind
these backwards redneck

But, as it turns out,
there are arseholes everywhere.

He did not account
for the number of white bread but rich
kids in his college.
Not to generalise but they’re the ones who cannibalise
the other students during hazing rituals
like animals.

The ones who are devout
in their worship of conservative values
and mock girls at dinner who are pseudo
vegetarians or aquatarians –
honing in on insignificant differences like carrion.
Who spit the word ‘carbon tax’ like it’s shorthand for ‘communism’,
who like Obama because he’s got swag
but would probably spit on a gay pride flag

They throw around the word fag
like they pass around cigarettes.

They are the ones who are already watching him
with hungry eyes. They see his weakness,
predators sniffing out both meekness and uniqueness

an unfortunate combination of characteristics
that makes him prey.

He tries to play
along, and fit in, for a while.
He smiles when they smile
he drinks, he shouts
tries to prove beyond any doubt
that’s he’s not worth thinking about.

It almost works.
He is not anonymous
but his name is not synonymous
with homo,
to be hurled at him with hatred.

There was that one day when Sam
thought he caught him
looking at his arse and sneered
‘What are you, some sort of queer?’
But he never mentioned the word again –
in his eyes had been a kind of fear

and people never want their fears confirmed.

Days drip on
and now he thinks, ‘Just ‘til the end
of the year, and I’ll get a share house
and I’ll make new friends
who don’t give a toss
about this sort of shit, and I’ll visit the Cross
and I won’t be ashamed of it.’

By ‘it’, he of course means, him.

He spends a lot of time alone
but walking around the city can get so claustrophobic.
The air is so thick
sometimes he even misses home
despite knowing the whole fucking town
is homophobic.

He takes a perverse pleasure in walking
to where the buildings are tallest
towering overhead, grey steel.

He will stop, stare up
and be surprised
by the stripe of deep blue sky.

It makes him feel like

the city too has a vulnerable spot:
an Achilles heel.


Image: David Goehring, Creative Commons

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