June 26. The US Supreme Court rules that state-level bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional. Worldwide celebrations ensue. July 8. I am about to leave my apartment to attend a party. My well-meaning flatmate asks, “Is that your outfit? Expect girls to hit on you if you wear that jacket.” July 28. A friend who also lives in gay-friendly, liberal Berlin sends me the following text: “Two teenage girls just asked me whether I was gay on the train.” August 13.
Do you care? Do you care about caring? Do you care about being perceived to care? Do you go through spates of caring, then get distracted and forget what you cared about last year, last month, last week, ten seconds ago? And by care, I mean more than empathise, I mean the ache that makes you want to act – just maybe not IRL.
As you arrive at a restaurant, you receive a message from your friend letting you know that they are running late. “Fine, no problem,” you reply, and it is fine, aside from wishing that they would just turn up now so those people around you looking into each other’s eyes and laughing as they eat don’t glance in your direction and think you’re here alone. The friend appears.
Last summer, I saw a digital ghost. I was walking around the Ring of Brodgar – a neolithic stone circle in Orkney – in the early hours, at the first light of dawn. I raised my phone to take a photograph of the standing stones silhouetted against the sunrise and saw, on the camera screen, a dark figure moving across the heather at the centre of the circle.
I have never liked myself as a smoker. A full decade and a few thousand cigarettes in, I still don’t. But what keeps me at it, with fondness, is that I might not have him were it not for the fags. When I was very small and his beard was still black, he would kneel by the bathtub and I would sit happily in the warm water. His eyes would swim as he babbled to me and I babbled back.
For longer than I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with stuff. The sort of stuff you keep because you think you might need it at some point down the line. I’ve got stuff in drawers, stuff shoved under the bed, stuff stuffed down the back of wardrobes. There’s stuff in bags; stuff collecting not just dust, but weird damp residue; stuff buried under more stuff.
I frequently think of my life as a never-ending race, in which I am up against the man I should be for the prize of the life I desire. I hold the sharper mind, but carry a permanent injury, so I mostly remain two steps behind. Occasionally I may draw level, thanks to a combination of sheer bloody mindedness and support from others, without which I would undoubtedly fall even further behind.
It’s the middle of the night. I’ve just woken from a bad dream. In it, three lynxes in the garden of my childhood home are chasing my parents’ scrawny runt of a cat. He makes it to the safety of the kitchen, where I’m sitting cross-legged on the floor, and leaps onto my lap. The lynxes paw at the cat flap, but can’t get through.