For my parents. All of them.
There’s a softness to the sun here — as if Amsterdam was born to be painted — and Lex and I hose the trees below through the slats in the balcony. I tell him stories about my ex-girlfriend. He tells me stories about my dad. One time, when they were really high on pills, they biked through the Rijksmuseum’s underpass on their way home from a fetish party. Lex laughs and talks with his hands about how my leather-clad dad did figure eights while singing an Italian aria. About how Lex fell in love with my dad and the city all over again at once.
My dad and Lex were the first Australian gay couple ever to legally marry. My mothers and I flew over for the wedding. I was young then. All I remember is dropping the rings at the ceremony, the stillness of the canals, and having my face kissed by a lot of men. I tell Lex that everything here is green, and he points out that it’s been the hottest summer in thirteen years. “Since last time you were here.” We move to the garden and drink until Sjouke calls in. He lives in the apartment across the courtyard and needs help hanging a painting. Everything here is reversed. At home, I go to the cinema with lesbians, take singing lessons with lesbians, dinner parties with lesbians. Here, in leather pants and a tank top, Sjouke offers to cut my hair.
Later, with Lex still next door, my dad arrives back from a work party. We talk about writing the next best sci-fi film. I like sad scripts. He likes slapstick and explosions. He asks me about my music, and then scoffs when I use the phrase ‘post-rock’. He pulls out an old demo. It’s all hooks, falsetto and 80s synths. His band used to be called The Serious Young Insects. “Seriously,” he says.
I finally ask him what I’ve been meaning to ask since I arrived. He says that he just wanted to help out my mothers, his friends. “But you’d think if two parents with brown eyes had a kid, then he’d have brown eyes too,” I say. He pats my knee, mockingly, and replies, “Michael, it’s OK, you can tell me if you’re straight. We won’t judge you.”
He mentions that he was working on a doco for the ABC on HIV/AIDS during the time that he was helping my mothers ‘make a baby’. At the last minute the channel told him that they already had their AIDS film for the year — and that he had to make it more personal. A script advisor came in. He asked what my dad did on the weekends. “Great!” the advisor exclaimed. “On one hand you have death and, literally, on the other — you have life. Now interview yourself while you masturbate!”
We laugh and he shakes his head, and it takes me a moment to realise that I can recognise myself in his features. We watch TV for a bit before Lex returns from Sjouke’s and tells us that he needs a rest. He’s been suffering from burnout, so we’ve been spending a lot of time together at home. Yesterday we took a ride on his motorbike and ate hamburgers by an old Olympic pool. I wrap my arms around his massive shoulders and he lifts me easily off the ground.
My new friends text me an address. Dad notes how quickly they’ve fallen into parent mode, and on my way out he asks if I have my keys, my wallet, and if I’m short on weed. I tell them I’m fine. I ride into the city. The night turns blurry, quickly, and then I kiss someone new. And later, on the half-lit paths of Vondelpark, I circle figure eights on my bike, make up the words to an aria, and fall in love with everything.
Michael Kruger is a writer based in Melbourne. In June he’ll present a series of slightly surreal stories about politics, religion and family.