An uncommonly insightful piece about an Australian artist. About trying to be a "real man", even though you are gay or bi, and how much damage that does to you.
"Handsome" was Adam's greatest term of affection. Paintings were never beautiful, certainly not pretty: they were handsome. He coined the term "hetero-camp" to describe what he liked about the glamour of a bullfight: the traje de luces, the suit of lights. In Barcelona on an artist residency, he had watched six bullfights a day and produced almost no work.
Violence and sex for him were always intertwined. At art school, his aesthetic was forged from the danger of both. He dressed like a skinhead and described as "savage" his relationship with campus feminists. He boasted that he had been a member of the ultra-right National Front and part of a gang that had kicked to death a gay man. "I hung around with the skinheads because I liked the skinheads. I wasn't necessarily a Nazi, but I have always been interested in the existence of the extreme right," he said. "It's just so handsome. I used to love to go and see bands that would attract that crowd."
He claimed to have played trumpet briefly and poorly with the punk band Feedtime, and with another called Lubricated Goat. This was, so far as I could tell, untrue. "I used to love clothes, really nice skinhead clothes," he said. "I could never get hassled by anyone. Nice shoes. Skinny braces, f...ing white ones. Of course, I got called a poof when I studied art. But not regularly."
There is nothing dramatic about Adam's black eye. He fell on the back stairs, shifting pot plants in the rain. But the swelling makes it difficult to cry. The tears pool in the purpled flesh and the bruises make painful his attempts to wipe them away. "You probably know I'm on the border of bisexual," Adam says through the crying. "I think you can smell me a mile away."
We are sitting in the front room of his house. The lights are off. A newly acquired bearskin lies in front of us, the head still attached. An enormous fish trap has arrived since I was last here. His court case for weapons possession ended only a few weeks earlier.
"I prefer the company of men," Adam offers, "as a lot of writers and artists have said." He pushes through the tears, fending off emotion as if giving some urgent instructions. "My father said that the best advice his father gave him was, 'Kevin, be careful: women are queer cattle.' " Adam had used a similar line when we first met: "As my granddaddy said, 'If it's got tits, wheels or fur, you're f...ed.' "
Adam stops trying to wipe away the tears. He cries openly and his speech becomes unvarnished. But he looks away to make his points. I have rarely seen him so uncomfortable. Publicly, he has only ever been straight. "I haven't been openly gay or bi before, but I prefer men because women are f...ing stupid," he says. "Holding men is nice. We people are great specimens. I suppose I should quote Shakespeare: 'What a piece of work is a man.' "
I ask adam why he has hidden from his sexuality, but he doesn't have an answer. I suspect it is because, at heart, he wants badly to be a country boy, to be some copy of his father: charming, funny, good with women. Instead, he has created for himself a character of violent machismo that would have been destroyed by his affection for men.
Suddenly, it is all there: the showers, the nudity, the elegiac emails, the lingering touches, the fantasies about taking hotel rooms together, the pretence of this book with which he has convinced me to stay at his house. I think back to something Adam said early in our interviews: "You're the only man for me." Sitting opposite him, I finally twig: Adam is in love with me.