On a crowded bar room floor, with a twenty-something band playing and the music thumping through my rib cage, I feel I don’t belong. It makes me think of the word Belong. Unbelong and Unbelonging appear to be the kind of words that spell check gives a red slash. No results found. But this is the way I feel. Part of the Unbelonging.
I am making my own word for it.
And it is not because of age difference. There are plenty of us middle-aged ones here. The Fremantle Ukulele Collective has just performed and it is full of forty-something blokes, paunches and haphazard, bad shirts.
But it is movement that makes me Unbelong. Other mothers of ten-year old boys are still able to get on the dance floor and move. It is an effortless sway of the hips that they are doing. And they are moving in time. Like back up singers to a cool black dude, and I am watching them. Ravenously. I want their movement. I want their legs.
I am in the midst of hips, and waists, and belts. If she had fluff in her belly button I could flick it out with my tongue, it is so close. I can see up people’s nostrils. I am in my wheelchair. It is slick and titanium and small, and as elegant as a chair can be. But it is still very tipable. Another no-such-word. But it is a word I need. A man, slightly pissed, wants to sit on the edge of the wheel for support or just because he wants to say Hi. After all he likes me. He attempts to sit like someone sitting on a ledge of a window. But I tell him it’s not safe. It is a wheel – designed to spin. Now I am feeling sat upon. I am beginning to feel the crowd encroach on me. Drunkenness is all around and the precariousness of people on skinny heels is, to me, getting more dangerous. I have the feeling that someone will end up on my lap, or worse still, I will be tipped over, legs awry over my head like they are the lifeless limbs of a simple, cotton stuffed doll.
I am sickened by the jealousy I feel watching the movers. Some are moving who would be better served by stillness. But. I see the band in their smoke haze. The blonde boy lead singer has his hair pushed forward like he is walking with a heavy breeze behind him. It could be a Bieber influence. But he is, of course, cooler than that. His shirt has a small dainty print on it. He turns his back on the crowd to concentrate on his guitar. To commune with it. The boys have tight pants. The type that need to be put on lying down and writhing on the bed. This is how I too put my trousers on. The boy on the electric violin has a curly mop top and a velvet jacket. People have their phones in the air taking photos and short videos. Then the phone is pocketed and more swaying. More circling hips. Stirring. I look down at the stilettos in front of me. At they way they move on their centimetre of contact with the boards. Twisting into the surface. Screwing and stamping their humanness deep into the wood.
Along with movement these dancers have desirability. They run their fingers through their hair. They do head flicks, their lips do pouty things. They rub their thighs with their own hands. Unattached to metal, they are all flesh. Watching still, I feel their sex. Sitting, amidst and stagnant, is not sexy. I am a blob of flesh on my island of titanium. A photographer with a camera, as opposed to a phone, is taking pictures of the band. Through all the smoke. The light is red and orange. The keyboard player has milky perfect skin. She could be fourteen. She has so much movement ahead of her. Or does she?
I don’t attempt to use the toilet here. I doubt there is one for the disabled. In more desperate days I might choose to use the toilet and pee, unashamedly, with the door open, unable to close it and still get back into my chair. These days I opt for the third gender toilet.
In the belly of the Unbelonging, longing resides. It seats itself heavy and morose. Here in the very cool bar, the longing is a dull throb. As if in time with the beat of the music there is an aching remembering of ancient movement. Of swaying hips. Of snaking spine. At other times, mostly it is weak. Weaken by time, years in fact, routine, just plain getting used to it. The longing is gone when we are across the road at the fancy restaurant where people are merely torsos and heads. Here we are all equal. Legs are beneath the table. Crotches are unseen. Ease returns.
I am in the toilet at the fancy restaurant. It is designated for the people who crouch on the c. The symbolic wheel. We of the wheel. The Third Gender. We are not sexless. We have desire. To be free of the thing, with its titanium brilliance, that we both love and hate.
Dessert is finished, the wine is empty and we are going back into the den of the bar. We enter through a heavy door, held open with the working foot of the person in front. The stamped wrist is shown. I am reminded of the sullen, awkward and violent boyfriend of the past. He had a thing about door stamps. He wouldn’t let his inner wrist, where the blue veins coursed beneath the skin, be stamped. Not after his chemistry-clever brother told him about polymers. He said the ink was toxic and likely to seep through into the blood stream and cause cancer. He would tell all the door people, at all the pubs and bars, this complicated story. With him, nothing was ever simple. Mostly they let him have his stamp on a corner of his untucked shirt. But he could make a scene too. And then things might turn nasty. He liked to threaten them with legal action. Talk about rights. He gave people fighting for legitimate causes a bad name.
He too was a member of the Unbelong. For him, it was a desire to stand out. He enjoyed the difference. Revelled in it even. He was the type to shout out at the cinema during a show when everyone else was silent. He used his charisma to make the vulnerable love him; intoxicated them even. Then once, fully addicted, punished them for their devotion. A slow grinding away of any self-esteem.
I am through the other side now. Home again. Not feeling like the third gender. Not feeling so static and two-dimensional. There is music outside on the oval of Fremantle park. There, the tough members of the Unbelonging, will make it across the spongy grass to the elevated ACROD platform and do their best to move to the beat of the music. I ask myself; can I put myself through the Longing again?