Maeve: Hi, I’m Maeve Marsden and you’re listening to Queerstories. This week, Keith Quayle is a Malyangapa and Barkindji gay man, who was raised on Dharug country. His lived experience of the NSW correctional system informs the advocacy work he carries out on behalf of trans and gender diverse people in detention. He performed this story at Blacktown Arts Centre as part of Kolour Me Kweer an all First Nations line up curated by Steven Lindsay Ross and hosted by Neville Williams Boney.
Keith: First of all, I have to tell you that I am terrified of writing this letter to you. Honestly, I do not remember ever stopping to look you in the face and tell you the truth, of course I do not mean that our relationship is one of hypocrisy, actually on the contrary, We have always been very critical of each other, sometimes too much. I have treated you harshly, and I have told you the truth very crudely. I also know that no matter how much you insist on turning away, you always listen to me. So excuse my contradiction, I’ll say it more clearly; I think it’s the first time I look into your eyes open and vulnerable, I’m going straight to your heart. You see I know you because I see you, I am you. I know you so deeply and in such a distorted way, most days you tend to be an extremist and radical about your views, you are passionate about things that do not make money, you like sensitive people, you admire intelligent people, you know how to hide very well when something hurts you, you are generally wounded and you are used to living this way, you love your mother very much, you are moved by the weak, you have trouble sleeping, you have had a lot of sex in your life by choice or force and even when you didn’t enjoy it. I remember those seedy public toilets focused on meth, beats manked out amongst the shadows and trees and going to other questionable places that no child should have ever been apart of. Yet you carried on just to live an effervescent moment that seemed like a movie, to feel alive, at least for that moment. And thank God, you still have a few remaining teeth. You keep a void that you need to fill in some way. So for that I do apologize, because on many occasions I have put other people before you, even knowing that you were right, I did not defend you. I have suppressed you on occasions because I don’t want you to bother other people, and in this dynamic I have bothered you. I can’t promise you anything because I’m afraid of not keeping my promises, but I want you to know that from now on I’m going to pay more attention to your feelings, and I’ll try to respect them, I’ll allow and I’ll promote your opinions and points of view, even if they don’t please others.
Many times I have fantasized about beautiful scenarios in which I am accompanied by someone else, another person with whom I can share the fall of a sunset from a tall building that allows us to see the sky transforming its different shades of blue with the slow passing of time. . Reflecting, I have had the opportunity to fulfill this dream with you so many times but I failed you time and time again to the point of sending you to jail. I have always had you so close yet leaving you so far away and forgotten. Even on our walks, somehow I have looked for a third party to replace you, I have been distracted by something and not given you the value you deserve nor have I spent the time listening to you and contemplating you. The more the years go by, the more I forget you yet you always remember me and remind me of who I am.
Despite our toxicities, you are the person I trust the most in the world. I could not live without you, you are latent and you live inside of me. There is no place where I feel safer than by your side, because I know that you would never truly betray me. You understand me, you make me feel protected, in your strange way of being. You have always looked for a way to avoid suffering. That is why you know exactly everything about me, even if you have forgotten some things, or you simply consider that I have changed, things that used to be one way are now different.
But tell me do you really think I have changed? Or am I still exactly the same? Maybe we will never know. You always tell people that I’ve changed, but I know you’re not entirely convinced when you say it, you think I can never stop being what I once was, because you miss me, you miss what I was and you think I still am. Maybe you’re right, maybe I’ve only been transformed but the roots are still there, yes, like the roots of a tree that remain hidden, and although everybody admires the leaves and fruits, the tree could not be without its roots, even if they are soiled and buried. I know that you understand very well what I am telling you. Because you always keep my roots in mind, you value my roots and keep them alive by sharing them with the world. That somehow, is to be loved.
I wonder in what moments you have felt that I have loved you. When we were children maybe? Teenagers in fact, I hugged you many times and you burst into tears, you overflowed your immense tears without fear, I think you have only dared to cry from the depths of your heart when you were with me. Although it seems contradictory, there I loved you, there we loved each other, while I attentively watched your little heart opening wide to become a child again, and you clung completely to my being as if it were the only thing that existed in the world and you cried, you cried so that your life would go down a river of tears, escaped your stepfather and other sex pests so that the pain would come out like sweeping a swamp from your insides, you took out the anguish tangled up like old cables, and then you looked me in the eye and you were free, read it well that I try to tell you, truly free, something very yours.
You were born to be a free man, and your freedom makes me fall in love, I have never seen you as radiant as after crying
I love you, I love you attached to you, inseparable, as you are, failed and sad. Beaten but not broken. Also extremely happy at times, destroying structures to extend the life you have that is our life. I love you because no one will ever know what I have experienced as you know it, I love you because no one has accompanied me so much in my failures or celebrated my few triumphs so sincerely, I love you because you have the most beautiful and secret sensitivity I know, I love you because when I think of you my eyes become like a flooded river. Overflowing with each droplet.
Now, I want to let you go without you leaving. I want your sublime company when this afternoon falls, that your presence helps me to reflect, to meditate, to be silent and that at the same time you are free, and fly, to fly very far without abandoning me. Always take me with you wherever you go, or if you want, leave me for a while but come back to me as you always do.
You and me in a harmonic flow that entangles and unravels, magical and brilliant matter. A mystical aura surrounds me when I’m with you, in the security of distance, in the protection of comfort, in the abstraction of beauty, in the protective darkness, in the light of good words, in the supplied poverty to which nothing lacks, in peace.
I’m fine mute koala, I’m fine big pensive buddy, I am fine child Keith. I just hope that in the days you have left to live, you are much more content. I ask you to please take care of me without worrying about me anymore, I’ll be fine, I’m counting on myself now and I’m counting on you. Of course I have natural uncertainties, and I will have them until the day I die, when you see me suffer, remember that I am human, do not dramatize my pain, for partly I deserve it.
Until then, I’ll see you walking away at nightfall amongst the thunderstorms dancing in the rain, and in case it is imaginary, I’ll paint it my way, which is also yours. And I will go with you while you stay with me, in case it is impossible. I will pray to the goddesses until it happens. I know that the years will bring with them a balm to heal our anguish, in case it’s too late I give you my little peace. Go gently now, stay in your truth and be free.
All that is mine is yours… Yours always.
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