‘Good intentions’ by Laidley Plackett
Are you sure? The words lingered in my mind for a moment longer than they should have. I felt my smile subside and blood rush to my cheeks. She was going to think I was lying. The silence was deafening as my eyes darted around the room, desperate to lock eyes with my peers, but hoping to avoid them all together.
I remember the first time I felt invisible.
Ladley? Laidlaw? Laidy? LAID. LEY. Pronounced exactly as it is spelt. Different.
The words echoed across the empty Oasis playing fields.
“Laidlaw Picket. Laidlaw.”
The coach kept calling out names of the tee ball tryout aspirants, but I was losing hope of making the team. I was only from Kalgoorlie, of course I wasn’t good enough to compete in Perth at state level. The echoing of names ended, ironically, at the same time as the sun had begun to set over the playing fields. I looked around, a group of eleven-year-olds, all standing next to their mums. I was standing next to nobody. I was eleven, why did I need my mum to be by my side? Although, at that very moment, after I hadn’t heard my name called out, I longed to have her presence beside me. The crowd started to disperse and mums led their kids back to four wheel drives in the car park. I slowly started to walk towards the coach, trying to garner his attention. Softly, uncertainly, I told the coach that I hadn’t heard my name called out – Laidley Plackett.
“Ah shit mate, we had ya down as something different. Yeah, you’ve made the team. I’ll see ya next week at training, young fella.”
A sense of belonging flowed through me. I WAS good enough. I did this on my own. I fit in. Laidley.
Fast forward three years. My best mate at school was a girl. My oldest childhood friend was a girl. I didn’t play footy on the weekends or go out motorbike riding on the holidays. I wasn’t one of the boys. I had a best mate once, Jackson. We hung out every weekend and after school, riding push bikes around the streets of Boulder, throwing boondies at the cars driving by, talking about the hot girl at school, Maddison, who he’d had a crush on since kindy. Our friendship drifted apart once we got to high school. It had run its course. I wasn’t interested in doing the same old shit all the time. I never understood why the guys always wanted to talk about how big girls tits were or how good of a root they thought a girl would be. What was the fascination? I could stare at the red dirt all day and scout my brain for an answer. I had no fucking idea. I wondered if I’d start to understand, once puberty had run its course. It would take me another three years to figure out who I was.
It took a couple of seconds to sink in. It wasn’t that I didn’t understand the question, I was shocked that my teacher had asked me in front of my peers.
Fast forward another three years. The sound of small chatter, undercut by the incessant clicking of the keyboards filled the small room. A group of year 11 public school media students attempting to make a short three-minute film and we all thought we were Steven Spielberg. At this stage of the project our films looked more like an illegal cinema recording than a blockbuster film, but we were hoping, with the guidance of our quirky media teacher, we’d make them just as damn good. As the teacher made her way around the room, stopping at each pair of students editing their footage, she pointed and made her sharp command very clear: “codes plus conventions plus audience plus meaning”. She had a thunderous laugh as well – one that could be heard by not just our class, but the wild goats in Kambalda. It was my turn now, to have my footage picked apart. I felt so fiercely protective of the footage I’d been slaving away over for six weeks. After the barrage of tips and tricks and things I could do better, my project partner and I discussed the changes we could make. I felt the teacher’s presence lingering behind me. I thought she was moving on to speak with the next group.
“Are you gay, or what?”
I swung my chair around, only to be greeted by the eager stare of my teacher, awaiting my response. It took a couple of seconds to sink in. It wasn’t that I didn’t understand the question, I was shocked that my teacher had asked me in front of my peers. My mates. It took another couple of seconds for me to string a one-word answer together.
One word is all I could manage to say.
The piercing laughter of my mate next to me filled the room. She looked shocked, but all she could do was laugh. Did she think I was gay too? Did all of my classmates think I was gay? Had everyone just heard her? WHAT THE FUCK? An explosion of thoughts went through my mind in a split second.
“Are you sure?”
The teacher’s retort was confident and bold. She had obviously boxed me in. But I knew who I was. And by this stage of my teenage years I felt the sweeping realms of desire, which neither gay nor straight could explain. Both of those terms felt dishonest.
It was only five years later, when I began to write this story, that I understood the teacher’s good intentions. Her wanting to help.
Still, I could never quite forgive her.
As a gay friend of mine once told me: go fuck yourself.
Am I sure? Yes.