A coin purse becomes a reflection on best friendships lost and found. First performed at Queerstories: Midsumma, Melbourne, 23 Jan 2019
I got a new wallet the other day.
Black pleather, six silver star studs.
$20 from Typo.
What’s so special about a wallet?
This one has a coin purse.
What’s so special about a coin purse?
One afternoon, after bungling Millionaire Hot Seat by one question, I call my best friend asking to spend some time with him to cheer myself up. We walk around the city for a while, then head back to his place — I’ve spent enough time there that I become part of the house group chat. He makes me tea and breaks out his sewing machine and some spare material and sews me a coin purse. “For good luck”, he says.
A month later I head to the United States, right in the middle of the Travel Ban. I fill the coin purse with cash, medication, and a USB stick with all my personal information — and then stuff the purse into my bra. If I get deported or detained, at least I will be somewhat prepared. I arrive at San Francisco Airport with a Muslim name, a Muslim country passport, and a Muslim looking face.
“What are you here for?”
“Who are you staying with?”
“…OK come on through.”
The coin purse stays in my bra the entire trip. Nothing bad happens to me. Even after I return, I keep it on me always. It is my lucky charm.
He was my lucky charm. A queer Dandy Faerie to my Furious Brown Femme. He seems to know half of Melbourne and he raves about my talents and we snuggle up and hatch many creative plans together.
I tell him, “I love you”, and he doesn’t really respond.
But we make sure we meet up once a week and he dyes my hair pretty colours and he’s always the first to volunteer when I need help.
He shows me he loves me.
I figure words aren’t his love language.
I invite him to the final night of Taylor Mac’s 24 Decades, a 2-week-long magical fairyland where I’ve been cast as a Dandy Minion but kept feeling like my other half was missing. I feel guilty. He’s a 24/7 Dandy Minion. He should have had my spot.
The night comes to a close and I, high on fumes and glitter and exhaustion, wrap my arms around him and tell him, “I love you.”
He replies, “you too!”
I am so stunned by this it takes me overnight to register it.
The following week is a dream. We spend most of it together chasing every last moment of Taylor Mac. He seems more affectionate than usual and I feel like we’ve reached a new high in our friendship. He’s about to head overseas for a year and I want every last moment with him.
By the end of the week, things get weird.
He tells me that people’s racism and sexism towards me are a liability, that it’s ‘too much drama’ for him before his trip.
He tries to smooth it over and says he still cares about me and I taste silver on his tongue.
I ask around for advice, bothered but wanting to give him the benefit of the doubt.
I get told, this is not new.
I hear serious allegations about him, about him preying on the vulnerable, charming them and emotionally manipulating them and disrespecting their boundaries.
I confront him about it and his silver tongue is laced with mercury.
I come forward, believing survivors and believing I could hold him accountable.
He hears about this and his tongue is just straight up poison now.
I try to first cut off contact on the day of the marriage equality postal vote results announcements. While everyone around me says Yes in rains of rainbow confetti, I tell him No.
A few weeks later, overseas by now, he reaches out wanting to talk. Against my better judgement, I humour him. Silver turns to mercury turns to poison. He refuses to listen to me, to take any responsibility, and I feel like I’m trying to reason with a brick wall. My lucky charm becomes my worst nightmare.
After months of fighting and gaslighting and bolting upright at 3am in case he sends me a message from fuckin’ Europe again I finally block him everywhere.
There is no social script for when you break up with your best friend.
I look around for a new coin purse but nothing seems quite right. I keep the old coin purse mainly out of convenience, but looking at it gives me difficult memories.
Especially good memories. Was ‘you too’ a lie?
I fall into a spiral and other friends step up to catch me. They filter messages from him, hear me cry my heart out, ignore my deep embarrassment at failing in adulthood as they clear my apartment of glitter and confetti and crumbling promises.
One of those friends stood out.
I had reached out to him asking about the silver on my tongue, mainly because he too is a queer white guy so maybe he knows something?
He told me I am right to be perturbed and did what hardly anyone else did for me: he stood up to my ex best friend, supporting me.
It doesn’t really go so well for either of us but at least he tried.
I seek a new creative project, free of my ex best friend. I decide to attempt stage magic, be the queer lady magician of my childhood dreams. I ask my other friend to be my assistant. He’s the first one on board.
We spend more time together, mainly co-writing scripts but also sharing each other’s lives, our art, our hearts. I start to think of him as my best friend, but I’m anxious. I worry that I’m just looking for a rebound, replacing one flamboyant white boy artist type with another.
But, unlike my ex best friend, he opens up to me, tells me about his pain, his joy, his shenanigans. We have fought, but it’s never cruel — we take space to be sad and come back together quickly to reconcile and we take responsibility for our words. He helps me be my own lucky charm.
I tell him, “I love you”, and he replies, “I love you too darling”.
We exchange three hearts by text every day and he leaves kisses in my hair and comes to visit when I’m sick.
He shows me and tells me he loves me.
And his tongue tastes not of silver but of earth -
Raw, rooted, real.
I find my new wallet in Typo. Black pleather, six silver star studs, a coin purse. $20.
It is exactly what I wanted.
I take out everything from the old coin purse and place it in the new one.
I tell my best friend about the purse and he sends me three hearts in reply.
I have my own luck now.
First performed at Queerstories: Midsumma, Melbourne. Podcast recording to come soon.
Like this? Support me on Patreon!