Fantasy has been a treacherous place for me. Recently, I’ve had this recurring fascination with the possibility of my being adopted; that my parents, who have raised me over these past twenty years, who have fed me, clothed me, done everything in their power to love me and make me a better person, that these people are not my real parents. And I love it. I love this weird fantasy, this Shakespearean drama. I’d take some DNA test and discover that my real father was a Frenchman named Jean-Jacques Deschamps, and that he was the dream father I had always wanted. Every day, he would venture out from his apartment in the heart of the Neuilly-sur-Seine district of Paris on his chic bicycle, transporting himself toward the heart of the city where he would lecture at the Sorbonne, of course. Discoursing fluently in three different languages, he would teach the greatest French literature known to man – Flaubert, Moliere, Voltaire – to the best minds on earth. They would converge together, huddling over old-leather bound texts to debate the peculiar meaning of a parsed French verb, its meaning lost to the march of linguistic change.
I spend hours imagining this person, Mr Jean-Jacques Deschamps, and the active role he would play in my life. He’d invite me to come live with him in Paris, and every day, after he finished lecturing we would venture into the well-worn streets of Paris. We would pass from Notre Dame to the Latin Quarter, pausing to sip coffee and eat fresh bread from some artisanal boulangerie perched on the corner of a grand boulevard. The shop’s striped awning would sprawl out over the pavement, providing shade from the stark sun above. We’d sit there for hours, discussing everything from the realism of Madame Bovary to the changing politics of the world around us, and then to the mundanities which fill our days and make them grander than the tragedies of theatre. Jean-Jacques would be gay too, a seasoned veteran in all matters pertaining to homosexuality – from the history of LGBTQ+ rights to the desire to find the one, the right one, he’d know it all. He’d be there for me, helping it through me all, showing me what he knew of the world.
Fantasies are fun like that. You can get lost in them, let them to grow into grand illustrations. They can be canvases which encompass great spaces filled with the bright luminescence of colour, a kaleidoscope of intricate brilliance, a detailed image which mesmerises the viewer. I like to get lost in my fantasies, to create the detailed life of Jean-Jacques Deschamps, and of course, to fit myself into the grand journey. The fantasy may seem to focus on Mr Deschamps, but really it is about me: my interference into his life as his long-lost son, a faded but not-forgotten remnant of his past that has grown and matured in the far isle of Australia before finally returning. The prodigal son embraces his father, the children’s tale of separation and reunification – I would be, naturally the axis around which the fantasy revolves. The grand tapestry of my imagination would portray Jean-Jacques Deschamps not in isolation, but in unity, with me, there in a candid polaroid of a father and son. We would be smiling, joyful, content, laughing carefreely as the traffic of the Parisian streets continued to march on.
I can’t stay in my fantasy forever. Jean-Jacques Deschamps does not exist. I am not an adopted child. I am my father’s son. I am just me. My reality is my current existence. My father isn’t the literature-loving, gay French man of my heart’s desire. My father doesn’t read the classics, or any novel for that matter, preferring the buzzing solace of television to the comfort a book. My father is not a trilingual Frenchman, cycling his way to a university to deliver thought-provoking lectures but rather a monolingual accountant who guzzles his way through a tank of petrol every three days. My father is no all-knowing gay man, but a man who would prefer that gay people weren’t real, or at least that his son wasn’t one. My father is the exact opposite of my grand fantasies, for he is not my grand tapestry of my luminescent illusions, but rather he is my stark reality. He is the truth of eyesight, through glasses smudged and scratched, a vision abundant with ever-present imperfections.
But he is my father. He is my true father and the only father I’ll ever have. I must learn to love him, even when he may not love me. I must incorporate him into my grand tapestry, allowing our imperfections to blend together in hopes of creating a masterpiece to hang in the gallery of our reality. It won’t be easy. The truth – reality, our existence – never is. Reality has always been a treacherous place for me.