We flock to cities, as a rule. Being the only gay in the village is tiring. Being a rural gay teenager is hungry work. Opportunities (to fuck, to chat) are scarce. We head to metropolises because it feels like we’ll starve out in the country. The queer landscapes we see on TV are tower blocks, night clubs, metropolitan cafes. Culturally, we maintain the fiction that queerness is an urban phenomenon. As if faggots are a spontaneous growth from concrete and glass, something new, something as constructed and arbitrary as architecture.
Fairies, they are trying to steal the woods from you.
There is a queer psychogeography of the countryside. A queer flânerie. It is a complex and as rich as the one you’ve already heard about, though it appears less on Instagram. There are times when the queer landscape of the country functions as a fun house mirror of the city. When then number of visible sexual partners reduces from the tens of thousands to the tens, things change and intensify. You never want to say no to someone unless they seem dangerous. Sometimes you don’t say no even then. You find yourself fucking in the frightening houses of rich men who own land. You never ask how they vote.
People still have pornography on their phones, so people have absorbed the same strange sexual game playing that’s infected the cities. People ask if you are a top or a bottom, a dom or a sub. In the city I can just refuse the question because it’s boring. In the country I am whatever you want me to be. The absence of a nightclub makes me plastic.
But the countryside is its own experience too. There are no buses in the country now, certainly none after 5pm. At the age of 16, at the age of 26, you find yourself taking hour long walks along unlit roads just so you can suck a dick. You walk home again past lay-bys where you fucked boyfriends in their parents’ cars. You fuck in fields, you fuck in woodlands, you find mud under your nails the next day and smile. You’re giving head in the snow with a bobble hat on. You learn that you’ve developed hayfever one day after using a picnic blanket without a picnic. You fuck in sheds. You fuck in the rain. You travel into the town by foot, meet a man from the internet, walk another hour to find a sufficiently wooded round about on the edge of an industrial estate. He’s too old for you, a trainee teacher. You fuck.
Each rare orgasm is a victory. Something stolen from an unwilling world. The feeling you have, in the city, after a one night stand… that feeling like a light is shining from you, that the people at the bus stop can see your glow? In the country, that glow is a roaring fire, a heat that flushes through you till it seems you’re lighting up the trees. Behind my parents’ house is a wood that used to be a coal mine. I am walking though it in cum stained jeans. I can taste salt in my mouth. Without queer community, I make the wastelands into my home. There are foxes here, and snakes. I shed my skin for anyone that asks and underneath, again and again, I find this muddy creature. Something fae, something practical and animal.
If you have another gay friend, who you probably you do not sleep with, you find yourself drinking cider in graveyards for lack of anything else to do. You dropped out of university eight years ago. Now you are pissed in a war memorial on a Tuesday night. The local pub, which is run by gay men, has barred you because the way you dress might frighten the straight people. You don’t care.
Sometimes you wander alone at night, not even heading to a man, and you scuff your boots along the frost and stubble of the cut fields. You wander under the motorway bridge. You sneak onto the local golf course. The feeling is loneliness, a great swelling loneliness that seems to push out and crack your ribs. But it is comfort too, and ownership. This soil, these leaves, this piss stinking concrete behind the motorway service station; it’s yours. You have been spilled out too many times here to pretend otherwise.
At midnight I am dipping my toes into the canal. I can hear the cars on the bypass in the very far distance. Birds are calling in the woods, soft owl sounds like laughter, the occasional breathy noise of disturbed pigeons. I can taste the water in my mouth, green and brown. That odd familiar feeling of a thing being almost present, an absence that seems to push out of my skin.