• Sebastian and Marie as teenagers. (Supplied)
He was the most fabulous gay brother I never had. He was funny. He was interesting and interested. He adopted me as his sister pretty much straight away, and I loved him so much.
By
Marie Maait

8 Oct 2019 - 8:29 AM  UPDATED 9 Oct 2019 - 5:25 PM

Sebastian was wonderful to look at. He had the most beautiful body - soft, brown skin and  a very Versace Caesar cut. He wore white jeans to make his tan pop. It was the 90’s after all.

When we first met, he grabbed my arm and we chatted and chatted. He was funny. He was interesting and interested. He adopted me as his sister pretty much straight away, and I loved him so much. 

He’d tell me jokes until I couldn't breathe and made my whole world brighter. Sebastian lit a flame in me creatively. He was the most fabulous gay brother I never had. I wasn’t in love with him but I was in awe of him. He was 18 and I was 15. We were two kids trying to work out the world, and boy did we have fun in the process.

We frequented Oxford Street haunts - the Lizard lounge and every cafe on the Golden Gay Mile. As a straight, young Lebanese girl, I had no business being there. But I loved it. One night was really special (because I was never allowed out at night ordinarily). We went to see The Cranberries perform. “Linger” was one of his favourite songs. It reminded him of his ex-boyfriend he was still in love with, who now lived in New York. Sebby had lots of lovers but he was always pining for this man, who I only knew as Fat Cat. 

Sebastian loved his mother who accepted him wholeheartedly. He didn't know his father well. His Italian dad didn’t love that he was gay, but reluctantly accepted it. I think for this reason I may have been his ethnic connection. He had that ethnic sense of family with me. 

I studied photography at school, and Sebastian became my favourite subject. I took photos of him while we were spending time together, and also, because he was so beautiful and so free around me.

I hid my more risqué prints at his house. Huge black and white prints of men. Not of Sebastian though. I only photographed his beautiful face.

There was a period where Sebby told me he was going away and I didn't see him. Sometimes he’d travel to see a friend or a lover, so it wasn’t unusual.

A mutual friend of ours called me and told me this time Sebastian was in fact, in hospital.

I walked to St Vincent’s hospital. There he was at the entrance, sitting in the sun with his mum, smoking a cigarette. His clothes were hanging off him. His skin looked pale. He had Kaposi’s sarcoma, a skin cancer which develops as a result of AIDS. (Advancements in technology mean that today HIV can be successfully managed with proper treatment and care.) 

I gave him the biggest hug, and while I could feel his bones through his clothes, I also felt his love flow through me. If I close my eyes, I can still feel that love.

During this time, my family heard I was going to Oxford street and hanging around gay men. They told me I was bringing shame to the family and barred me from seeing Sebastian.

I gave him the biggest hug, and while I could feel his bones through his clothes, I also felt his love flow through me. If I close my eyes, I can still feel that love.

When he needed me most I couldn’t visit my best friend. One night I got a call from a friend saying Sebastian wasn’t going to make it through the night. I begged one of my brothers to sneak me out to see Sebby one last time. His sense of compassion took over and he relented. I never saw my brother drive faster than he did that night.

I walked into the room where Sebastian lay. He was like a skeleton, but he was still beautiful. I held his hand and as soon as I did, he looked at me and said “I love you so much petal, you’re always going to be my family”. Even though his vision had deteriorated and he could barely see, here was one person who could see me for who I was.

I wrapped my arms around him and felt his heartbeat. His favourite music was playing. Linger came on while I was holding him and I didn’t say goodbye, I said “I’ll see you tomorrow”. 

The year was 1994. It was the last time I ever saw him.

At 21 years young, his light extinguished. I was left with was a hole in my heart in the shape of Sebastian that could never be filled.

Sebastian taught me so much. He taught me about art, love and sacrifice.

He taught me that the view is always better from the high ground and that I can bring up my own daughter in a more open and accepting world.

Sebastian breathed life into this statue. And fire. The love I still have for Sebastian now goes to the huge rainbow family I have chosen and who have chosen me.

Marie Maait is a freelance writer. 

This article is an adaptation of a storytelling performance, developed and hosted by film-maker Gary Paramanathan. You can follow Gary's podcast  ‘The Skin We live In’  here.

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