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Chapter 13
Before abandoning the Father Project, I decided to checkRosie’s estimate of the number of father candidates. It occurredto me that some possibilities could be easily eliminated. Themedical classes I teach contain numerous foreign students.
Given Rosie’s distinctly pale skin, I considered it unlikely thather father was Chinese, Vietnamese, black or Indian.
I began with some basic research – an internet search forinformation about the medical graduation class, based on thethree names I knew.
The results exceeded my expectations, but problem-solving oftenrequires an element of luck. It was no surprise that Rosie’smother had graduated from my current university. At the time,there were only two medical courses in Melbourne.
I found two relevant photos. One was a formal photo of theentire graduation class, with the names of the one hundredand forty-six students. The other was taken at the graduationparty, also with names.
There were only one hundred and twenty-four faces,presumably104/290because some students did not attend. Since the gene-shoppinghad occurred at the party, or after, we would not have toworry about the non-attendees. I verified that the one hundredand twenty-four were a subset of the one hundred andforty-six.
I had expected that my search would produce a list ofgraduates and probably a photo. An unexpected bonus was a‘Where are they now?’
discussion board. But the major stroke of luck was theinformation that a thirtieth anniversary reunion had beenscheduled. The date was only three weeks away. We wouldneed to act quickly.
I ate dinner at home and rode to the Marquess ofQueensbury.
Disaster! Rosie wasn’t working. The barman informed me thatRosie worked only three nights per week, which struck me asinsufficient to provide an adequate income. Perhaps she had aday job as well. I knew very little about her, beyond her job,her interest in finding her father and her age, which, based onher mother’s graduation party being thirty years earlier, mustbe twenty-nine. I had not asked Gene how he had met her. Idid not even know her mother’s name to identify her in thephoto.
The barman was friendly, so I ordered a beer and some nutsand reviewed the notes I had brought.
There were sixty-three males in the graduation party photo, amargin of only two over the females, insufficient to supportRosie’s claim of discrimination. Some were unambiguouslynon-Caucasian, though not as many as I expected. It was thirtyyears ago, and the influx of Chinese students had not yetcommenced. There was still a large number of candidates, butthe reunion offered an opportunity for batch processing.
I had by now deduced that the Marquess of Queensbury wasa gay bar. On the first visit, I had not observed the socialinteractions, as I was too focused on finding Rosie and initiatingthe Father Project, but this time I was able to analyse mysurroundings in more detail. I was105/290reminded of the chess club to which I belonged when I was atschool.
People drawn together by a common interest. It was the onlyclub I had ever joined, excluding the University Club, whichwas more of a dining facility.
I did not have any gay friends, but this was related to myoverall small number of friends rather than to any prejudice.
Perhaps Rosie was gay? She worked in a gay bar, althoughthe clients were all males.
I asked the barman. He laughed.
‘Good luck with that one,’ he said. It didn’t answer thequestion, but he had moved on to serve another customer.
As I finished lunch at the University Club the following day,Gene walked in, accompanied by a woman I recognised fromthe singles party – Fabienne the Sex-Deprived Researcher. Itappeared that she had found a solution to her problem. Wepassed each other at the dining-room entrance.
Gene winked at me, and said, ‘Don, this is Fabienne. She’svisiting from Belgium and we’re going to discuss some optionsfor collabora-tion.’ He winked again, and quickly moved past.
Belgium. I had assumed Fabienne was French. Belgianexplained it.
Gene already had France.
I was waiting outside the Marquess of Queensbury when Rosieopened the doors at 9.00 p.m.
‘Don.’ Rosie looked surprised. ‘Is everything okay?’
‘I have some information.’
‘Better be quick.’
‘It’s not quick, there’s quite a lot of detail.’
‘I’m sorry, Don, my boss is here. I’ll get into trouble. I needthis job.’
‘What time do you finish?’
‘Three a.m.’
106/290I couldn’t believe it! What sort of jobs did Rosie’s patronshave?
Maybe they all worked in bars that opened at 9.00 p.m. andhad four nights a week off. A whole invisible nocturnalsubculture, using resources that would otherwise stand idle. Itook a huge breath and a huge decision.
‘I’ll meet you then.’
I rode home, went to bed, and set the alarm for 2.30 a.m. Icancelled the run I had scheduled with Gene for the followingmorning to retrieve an hour. I would also skip karate.
At 2.50 a.m. I was riding through the inner suburbs. It wasnot a totally unpleasant experience. In fact, I could see majoradvantages for myself in working at night. Empty laboratories.
No students. Faster response times on the network. No contactwith the Dean. If I could find a pure research position, with noteaching, it would be entirely feasible. Perhaps I could teach viavideo-link at a university in another time zone.
I arrived at Rosie’s workplace at exactly 3.00 a.m. The doorwas locked and a ‘Closed’ sign was up. I knocked hard. Rosiecame to the door.
‘I’m stuffed,’ she said. This was hardly surprising. ‘Come in –I’m almost done.’
Apparently the bar closed at 2.30 a.m. but Rosie had to cleanup.
‘You want a beer?’ she said. A beer! At 3 a.m. Ridiculous.
‘Yes, please.’
I sat at the bar watching her clean up. The question I hadasked sitting in the same place the previous day popped intomy mind.
‘Are you gay?’ I asked.
‘You came here to ask me that?’
‘No, the question is unrelated to the main purpose of my visit.’
‘Pleased to hear it, alone at three in the morning in a bar witha strange man.’
107/290‘I’m not strange.’
‘Not much,’ she said, but she was laughing, presumably makinga joke to herself based on the two meanings of strange. I stilldidn’t have an answer to the gay question. She opened a beerfor herself. I pulled out my folder and extracted the partyphoto.
‘Is this the party where your mother was impregnated?’
‘Shit. Where did this come from?’
I explained about my research and showed her myspreadsheet. ‘All names are listed. Sixty-three males, nineteenobviously non-Caucasian, as determined by visual assessmentand supported by names, three already eliminated.’
‘You’ve got to be kidding. We’re not testing … thirty-onepeople.’
‘Whatever. I don’t have an excuse to meet any of them.’
I told her about the reunion.
‘Minor problem,’ said Rosie. ‘We’re not invited.’
‘Correct,’ I said. ‘The problem is minor and already solved.
There will be alcohol.’
I indicated the bar, and the collection of bottles on shelvesbehind it.
‘Your skills will be required.’
‘You’re kidding me.’
‘Can you secure employment at the event?’
‘Hang on, hang on. This is getting seri............
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