(Ong) He remembered my name. He remembered the day, about six months ago, when we lay in bed together after sex – he’d driven up from South London, it was a Sunday – and the window had been open and all you could hear were the birds chirping; the weather was unseasonably warm and a breeze was blowing into the room and cooling our skin. He says he’s not sure if he remembers this, and points to the tattoo on the side of my leg. I tell him there was probably just the outline when I saw him last; now the tattoo has been inked in. He says he likes it.
“A tattoo would look good on you,” I say.
But I remember that he’s a good boy; he’d never do anything like that.
(Rahsaan) I remember his name. After he tells me his name I remember his name, and his name brings back what I know about him. I remember that he does something in the music business. I remember that we had sex a long time ago. Last time it was in a cubicle on the other side of the corridor. I remember that we talked about Rahsaan Patterson. I’d never met anyone who was into the same kind of music as me. He was the one who told me that Rahsaan Patterson was gay.
I don’t remember his lovely cock. It’s long and thick and beautifully proportioned. A real North African penis, I say to him, and he says, yes, that’s what he’s been told. When I’m inside him I speak to him in Arabic, just a few words, but he says he doesn’t know much. How come? I say. I don’t remember that his parents are from Algeria. I don’t remember his body either, its leanness, and smoothness, and his agility, the way he jumps up onto me when we are kissing against the wall, The way he positions himself so that he can stay there without me having to hold him, balancing on my calves. I don’t remember that he kissed like a man who is thirsty, and like a lizard, his tongue firm and darting and greedy. I don’t remember slapping him, or spitting into his mouth, or how tight his arsehole is. I don’t remember what kind of sex we had.
“Was it as rough as this last time?” he says.
(Ong) He remembers what I do, and he remembers my surname. He remembers that we went out for dinner afterwards, after the first time we had sex, the time before he came to my flat in North London, and I’d introduced him to summer rolls at a Vietnamese restaurant on Kingsland Road. We talk about this because I tell him that I thought about him a few days ago when I was making summer rolls.
“Do you remember when we had them?” I say.
“Of course I remember,” he says.
I remember that his teeth got in the way of his cocksucking, that his nipple-play was a little too eager, that our mouths didn’t quite fit when we kissed.
“That was a good day,” I say. “I liked lying in bed together.”
He remembered what I was working on at the time, the things I was writing about, and the website I wanted to build and which he had offered to help me with, but I got distracted by work and other projects and in the end we stopped corresponding. I’m not sure, but I might even have blocked him on Manhunt.
(Rahsaan) He remembers nothing.
(Me) I met them this week at the sauna, on different days: Ong on Sunday, Rahsaan just a couple of days ago. I thought about how everything I remembered about Rahsaan was kept in his name, although when I first saw him, when we started making out this week, when I had his body close to me, and maybe even before that, I had a strange feeling that we’d met before. When he told me his name, the story came back, well, the bit of the story that was connected to his name, the music, that is. I liked him because the sex was good, because he was hungry, because we fitted well together, because he gave nothing of his story, or demanded nothing of mine, I could project my love onto him. I could treat him as a thing. A body that is a thing. With Ong there was story. He talked about himself, told me stuff, made fun of the way I used my chopsticks. He offered himself, not just his body, not just his mouth, his touch. I wanted to be your boyfriend, he said. Rahsaan remembered nothing. But then, on the whole, neither did I. A couple of details don’t qualify as remembering.