When a beautiful man slips through your fingers there’s not much you can do. You might never see him again. In cities like London you are always losing people. Yesterday at the sauna I lost two. (Somewhere in my head is the Oscar Wilde line about the misfortune of losing one parent, but two!? he says, just looks like carelessness.) It was careless. At least one of them I could have kept.
This is how it happened: I went to the sauna out of a compulsion. I was compelled to go. It was one of those times when the voices say go! go! and one must obey. I’m not usually a fan of the sauna on Sundays – too many men walking around hoping for Mr Right, too much desperation and coming-down-from-drugs in the air – but I went anyway. I’m glad I did. I must stop being so dogmatic about things. The sauna was packed. When I got to the reception cage, there weren’t even any available locker keys so I had to wait until someone left. Someone is always leaving, so I on;ly had to wait a few minutes. And then I was in. It’s a nice moment that moment when you pass the door and walk down that corridor to the lockers. Everything from that moment on is possible. Love, passion, surprise. I am always optimistic when I walk down that corridor. It’s one of the few places I am.
I saw him as soon as I got to my locker. He was already in a towel, standing by his locker. Later I’d find out that he was sipping from his can of Red Bull, snorting tiny spoons of coke. But I didn’t know that then, and even when I did know, when we were making out in a cabin, it didn’t really bother me. I’ve never snorted coke, but for a moment I was tempted, for a brief flash I thought, why not, isn’t it time you did stuff like that. Everyone else is. Why must you keep yourself so aloof from the herd? Etc, etc.
He was just what I like. Tall and very skinny and smooth. He was sculpted. His skin was brown. He looked something like the guy in the picture, only skinnier, and darker. But the face was similar, the look in the eyes, that slightly lost gaze, almost innocent, and the mouth, made for kissing.
We passed each other upstairs and our eyes were on each other and when I brushed my hand against his side he turned and looked and followed. The room was at the end of the upstairs passageway, a large space, darker than the cubicles. I leaned against the wall and he was right there, standing in front of me. We bowed our heads towards each other, our hands already on nipples, our backs, gently touching. In some settings – a beach, a cafe, the bedroom – this would be almost romantic, two men about to kiss, exploring each other with profound tenderness. Licking first, brushing lips, breathing, turning away, soft halting breaths. I love the beginning of something, tasting each other, testing.
“What’s your name?” I say, my mouth close to his ear, wondering if it’s too early for that.
Brian. He was hungry for cock. A need so all-consuming that he eventually led us to a cubicle where he could express that hunger fully. On his knees with his legs spread and his arse-cheeks at the foot of the slope of his back like two globes of… what? Like globules. Glutes. All those words. Perfectness. And for a moment I was Robert Mapplethorpe. I wanted to photograph him. Capture him. Hold that picture of him feasting on my cock. Sucking and sucking and sucking. He positioned me on the raised bed, my legs hanging over the side – a bit like a child about to have its knee bandaged – and he just kept sucking, doing this thing with his head, a kind of nodding gesture, like he was scooping my cock, over and over, into his mouth. If I hadn’t lifted his head for a kiss, I had a feeling he would never come up for air.
“Do you want to take a break?” he said.
“Sure,” I said.
“I want to play with you some more,” he said.
“We can do that,” I said.
“We’ll meet up later, yeah?” he said. “I want you to come in my mouth.”
“I can do that,” I said.
During our break – because we did meet up again later – I went to sit in the sauna cabin, the air hot and dry, penetrating the skin, heating the bones. There was a guy sitting opposite me who seemed cute. Pale, smooth, and because I didn’t have my glasses on it was hard to make out how slim he was. He seemed okay. The pale smoothness of him in the half-dark of the sauna cabin was nice to behold. I sat with one leg up on the wooden ledge, then he did the same. I massaged my neck; he copied me. I leaned over and rested my elbows on my knees; after I slight pause, he was in the same position.
Hey, I can read a sign!
There was just enough room to sit on the ledge to his left, and that’s where I went to sit. I reached out first, stroked his chest, played with his nipple, massaged his skull. He more or less followed suit. It was kind of sexy, and probably would have been more so if he was slimmer, and I was feeling more predatory. Thoughts of the skinny sculpted guy still lingered. This guy couldn’t compare. He laughed.
“What’s funny?” I said.
“Oh,” he said. “This.”
“This?” I said.
“Life,” he said.
“Which bits?” I said.
He laughed again, put his hand on my thigh, moved in closer.
“Do you mean the homosexual bits?” I said.
“This,” he said, gesturing to the sauna cabin, the men who were sitting, other standing, some leaving, others peering in through the glass window in the door.
“You mean like the way you were copying my movements and I had to come over like some wild animal who wants you to roll over onto your back and put your legs in the air?”
“Oh,” he said. “So you noticed?”
“It’s an animal instinct,” I said.
“Is that what we are?” he said. “Surely we’ve moved on from that.”
“I hope not,” I said. “Have you?”
“I think I have,” he said.
“You must have a properer job then,” I said. “Nine to five, an office.”
“How did you know?” he said.
I said I could tell, that I could see he had lost touch with his animal instincts. It was fun making him laugh, easy, and that was pleasurable, a turn-on in itself, even though nothing else about him turned me on. We played him guessing what I did, and the first thing he said was: Artist.
“I am,” I said, enjoying being called that in a room full of strangers.
He ran his hand over my chest, his mouth almost on my nipple, like he was inspecting something, or admiring.
“It’s trimmed,” I said, referring to the little spikes on my chest. Just that afternoon I’d clippered the hair. “I’m curbing the animal instinct.”
“Not all animals get together just to fuck,” he said, and puts his head on my shoulder, nestled closer to me, whimpered.
“Did you just whimper,” I said.
“Whimper?” he said, the smile audible in his voice. “It’s very likely.”
“I think we’ve spoken before,” I said. “I recognise something.”
“Are you the guy with the blog,” he said, as if he’d known all along, as if he, too, had intuited our history.
“The blog?” I said.
“The one who has sex with guys and then writes about it?” he said.
I told him I’d turned some of it into a book, but – I apologised – I couldn’t remember what we’d done last time. To be honest, I found it hard to believe we’d had sex at all, but he remembered things like how sensitive my nipples were, and that I had a bike, so I guess we must have done it. Jim – that was his name – made a joke along the lines of, what does a guy have to do to get me to write about him. I said there has to be something that moves me to tell a story, something out of the ordinary, something that is more than just about the sex itself, that the sex has to have an existential quality to it, to inspire an insight into something, or feel metaphorical, representative of something bigger, more profound, or more basic. I said it’s not just about sex but about a connection, a touch, a breath, a feel of the skin, the way a man kisses, a new type of touch, a new kind of body, a bit like it was – but I don’t say this to him – with Brian, the Mapplethorpe model, the man, young, from Birmingham, new to London, revelling in his sluthood, who’d keep sucking on cocks, swallowing more and more cum, until his hunger was sated, until he’d gone beyond his true calling, beyond his animal insitincts and found a proper job.