“I thought you might be German,” I say.
“I’m South African,” he says, in a tone that implied that he’d clocked that I was.
Oh,” I say, because it’s always nice to have something in common with a man we’re having sex with, and we think – like knowing someone’s star-sign – that we know something about him just because we know where he’s from, especially if he’s from where we’re from. But he is from Joberg and we are not. We are from Cape Town, for example, or Durban, somewhere on the coast, which is different from Joberg. A couple of years ago, we met a guy from Durban and felt we had more in common with him than a guy from Joberg, despite the fact that he was a Muslim and we are not.
And as we talked – me and the guy from Joberg – I realised that what I’d thought of as tentativeness or shyness or him being the tough-silent type was in fact a mixture of guilt and stupidity. His boyfriend back in Joberg didn’t know that he was, in his words, being naughty. He had that kind of dimness, a country-bumpkin quality that I’ve noticed in white South Africans, especially when they’re abroad. They have the cash to travel outside their comfort zone, but they are, on the whole, villagers, plaas-jaapies.
His head was small, too small for a body so tall – about 6’3″ – and well-formed.
“How old are you?” I said.
“Oh…” he said.
“Because you’ve got the body of a 25-year-old,” I said.
“Add about twenty years to that,” he said.
And for a second, even though he did have the body of someone much younger, I’m a little taken aback, for I’ve never liked older men, even if just by a few years; it takes me back to my early twenties when I was having sex with men considerably older than me for the sole reason they wanted to and I found it hard to say no. My self-loathing and self-doubt were so out of control in those years that I don’t think I said no to anyone.
“When’s your birthday?” I say.
“December,” he says.
And although I say nothing yet I’m thinking oh, wow, me, too, and because our star sign is the same I feel that perhaps I know something about this person, that he, too, is creative (aren’t all Sagittarians?) or, if he were a Taurus, strong-willed (isn’t that the case with all Taurians, and wasn’t my dad a Taurus and a couple of exes with whom I’d had fiery relationships, with whom I’d clashed, but in a good way; granted, not good enough to keep us together, but then I’ve never been together with anyone from any star sign for that long and at least with another free-spirited man [yes, why not, let’s use that word – free-spirited! Isn’t that what all Sags are?] I know what I’m getting into.) Anyway… in the past few years, I’ve kind of discovered that Capricorns are the ones I get on best with.
“And what do you do?” we say, always hoping for an answer that will coincide with our own.
I’m in banking?
No! Though, of course, our inner eyes light up at the prospect of a boyfriend with a proper job, the kind of profession one can rely on.
“I’m an artist,” he says.
Or, better still: “A writer.”
And we rejoice. Even before he has elaborated, we see the tableau of him and us in a room working on our writing. Maybe he works on a laptop; we like to write by hand to start off with. We’ll write about different things and we’ll learn from each other, inspire each other, and over time, people will begin to comment on the impact his work has had on ours and our on his. We’ll collaborate on projects. We’ll be the Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne of the gay world. We’ll be like Mark Doty and what’s his name. Gertrude and Alice B.
“I write for fashion magazines,” he says. “Articles, interviews, that kind of stuff.”
“That’s great,” we say, though in the last two seconds we’ve lost all desire to share our writing with him and we’re ready for him to leave (if he’s at our house) or to get up and go for a shower (if we’re at the sauna).
And because his cock is circumcised and he’s got a nice hairy chest – we’re thinking of a different man this time, not the one from Joberg – and he works as a consultant in the oil industry (yes, a proper grown-up’s job) we assume he’s Jewish and we like that, we like it because it doesn’t really happen that much that we have sex with other Jewish guys. We’re not sure why; it just doesn’t happen much in London, probably because there are less of us in this country, not like in New York, for example, not like back in Joberg or Cape Town, and often with our Anglicized surname, people don’t assume that we are either. We don’t seem to attract the yids.
The last Jewish guy we had a thing with was ages ago – years! maybe four or five – and that had started off well. Our birthdays were only days apart; four days between ours and his. We’d met a week or so after his birthday but the relationship didn’t last a full year, so we didn’t get to celebrate. We were the same height and the same skin tone; we could have been from the same gene pool, though his people were more from the Hungarian side of the gene pond. Anyway, there were other differences, too, more than just the ancestral ones, more than just the differences in character, like there was the nice fact that his cock was bigger than ours.
I’ve always preferred being with a guy whose cock is either smaller or bigger than mine. It’s rare that one meets a man with an identical cock to one’s own. As if the cock were like a face, always a little different one from the next, as if one could recognise someone by his penis. And yet, would you really recognise someone by his cock, by its length or girth or smell. (I feel like I’m rambling a bit, but let’s stick with it, see where this goes.)
Some men I would recognise by the smell of their penis. I would know their scent. The fox knows the smell of its own lair, as we used to say when someone farted… it knows the smell of its own den. The fox’s den. And his farts smell the same and that is reassuring because we think it means he eats similar food to us, has a similar diet, and maybe even better than that: his shit doesn’t stink. I have known one or two men like that.
“So,” I say, because I’ve lost interest and I’ve come already. “Do you want to come?”
“He’s disappeared,” he says, looking down at his cock which is now quite small and nestled in his considerable but beautiful bush of soft light brown pubic hair. “He’s not very reliable when you want him to stand up.”
“He’s very nice when he stands up,” I say.
But he doesn’t stand up again. We do, though. Him to shower, and me to get dressed and cycle home for a bath.