Men and Fucking and a Room of Our Own

After a long time of not seeing him he was there this week and I was sorry I’d already come and was thinking of going home because I would have enjoyed being with him again, as I always do. He was looking well. So well, in fact, that for a moment I thought it might not be him, Ong, the first man I ever had sex with in this sauna – in any sauna – and with whom I’d gone out to dinner immediately afterwards, back then, to one of those Vietnamese places on Kingsland Road, a place I’ve eaten at since then with two other men, both of whom I’ve met on my visits to the sauna over the past ten years.

I very rarely meet up with men afterwards, though I sometimes find myself looking for them online, turning to Google to track them down, based on the facts I’ve gleaned from them in the hour or so together in the sauna. You don’t need many facts nowadays to find someone. I did it with Dixon, although he never responded to my email, which could mean he didn’t got it. I did it with B, too, who did respond to confirm that he really did have a lot going on in his life and wasn’t in a good space to get involved with anyone. A year or two later, when we met again by chance and did get involved, it lasted for a very short time.

Recently I googled two of the guys I met in the sauna, both of them on the day I saw Ong in the dry sauna room; by “recently” I mean the day before yesterday. Of the two men, I would have been happy to see one of them again, though my searches came up empty-handed.

Ong is from Singapore and used to be a dancer; he still has the body of a dancer: tall and lean and, in his case, entirely hairless, so smooth he gives the impression of being effortlessly penetrable. It’s his body, yes, but men on certain types of drugs are like that; there’s nothing to stop you from using them for your pleasure – and whatever you do to them seems to please them. They have no resistance. Ong is always on drugs, or at least he seems to be, flitting from one guy to the next, tactile, affectionate, open. I’ve heard people say that Asian men are bottoms, and that they’re “the closest thing” to fucking a woman. I wonder if the men who say this – gay men, in particular – have ever had sex with a woman, or actually had that much “bed experience”, as Janet Frame calls it, with men from China, Japan, Thailand, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines. From my experience, I’ve discovered, if I’ve discovered anything…

What I will say, though, is that the best top I’ve been with was Malaysian, and the man with the biggest cock I’ve had sex with was from Taiwan. I’ve known tops from the Philippines, China, Mongolia, Japan, though on the whole, most of the Asian men I’ve had sex with have been bottoms, but that could be said of most men I’ve been with: the Poles, the Spaniards, the South Africans, the Brazilians, Columbians, and the North Americans. I don’t meet many Northern Europeans, as in the blonde Viking-y types. English men, yes, but less of the Scandinavians, Slavs, or men from the Baltic states. Which is surprising considering where I am, here at this bookend of Europe. There’s probably a general statement to be made about men who go to saunas, a statement about sanctuaries, and spaces in which language is not the primary means of communication. But this argument, as with many arguments about generalisations, is too multi-faceted and complex and in its current format is neither interesting nor useful. I will say, though, that I do very much like the bodies of men from China, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, etc.

Only later will I learn that the guy’s name is Fuad-Alfredo, but for now we’re strangers in a darkroom, kissing. You’d have thought Google would make it easy to find someone with a name like that, but apparently he’s not the only one. Anyway… I hadn’t been at the sauna long, maybe close to an hour, but I’d already had sex with a couple of guys and was feeling good about walking around, chatting to people, making out, fucking, getting my cock sucked. I’d had my chest trimmed and I’d been working out more than usual, and I knew that my body was looking good. There are days at the sauna when things go my way. It doesn’t always happen like this, and the last few months have been pretty fucking miserable. It’s been two months, padre, since my last confession.

Sin may drive people to confess; for me, these “confessions” are inspired by joy. A good day at the sauna impels me to write. It’s not just about men and fucking. It’s about a sense of freedom and surprise and, as Zadie Smith says, “that strange admixture of terror, pain, and delight that I have come to recognize as joy.” The pain is something we carry from the past, the terror is the unspoken, unconscious, hidden dread of what might happen to us in the future, and the delight is what is happening now, a sense of exhilaration greater than the terror and the pain, but not entirely immune to their echoes. Being this close to Fuad-Alfredo was joy. The darkroom’s big and I’d watched him with someone else but had walked past a few times and brushed against him, touched his hand, pressed it for a second, confident that I’d take him away from the other man – so old! so unattractive! – confident that he’d be mine.

He’d come after me, found me here against the wall facing the entrance to this dark room in which we are all silhouettes.

He says: “Let’s get a room.”

“This is a room,” I say.

“Somewhere private,” he says.

“Private?” I say. “What’s so great about private?”

“Too many people here,” he says.

“I like people,” I say, never letting go of his arse-cheeks, grinding my cock against him. “I like an audience,” I say.

He laughs.

“I think you do, too,” I say, and I’m right, because in a while he’ll be bending over in this darkroom that’s not entirely dark, and, in full view of the men walking around, will offer his welcoming arse to me.

Sometimes I like a room, but with Fuad-Alfredo I wanted an audience. A room’s so final, limiting; it’s a commitment. Just you and one other body. Earlier, I’d been quite happy with just one other body, a body so perfect that now that Carlton has gone, back home to his flat in Boston Manor, I’m quite happy to do my business out here in the open for all to see. With Carlton I wanted a room of our own. You can often gauge the extent to which you want to be with a man by the type of room you want to be in together.

Some phrases seem like clichés until you experience them. Like: My heart jumped a beat; like: he took my breath away; or: we locked eyes, which is what had happened upstairs near the showers with Carlton. We’d locked eyes. It’s a certain kind of eye contact that signals intent more than just mere clocking. Something clicks into place and if not pursued, you know you’ll regret it. I don’t always trust my instinct, but I was feeling confident that evening and I held his gaze for an extra second – that’s all it takes; one Mississippi – and he kept his eyes on mine. Bam! Got you.

That’s how we met, in the passageway that runs the length of the sauna and steam rooms, that connects the Jacuzzi to the showers. It’s that section called the Wet Area. The dry sauna room is there, and the two wet saunas, the basins, the showers, the Jacuzzi, a drinking fountain, a couple of urinals, and behind it all: a swimming pool. It looks a little something like this:

Wet Area Layout

x marks the spot where Carlton stood when I walked past the first time on my way from the basins to the steam room. We locked eyes, but he didn’t follow me into the steam room. But then, a while later, when I went to shower, he was still standing there, talking to someone else, some little guy, or maybe the little guy was talking to him – it wasn’t clear – but we checked each other out again. I’d been making out with someone in the steam room so my cock was nice and fat and I was happy to show it off. All evening I’d been feeling like a hunter. Now was the time to lure my prey. He wanted me to be predatory, to seduce him.

Mating rituals are a turn-on. If the process isn’t going to make you hard, how will you be ready to fuck when your mate is in your hands. With Fuad-Alfredo it was like his arse was ready to be fucked the moment we touched. With Carlton it took a while for him to open up, and even when he was open, he held nice and tightly onto my cock. He had that long lean smooth brown body you find amongst many North African men, though he didn’t have the thick cock that often seems to go with men of that build and origin. For a long while I assumed he was North African – Moroccan, perhaps, or Algerian, maybe French but with North African parents – and I kept wanting to say stuff to him in Arabic. Though when we did speak, when I was inside him already and finally asked him his name and where he was from, we discovered that we grew up in cities not far from each other, back there on the southern tip of Africa.

Two weeks have passed. You start writing about people because you want to record what has happened, to write about the things that brought you great joy, but then you get distracted – classes to prepare, a spin class to go to, a friend calls, or just a general loss of purpose – and then when you come back to it all, there’s much that you can’t remember. Fuad-Alfredo blurs with another man you’ve been with since, a Turkish-Cypriot guy whose name you can’t remember, but who wanted to fuck you and was gentle when he did, and because you’re not used to being fucked, only some of his cock went in, but you enjoyed it, and it did make you happy. What made you happy was his desire to fuck you, his unambiguous need for that, and his tenderness, and the way, when you were fucking, he told you that you were making him crazy, and you recognised that feeling, that feeling when you’re fucking someone, or wanting to fuck them so much that you feel demented, crazed, that you would do anything to be inside them.

You remember now. You remember fucking Fuad-Alfredo, banging into him while the other men watched, how he kept saying no, no, let’s get a room, but you insisted on staying out there in the open for everyone to see, and you’d held him from behind and put a condom on and lubed his arse and slid quite easily into him, and he’d let you and pulled you into him, and eventually he’d leaned over, so that he was bent double, his hands on the floor, and you’d fucked him selfishly, playing with your nipples, both of you like animals, caring only for your own pleasure.

You remember fucking Carlton in a room of your own. You remember how smooth his body was, the kind of smoothness you’ve encountered on Asian men when they are lean and still in their twenties. Carlton was like that. Ong was like that, but you didn’t do anything with Ong, not that time when he came to sit next to you in the dry sauna, and not two night ago when you saw him again at the sauna and he smiled at you every time you passed each other in the corridors, and a couple of times he even tried to get you to join him in a room, but you just smiled back and kept walking.

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