A Day at the Baths

I’m too much of a Calvinist to spend a whole day at the baths. There’s always work to do, stories to submit, projects to start, people to contact, marketing, networking. There’s always stuff you should be doing. Three hours at the baths is my average. A lot can be accomplished in three hours. I knew a man who made a day of it. Whenever I see someone eating a sandwich at the baths, I think: They’re making a day of it. Maybe if I was one of those people who can come (as in, cum) multiple times, I’d probably be the kind of person who spends longer at the baths. This man I knew who spent the afternoon, evening and night at the baths would prepare meals to take to the baths in Tupperware containers. The entrance fee to the baths has always been high and this man was poor; he could not afford to go often to the baths, and so, when he could afford to go, he made a day of it. When he was hungry, he’d take his salad and tofu into a cubicle with him and eat in peace and quiet. I never saw him having sex, but I imagine he did, but I also think he really liked being at the baths (we all do), being in that space with other men around him, even if he didn’t engage with them as much as one can in a place like that.

Maybe I tend to over-engage.

Maybe that’s why three hours is all I can handle. Today was a day of much engaging. Even with a massage in the middle of those three hours, three hours was a lot. By the time I left, I’d had all the engaging I could handle, by which I mean I’d had several intense encounters that didn’t want to risk another encounter that might leave me deflated. By that I mean meeting the wrong guy, rejection, or just walking around aimlessly for too long. I quit while I was on top. I left feeling wanted.

These are all the things I did today at the baths: I kissed a cyclist who clocks 500 miles a week. I inserted three fingers into another man’s arse (name, residence and profession unknown). I told a man (Eritrean) that his curvy cock would make the boys happy, and the girls too. Do you like pussy, he said, and I said I did. I said to him that a cock like his would give a woman clitoral orgasms. He was young and wanted to know what I thought of his dick, which had a pronounced curve to it, and although I told him I’m sure the boys would love it, when I later tried to imagine what it would feel like on the inside, I’m not sure I was telling the truth. I hadn’t meant to tell the truth; my intention was to be nice, to make him feel better.

When the cyclist aske if I was clean, I told him I’d had a shower. It’s a stupid question and I refuse to answer it the way the questioner expects me to. Often I say, look after yourself and me, and I’ll look after us both, too. Or something like that. Depending on my mood, sometimes I’ll just say, that’s a meaningless question, and they’ll think I’m trying to avoid sayin I’m positive. Whether I’m positive or not, I say, becoming slightly preachery, if we’re careful, we’ll be fine. Every now and again, they walk away. The cyclist did not walk away.

“I’m just asking,” he said, “because I have a wife and kids.”

Nobody walked away today. It was one of those days when the universe offers up men in abundance. The first man gave himself completely. Every orifice was welcoming. I like men who are smooth and their arseholes are smooth and everything flows when you press your hands into their flesh, along their back, between the buttocks, into their holes, one, two, three fingers and you lift them slightly. Me and him are standing there in a small cubicle while others jerk off in the adjacent cubicles. We see their torsos and cocks through the bars between the cubicles.

Outside the sun is shining. London is glorious when the sun is shining. There’s a new Cycle Superhighway across Blackfriars Bridge. I went first to the Tate, to revisit the Performing for the Camera exhibition to see the different things that can happen in a photograph, ideas for the series of images I want to take when J comes over this weekend. These are some of the things I noted down: jumping, headstands and handstands, pressed up against a wall, diving into the bath, painting, playing an instrument, eating, spying on him through a door that’s just a little bit ajar, throwing stuff, fitting into confined spaces, breaking stuff, painting the wall. Shadows. We’d talked about light and shadow a few weeks ago.

This is one of those rambling posts. But to not record today would be to let today go by unaccounted for and it was a day that needs to be remembered. Days like today remind me that being in London is what I want to be doing. Just to be here. To be able to spend the morning writing, sending out books, contacting stockists and thinking about the new photography project, then getting on my bike and cycling down to the Tate to see the exhibition. The real joy of it all is to live in this city and be able to hop on my bike and cycle down to one of the greatest galleries in the world, then walk along the river to the bathhouse and be in the intimate company of so many men. So many beautiful men, all in the space of three hours.

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