When I wake from my drunken sleep I wipe some drool from the corner of my mouth and sit up. I almost scream when I realise none of my surroundings look familiar. I was in the living room of a small apartment. Who’s messy house is this? I think. A wave of relief hits me as I remember that I drunkenly got here with Nick… it was his apartment. I didn’t know where anything was so I sat and scrolled through Facebook while I waited for Nick to wake up, craving water to deter my oncoming hangover but being too polite to start rummaging through his kitchen like a raccoon. When Nick finally emerges from the shadows we hug hello and then he grabs us both large glasses of water. We laugh about the night while secretly hating ourselves for our hangovers, and we spent the early afternoon watching Will and Grace, a television show I had only briefly seen before.
Growing up in a Christian family meant that my parents were against homosexuality. Even though we owned two baby calves named Will and Grace (I’m really uncertain if my parents named them coincidentally or on purpose) the tv show was strictly banned. I remember sneaking in an episode or two when I was little, laughing at the rare joke that I understood (The gay world was scary and foreign to me). I vaguely remember my father once being disgusted at the tv show called Modern Family, and he banned us from watching it, saying something about how it ruined the sanctity of family values or something like that. Looking back I also remember my brother once shielding his eyes and shrieking when Chuck kissed Larry on I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. It’s funny how incidences like that were forgotten once I came out. My family conveniently forgot all the times they were disgusted by gay culture. It hurts when people don’t realise the damage they caused. It’s not like I want an apology, but sometimes I think back and those remarks still hurt. They had no idea about the secret I was harbouring, so its just another reminder on why human beings need to be more sensitive with their words and actions.
After watching Will and Grace I went back to my hostel and started getting ready for night two at the brothel. Meandering about the hostel I felt like I was a secret agent. It felt like I was a part of something the people in the hostel would never understand; even if I didn’t understand it myself. It felt like I was a part of something greater than their sums. They were there on vacation and I was there risking my neck in Sydney’s underground. It felt edgy. It felt important. It felt like my life was finally something more than the mundane and it was only the second day.
I changed from my khakis to my baggy green pants and I kept wearing the blue Australia sweater. I took a look in the mirror and wondered how any clients would want me.
It takes a couple minutes to walk to the brothel from my hostel. I ring the secret ‘boys bell’ and wait for someone to open the door. I’m a little shocked when it was not Pete who opened the door but a very tall older gentleman with dark hair, a long face, and very soft eyes.
“Hello, you must be the new boy,” The man said, he squints his eyes and tilts his head as he says, “Carl, isn’t it?”
“Yes, my name is Carl.” I reply, almost robotically. The man was enormously tall, yet was so soft in his demeanour that I wasn’t intimidated by him.
We started walking towards the office while he said, “Hi, I’m Robert. Have you met Dave yet?”
Before I respond we are in the office and there is a smaller gentleman sitting in one of the office chairs. This man, Dave, was the very opposite of Robert: he was very short, had a rounder face, and looked slightly more intimidating. I am put as ease though when he starts speaking,
“Oh, you must be the new boy, Carl.” Dave said, dragging out my pseudo-name in a way I could only explain as gay.
“Yes I am,” I reply.
Dave asks, “You started last night, didn’t you?”
“Oh good, so we don’t have to give you the grande tour!” Dave threw his hand up in the air in relief, and then he lets out a cackle, “I usually work the day shift so you’ll see lots of me if you work during those times.”
“How long have you worked here?” I ask.
“20 years,” He replied with a hint of shame.
After a quick chat with Robert and Dave, Dave decided that before he left he would bring me to the boys room and introduce me because lots of the boys on that night hadn’t met me yet.
The room had about ten boys in it. A surge of anxiety shoots up my body.
“Hey everybody!” Dave blurts out. All ten boys turn around to stare at me, “This is Carl! He just started last night, so try and help him out if you can!” And then Dave turns to me and whispers, “Good luck,” before leaving me standing there like an idiot. I gulp as I scan the room of boys, most of them had turned back around to chat amongst themselves or watch the tv, but a couple stared for longer before continuing what they were doing. I couldn’t find room to sit on the couches so I sat on an old office chair close to another boy who looked like he would be my ‘competition’, probably Brendan or Matt but I was too nervous to ask.
Nick hadn’t arrived yet so I sat for about an hour awkwardly scanning the room. A couple boys came up to me to introduce themselves, and some seemed to be extra loud and boisterous to try and intimidate or impress me, I couldn’t decipher which.
For a bunch of gay boys the room seemed filled with testosterone and it was clear that there was an unspoken struggle to be Queen of the brothel. Some boys kept to themselves, but the ones who didn’t made sure they were the loudest. Boys were yelling and screaming, making dirty jokes and picking on each other. A closer look revealed that they were still in their social structures, the three social structures that Nick had mentioned before; no one seemed brave enough to break through the three main social groups. All the boys remained in the safety of their social group so, as a consequence, their attempts to command the room was weak at best. The boys continued to yell at the wind and laugh loudly and I enjoyed watching their empty dance to become Queen.
Nick finally arrives and hugs the boy next to me, and then hugs me.
“Sorry I’m late,” Nick apologises, “It took me a long time to get ready.”
“It always takes you forever to get ready,” the boy next to me snarked.
“Shut up! You take just as long,” Nick retaliates, and then turns to me, “Have you met Brendan yet?”
I replied, “No I haven’t,” and Nick formally introduces us.
I was about to attempt small talk with Brendan but I am cut from talking when the client bell goes off.
One boy yelled, “FINALLY!”
Another shrieked, “CLIENT!”
Robert comes into the boys room surprisingly fast and says, “He wants to see everyone.” My stomach turns from anxiety.
Nick quickly turns to me, “You haven’t done an interview yet, have you?”
“No,” I reply, trying to hide the sudden panic that was rushing through my body.
One by one the boys go out of the room and into the office as Nick explains what I should say, “Everyone does interviews differently, but basically how I do it is I go in and say, hi, my name is Nick. I am 22 years old, I am versatile, and I do massage. Do you have any questions? And then answer any questions they may have and then come back here into the boys room. Its really simple.”
“That doesn’t sound too hard,” I say, feeling a bit less anxious.
“Its so easy,” Brendan pitches in.
Nick goes into the office and I am stuck in awkward silence with Brendan. When he returns he sits next to me as Brendan goes in.
“This guy is easy. He wants a top and a massage. He’s white, not bad looking- for a client.” Nick informs me, “And tell him you’re new… they love the newbies.”
Too soon is Brendan back from the office. Robert looks at me when I realise I am the last boy to be interviewed. I take a giant breath of air, stand on my wobbly feet, and walk to the door of the boys room, which Robert is politely holding open for me.
Robert stares me in the eyes and says, “Don’t be nervous.”
I was unable to find the words to say back to him. I turn and realise all the boys were watching me. I take one last giant breath of air before taking my first steps through the hallway towards the interview room.