Tuesday, September 15, 2009

What I Found When I Was Lost


They arrived on Soi 4 grinning, dressed as twins in white dress shirts with sleeves rolled and ties knotted halfway down their chests. (“Like Japanese schoolgirls!” they said.) They looked very much alike, except that one was gorgeous and the other just good enough, as if they were two versions of a single person -- one perfect and one botched.

I grinned back, and when the table beside mine was free, they came and talked to me. “It is our first time to Asia! We are having the most wonderful time! We are busy from 6am until midnight every day. We go sightseeing and shopping and then always to have a massage! We cannot believe how fast the time is going – in only two days we must return to Berlin!”

They approved heartily of everything in Bangkok – the food, the shopping, the massage – they liked everything but Chinatown. “It is very dirty! There are garbages in the street. Men spit! Men piss! We decided we never go to China.”

“Please feel my leg,” said the plain-looking man. He was not really so plain. He was actually quite good-looking. He looked plain because he was beside the gorgeous man -- who now invited me to feel his arm.

I approved heartily of both and believed that my night was, at last, headed in the right direction.

“So smooth!” said the plain-looking man. “Today we had tried the body polish. They polish you all over! Then they use powder. It smells so nice! Afterwards you feel so smooth. You do not sweat.” Then he teased the gorgeous one. “He often uses powder. And he is shaved everywhere. I mean, everywhere you can think of! He also wears a little makeup. And never once in his life is there a hair between his eyebrows. It is not allowed. Even in Asia he travels with mascara!”

This is the trouble I always have with threesomes. It’s hard to keep both guys happy – somebody always gets jealous. “Both of you are excellent,” I said. “How long have you been together?”

They laughed and waved their hands, as if to scatter my words in the air.

“No! No!” said the plain one. “We’ve always been together. We’re brothers.”

“I’m straight,” said the gorgeous brother. I checked to see if he was serious. His big brown eyes certainly looked earnest. But maybe it was just the mascara.

“He is so girly,” said the plain brother.

“I am a personal trainer in Berlin,” said the gorgeous brother. “My body is my asset.”

“He is the ultimate number one metrosexual. He is so girly!”

Over the next dozen or so beers they continued in much the same fashion. The gorgeous one gave me workout tips. (Three times a week is perfect. Twenty minutes cardio, then weights, then twenty minutes cardio again. And drink enough water!)

”He is so girly. So totally girly! I do not understand why he does not just give up and be gay already. His girlfriend is sometimes so bitchy. Sometimes no sex for one month. Always he must talk sweetly to her and give her massage any time she asks for it. I told him, you go gay, you can have sex every night!”

I ran my eyes over the beautiful brother. “You could have sex every hour. That’s the good part of being a gay guy. Also the bad part.”

“I love her,” said the gorgeous brother. “We have been together five years now.”

“So girly!” protested the plain brother, who had just broken up with his lover after seventeen years. They’d met when he was twenty. “All that time I could have had anyone I wanted! Now I am free and nobody wants me. Nobody! Everybody, all the time, they only want him.”

There was a short pause then, as sometimes happens when one has arrived at the heart of the matter.

I laughed and rubbed his back a little. “On this subject, sir, I am an authority.” I explained that my unfortunate parents had suffered diminishing returns when having children. Each son was two inches shorter, and less handsome, and duller than the one before. I was the youngest and had inherited nothing but the runt’s sharp-toothed determination. Every beautiful person in the world paraded right up to me to beg. “Please. Introduce me to your brother.”

It bothered me for a long time. Then it didn’t bother me anymore. I have an awkward stumbling soul – this Quasimodo shape of mine is its natural physical extension.

All right. Maybe it still bothers me a little.

“You’re fine,” I said. “You’re cute. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with you.” The gorgeous brother enthusiastically agreed. We were both insulting him. We knew it and couldn’t help ourselves. The plain brother sat there, drinking his beer, getting smaller and more homely by the minute.

The gorgeous brother continued to counsel me. He reminded me that there was no point to using supplements, except perhaps Creatine and salmon oil, but it was very important to always remain balanced. The plain brother had his hands all over me now, which the gorgeous brother politely ignored. He assured me there was nothing at all wrong with beer, except that it dehydrates one. Dehydrate was a very serious word in his vocabulary. For each pint of beer I must drink half a pint of water. Then I’d be all right.

The plain brother interrupted. “How much for you?”


At last the gorgeous brother winced. “Stefan!”

“Come on. We are in Bangkok. Everything has its price.”

I smiled and pretended I’d understood nothing. Anyway it was absurd. The plain-looking brother was still better-looking than me. Nothing was wrong with him at all, in fact, except for the baby shit stink of self-loathing and need that rose off of him. How well I knew that smell, which became stronger the more one tried to eradicate it. It had never occurred to me to try to cover it with powder.

The gorgeous brother announced it was time for them to return to their hotel. The lights of the bar had already turned off. It was almost 2am and he still had to do his evening routine: remove his makeup, rinse off the powder, moisturize, care for his feet, calculate the number of beers he’d drunk and drink a half a pint of water for each. Maybe he’d do some stretches too, or even a few sit-ups. Alcohol is only empty calories.

It had never occurred to me before that it must be tiresome, too, to be the beautiful brother. To keep to routines and maintain your advantage. To be trailed always by a hungry brother who praised you and blamed you. Who begged you. Who loved you and desired you. Who hated you.

(Bangkok, 09.15.09)

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