It was so not my scene. I’d been warned about the kinds of ‘party favours’ my host was keen on, but I was intrigued. That’s my problem, though: I want to observe without taking part, and I was discovering that that could be more difficult than I had anticipated.
We were mostly a group of thirty-somethings: colleagues, friends, friends of friends. All here to celebrate the launch of a new line of men’s perfume — and, I need hardly add, all gay. They were all twenty if they were a day. Wearing nothing but (what I could only think of as) children’s underwear. Circulating, listening, laughing, chatting. Never with each other, but only with one of us. I noticed none of them had drinks in their hands. Were they on the clock? Were they rent boys? Or just eye candy? As I sipped my gin, I watched one of us pair off with one of them and slip out of the room — if you could call this amorphous penthouse a room.
‘Hey. Having fun?’ He’d snuck up on me — this damned flat didn’t have any proper corners — and was squatting down beside my chair. Everything about him was telling me that he was there to be looked at, so I did. His thick thighs, his heavy basket, his smooth torso, his pert nipples, his manufactured stubble, his amiable expression.
‘Not really my kinda party,’ I said.
‘Me neither,’ he said. ‘I just like staying out of it and taking it all in, you know?’
I looked this kid up and down for a few seconds in silence. ‘What are you? Some kind of high-class courtesan who specializes in making connections with wallflowers? Because I’m not here to be hustled.’ I’m not sure why, but there was something about him that made me want to hurt him, to see a wounded look mar that pretty face.
I was sadly disappointed: he just laughed. ‘No, nothing like that: I’m one of the castors.’
I boggled. ‘As in — you hold auditions? Or chairs roll around on you?’
He laughed again. ‘As in the beaver.’ My face must have expressed my total lack of comprehension because he just smiled and said, ‘Look, I’ll show you.’ Suddenly, he was raising one arm and pushing his armpit into my face. Instinctively, I pulled back but his other hand was already around behind me, and he gently but firmly pushed my face into his pit.
‘Don’t fight it, man, just breathe.’ I suppose I had to, really. And as I did, I found myself overpowered with a scent that… well, that’s impossible to describe. It smelled like sandalwood and black earth and truffles and man sweat. ‘Take a deep breath,’ he said. I did. ‘Again.’ I did. ‘I’m number 8.’ I kept inhaling, oblivious to what he was saying, unaware even of the hand now stroking my hair as I forced myself as deep into his pit as I could go.
‘C’mon,’ he said, some unknowable amount of time later, ‘it’s time for my milking. You can do it for me.’ He led me away by the hand. I had no idea what he was talking about, but I had no intention of merely observing.