Chapter Six – Hustle



I can be your whore!
I am the dirt you created
I am your sinner
I am your whore
But let me tell you something baby
You love me for everything you hate me for

“Whore” – In This Moment

It takes me a minute to realise I’m not at my house. I’m not even at a team hotel or Justin’s. Then I remember Justin isn’t speaking to me right now. Unfamiliar bedrooms always feel like an extension of a lucid dream; a deleted scene right after the end credits. Except this isn’t a short of Samuel L. Jackson recruiting me for the Avengers – although to be fair – the bedroom I’m in wouldn’t look too shabby as part of Tony Stark’s mansion.

I’m flattered. My ‘mark’ didn’t even feel the need to ship me off to a guest room, or pummel me on his sofa before a fifty gets tucked in my discarded trousers by the hallway and he looks me dead in the eye and says “I’ve called you a cab. Time to fuck off.”

Part of me wishes that had been the case. A hasty goodbye. No outstaying my welcome. He has money so I wouldn’t be surprised to trigger some home security system device and wake him up to a cacophony of alarms or the pet German shepherd barking and me stood there flustered, with my jeans on inside out and a lingering smell of dried lube.

But yes, it’s quite endearing to look around me and realise this bedroom is definitely his. The master bedroom. For the master of the house. It’s funny how bedrooms look so much more innocent and moody in the dull grey of daybreak. After the night of debauchery and fucking with someone you barely know – where every visual detail seems hemmed at the edges with a blurry twang of absinthe or gleeful spontaneity. The gadgets and the artwork and the trimmings that lace his home seemed beautifully clandestine last night. But this morning, the pale light and the intricate order to this room feels slightly like waking up in the middle of a foreign museum because you lost the keys to your AirBnB.

Slats of sickly blue light are pulsating through fancy Venetian blinds. They glint off the glass of the pictures on his rich mahogany bookcase and make the man I went home with seem younger, fuller. He’s not just a 2D cut-out of a successful up-and-coming vice president anymore, he’s a human being with a childhood, memories, and emotions. In the heat of the moment, you don’t pay much attention to the surroundings in a bedroom, just the orange glare of the bedside lamp cutting fiery embers across his face and jeweling the contours of his abdominals.

Ooh… that is a nice after-image emblazoned on the back of my eyelids.

There’s a picture of him, smiling with a silver fox that must be his dad. Maybe if Paul Hollywood and Burt Lancaster had merged genes. He’s inherited his father’s good looks, but they’re sanded off a bit, more delicate, feminine-like. This picture must be about 15 years ago. He looks barely out of his teens here; with a broad, slightly unsure smile “Gotta put on some bravado around Daddy – he loves to take me fishing even if I hate it.” His hands hold the prize catch as if it was a baby that had just soiled itself. From the hours of conversation last night, I didn’t imagine him to be a fisherman. A golfer, definitely. But not a fisherman.

Yes, there was a fair bit of talking last night. I have to make the most of these dalliances in the U.S. but I’ve still got to be careful. It’s got to be the right mark. And yes, I say ‘mark’ like I’m some streetwise hustler, but sex – especially spontaneous one-night-only sex – is a rarity for me, so I like to decorate it with bells and whistles in my head for the occasion.

To be fair, I didn’t really need to add bells and whistles to this episode. This wasn’t a Tinder date hastily arranged around a few drinks at a dive bar and then a quickie in the loos. (That would be a tabloid blackmail risk – and general hygiene disaster). We’d met at an LA Ocean Club. Him on business. Me on an off-season jaunt. Being a Premier League footballer now, I have to avoid Europe if I want to blend in with the preppy white sunbathers and Casino Royale poker players. Sometimes I just want a basic bitch holiday, like a lot of footballers. And unfortunately, a lot of football fans like those holidays too. Hard to enjoy a holiday with a Pina Colada and blow-job without being recognised by someone when it comes to Europe. That also makes dating apps a no-go. Even the celebrity ones.

L.A. is that sweet spot of home-from-home, (Sort of like Sandbanks, I guess?) stunning weather, and everyone here already has a six pack and could be a sports or movie star. Plus, they still call it soccer here, if I mumble the phrase ‘association football’, they’ll probably think I’m talking about some corporate account Superbowl, sponsored by American Express.

But yes… Ocean Club… him on business… me on leisure… write your heart out, Danielle Steel. Unfortunately, he had to wait until the day he left to approach me for a drink, by which time I was starting to think he hadn’t got the hint. Or he had a boyfriend. Or he was trying to act straighter than I do on match-day. But he wanted me. I may be a closeted bookworm with casual social anxiety, but even I know when I’m being stared at in a ‘he’s cute’ kind of way… not just a ‘OMG that’s Callum Lovell, I have him in my Sky Sports Fantasy team’ kind of way.

Here I am now, waking up and he has his sun-bleached forearm draped protectively (or is it possessively) over my hip, before I shuffle off to nosey through his photographs like an obsessive gold-digger. Even his sub- conscious (sub-dream) body language is domineering… proclaiming “I engineered this” like one of his multi-million dollar business transactions. In his mind, he made the first move. He bought me a drink that he’s seen me drinking all week. He suggested I get dinner with him. He clocked me as some young, lost, lonely little mermaid to be whisked away to his penthouse suite in a dust cloud of dollar bills and Armani.

No, Mister Vice President. I earmarked you for the taking from the moment you unbuttoned your blazer to take a seat by the Gold Club Member’s pool and order an Old Fashioned. You were like my perfect holiday checklist with a tick by every box (or maybe a kiss in every box ☒)

1 – Closeted. To those who deal in stocks, shares and crypto, it’s all about keeping up the façade of being a 1950s Times Square wet dream. What would Don Draper say if you put a Pina Colada in his hand? He’d spit out his Camel cigarette in disgust and demand a steak chaser with his Old Fashioned. Gay players in the stock market need to keep up the same straight façade as me. If only for their LinkedIn accounts. It’s a mutual interest to keep this sexual transaction mutually behind closed doors. You can’t expose me if it means exposing yourself.

2 – Older. You’ve been here, done this so many times before. Even if you have gay friends, you’ve no need to boast to them about a little raunchy side dish on your a la carte menu of coffee, business meetings and handshakes. You’re not wet behind the ears anymore. This is a biannual occupation for you now. I’m just another name for your little black book. Callum, 27, wanted to be a sports star, bless him. Probably pretends he’s a PT on Instagram. Good luck to him.

3 – American. See above. It’s a stereotype, and one that is getting less clear cut as the Premier League sinks its claws further into the gold-lined pockets of the USA markets but, let’s just say I’d have more chance being recognised by a potential shag if I was casting my net in areas that weren’t dominated by the NBA, Super Bowl and ice hockey brawls.

4 – Rich. Aaaaand before you judge me… no. I don’t expect to be wined and dined at Salt Bae or slinked off in a blacked-out limo (although that would make the hide-and-seek game with the paparazzi easier) but the richer the mark, the less likely they are to blackmail. Unfortunately Nicklas Bendtner (the fan-labelled ‘Lord’ of football with the ego of James Bond) was right about this one… paid escorts probably are safer bets than random one-night stands. The escorts are less likely to run to the Daily Mail with a story, and in my case, they would have the extra ‘gay card’ up their sleeve. Mister Vice President here has all the money he needs, and he seeks neither the financial reward, or the sexual affirmation of bedding a young celebrity sports- star.

But I admit, I’m rusty. I got sloppy last night. I always drop a football (soccer) reference in the small talk somewhere to gauge any kind of recognition in someone. I’m a familiar face in England, and even if you don’t know me, your boyfriend might. Or your father. Or your best mate. Or you might have seen the over-edited shots of my face smiling out at you on a Sky Sports Super Sunday TV ad while you eat your fish and chips in a gastropub.

In Vice President’s case, the football reference shot straight over his head. Phew. In the clear there. But perhaps it was the fact I’ve been a little starved lately, but I found opening up to VP very easy. Disarmingly so. Perhaps it was because he was so eager to divulge his own life to me, and I’m nothing if not a people-pleaser. Let’s talk childhood trauma and sexual awakenings, gorj.

I don’t like to play psychologist but even before I saw Burt Hollywood’s mug gleaming at me from the fishing photograph just now, I pegged VP as a ‘forever living in his father’s shadow’ kind of person. The Old Fashioned… the Omega watch on his wrist… the fucking golf and fishing trips… Daddy can’t mould your sexuality with supermodels and expensive prostitutes… but he can mould your personality. And you hate that. It was nice of me to indulge the softer, playful, expressive side of you for an evening. You’re welcome, sweetheart.

But yes, I started to divulge mine too; I’ll show you mine if you show me yours… and all that. I blabbed about my plans to write. The plans to escape sports someday and express myself in other ways. Ways like singing. Or art. Or drag.

I remember him rolling his eyes at the word ‘drag’. And it was the only time in the evening I thought ‘maybe I don’t want this man inside me’. I’d shared a part of my mind (and my body) with someone who thought drag was diluting what being gay is. Or it was something that had been monetised, rhinestoned to fuck and sold cheaply by RuPaul to the mass straight-aligned media in his head. Or maybe he just thought drag was stupid; Mr Burt Hollywood rearing his veneered smile again in his poor closeted boy. But I suppose in the cold light of day, with the sex done and the meeting adjourned, it’s easier for him to think of me as some generic twink with cookie-cutter hopes and dreams and cliched pillow talk. A penis attached to a body, complete with a mouth and a six pack. Nothing more. Nothing less.

I give Silver Fox one last glance in the photo frame before I decide to risk the high-tech security and the curious glances from the apartment muscle. Good luck, Mister Vice President. I hope you find the courage to ditch the Old Fashioneds soon and chase the men of your dreams freely someday.

Maybe when I’m retired I’ll do the same.

Mark Davis

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