The LumpBy Jen Thorpe
My mother taught me everything I know about being a good lover. That sounds strange, but it isn’t really. If you are going to please women, the easiest way is to ask them what they want. My mother, having had her own, rather large, share of partners, knew not only what she liked, but also had a good idea of what men thought she liked. She made it her responsibility to educate me, and to rid me of any self-derived ideas about women.
So it really is thanks to my mother that I’m one of the most popular male sex workers in Sea Point. Of course, we often call ourselves ‘escorts’, but very few of us escort anyone anywhere but to their bedroom. It’s harder for me than it is for the girls in my trade. A row of men on the sidewalk in short shorts with bare chests showing has a very different effect to one of women. It resembles a sausage convention. We have to be more subtle, to let people know through other means what we are offering. Hence the escort ads.
What do I offer? Oh, the whole package. I can do the whole dinner-date experience. I went to elocution lessons. All that tongue-play and mouth rounding has assisted me in more ways than one. ‘Come to elocution and come and come again’ – they should put that on their posters.
I use newspapers and websites to offer my services. The newspapers have to be brief – at a rand a word you can’t mess around. Websites are easier. Select the relevant tick boxes and away you go. Late nights? Tick. All day? Tick. Your house? Tick. STI checked? Tick. Older ladies? Tick. Men? Cross. Threesomes? Tick. Cash accepted? Tick. Pay before service? Tick. Repeat customers? Tick tick tick!
My phone beeps and I look over from my book. It’s a notification from the site – one request. I put the kettle on, and open up my computer. It’s 7am, which normally indicates someone who has gone in early to work to browse the sites. In the business we like to call these ladies ‘morning glory’.
Women are normally embarrassed to use these services, not like the male customers some of my friends in the business interact with. They’re all brave as if they’ve done this a million times. Some of them have. Another thing my mother taught me: sometimes people don’t know how to ask for what they want. Sometimes you have to use your own tick list – Does this feel good? Does that feel good? – before they get around to saying Put it here, Touch me there.
I sit down in front of my laptop, and look out briefly through my window at the ocean. I love the smell of kelp on a warm breeze. It’s so calming. It’s almost the end of winter, my busiest season. Everyone needs affection on cold days.
The screen finally blinks in readiness and I enter my password. There is only one message, but my profile has been viewed twenty times since yesterday. I wonder briefly if a new profile picture would translate into more customers, but you never know about these things, so I turn back to the message. The last thing you want to do is keep an eager customer waiting. That’s what my mom always used to say.
Hi there. I am a forty-year-old woman. I have never done this before. I’ve just left my husband and I’m looking for a once-off experience to mark the end of my marriage. It has been a while. If you are available, please reply. I was hoping for Thursday night. Tina.
Older women are my preferred and most frequent customers. This isn’t because they’re easier or because they’re more desperate. Movies will make you believe any old kak. No, these women are more likely to know what they want than the younger ones. They know the routines to get them where they are going. I like them for the challenge – I try to teach them something new about their body, something they don’t expect. Sometimes they don’t even realise they haven’t checked the right boxes until I’m there with the full list of options. Sometimes they just need a new way to feel.
I like to go for health checks regularly. My mother always said it was a really important part of the job. The last thing you need is to catch a common cold on the night you’re supposed to be pleasing someone. The last time I went was last month. My regular doctor was away so I just went for a quick check up, opening the mouth and checking the ears – that type of thing. Contrary to what one might expect, I don’t want just anyone fiddling around with my package. I leave that to the doctor I’m comfortable with. He knows how to hold my testicles and still talk to me like a man.
I have been feeling a bit tired lately, haven’t been lus for the same activities that I used to. I’ve put it down to getting old. You can’t keep going at full pace all your life. Nobody wants a car with only an accelerator, everyone needs a handbrake at some point. After this customer I think I’m going to take a break for a week or two, refresh. My mom said regular rests are important, otherwise you lose the pleasure in your work. You can’t be between someone’s spreadeagled legs and be bored. That is just not on.
I try to keep myself fit. I have a good body and a tan from the tan can. I don’t do the full naked wax like most of the guys. I prefer to look more natural. I feel that it puts the clients at ease – they know they’re not buying services from someone who can spend all day preening. I’m more than how I look, even if it is pretty damn good.
I reply to Tina and arrange to meet her at her house. To prepare I go for a long run along the promenade, watching the sun set on the rocks. It calms my mind. The run is harder than usual, probably because of the cold. I finish off more tired and sweaty than I normally am.
I press her doorbell and she opens the door and sizes me up a little, inspecting her purchase, half-nervous, half-cocky. She is probably comparing me to my profile picture. I always make sure to keep them updated. Nobody like’s Monday’s salad labelled as Friday’s.
She is tall with light brown hair, curvy in a comforting way. She wears a loose white blouse and dark jeans. She steps back and allows me to pass her into her apartment. It is neat, decorated in shades of blue. One lounge wall is a deep grey blue, the colour of a sky about to burst. She has a view of Signal Hill from her balcony, though it is too dark to see it properly.
‘Nice view,’ I say, to break the ice.
‘It is. I love it.’
‘Have you lived here long?’
She hesitates, probably worried about revealing too much.
‘A while. Well, since the divorce.’
I turn towards her and she grows shy. There is a long pause.
‘The first few minutes are always a bit strange,’ I say. ‘Just try to think of me as a blind date.’
She laughs nervously and walks towards the kitchen.
‘Would you like some wine?’
‘I prefer to work sober, but please, you go ahead.’
She hesitates, but obviously needs the wine so pours herself a glass and comes back to the living room, sitting on the couch opposite me.
‘Tell me about yourself,’ I say.
‘Well, there’s what you know from the request. Do you really want to know more?’
‘Well I know that you have an ex, and two kids, and all the things you’re into in bed from the check list.’
She blushes bright red, and even when it had fades her ears remain red.
‘Well, yes, you know that.’
‘So why don’t you give me a bit of context. Like, what do you do for a living?’
‘I’m a nurse in a clinic in Observatory.’
‘Every man’s fantasy.’
I smile at her, half-teasing but disconcerted. My mother had been a nurse before she… changed professions. Caring but stern, which worked for both jobs. I wonder about all the things Tina must have seen. She picks up her glass and comes to sit next to me.
‘What else can you tell me Tina? What do you enjoy?’
She talks and I scan her body for signs of tension the way mother taught me. Her shoulders are raised and she has kicked off her shoes. Those will be the areas I’ll work on first in the bedroom. Mother always said a tense woman is a tense vagina. She was rather frank, my mother.
Tina has beautiful feet. They look soft and moisturised and are a creamy pearl colour. I wonder how she keeps them that way with such a demanding job. I inch closer to her and watch her shoulders tense further. I reach over to touch them, smoothing the stress from the neck outwards towards the collar bones. She sighs.
‘Please don’t stop talking. I’m listening.’
‘I’m so nervous.’
‘Don’t be. Just relax, keep talking, close your eyes and enjoy the massage.’
‘Maybe I should just pay you first. It’s troubling me.’
‘Okay, let’s get that part over with then.’
When I first started, I had hated this part of the evening, but I have grown used to it. I let her stand and walk over to a magazine on the table. She takes an envelope from between its pages.
‘Who were you hiding that from?’
I never count the money. I don't want them to think I don't trust them, and I have also become familiar with the weight of my services. I can tell if an envelope is filled properly, or at least close enough.
‘Thank you,’ I say, slipping it into my jacket pocket.
‘I hope I’ll be thanking you too.’
‘Oh, you will.’
How did I come to work in this profession? Skill? That’s what I’d like to think. But no, it is really thanks to mother. She inspired me. She loved making people better, and she knew that sex was just one of the ways to do that. I never thought it to be a dodgy or dirty career. Mother made it respectable . She taught me the boundaries, and a few tricks. She had male and female clients, which was how she knew all the things she knew, all the things she’d later teach me about the female body. My mother knew how to describe things just so. I sometimes wonder if she’s looking down on me, when I’m down on someone else.
Tina’s bedroom is as neat as her lounge. The wall is a stony mint colour. Grey is her theme, or the theme of the owner. I assume it is her place, but I can't say for sure. When she is seated on the bed, I go to business. My mother taught me a trick or two about paying attention. When you look at someone, actually look at them, for a long time, before starting any foreplay. The looking is the foreplay to the foreplay. So I begin, as I always do, by looking. And I watch her watch me looking.
I take off my shirt, noticing her glance at me, shy but interested.
‘Now your turn?’
She obliges, lifting her shirt over her head. Her body looks soft. She is wearing a regular white cotton bra.
‘I’m afraid I didn’t spring for the lacy stuff.’
‘It’s not important, you won’t be wearing it for long anyway. Stand up.’
She stands, and I turn her away from me, massaging her shoulders, her arms, circling just past and around her breasts. She has goose bumps.
‘I don’t want to just stand here,’ she says.
She turns around and leans in as though to kiss me, but stops.
‘What are the rules?’
‘Like boundaries – no-goes?’
‘Well this isn’t Pretty Woman. So if you want to kiss me, then kiss me. Other than that, there are no rules. You say stop if you want me to stop. You say go if you want me to go. My only rule is that I wear a condom.’
‘Sounds good to me.’
Her shoulders dip and she sighs.
She leans forward and kisses me, pulling my chest against her. I unclip her bra, and peel it off, standing back for a moment to see her. She reminds me of a pearl – delicate and strong at the same time.
‘Bet you say that to all the girls’.
‘I don’t like to think about anyone else but the person I’m with.’
‘Comparison is the thief of joy.’
My mother used to say that. I have to pause to collect myself. She moves towards me and unzips my pants, sliding her hand between my underwear and the zipper to protect me.
‘I’m a nurse remember. You are not the first stranger whose penis I’ve touched.’
It is my turm to laugh nervously. Here we both stand, in our underpants, mine a tight blue pair of boxers, hers simple white cotton. There is something equalising in this. For a second I feel unsure of what to do next, something I haven't felt for many years. I feel a painful twinge in my testicles and have an urge to adjust myself, but figuring that we’ll both be naked soon, I leave it.
‘So here we are’ she says.
‘Are you ready?’
‘I guess as I’ll ever be.’
I move towards her but she puts her hands on my chest.
‘Let’s do it at the same time.’
‘That was my intention.’ I smile.
‘No, I mean, let’s take them off together. Same time. I’ll show you mine if you show me yours type of thing.’
‘Are you ready?’
We bend over to pull down our pants and bump heads. Laughing we stand up and move closer. She pulls me to her, then reaches down between my legs, squeezing my testicles. I close my eyes, suppressing a groan of half pleasure half pain.
‘Oh my god,’ she whispers.
‘We haven’t even got started yet,’ I say, pleased with the impression I am making.
‘No… I…’ She steps back. ‘I felt a lump.’
Jen Thorpe is a feminist writer and researcher from Cape Town, South Africa. She is a passionate advocate for women’s rights and has worked in this field for six years. She has an MA in Politics from Rhodes University, and recently completed her first novel ‘The Peculiars’ through the UCT Creative Writing Masters Programme. Look for it in stores soon.