The presentation of self

by Andrew Kaye

His unclaimed collarless shirt, the scent I’ve imagined on his faintly soiled briefs. I won’t claim the prize. I never did.

I switch to the right, another man’s tufts of chest hair; his arrows point south. Tap to the left. Metallic tastes mix with the blood of gingivitis in my drying mouth. One of my favourites sends his third video of the night, a man pummeling away as he writhes.

My hands are so repetitive. There’s another arrow, a bar of gold, which points to my sagging testes. This guy’s need is my doubt, my hanging party streamer that slowly descends. I’m inert. A damp dawn. In March.

I fire off my latest video of my wetted Intimissimi briefs but on closer inspection, they’ll see my pot belly and abdominal scars. Like smoke bombs I distribute them, or cartoonish ker-pows from the old Batman and Robin serials. They’re drones carrying my unchannelled grief, my need to fuck and the inability to pass.

Orgasm after orgasm. Each propulsion compels me to orgiastically taste more endorphins, to release more serotonin than my NHS prescription allows. In the end, there’s the long reproach of cold, flaky cum on my navel after the masturbatory glow of zooming his pubic hair.  I wipe myself with yesterday’s boxer shorts and, as I throw them onto the floor, Leviticus’s condemnations neaten themselves into a pile.

Another night, 3.44am will pass. The hour of Mum’s death. She used to walk into my bedroom. Impromptu. I was there in her bedroom when she took her last breath. Tomorrow will need to be calorific, as every morning that follows the night before. I’m hardwired to it all, the traipse in, past my bosses’ desks.

My head is a rotating opal, with its play-of-light. My temples will me on. Herculean pillars can be moved, when I will myself. I present my body from the chest up, hide behind the pretence, my trimmed beard on show and my pecs deceivingly firm. When I am erect, connected as a thread between acidic brain and athletic heart, then, even the Italians and Spaniards respond. The groomed guys from Saudi and Abu Dhabi too. I’ve cut myself into the right sized squares.

The 24 year old Brazilians who needn’t worry they’re coming off as ‘vulgar’, the cool kids, the hairstylists, the influencers, the Portuguese nighttime cruisers. Nipple piercings beckon and algae-coloured tattoos: foreign lands.

4.12am. They want to see my body. In full. Reality intrudes. Tout bien montée, the Parisian beur says. The opal diffracts in the harsh, clinical light. All I see is the fading vermillion of my once throbbing cock. I can’t top, can’t do anything when he so badly expects.

If he knew me, had me, saw me, felt me, tried to be fucked by me, if any of them did, they wouldn’t claim a piece. Just my pound of Venetian flesh. I’m an eagle-nosed Jew with halitosis breath. I cling on to their compliments, after everything I’ve been and said.

I’m the pulsating beats to this last one’s ‘box’. I lob messages as I stare at the tattoos of Toros on his inverted triangle torso; I wait for his, anything that might speak of human interest. I’m the William Tell overture as I imagine claiming that face, galloping, thrusting, travelling through his heart and into an overhead fan. Cooling off, and in time, claiming my necessary distance. Penitent, like my Yom Kippur prayers; in that vast synagogue hall, repeating, repeating, that ‘next year will be different’. Next year, ‘we’ll be in Jerusalem’ – a cornucopia of faulty erections.

In my element, I’ll be circling on the whizzing blade, above his bed – any bed. I’ll freeze his image, store the adrenal hit and its deposits above. Inhabit this new acting part. I’ll present myself, but backstage I’ll crease. It’s plasticine, this new product of mine, not a glazed ceramic dish. Under demanding hands, it disintegrates on my pottery wheel.

Seething self-hatred ensues, written into the book like my pleading prayers. There’s the lies and the cover-ups. The shunning of scripts; some guilt. The knowledge I simply wasn’t good enough, can never be enough. Not for him, not for them, not for us.


Andrew Kaye is a writer, teacher and coach located in Spain. His queer prose has been published by Untitled Writing, Clavmag, Streetcake Magazine, Queerlings and Mechanic’s Institute Review. A genealogy geek, he’s currently writing a memoir on donating a kidney to his Dad. He blogs at @JKaye82