Thursday morning Thames sauntered up to the door with me tagging along behind, ringing the secret buzzer.
‘That’s the one for the boys,’ he said, ducking down a bit lower, pointing up under the power meter.
‘Okay, cool,’ I said to the back of his head.
The front of the building was unassuming: a single-fronted terrace of three stories, balconies on each of the upper floors. The glass doors leading on to the balconies were shuttered and curtained, a potted Ficus beside each.
The sun was gaining force, I felt it through the back of my tee as we waited.
‘Lou is probably upstairs with the laundry, he’ll just be a minute.’
The air-conditioners ticked over, their drainpipes sending water across the footpath, and I watched a local wander past with high blonde ponytail. She was clad in pink sports gear, her face tight from surgeries and botox, her well-groomed little dog scrambling along in front of her.
She didn’t acknowledge us, like we weren’t even there.
This could work, the anonymity.
People either knew nothing, knew but feigned disinterest, or knew but didn’t care. It seemed the latter was more likely.
The wooden door came open. ‘Lou’ unlocked the screen between us, opening it.
‘Hey Nate. Oh, who have you got here?’ he inquired, a friendly expression on his face.
‘This is Tristan. He wants to give it a try here.’
‘Hi,’ I said, awkward and shy.
‘Hi, I’m Lou. Okay… well we’ll put you in intros for a second while I finish fixing my hair, and Nate, you can settle in… Better yet, make us some coffee? You’re the first ones here.’
I was steered left into an office with an aging brown chesterfield, plonking myself in the middle, while Thames turned left at the stairs and started bumping around in back somewhere.
Lou combed his hair at the foot of the stairs. I poked my head out to have a peek and caught him adjusting it, pulling faces into the mirror: a forty-year-old teen with his tongue out.
I knew we’d would get along.
My reflection caught his eye and he laughed.
‘As you get older, everything takes a little bit more work in the mornings. It’s less work, though, if you can manage a smile.’
I sat back down and picked up a photo album on the coffee table, opened it, and saw photos of the brothel’s current staff and alumni.
My heart sank. At least two pages had famous porn stars spread across them.
All the guys in the album were eighteen or plumped up like cushions, fat with muscle, spreading their legs, grabbing their groin or smiling at the camera. It was homogenous, homoerotic beauty.
Nothing like me. Nothing like Thames.
The kind of guys I might dance near in nightclubs, but never talk to. I had trouble even looking at men whose price my face and body could not afford.
I’m going to starve.
Lou walked in, threw his comb into a desk drawer, ‘That’s the look book. It’s photos we show clients so they can tell us what they like.’
‘Does everyone in here work here, or has worked here?’
‘Yeah, just about everyone.’
‘Christ,’ I said in fear, flipping to the first porn star, ‘What about him?’
‘Yeah he was here for about a year.’
I flip to the other porn star, ‘Him?’
‘Yeah he was here too.’
‘What about this guy?’ I pointed to a shaggy-haired brunette with sparkling blue eyes and a monster cock, who sort of resembled me, only better.
‘Just some guy? He’s never worked here while I’ve been here. Not in my… seven years.’
Thank fuck, because if people saw that and got me, they’d be sorely disappointed.
‘So tell me about you, Tristan. You worked in the industry before?’
Peaky. Naïve. He can tell.
‘I’ve done some private work in Melbourne but this is the first time I’ve stepped into a brothel.’
‘Well we take good care of our boys here, Nate can vouch for that. He’s really popular, makes good money, I think you could too here…
‘Lemme show you around, and then if you like everything we’ll take your details and you can start right away if you want?’
He explained the whole system to me, right from the two buzzers, ‘If you hear the boys’ buzzer, you can answer the door if I’m busy, but for God’s sake don’t open the door to clients, and always lock the screen door after you let one of the boys in,’ to the intro room. ‘All the boys come in and introduce themselves to the clients in here, one by one. Clients will usually sit on the couch you’ve just been on during intros. This is also the office, so some intros go on while I’m in here quietly answering calls or restocking condoms and stuff. They’re over here. So,’ to the kitchen, lounge and courtyard, ‘This is the area where all the boys hang out. There’s pay TV, free tea and coffee, some guys cook in here on the stove, the fridge (you know how that works), the pokey little courtyard for smoking (no smoking inside).
‘Now I’ll show you upstairs. Oh, don’t use this phone here under any circumstances, we have only one phone line, and the boss, Ian, gets the shits if anyone’s on it and we can’t take calls. Oh and keep the lounge door closed at all times, it’s only open now because it’s just the three of us here. Okay now upstairs!’) to the first floor, ‘There’s two rooms on this level and they share a shower. You have to be careful because the buggers will walk in on you if you’re in the shower here, there’s no lock on the door. You’ve got to shower fast, because someone else always needs it. You have to come out of the room to get to the shower and to go back, so make sure your clients don’t go out naked. When they come back from the shower they’re usually sopping wet, so you’ve GOT to make sure they towel down or we’ve got wet carpet. The washing machine’s in here too. Put your towels here after you’ve used them… Okay, the rooms. This one is Room One, and it has a St Andrew’s Cross, but it doesn’t really get used. We do have BDSM stuff locked in the cupboards behind. Ever need any of that gear, come down and ask for it. Now the beds, the boys usually just throw down towels then smooth the bed out once the client has gone. We wash the sheets at the end of the week. Don’t let them get cum or anything else on the beds ‘cause then the room is unusable until the sheets are washed and dried. There’s a clock there, you’re expected to keep an eye on the time, and when you finish up clean up everything, the condoms and lube etcetera. Check. Under. The. Bed. You’d be surprised what we find. Don’t let it be yours. Everything’s the same in Room Two, except for the cross. How you doing?’
Finally, the second floor. ‘Okay it’s all the same but there’s a bit more room and privacy up here ‘cause there’s only Room Three. Some of the boys don’t use the up-upstairs because it’s a hike, but it’s better don’t you think? You can walk to and from the shower on this level naked, you can make a little noise (if you get what I mean), and the bathroom gets some beautiful afternoon sun. You’ll see. Oh the view! Who’s closed this window? There, see? All of the city, if you stand in the shower. Aaaand you have a toilet up here without having to worry about getting walked in on. So that’s it. Voila! Shall we go downstairs and sign you up?’
Dan Bledwich was one of the 2014 Wheeler Centre Hot Desk Fellows.
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