I place my hand over the stranger’s mouth, stifling his urgent moaning as he cums.
I need to be careful. The walls of my bedroom in Sydney are paper-thin and my flatmates have already raised concerns about the surge of last-minute visitors in recent weeks.
“Sorry, mate, I got carried away,” the stranger says, noting my apprehension as he tears off a few sheets of toilet paper and wipes the sleazy sheen from his groin.
“It’s fine …” I sigh, pretending like it doesn’t rattle me. This was all just an act, a show; he didn’t mean any of it.
The stranger looks back at me like I just fell from the sky, as if this is the first time that he’s noticed I am there.
“Do you have a spare towel for me to take a quick shower? I’ve got to run, got a couple of things to finish tonight.”
Until just a few minutes ago, this sex machine I met on Scruff seemed to have all the time in the world on his hands — now he’s the busiest guy alive. Typical!
Uninterested, I point to the towel drawer, curl up on the mattress and turn my face to the wall so I don’t need to look at him as he leaves. Don’t ask me who he is. All I want is for him to disappear so I can wash his sweat off my bedding, scrub my body and forget he’s ever been here.
How did I end up living this life? I am a 35-year-old who has had only one romantic relationship in the last ten years and it with an eternally drunk Scottish backpacker who ran away as soon as he sobered up. I mean, this has got to stop!
These people want nothing but a quick release of dopamine. “Goran, you will duct tape that ass shut if need be,” I say aloud, while neurotically loading linen into the washing machine.
But despite the warning to myself, I know that this is not the last time I will be doing this.
Gay men steal my heart like no one else can, and yet they leave a wound so deep it never stops bleeding. “Not everyone is the same!” speaks out the eternal optimist in me.
But before he can continue, the other voice asks: “Really? Where are they? Why haven’t you met them yet.”
As this back-and-forth dialogue plays out (oh yes, another pity party), I can’t help thinking back to memories of Philip, my ex-boyfriend and the love of my life.
The last time we were together, Philip left me with a warning.
“Beware of them,” he said, as he started the car before making his way to the airport.
“Whom?!” I snapped at him as if yelling at myself for not being able to keep the man I love.
“Gay men … You’re too child-like. You have a pure heart and trust people easily … and some of them are like fucking hyenas …”
He slips his favourite CD into the player. Even before the song starts, I know which one it is. John Mayer’s ballad, ‘Gravity’. Do you know the lyrics?
And gravity wants to bring me down
I’ll never known what makes this man
With all the love that his heart can stand
Dream of ways to throw it all away
As I watched his car drive away, and his brake lights blink on and then off, I realised I would never see him again. Had my dream of love been thrown away too?
I met Philip over the internet in my final year of theatre studies in Banjaluka, one of Bosnia’s largest towns.
He comes from a poor neighbourhood in the mountains not far from where I studied but he ended up working at a prestigious hotel chain from the tiny island of Bermuda, where he would make his name as a genius chocolate-maker.
A kiddo from Bosnia who was raised solely by his grandmother, and now he’s become a celebrity chef, cooking for the Clintons and Beyoncé … one of the lucky ones indeed.
For the five years we were together, I only knew pure, innocent love.
We spent my summer holidays at his beach cottage steps away from the word-famous Horseshoe Bay.
I know it will sound trite, but I loved that man more than I loved myself.
So, how did I end up here having meaningless, transactional sex with strangers who leave me empty, depressed and feeling worthless?
“Two Bosnians on a scooter ride through a Caribbean paradise. Sounds like a fucking fairy tale. And guess what? All fairytales end.”
Tom spews his bitchiness several years later as I am retelling him the story of Philip.
These are some of the most defining moments of my life, but Tom fails to be moved by any of it.
Tom, a law student, is a gay man with whom I share a dorm room during my graduate studies in the Czech Republic.
We became close friends, even though, hand on heart, we were two completely different people.
I am an old-school, hardcore romantic, easily in love, monogamous.
I only have sex with those I have feelings for.
“It’s such a waste of time, have sex as much as you can and while you can, life is short,” says Tom as he prepares for another hook-up with a guy from Gaydar.
He sees my values as outdated, heteronormative, traditional and plain boring.
When he’s not in class or someone’s bed, Tom spends his time training at the gym with Madonna’s music blaring from his oversized headphones.
I live an ordinary, quiet and unassuming life.
I spend my free time listening to Loreena McKennit and discovering new potential archeological sites on Google maps.
Instead of expensive shoes, you will find a carefully curated collection of prehistoric pottery in my closet.
I do not travel to Mykonos or Sitges in Barcelona for holidays, but rather spend my summers volunteering for archeological excavations in Portugal.
Let’s be clear: Tom and I have very different associations when it comes to the word substance.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I’m somehow better than Tom.
In gay capitalism, men like Tom are at the top of the pyramid.
They rule and get whatever they want. Attention, love, sex, friends, well-paid jobs.
If I had a boyfriend, they could have my boyfriend as well. Only if they wanted to, of course.
I was just 10 years old when my primary school teacher, Rose, told me: “Goran, you are a deep person, get ready for a difficult life.”
At that time, I didn’t really get what she meant by that.
Everything became much clearer when, after dinner, one of my dates commented that I was “a very deep man.”
I was so happy that I danced my way back to the train station.
He blocked my number that very same night.
I hate the word deep; how does one un-deep himself?
Nah, I don’t want to be a part of gay capitalism.
Even if I were given a chance to choose another life, believe it or not, I would still choose the one where I remain nerdy, romantic me.
But I do admit, sometimes it’s hard to wander through life alone. To be an odd one out. A minority within a minority. Where are the people like me in the gay world?
And then, one Friday night, I decided to do something about it.
I sat down and wrote a blog post titled “a different kind of gay” and shared my story with others.
By the following morning, hundreds of comments were made on the post. Guys from all over the world were reaching out and asking me how could they get involved.
Rogerio from Sao Paolo in Brazil told me about his plan to become a teacher and help children from favelas … Mike from Lake Charles, Louisiana, United States built homes for the homeless and Vietnam War veterans with the organisation Rebuilding Together.
Victor from Alicante, Spain, dreamed of a family and a small house on a farm where he could run a shelter for abandoned animals.
Their sudden presence in my life was like the lighthouse to a ship lost and floundering in stormy waters.
As the messages poured in incessantly, I could not help but remember those intense moments of loneliness you feel when you step into a gay club and realise you don’t belong there but still pretend to have a fantastic night.
All those compromises one makes to be accepted without realising that every time you make them, you lose a part of yourself.
“If you can’t find your place in the community, then make one,” wrote Onur from Turkey, ending his message with a big hugging smiley and a few hearts.
As I hugged him back — electronically, at least — I felt that my life had completed a circle and I was just where I was meant to be, creating intimate, meaningful and genuine connections with other people.
People just like you. Thank you for saving my life.
This story was published in Episode 1: Different on the podcast, Different Kind of Gay.