STORIES
Paying for sex I never had
September 13,2021
By Salvin Kumar
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“Hi. Can I hire you for half an hour?” I hit send as soon as I finished typing the text message.

“Hire”, who says hire? I questioned myself, regretting the message I had just sent.

I think back to that time when I was a newly arrived migrant.

My first boyfriend and I had recently ended our seven-year relationship. Naturally, being in a monogamous partnership (or so I thought), I hadn’t explored the gay-sex scene. When I think about all the gas-lighting and the psychological abuse, I wish I had the strength to end it when I saw the first red flag. But then, I didn’t know any better. There weren’t any same-sex relationships I knew of in my community, and neither anyone who could give me any advice without being judgemental.

My boyfriend at that time would, very casually, pass remarks about my dark skin. I’m chocolate-brown, and according to my community – I’d have to be very rich and successful in life to marry someone. (Marriage is the ultimate goal in life – I am rolling my eyes as I write this)

He was lighter than me, and as someone who had a lot more melanin, I didn’t meet Indo-Fijian beauty standards. I sat right at the bottom of the hierarchy of desirability. He knew that I was conditioned, but that’s another story for another day.

I looked at the sent message for a few seconds, hoping to see those three dots, letting me know he was responding to my text.

Then, just before my conscience could say something in my mother’s voice, I put my phone face-down on the bed.

I walked around in my one-bedroom Unit in Merrylands, Western Sydney. A flavoursome suburb of food and culture, full of other migrants like myself, about a 40-minute train ride from the city. It was 2015—two years since I first arrived in Australia.

Having faced colourism and living in fear of homophobia my entire life, I hadn’t ever been with a guy who was light enough to pass as fair-skinned. My first time on Grindr, the first Anglo-Saxon guy I said “hi” to replied, “Get the fuck out of here if you’re not White.”

Back to that night in 2015, I looked at my phone again. Did he reply? Had I missed it among all the thoughts in my head?

I unlocked it.

There was nothing.

I had gone through every profile on GayEscorts, trying to look for the right man. In all honesty, I just wanted to hook up with someone who was Anglo-Saxon without having to deal with racism or, as they now like to call it, “just a preference”. His profile had said, “all races, shape, size and age welcome.”

It was comforting, but I was still sceptical, primarily worried about my skin colour. Somehow, unknowingly, I needed validation.

My phone vibrated. There was a message from him.

“Hi mate. I don’t usually take half an hour bookings, but if you’d like to go with that, it will be $150. For an hour, it’s $200. Cheers, Mike”

I could tell he wanted me to book for an hour.

“Hi Mike, can I book for half an hour. Do you want to see my photo, so you are sure you’re ok to go ahead?”

“No that’s ok, I don’t need a photo. What time are you coming?”

“9 pm? What’s your address? Can I also get a small massage?” I pushed for an added freebie.

“Sure. If you’re taking the train, I can pick you up from Central, otherwise, come to Caltex on Cleveland St, and I will send you my address when you get there.”

“I’m taking the train. I’ll arrive at 8:40 pm. Can you pick me up from Central Station if that’s ok?”

“Yeah, sure. I’ll park on Elizabeth St, near the Thai place.”

“Thanks, see you soon.”

I got into the shower. I had about an hour and a half to get there.

I gave my entire body a nice scrub with soap, reaching all those spots that I wanted to be touched in.

I got dressed, putting on my newest Bonds underwear, then sprayed a bit of perfume on my hand and rubbed it all around my waist, reaching inside my underwear into my

crotch. I wanted everything to be smelling fresh and clean. While I was paying, rejection would be the worst thing, and for me, and where I was with my self-confidence, it would be dreadful.

I brushed my teeth one last time and left the house for Merrylands Train Station. It was September, but it was still chilly for me. The tropical fish.

As the train approached Central Station, I messaged Mike saying I was about to get off. I had this funny rumbly feeling in my tummy. Like I was back to being a child about to make some mischief.

“Ok. When you come out turn right and walk up the road. I’m in a blue Toyota Yaris.”

After a short drive, we entered his apartment and came to a bedroom with dim lighting. Mike started taking his jacket off near the bed and turned around.

“There’s a fresh towel in the bathroom just over there.” He pointed towards a closed door to my left and then walked past me to close the bedroom door behind me.

Mike was over 6 feet tall, with short brown hair and a square jawline. His skin was the colour of some creamy dessert that I was yet to find the name for, and it was obvious he worked out. His arms were probably as big as my thighs.

“Do you want me to have a shower?” I asked, a little nervous that he might be thinking that I smell of curry.

“Nah, it’s alright. You can lay down, and I can start with the massage.”

I did as he said and saw the room’s lighting change as he walked around lighting candles.

I had always imagined having sex with candles on.

Mike stood near the end of the bed with a cheeky smile. He took off his clothes slowly while I feasted my eyes. He had a flat tummy and had just the right amount of brown body hair.

He stood there in his undies. I looked at his bulge then looked up at the ceiling.

Mike reached for what seemed like a bottle of massage oil.

He sat right next to my hand. His soft skin, in that smooth, hairless area, was rubbing against me.

I looked into his eyes. They were a mix of gold and green.

“What colour are your eyes?” I asked.

“Take a guess,” he said playfully.

I had no idea about eye colours.

“Light-brown?” I asked.

“They’re hazel,” he said and looked into my eyes again.

“Oh lord, this guy is killing me softly with his looks,” I thought.

“So, is Mike, your real name?” I asked.

“No. I get asked this a lot but, yeah, Mike isn’t my real name.”

I guessed he wasn’t going to tell me, even if I asked.

“So, umm, do you get many clients from different countries.”

“No, not really, not as many tourists.”

“I mean, like Brown people, like, people like me. Do you get many people who aren’t White?”

“Ahh. Yeah, I do. Here, let me help you with your clothes,” said Mike, sounding like he was changing the subject.

He took my shirt off and folded it neatly. I took off my pants and gave them to him.

“Do you want my undies off as well?”

“It’s up to you.”

I kept them on and turned over, so I was lying on my tummy.

Mike started working with his hands on my back.

“Are you from Sydney?” I asked.

“I’m from Adelaide,” he said. “I came here a few years ago for some work and stayed. Did some casual escorting and just got more clients. And you? What about you?”

“I’m from Fiji,” I said.

“Oh, ok.”

“Did you think I was from India or Sri Lanka?” I asked.

“No, I thought you were from here.”

I wondered if he was trying to be careful with his words, so he didn’t come across as stereotypical.

“Lay next to me,” I said.

Mike stopped and laid down next to me.

I put my hand on his chest. He put his hand over it and smiled with his mysterious hazel eyes.

I felt his breath on my shoulder.

“What do I smell like?” I asked.

“You smell good.”

“Like, do I smell like curry.”

“No, you don’t,” he said, chuckling.

“Do some of your clients smell like curry?”

“No. They don’t. I haven’t noticed if they do. Why do you ask that?”

“Well, I feel like I might not know, since I have always grown up with it around me. So I was wondering if that’s what you felt as a White person.”

“No, I haven’t,” he said and reached closer.

I turned over, so I was on my back and played with his hand. His fingers were almost half an inch longer than mine.

He kissed me passionately with his soft lips, and we lay there, entangled for a few minutes.

Suddenly, an alarm went off. It was that annoying ringing radar sound.

I looked at my phone and realised it wasn’t mine.

“That’s our half an hour,” he said softly.

“What? That was quick,” I said.

He got up and brought me a towel from the bathroom.

“You can shower, so the oil washes off.”

I went in and had a quick wash.

Mike was sitting on the bed with his clothes on when I came out.

“You alright?” he asked.

“Yeah, I’m good,” I said as I walked self-consciously to get my clothes.

We got in the car and drove to Central Station.

“So, that will be $150.”

I was silent for a few seconds, then brought out my wallet and gave Mike $150.

Seven hours pay, to pay for 30 minutes of his time and no-sex, I thought.

“Thank you,” he said politely. “Get home safe. I hope to see you again.”

“Thanks,” I said as I stepped away from the car.

As the train sped past the suburbs of the Inner West, I looked out the window and tried to replay my time with Mike.

Was it any different?

I wondered why there was this stigma and shame associated to sex work. I thought about how I could never tell my mother any of this.

Mike was one of the nicest people I have ever met, and even though he may never know it, it was he who made me realise that skin colour has nothing to do with beauty.

About the Author:

Salvin Kumar (he/him) worked as a teacher before moving from Fiji to Australia. He is currently a youth worker who supports newly arrived migrants and refugees in St George and Sutherland Shire in NSW.

He loves cooking, writes poetry and practices yoga.

In 2020 he published Fiji-Baat, his first children’s book.

Socials: Instagram @salvin.sarun



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