The boyfriend settles into what I’m guessing is a K-hole on the couch while the host rattles away on his laptop, presumably trying to up the number of attendees at the party. I tepidly fuck the friend for a few minutes in the sling (mainly because I’m curious to see how stable it is) before pulling my host aside and asking for a crack at his ass.
He’s a near-exclusive top, he explains, and hardly ever gets fucked. But he’s willing to make an exception for me. He excuses himself to the shower to clean up and I head to his bedroom to wait. Returning having douched his insides and (for some reason) having doused himself with cologne, he leaps onto the bed facedown, and sticks his ass in the air. I fuck lots of hesitant bottoms so I spend a long time working his hole open with my tongue before I try to stick it in. He lets out a squeal as I press into him and I clamp my hand around his mouth.
By this point, the Flemish guy has come in and curled up next to us, anxious to watch his lover get pounded. I manage a few half-hearted thrusts but the whole scene is throwing me off and I announce I need some water before I pull out. Back in the living room, the other guy is absently poking at his phone. My host eventually comes out, making a beeline for his computer. The brief fucking has opened him up (both literally and figuratively) because for some reason he pulls up his online profile and immediately starts telling me all about his career as a sex worker.
It seems like he might be retired at this point. He and the Flemish guy apparently run a venture capital business of some sort. But he’s still got an ad up, so who knows. Until this point, I’ve been operating as my other self, my not-Devon persona. His open admission of being in the trade makes me wonder if I should share a moment of collegial camaraderie. But I also know it’s highly unlikely I’ll ever see him again, so I decide to just shrug it off and leave.
The next day I log into my profile and there’s a message from him, sent around six that morning. It’s a simple hi but there’s obviously a deeper meaning: I know you’re a whore. It’s possible he just stumbled on my profile while he was looking for guys to bait into his orgy. But more likely, he picked up the smell of trade on me too and went snooping to see what he could find.
Doing sex work isn’t something I’m ashamed of or even exceedingly private about. I’ve had people I know find my profiles before. But during our exchange I wasn’t Devon. I was someone else; a writer from Canada working in Europe and pondering whether to apply for a PhD. I debate what to do, writing and rewriting countless witty replies, before ultimately giving up and deleting his message.
Three days later, I run into him at a different bar. He’s staring at his phone as I walk by, looks up and rolls his eyes.
“Oh, sure. You’re a writer,” he chuffs, as if it’s the most unbelievable thing in the world for someone to be a sex worker while engaged in another profession. I’d sort of thought we might have a little laugh about the whole situation but it’s quickly obvious he wants nothing more to do with me. I’m just a cheap hustler, trying to make my grandiose dreams come true by sharing them with enough people. I mutter something about a link in my profile to my columns, but he’s clearly not interested.
I can feel the cracked edges of my two personas rubbing together. Part of me wants to scream to anyone who’ll listen (which probably isn’t anyone in this bar) that I’m more than the sum of my parts. That writing and sex work and my other creative endeavours are all part of a larger identity that’s more complex than anyone can understand. But then there’s that other side, the part that says I’m just doing my best to fool everyone. I wish confidence came as easily as a three-word mantra.
Two years after she’d introduced her alter ego to the world by name, Beyoncé told Allure they’d parted ways. “I don’t need Sasha Fierce anymore,” she said. “I want people to see me. I want people to see who I am.” But then in 2013 she announced she’d created a third identity: Yoncé. Who this third person was and what the distance between these three individuals is, isn’t immediately clear to me (though I’m sure there’s a PhD thesis there for someone else to write). It does seem symbolic (if you’ll forgive the somewhat shallow analysis) that B’s new creation goes by a name that’s already part of her own.
I don’t know much about Beyoncé. My interaction with pop music is largely limited to the gym and the tanning salon. But in rethinking my Antwerp interaction in the context of her layering of personas, I realized that the cracks between my carefully separated identities might not be such a bad thing. Sex work still requires me to be a different person. But maybe that person can be a little closer to the one who reads poetry books, eats grilled cheese, and listens to The Smiths while it’s raining — just a little less afraid.
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