I’m a bit high when we leave the tree house. We enter the thick forest on the other side of the settlement. Careful not to stumble on the narrow path, I follow my broad-shouldered guide. My feet tread on moist earth while I look out for treacherous holes and roots, lifting my head from time to time to enjoy the change of sunlight and shadows. Here and there, I sight the ruins of mystical sarcophagi, most of them fallen into decay and overgrown with grass and weed and bushes.
A low breeze whispers through the ancient trees. Hidden in the lush vegetation, a rivulet gurgles; birds chirp and flutter when they take off, disturbed by our approach.
At last, we step out of the forest. A wide bay opens up before us. The pebble beach is empty but for a small group far away. To our right rises a sharp, high and scrubby rock. The odd pine tree stands out, askew, like an untamed flick of hair. On top of the rock, I discover the massive remains of an ancient stronghold made of blackened, mossy stones. I’m thinking Middle Ages, bold knights, crusades, battles against the Saracens, the Genoese, the Venetians. How the owners of the castle must have thought they had found paradise here!
“I hope you put on your bathing trunks,” Hazim says.
His speaking shakes me out of my cotton daydreams. “Um, in fact, no, I haven’t”, I reply. “I didn’t know you would take me to the beach.”
“Sorry.” Hazim looks at his feet, a sheepish expression on his face. “Do you want to go somewhere else?”
“Not at all.” I slip out of my loafers, take off my tank top and reach down to open the zip of my trousers. “I reckon in this country nudism is frowned upon on public beaches, but…”
Hazim steps back, aghast. “You won’t…!”
I can’t help but giggle. “No, don’t worry, I won’t.” The linen slides down to my ankles. “I’m wearing boxer shorts, see?”
He glimpses at my underwear, his face turns crimson. “Uh, okay.”
“Get out of this,” I say and tug at his shirt.
He makes a hasty movement to fight off my hand. Then he unbuttons his shirt and undresses, turning his back on me. I watch his muscles work, stare at the firm buttocks under the synthetic fabric of his black bathing slip.
Sensing my gaze, Hazim spins around and glares at me. “Stop that! I’m not… I’m not like that!” His voice trembles.
I roll my eyes before replying, “Oh Jesus! Whatever. I think I’ll take a dip.”
After a long swim, I’m back on the beach. Hazim is still splashing around; I guess he dreads being with me. It’s a pity, really, since we seemed to get along quite nicely in the tree house.
Ah, the heck with it! I won’t apologize for being who I am. Right now, I’d like to remove my wet boxer shorts. They cling to my skin, and it’s not a pleasant sensation. But I know better than to act upon that immediate desire. The situation’s complicated enough as it is.
Hazim joins me a minute later, looking at anything but me. His hard nipples stand out from a bush of black chest hair that narrows to a thin line on his ripped abs. His legs are muscular and hairy, too. He looks good in clothes, but he’s outright stunning without, I have to admit.
He sits down at my side, keeping a careful distance between us, still not looking at me. His legs jiggle nervously. That’s the only thing that bothers me with him: his uneasiness around me. For God’s sake, will he ever be able to relax? I decide to clear the air. This is 2011, and we’re adults, after all. “Do you think I want to seduce you, Hazim?” I ask, closing my eyes to signal how innocuous I am. “Is that what you’re afraid of? That I lay my dirty faggot’s fingers on your precious, straight body and spoil it?”
He doesn’t look at me, just mumbles, “Don’t speak like that, sir.”
“I’ve told you not to call me sir! How… uptight can you get, huh? My name is Marc, and I ask you for the last time to call me Marc. Anyway,” I shrug, “I thought Turkish boys always had same-sex experiences in their teenage years. Like everybody else.”
Again, he turns crimson. “I don’t want to talk about… that.”
I clap in my hands. “Alright. Let me just inform you, in the most polite words I can find, that I have no intention whatsoever to force you into any… sexual act. I’m here to enjoy the day. To enjoy this.” I make a gesture that encompasses the beach, the flat Mediterranean, the rock, the castle. “I’m not very keen on gay sex, anyway.”
He glances at me, then stares at the sea again. “You come to Turkey to see Murat. And always for the same reason.”
“Yes I do. And you know what the reason is? He pays me, okay? I earn money with… sex. Sex with women, sex with men. You think you can get over it one day? Or will I have to bear your… prudish behaviour for the rest of my stay?” How tired I am of explaining myself over and over and over! The persons I’m talking to change, the sceneries change, but in the end, it all turns out so predictably similar.
“It’s just that…”
“Well, I can understand how my… way of living might hurt your beliefs, your moral system, whatever. I guess you bash up gay boys on a daily basis, just to prove what a man’s man you are. But you’ll have to accept one day that some people are different, whether you like it or not. Anyway, I’m not one of them. The gay men, I mean. I sell my body to those who can afford to pay. That’s all.”
He shakes his head. “I do not… bash up… homosexuals.” He leaves it at that.
“Okay,” I say. “Do you think you can forget about my job for the rest of the day? Treat me like, I don’t know, one of your friends? Or, if that’s too much to ask, like just some guy you happen to drive around because your boss asked you to.”
“Okay.” His voice is croaky. “I have one question, … Marc.”
“If you are not a… a homosexual man, then why do you… look at me like that?”
“How do I look at you?”
“Like you want… you know.”
I shrug. “I guess I’ve learned to appreciate nice-looking… things when I see them. You have a handsome face. A good body. I find it more pleasant to look at you than to look at some ugly dude. That’s all. No hidden agenda. Just, well, a strong aesthetical sense.”
“Ah. Okay.” He doesn’t seem to understand.
“Any other guy would’ve said ‘Thank you’. That was a compliment, after all,” I inform him in a light tone.
“Oh. Thank you.” Now he looks even more bewildered than before.
“Okay, let’s change the subject.” I lay back, the warm pebbles poking into my skin. “Tell me about Istanbul.”