September 1999

Altruism in Heaven




Altruism: n. Concern for the welfare of others, as opposed to egoism; selflessness.

I think all will agree altruism is a virtue. It's an act of giving, expecting nothing in return. Sex, on the other hand, especially the promiscuous, casual, anonymous kind, is considered by some to be a vice. Myself, I don't think so, but some people do. As for homosex, many think it's not just a vice, but a vile, unnatural, despicable one to boot. Be that as it may, sometimes there is virtue in vice.

* * * * * * * * * *

The shower room had, I think, six shower heads. Only two were unoccupied: the second one from where I stood at the doorway, and the sixth. At number five was a guy with a huge paunch. Not my type. Hence, no point taking shower number six. At number one was, hmmm, a thirtyish guy, good physique, about 168 - 170 cm tall, 60 - 65 kg. Fair Chinese colour, very little body hair, and, oh my God!, a nice executive-look face. No question about it, then. I hung up my towel and took shower number two, next to him.

He was ahead of me, already soaping himself, but even as he did so, he was constantly sonaring his surroundings (don't we all?) and he would have been immediately aware that I was looking, a little more than cursorily, at him.

You can't afford to be shy in these places. If you're interested in someone, you must control the reflexes that your mother taught you -- to look away from someone's nude body -- and actually do the opposite, look admiringly at him. We must be childlike again.

So I did, as I wet and soaped myself.

I gave the guy on my right, at shower number three, a chance too. I glanced at him. Very muscular, sort of gym-obsessed. Too tall for me. In any case, he didn't look back, so forget it, no point sending signals in that direction.

Turning back to number one -- yes, definitely my type. More interestingly, he was signalling back, both consciously and unconsciously. How? If you're not a sauna rat, you may wonder. Firstly, he glanced back at me more than a few times. Secondly, he continued to soap himself while half-turned towards me. This was deliberate, for he could choose to turn the other way to face the end-wall on his left. He didn't do that; he more or less faced the shower head, but ever so subtly, turned in my direction every now and then as he soaped his armpit or his back.

Of course I did likewise, and I was sure he registered my echo.

Thirdly, yes, thirdly, there was a slight stiffening of his cock.

This was all very flattering -- that this ol' body of mine could still attract. Ho ho! But let's get on with the story.

He rinsed and towelled himself before I finished. He then left the shower room and I could not see where he went off to. Maybe that was the end of it -- just a bit of mutual voyeuring, that's all. Then again, maybe he was waiting for me outside.

On the off-chance that that'd be the case, I finished up quickly, but not too quickly, so as not to look too desperate. Ego still at work, you know. Stepping out of the shower room myself, I instantly did a visual-sweep of the area. He was there! Three metres away, at the water cooler, taking a slow drink, half-turned towards the shower room door from where I was just emerging, the better not to miss me coming out.

There was only one thing to do. You'd have to be an absolute sauna-moron not to know what. I went up to the water cooler and took a drink myself, resting my eyes on him for a full second as I did so. He didn't flick away his eyes. He looked right back.

As I drank, he moved behind me and went through an adjacent door. This door led to the zone where there would be cabins. I gave myself a few seconds, finished off my cup and went in through the door myself. And there he was, waiting just inside. I gave him a smile, he put an arm around my shoulders, and we slipped into the nearest cabin.

* * * * * * * * * *

It was proving good -- the kissing, caressing and tonguing. But his fingers were too often on my perineum, i.e. in the anal area. Not that I didn't enjoy that, but I was experienced enough to know that it could sometimes mean my partner was interested in penetrative sex. Sometimes, not always. After a while more of that, I decided the wiser thing to do was to communicate at an early stage where I stood on the matter.

I put both my arms around his shoulders and neck, and pulled myself up to whisper to him. I asked him whether he could understand English -- he did -- and apologised that I couldn't speak Thai. Giving him my name, I added, "sorry, just in case I better tell you, I don't do anal sex."

"Are we doing that?" he responded. Interesting reply, displaying quite a command of the nuances of English (was he Singaporean???). It was at once non-committal, slightly defensive, reproachful even, that I might have assumed too much. It didn't bother me though; I knew that I was communicating preemptively on the basis of an assumption on my part, but I had felt it was better to be clear early rather than late.

"Well, I hope not," I said, smiling to him to soften the blow.

So we didn't do anal sex. We didn't stop; we went on for quite a while more, giving each other the pleasure of intimacy, exquisite and piquant in our foreknowledge of its transience. The chase of touch -- hands and fingers running the lengths of arms, torsos and legs -- the comfort of pressing bodymass, the electricity of moist tongue-tips on usually cloistered skin, and the bloom of forbidden gasps as faces burrowed into groins.

After I came, I moved to lie him down to reciprocate. He said, "No, never mind."

"You don't want to come?"

"Never mind."

So as epilogue, I kissed him a bit more, and said thank you and goodbye.

* * * * * * * * * *

I think I was right. He did want anal sex, and wanted to be top. I'm sure he was disappointed when I said it wasn't on my agenda. In the end, he had to save himself for another partner who would agree to being bottom; that was probably why he didn't want to come.

At the point when I told him I didn't do anal sex, he could have called it off and left, but he didn't. He stayed to do what he could for me. I'd like to think that he enjoyed the foreplay as much as I did, but I'm intuitive enough to know that under a cloud of disappointment, of hopes dashed, of desire aborted, he couldn't have been carried along by the course of intimacy as much as I was. At least partially, he made a conscious decision to continue, to give of his time and effort, even in the knowledge that he would not in the end be rewarded the way he wanted.

Perhaps it was ego too. Perhaps he did not want to admit that I had guessed right, and so could hardly leave halfway, which would simply confirm that I had very capably read his mind. But we all have egos, and I should be the last one to fault people for that.

We tend to think of altruism in lily-white, virgin-pure terms: of parents giving all for their children, of volunteers doing social work, neighbours keeping an eye out for each other. Always, of respectable citizens doing laudable things -- and no, I'm not denigrating any of those examples. However, even in such cases, altruism is seldom pure. People do get something in return, children who return parents' love, volunteers who find new friends and a sense of worthiness doing what they do, neighbours who, by helping out, help safeguard their own neighbourhood. But even impure altruism is a wonderful thing; the little bits here and there add up to make the world a slightly better place.

I wanted to relate this story to show you that altruism occurs even in the most unlikely places. The two of us were essentially anonymous strangers to each other. He really didn't have any obligation to me, nor I to him. Yet I believe he went out of his way to do what he could. He stayed on to give me what I wanted.

People are generally well-meaning and generous, and just because moralists condemn casual sex does not mean no good ever happens in casual sex situations. If anything, I think they who do bad are they who condemn. Human lives are woven from many strands: of desire, of pride, of indecision, but also of loyalty, kindness and goodwill. It is completely false to see the world in black and white terms.

* * * * * * * * * *

I wonder whether he will one day chance upon this article here in Yawning Bread and recognise himself in this story. I hope he does (and write to me too), and by so doing know that I am grateful. Grateful for a little bit of altruism in a Bangkok sauna called Heaven.

Yawning Bread