Three Men, One Day
1. The Italian Guy, Tate Modern, 11:00
The boy is a faggot, a nothing. He’s bored and small and humiliated by his non-job, this sitting here and handing out tickets to strangers, tourists in the city he thought he was coming to to have a better life in, to fall in love in, to be loved, to make, he thought, a good living. He thought this city would give him everything he couldn’t get back home, back at home, back where he was as much a nothing as he is here, but at least there he had hopes of moving out and becoming a something. He wants to be a manager, to be in charge of ticketing at the gallery. People beneath him will come to him with requests and questions, he will have to make the kinds of decisions that will affect people’s lives. They will have sick parents and need time off and he will give it to them. He will be like the Pope. His mother will be proud. Look, Mama, these people look up to me, they rely on me. It’s only a matter of time before they give him the manager job, so from now he will do what he has to do. He will sit and be beautiful. English people like his look. He has olive skin, and he knows how much they love olive skin. He has good hair, thick and dark and curly. He has brown eyes. He is wearing his favourite scarf. You look good in that scarf, his flatmate says. Very European. People love that kind of look. She says: I wish more people dressed like you. And he must agree – he wishes people dressed better in this city. Less of that scruffy thrown-together look. Sometimes he looks at these people and thinks: Disgusting. He stands out. And because he stands out people in the gallery notice him and it’s just a matter of time before they put him in charge. Just a matter of time, because he sticks out. It’s not always a good thing, his flatmate says, to stand out. Not in this country, she says. He knows this. He knows this, because… what happened? Someone complained. Someone complained about the little faggot and his bad attitude.
2. The Scandinavian Guy, Wagamama Southbank, 13:00
Things get going and I love it. Straight from the gym and everything feels slick and tight and fits just right. I love my job. Even before I get here the place is buzzing and I just slot in, like we’re all dancing together, every single one of us, playing their part, like this place is some fucking musical and we’re on stage, dancing, and the audience – they’re the ones at the tables eating their noodles, their deep-fried prawns, their cha han. And I want to run around and hug every single one of them, let them know I am here, that I’m loving it and loving them and all I want is to make them happy, to bring them what they want, to take their orders, to serve them.
“What can I get you?”
They’re cute. Asian girls. Korean, perhaps, and I’m like – what am I? – this fucking Norse god. Thor. I can tell they’re happy to see me, and let me tell you, ladies, I am so fucking happy to see you, too. It’s what I love about this city. Here’s me, little Oslo boy – okay, not so little, 1.90m is not little, and there they are, three Asian girls from Korea, and we’re here in this city, on this island, smiling at each other. I fucking love taking orders.
I know that, my boyfriend knows that – not just him, but quite a few other men, they know how much I like an order. I respond well to orders. I’m going to show these girls how good it feels, how much fun they can get out of ordering a cute Scandinavian boy around.
3. The Malaysian Guy, Chariots Sauna, 18:00
Believe me, you were the sexiest guy there, everyone else was so, how you say, not very masculine. I like hairy guys, men who look like men. In my country you don’t find any guys who are that hairy. Everyone looks the same, like me, skinny and smooth. Not very masculine. Some guys are tall like you, but mostly we’re all the same. About one metre seventy. Max. Men and women are the same. My father was even shorter than me, and my mother even more. Do you like Asian guys? I saw all those guys looking at you. You must have noticed it. Some guys who are big like you only like to be with other big guys, like the bears. Bears only like other bears, so I don’t go to places like XXL very much anymore.
You want to stop for a drink here, or we can keep walking up to one of the Vietnamese places. It’s good weather for summer rolls. Have you ever had summer rolls? No, me neither. Only when I came to London did I try them – back home we don’t have such things. Almost everything is cooked – lots of rice and sauces and big chunks of meat and vegetables. You like walking so fast? Everything happens so fast here. It’s because the sun never shines, people never get hot – its like they have to move fast so they can heat up. In my country you have to move slowly so you don’t explode from the heat. Yes, you can overheat. We all move slowly in my country.
I like this cafe even if it’s a bit dark in here. I can hardly see in this light, but I know what I want. You can browse the menu, if you like. I’m quite happy to order for both of us – it’s mainly the summer rolls I wanted to introduce you to, but it’s fine if you want something else. You know, my brother used to go out with this Vietnamese woman in New York. Well, she was American, from a Vietnamese family. Vietnamese-American, as they say, because everything has to be something-American there, except for the Europeans. Except for you people. No one ever calls themselves English-American. Or French-American. Italian is about the only one you get with the American at the end of it, and that’s probably because they’re the darkest of the lot, except maybe the Spanish, but then they’ve got South America.
So you say you’re a writer. It doesn’t matter if you’ve not published that much. Who cares? I think the main thing is to do what you love, and I can tell you love writing, but you’re also a bit shy, no? Like it’s some guilty pleasure, and I know what that’s like. Not just because I feel guilty about being in the city, in this country, this place that I love living in, far away from where I come from, from where I can make a difference, the place where they need me. No, I’m not a big reader – not many people in my country are, but everybody likes listening to stories, and old people like telling stories. It’s not like here, people don’t talk a lot, and they never go on and on about themselves. Not like me.