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Fiona McGregor

Turkish Jim and the Professor go to the sauna. For ten years through three renovations they have come here, trying once then ignoring each new establishment. This place with its faux rococo entrance endless maze and large plush porn room remains their favourite. The Professor disappears into the steam room while Jim stops in the showers near three young guys playing with each other. Their backs turn so he goes into the maze. Nice and busy, lots of tourists lots of diversity in age and size. Around the corner a bear who feels him up then keeps walking. A lanky boy who pauses to check him out then disappears. Wanking desultorily in the doorway of a cubicle, an older guy, thin, not Jim's type. Further on a group of muscle marys adoring one another. Jim arrives back at the showers then does the circuit again. He still can't resist muscles but now that his own have softened and spread he is refused entry to that charmed circle. The lanky boy was a second choice, Jim finds him now lying on the floor of the sling room having his huge cock worshipped by a circle of men, Jim doesn't want that many people he keeps on wandering. The crescent of brown microdot the Professor gave him on entry had dissolved by the time they were undressed, it's months since he took acid and a year since he last came to the sauna. Persuaded tonight to come out for sex because he supposes it's true that so long without it is bad for his health. So he moves into the maze one more time and lets his face be urged onto the crotch of a guy about his age, cleancut straight-looking. Jim finds another similar to the first, married lawyers the Professor would have said. Not Jim's first choice of man or activity but he might get something back. The man comes quickly gagging him then walks away. Jim blows two more, half hard half-hearted. When he gets up for the last time feels his knees begin to swim so goes into a cubicle and pours himself along the bench. A small man with a pot belly stops in the doorway, Jim shakes his head then closes the door.

He lies on the bench shuts his eyes. Feels the ebb and flow in the pipes beneath the floor footsteps low murmurs a constant hum. He was beautiful in the eighties and known as a steam queen, travelled and earnt his nickname for the descriptions of foreign bathouses he brought back to Sydney, his favourite an old Turkish one in the heart of Paris. He fucked a lot in those days especially in Paris, arriving one morning when the sauna was almost empty, luxuriating instead in the design of the place and leaving surprisingly fulfilled and serene. Harry was already positive when they met back in Sydney, Harry's ghost from all the times they had come here together for sex with strangers was a source of comfort though Jim visited the place less and less often. The tales of debauchery of friends like the Professor now left him unmoved, the Professor only escaping the virus with the grace of two years of monogamy then one of hæmorrhoids when first with James at the peak of infection. Even then it was a miracle, himself James and the Professor were all walking miracles. He needs to sit up the bricks are wobbling is that a wall opposite? The towel can't get the towel it's stuck oh, I'm sitting on it. He marvels at the simplicity of his situation, alone in this small room with nothing but a towel and a bottle of water which tastes like the sky. The towel is amazing, soft here scratchy there, shroud of a hundred arses and cocks before him and girls too girls' bits for a women's sauna night has been held here twice. What on earth would women do at a sauna? Jim's imagination slides over Renoiresque figures reclining seductively on the benches, doors ajar can't open them. He considers getting up for an eternity then finally does, the air opening to let his body through as he brings the towel over to the one dim lamp to examine it closer. He would like to touch the light falling from the wall he would like to feel its edges. But the towel is more alluring.

Red dark red, faded to the colour of rock or burnt flesh, he parts the terry, each loop dredded, to see the web. Moving into the warp and weft of the weave following each strand Jim is startled to see the flaws. How the loops don't emerge with complete consistency, some are broken their direction random. So his detergent advertisement of web loosening and billowing in the perfect wash comes undone. There is something sticking out of the wall to the left Jim's hand brushes silk, he bends to examine the object thin purple and attached to a body on the other side of the wall. My god it's a cock. Somebody is sticking their cock through this hole for...him it can only be for him. Jim looks down at his own, flaccid, inessential. They're absurd men are absurd. He stands back from the wall and watches it closely, other holes open across its expanse like so many bubbles rising to the surface, then comes the probing of cocks through each one. An army of men is on the other side of that wall, all wanting him his mouth his arse. Jim hugging the wall now rolling across the surface in search of that hard silken touch but the wall is flat and the giggling has come back, can't stand up any longer. His laughter bounces around the cubicle as he lies back on the bench and drapes the towel over his face, sheltering from the basketball of his laughter.

The towel engulfs him each strand like a finger on his skin, tickling tightening moving around to encircle his whole body he is inside the terry clutching a loop spiralling down around and down down to its base then onto the floor of the weave. He begins to walk through the forest of terry the loops curling anthropomorphic like a forest of angophoras, he walks and walks in a corridor of tall twisting red cotton angophoras till he finds the sweatshop where women are hemming towels and notices the subtle variations in method of the same simple task as he walks among them aware of their lives beyond the grimy interior, children famished war disease, and twelve hours of daylight pass while they work. He follows the thread back through the factory amongst the pump and grind of pistons weaving then the great vats of swirling dye and the cotton mills themselves, threshers, harvest from which the thread unravels further carrying him through shifting seas of white cloud, the great cotton fields of America rotating through centuries, black hands deft around the barbs picking fertilising the history of cotton with their blood. Into the soles of his travelling feet the thread presses its texture, Egyptian cotton brushed cotton flannel cotton plush, till it coarsens telling his journeyman's callouses that they are now walking on linen, linen he loves linen, along the Prussian blue of his aunt's spring coat past the buttons like flying saucers in a night blue desert to the beaches of Aoteroa studded with New Zealand flax. Wide flat straw-like fibres weave into the mat beneath his feet, the thread from it leading him over the pale blue of flax fields in Poland, the plants brought in at harvest divested of linseed then soaked thrashed pounded then spun to linen, the linen of Australian tourist tea-towels. He is giggling again at the Big Galah and Sturt's Desert Pea still the thread tugs onwards down through the tropics with their own indigenous fibres, floating on kapok soft relief then walking again on sisal tired now sore, on along hemp scoring his feet. Cracking open the soles growing up his legs as he trudges on stiffly through China to the birthplace of silk, the worm a soft cock spinning in the mulberry its cocoon unravelled by slim careful fingers and Jim comes to rest in the soft air of silk, drifting taut, a fibre himself in the shimmering sussuration, stretching straining for the path of the thread. Till he saw himself woven into the fabric of the world and the cinema subsided and he fell asleep alone in the cubicle, waking hours later dehydrated exhausted disoriented unbelievably horny, opening the door to the morning shift of more men cruising searching endlessly searching.

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