‘As much as you want to have sex with a stranger, this is mostly research’—Read an excerpt from ‘The Fool’, new writing by Nakhane, from Exhale: Queer African Erotic Fiction

The JRB presents an excerpt from ‘The Fool’ by Nakhane, from Exhale, a new anthology of queer writing.


Exhale: Queer African Erotic Fiction
HOLAA! (Hub of Loving Action in Africa!)
BlackBird Books, 2020









Read an excerpt:

He heads to the coffee shop, the one in which he loves to write. Before leaving his apartment, he takes one last look at himself in the mirror in the passage. What he sees is deplorably average. He grunts at his image before stepping outside and locking the door behind him.

When he moved into the building, he’d imagined that his appetite for sex would be ungovernably wanton. Instead, what he got was a busy hand and a series of lazy afternoons looking through sex apps on his cell phone. The idea was attractive: seduce them in the virtual world so that when they do finally meet you, their glass is filled so close to the brim they cannot help but spill into your bedroom and then all over themselves. If you’re in the mood, they’d spill all over you.

The idea was attractive. But the reality was that he revelled more in the idea than the actualisation. Seducing an avatar is brutal and he lacked not only the aim, but the ammunition. He ended up talking to the boys about their hobbies. The Lover shook his head mockingly and laughed at this.

‘What you lack is disassociation,’ he quipped.

‘No. What I lack is a working whore gene,’ The Fool retorted. ‘Tell me—who did you get yours from? Because I can’t even imagine your father—’ The Lover would cut him short.

‘Let’s not,’ he would say. ‘You wanna fuck?’

‘No.’


But today, after reading the particulars of his assignment, The Fool is determined to fuck. And not fuck The Lover. What he is after is a quick, anonymous, quasi-humiliating experience. One where a stranger he finds repellent, presses his head down on a mattress—unknowingly denying him the cushioning of a pillow, and thus chafing his face against the sheets. All this, while he penetrates him like a drill.

Stimulation, he has often observed, is a habit best left unnurtured. If you sow the seed, you reap it at your own peril. If one is to live a peaceful life, then one must first make peace with how dull a peaceful life can be. Let the land lie fallow and untouched, or you will waste all its goodness. If it can be good, then it can be better: that was stimulation for him. If there is a little bit of pleasure, then there must be a little bit more from where it was taken, and after that a little bit more. And so, he mines and digs deeper into the earth until his hands are raw. Until he has disappeared.

On his walk to the train station, his imagination begins to wreak havoc on him. Behind dark sunglasses, he is narrowing his eyes to focus on the butt and the jelly-jiggle of a man’s genitalia. The stories begin to take shape in his mind. He is pushed up against a wall and a tongue is shoved in his mouth while a hairy hand unfastens his belt buckle. The same hand undoes the button and reaches underneath for his own jelly-jiggle, which by now has morphed into something harder, more brutal. He usually walks by rote in these moments. When his focus returns from the fast edit of the film in his mind, the men have usually disappeared down some street and he is left feeling a blunt self-loathing.

Even on the train, he is given no respite. They walk in and out, holding onto the rails so as not to fall over. At this time of the morning the concentration of human traffic is at its most dense. He imagines these bodies as moist viscera in the bowels of some beast. The beast takes things in, they stay for a moment and then they are expelled. They are wet and rub up against each other.

He’s given up reading on the train. Now he watches. He maintains eye contact, detecting the comfort of The Watched. If they show no offence, he smiles at them. However, without fail, he is the one who immediately feels bashful. When The Watched is expelled at his stop, he moves on to another. If The Watched is offended, he swiftly lowers his eyes and continues tapping his foot to the music playing in his ear. The Fool knows the many paths of desire that his story can walk down, if he does not quickly avert his eyes. Most of these paths are filled with danger and grievous harm. This always reverses the brutal hardness down his pants back to its unstimulated jelly-jiggle.


Sitting on a wicker chair in the coffee shop, The Fool thinks about his assignment. Since receiving it, the world around him (and in him) has become a source of inspiration. Not that it has never been before. He has read about artists who tried with all their might to retain some form of child-like curiosity in their lives. And so he did too. He became a child. And he was loved, and he was loathed. Although it has to be said that whenever a disagreeable pang settled in him, some feeling of unease that made him melancholy, he wilfully reminded himself that he was living his purpose. And that his purpose was to try to see the world as if for the first time.

He looks around the coffee shop, looping the thought around, while trying to create sentences about the eroticism of such spaces. The results are hackneyed and disastrous. The anonymity of everyone sitting in the space, however, piqued some interest. He could be seductive and get a barista to suck him off in the bathroom. But then who would serve the clientele? Coffee shops were not the best stages for Eros to act out her play.

If anything, they were scenes for two things that he could think of: laziness and anxiety. The only thing caffeine did for him was encourage his bowel movements, and if—like today—he was obsessing over the idea of being fucked by a stranger, an active bowel was not desirable. Unless, of course, the person fucking him was scatological.

The Fool draws the line here. Yes, he is curious about the world, and yes, he is curious about people’s desires, but being humiliated with his own shit by a stranger is not one of his interests, even if he has contemplated humiliation as a means to self-actualisation before.

He orders a black coffee and opens his laptop. While it switches on, he scrolls through the sex app to which he has recently subscribed. It’s a menagerie of faces, details of bodies. Muscled, headless torsos contend with the faces for his attention. A message pings. The avatar’s name is Visiting and its profile picture is a close-up of a hairy and muscular chest and torso.

Visiting: Hi
The Fool: Hi
Visiting: How are you?
The Fool: Not too bad. You?
Visiting: Horny
The Fool: I might be too
Visiting: What are you looking for here?
The Fool: Sex
Visiting: Me too. Are you hung?

No hobbies, he reminds himself. You are not interested in their interests. As much as you want to have sex with a stranger, this is mostly research: for the assignment, and for your own edification, you fucking idiot. His coffee arrives as his laptop settles on its home screen. He makes a mental note: no procrastinating. Have your coffee. Do not waste your time. Write! He wonders if he should write this thought down but wouldn’t that in itself be a form of procrastination too?

His phone pings:

Visiting: So?
The Fool: Sorry. Got distracted
Visiting: Are you hung or not?
The Fool: I guess I would say that I’m average. As much as I like your chest and abs, I wouldn’t mind seeing your face
Visiting: Top or bottom?
The Fool: Where are you visiting from?
Visiting: Germany. Are you top or bottom? I want to fuck you hard
The Fool: I’m mostly versatile, but would like to bottom more. Face picture?
Visiting: You wanna be my boy?
The Fool: I can try to be submissive, but you are not allowed to call me your boy, EVER.
Visiting: Fine. What about I be your daddy?
The Fool: Oh, for fuck’s sake. Never mind.
Visiting: You want sex or not?
The Fool: Bye


When he walks into the hotel lobby, The Fool is met by wide-smiling staff and gleaming tiled floors. The anonymous drone of conversation and chandeliers rise and blink above the reception desk. He reassures the staff that he is not to be attended to, as the person he is waiting for is probably already on his way down from his room. They nod reassuringly as he makes his way to the couches. Before he has even made himself comfortable on the couch he sees a man walking towards him.

‘Aaaaaah!’ the man says, stretching his arms towards The Fool as if he were receiving a guest in his house. The man’s voice fills the lobby, drawing the attention of the other guests. The Fool stands up and stiffens his posture.

‘Naughty boy,’ the man says, wagging his finger, and then, ‘Whoo! (covering his mouth and widening his eyes)—we don’t say “boy,” do we?’

‘No,’ The Fool replies sternly.

The man is now standing in front of him with his hands resting on his waist. He is only wearing cotton jogging shorts. His chest is hairy and a manicured beard covers his cheeks and chin. The Fool recognises his chest and torso from the sex app. An eggplant of a bulge protruding from the front of the shorts catches his eye. He looks around him anxiously and as he had expected, the guests and staff in the lobby have become an audience to a performance for which he has not prepared.

‘Ja.’ The man beams. He points at his face and says, ‘So here is the face you were asking me for.’ His heavy-set build and threatening face belie his bonhomie.

‘You said you’re German, right?’ The Fool asks.

‘Ja,’ the man replies.

‘You’re the happiest German I’ve ever met.’

‘What does that mean?’ The man drops his arms from his waist. The Fool momentarily frowns while he thinks of an answer.

‘I don’t know.’

‘Hmm.’ The man searches The Fool’s eyes and finally smiles again. ‘You came!’

‘Yes. You’re not going to kill me, are you?’ The Fool follows the question with a nervous clearing of his throat.

‘Do I look like I could?’

‘A little bit.’

‘Because I’m German?’

‘No. Because you refused to send me a picture of your face.’

‘But you still came. So maybe you do want to be killed.’ The man laughs.

‘Okay.’ The Fool surveys the lobby. ‘I don’t feel comfortable. I’m going to go.’

‘Noooo. Come to my room. You’re already here, no?’

‘Yes.’

‘Yeeees!’

As soon as they walk into the room, closing the door behind them, the man already has his arm around The Fool’s waist. For a moment, his feet are off the ground. Before he can protest, a tongue is in his mouth and his back is against a wall. In dizzying speed, his clothes are taken off and although he has not closed his eyes, he is handled so roughly and carelessly that his sight is rendered useless.

He doesn’t know what the hotel room looks like. He doesn’t know if the curtains are drawn or not. He thinks of his assignment. He needs details. He doesn’t notice the friction burn and chafing on the small of his back. He does not feel the pain on his back when he is pushed against the wall. His back will bruise. He gives up resistance and gives the man his dead weight to work with.

‘I can be submissive,’ he repeats to himself, a mantra intermittently interrupted by the man’s heavy breathing and groans.

He feels himself flying in the air. He lands on his side, on the bed. When he adjusts himself to lie on his back, he is met by the man’s disquieting face. The man pulls his jogging shorts off to reveal an uncircumcised erection.

The Fool begins: ‘What’s your—’ but he is cut short.

‘You don’t talk.’ The man crawls towards him.

His stiff cock bobs in the shadow created by his torso.

When The Fool tries to reach for it, the man slaps his hand away. ‘Don’t touch it.’

‘Wait!’ The Fool pushes the man away. His chest is damp with sweat.

‘What?’

‘I don’t like this.’

‘What don’t you like?’

‘This!’

‘I thought you wanted me to be your daddy?’

‘I said I can try to be submissive. “Try” being the operative word. But you’re throwing me around like a piece of fish at a Chinese market. I don’t like it.’


When The Fool walks out of the hotel, the sun is beginning to retreat behind buildings. It has tinted everything an orange hue. Shadows are dense, long and horrific. He stands outside the door of the hotel and ponders whether the man can see him from his window. The Fool did not even get a chance to see the view. He decides to go back to the coffee shop.

When he arrives, he orders another cup of coffee. His thoughts are no longer coloured by fantasies of fellatio in bathrooms. His coffee arrives. He takes a small sip from the cup. It’s bitter and rich. He changes his position and sits on the chair in the seiza position. He takes a deep breath and thinks of his assignment.

~~~

  • Nakhane is an award-winning South African singer, songwriter, actor and novelist. His 2015 debut novel, Piggy Boy’s Blues, was nominated for the Barry Ronge Fiction Prize and the Etisalat Prize for Fiction.

~~~

About the book

Exhale is a queer anthology wrapped in the idea of a release, a letting go, breathing out. An orgasm. These are the stories that come out when you play sip or spill, truth or dare, never have I ever and lasts longer than seven minutes in heaven. With sexual experiences from all over Africa, this anthology introduces some exciting new literary voices and brings you some of your established favourites.

HOLAA (Hub of Loving Action in Africa) is a hub for knowledge that goes into all realms of sex and sexuality as it pertains to all aspects of African sex and sexuality. This is a space where women and gender non-conforming people of all sexualities can come together and engage with each other and the world.

Author image: Tarryn Hatchett/Composite: The JRB

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