The thrill was not cheap (if the only consideration was the peso since it was still relatively a basement bargain considering I spent a total of 4 hours with these boys and managed to spend a sum equivalent to $70 — Montreal’s lapdances when I went a few years ago charged C$10 for a song. I paid $40 for 3 songs plus tip for a total time of 6 minutes.) But, like all thrills, it was fleeting. I was already over Wendell. His boyish demeanor showing up in abrupt jokes and uncontrollable bursts of laughter in the middle of the lapdance that was disruptive of my whole fantasy made the whole thing end sonner than planned but later than I had wanted to.

Ace was very conscious before the start of the third song. He wanted to be hard but couldn’t seem to get a grip on it. It could have been Wendell being in the same room. Or it could have been that having internalized the hint of a friendship (with East) made him even more shy, if not uneasy. Or he could have found me intimidating. He turned the lights off to first play with himself. Then, when he couldn’t seem to get the hard-on he wanted, he went out for what seemed to be quite some time. He went back still displeased but Wendell was getting antsy so Ace obliged us all by begining to dance.

Ace lurched on my lap wearing nothing more than a purple bikini that framed his package well. He was gyrating on my lap as his stage and, before I knew it, started showing himself and playing with it. I really couldn’t understand what his whole problem was since, even at a semi-hard state, his dick was impressive. It was a good 6 inches semi-hard. It may not have been thick (or was I just so used to Caucasian girth?) but its length was far from disappointing. He pulled it out from the side of his bikini. Then, started to show it right out of it. At so many points, his dick was right in front of my face. I don’t know if he was teasing me to suck it but I know I could have if I wanted to. (I’m sure I waned to but I was just unsure of actually blowing a go-go boy in that place. Then again, I actually did blow a go-go boy I fancied in an East Village bar when we played around in my gym’s steam room. I guess it was more of East being there. Our friendship had reached a whole new level but I didn’t want to push it unnecessarily to scandalous heights.) It wasn’t just his dick that was in front of my face. He was actually limber enough (or he was that good) that he managed to bring his face right in front of mine too. There were some points when his lips were just a hairline away from mine. Did he want me to kiss him? The time to ponder the answer to this dilemma was more than the moment allowed. Before I knew it, he was back to this naked, towering, luscious 22-year-old man on my lap, and it seemed before we both knew it, the song had ended.

I paid for 3 songs and felt that I had gotten more than what I wanted. It felt so surreal when it ended. Ace and Wendell putting their shorts back on after being almost naked for what seemed to be a gratifyingly long time. East looked at me from the other edeg of the couch with this look of sheer satisfaction. The eerily green light cast a hazy, dreamy glow on the ending. Reality was already sobering the fantasy. I felt the need to drink more Coke and pee. East lit a cig. Wendell was beginning to feel the effects of the gin tonic he had been drinking the whole night and wanted to eat. He ordered a breakfast meal on us. (It was morning after all.) Ace didn’t want to order the same thing because he was on a diet. He ordered french fries instead.

Ordering the food allowed us to buy more time with them. I wondered if that was really necessary since what we were buying here for ourselves were more of the nonsense that we began this night with. The conversations just provided more questions than answers. We found out that they both had girlfreinds but would sleep with guys for the right fee. Hmmm, they were gay for pay. Maybe Wendell was. But was Ace not only for pay but really gay? We found out that they were both students who stopped because of the prohibitive amount of tuition and fees. Were they being honest there or were they playing up to the sympathies of liberal-minded middle-class gay ubran professionals? We found out that they were eager to hang out outside this rathole. Were they being serious or were they just looking for a quick treat — to build upon the hopes of playing with a sugar boyfriend? I was becoming more and more disinterested in the whole exercise of conversation. I found it pointless since I did not mean to extend the fantasy to future moments. I can’t anyway. But East can and he wanted to with Ace.

Wendell went out to dance and East decided to come clean with Ace. We reintroduced ourselves with our real names this time to Ace in the confines of the private room. Him and East began to strike a hopeful deal that would mean their hanging out beyond that night. East was being gracious. Gen Co, Ace’s real name, was being really helpful and was most happy with the outcome, and also most grateful for the generous gift of trust. I found that striking and endearing. But I was still adamant at refusing to give him my contact info. He wanted to get my email but I refused. It would have been an interesting social project if I had a transcontinental correspondence witha go-go boy. But considering that my life was already overflowing with these numerous kinds of projects, I took the wise road and decided not to.

All I wanted to do with Gen for the remaining minutes was to play with him. We ended up making out and touching. East and Wendell lay on the other end seemingly only slightly interested in trying to make the most out of extending the fantasy in the little time left to us. I was looking to stretch it to the end. Gen had thin, light lips and a clean breath. (I was sure he brushed before this number.) We started out with cutesy buzzes on the cheek and on the lips. Then, we ended up making out lightly, passionately. I haven’t had sex since I got to Manila and this was the closest I would get to it given the circumstances of my vacation.

East and I left Wendell and Gen with what we believed were generous tips. We tipped Danny too for being good to us. iit was 3 AM and I had a flight to catch later that night. Apparently, East was worse off that time since he had to bring people to the airport in a few hours. He dropped me off the house and sped off. God knows when I would see him again but I was happy that we capped off this short week with a shared gay experience. Doubtless, our friendship had reached a whole new level. Like with my best friend in NY (whom I roomed with in Fire Island last summer and similar to our exploits in the meatrack), this was us scraping the sleazy light fantastic together.

There really is nothing to learn with a night-out in a strip joint. It is a commercial transaction and not a moral story unfolding. Notions are reinforced though, heavily colored. The meat market is ultimately subjective. Some people want the butt-slapping and dick-crunching kind. Others like us want the face and the attitude to go with the body. Nothing comes for free either. You get as much as what you’re willing to pay for. But, in a go-go strip, you only pay for the sexual fantasy and not for the person. To think the latter is to be delusional. But that doesn’t mean that you may not get more than you bargained for. Every moment is a renegotiation. You can only receive what you are willing to risk. We give out the cash initially, then we receive the pleasure from the service that their body allows. We give out ourselves, then we risk the rejection or the acceptance of the prospect of knowing the person beyond the bikini. Nothing gets to pierce the illusion more than two people choosing to get past the acquaintance borne of this business arrangement and beginning their own interaction on a personal level. Funds can never buy friendship.