by Blake Dawson* <>

From the Preface to Chapter 1:

If you like to read this kind of story but are concerned about possible legal implications, work to change the law! If you don’t, why are you here?

*Blake Dawson is the person the otherwise anonymous author would be if “trading places” became magically possible.

Chapter 25: Kings Cross

Have you ever been to see Kings Cross, where Sydneysiders meet? If you grow up in the Eastern Suburbs, it is impossible to avoid that song getting engraved in your brain in the space normally reserved for nursery rhymes. The trouble with trying to write a rough chronology of just the half of my own short life that I can verbally recount, is that some important things go on in parallel to everything else without ever providing a single incident with a strong chronological hook. The social ‘test match’ played by the group of us who have walked home from school together most nights of my four years there was a bit like that—bits of it infiltrating into several chapters before we are done. Of less import, but still worthy of a chapter-sized mention are my affairs over five years at that magnet of places—Kings Cross. I have chosen to resolve the placement in time question by focusing on my first consummated encounter, even though it was in every other sense uninteresting and largely atypical, and to use it to bring out a more general recollection of my since numerous contacts there, but that is getting a bit ahead.

I have come to realise that you can get a very biased view of the world from the Eastern Suburbs, even from the relatively impoverished backwaters I call home. To travel almost anywhere, you have to pass through the dynamic heart of Sydney that extends from the historic Rocks area, Circular Key and the Opera House in the north to Central Station in the south and from the fresh glitter of Darling Harbour in the west to the very different dynamics of Kings Cross on our side of town. The buses that serve our area either traverse the gay heartland of Oxford Street or converge at the Bondi Junction terminus of the short and relatively modern Eastern Suburbs line. Either way, the next but last place to stop on the way into town puts you on Darlinghurst Road which forms the main axis of the Cross.

My independent visits to the Cross started in my dark final primary year, although I was careful to always go there in broad daylight, having developed strong resistance to the worst temptations of the Cross through my year of knocking around with Garth Delaney. Those fleeting visits were just about the only aspect of my darkness that survived my secondary enlightenment—such is the magnetism of this place of people meeting people. The first protective rule I made for myself was to make every visit a different time and a different day and a different route—that way I figured, I would get to see all of it, but none of it would get to see much of me. Talking to strangers, however briefly, was the real attraction, in a place that I reckon is just about the safest in the world providing you keep your wits about you. Strangers from a wizened old madam who saw straight through me and gave me some helpful survival tips, to Malcolm Forsyth who I was fated to run into not long after in Boston. Without my early exposure at the Cross and further into Sydney, I could not have contemplated the independent explorations I was able to make in Amsterdam and London, but even it didn’t prepare me to tackle the American cities without mum firmly by my side.

Towards the end of the summer holidays before returning to my second secondary year, I felt I was finally ready to go a bit further than talking to strangers. That feeling was not brought on by any problems as I had not long returned from another idyllic summer on the coast, albeit one that lacked the transformative power of the year before, and into which I had managed to squeeze my first representative cricket commitments. And so the first time I volunteered to go home with a stranger was driven by a sense of readiness and certainly not of any need beyond my insatiable curiosity. But first, the target stranger had to pass my long list of precautionary rules. As it turned out, my first stretched those rules a bit and in other ways he proved far from typical of the long list of, lets be frank, one night stands, I have accumulated since.

The first rule I had made for myself was that it had to be a visitor and that this would be clearly demonstrated by them being able to tell me their hotel and room number where I would rendezvous with them later. Over three years that certainly became the norm which led to some interesting tactics which I will return to shortly. On other occasions my chosen partner had wheels and was staying at a motel or somewhere else with parking space, so it made sense to get a lift which has never yet turned into an excuse to get me back to a private home. But my first was staying in a holiday unit at Manly which he had got at off-season rates because he was working on an out of business hours renovation contract which would keep him in Sydney for several weeks. While I had absolutely no intention of ever going with anybody twice, because the last thing I was looking for was anybody who wanted to make a difference to my life, I was comfortable that I would at least be able to recontact my first should some unforeseen need arise. As it has turned out, there has been nobody who I didn’t get to know enough about to have been able to find them again if reason ever arose and I made no secret of how they might find me. And for me the great achievement has been that none of the several recontacts that have mainly been initiated by me have ever involved any expectation of getting back together.

We travelled to Manly on the ferry and took a leisurely stroll up The Corso, before he offered to buy me lunch at one of the cafes facing the ocean, on the excuse that he hadn’t yet stocked the kitchen well enough to cater for a visitor. We walked south along the beach and then climbed the hill to his apartment where he said it looked like we still had plenty of time for him to change into his working gear and make an equally leisurely trip back. Only then did it dawn on me that he had assumed that I, like he, was just looking for some pleasant way to kill the day and had no expectations about sex. But he didn’t say no either, and we finished up having to take the Jet Cat back. Instead of mucking around with transport connections, we walked together up to his work site near Martin Place which left me with the easiest of trips home. I went to shake his hand goodbye and felt him press something into my hand which with hardly a glance I realised was $200. I tried to protest, but he said he knew the prices and was gone. Mum had long ago set me up with my own savings account which I had once in a while managed to make a small deposit into and which I figured was the place where the $200 would get into the least trouble.

I soon learnt that if a boy was going to have a one night stand with a visitor he picked up at the Cross that he was going to get paid whether he wanted or not. The very few who respected my protestations instead spent even more on giving me a big night out or making a present of something I might have noted in a shop window. A few insisted on sorting out money before we did anything because they did not want it to get in the way later, while a small number in the end were profusely apologetic that they couldn’t lay their hands immediately on anything like what I was worth and insisted that I tell them how I could send them a proper payment. Unable to think of anything better I came up with the idea that they could make a donation to the cricket club, which I intended would allow them to just forget it, but the rest of that story will keep a while.

The sex has been equally a mixed bag. My first only wanted to do enough to make me happy which included plenty of playful hugs and kisses, him giving me a head job, and, after some persuasion, him letting me rub him off with the inside of my thighs. A few were ready for anything and carried with them equipment to cover all kinds of possibilities. I always carried the basic condoms and Ky myself for those who had not had any such expectations, and quite a few in the final analysis would insist on nothing more than a talk and maybe a cuddle or just a fun night out. I long planned to retire at fifty, but am still a bit short of that with sex partners who were casual pickups, although the number I have received payment or gifts from seems to have snuck past that mark.

My idealised target was a man of forty married with kids. The age range necessarily smudged a bit, but my first was definitely at the younger end of the spectrum at 27. He was also a tradesman which to me made him doubly attractive but which has proved very atypical of those who visit Sydney for business. I idealised that the “married with kids” types would be happy for me to add a temporary new dimension to their lives without it in any way threatening to distract from their established relationships, except that maybe a few would start to look differently at their kids’ mates. I often made a point of talking about that possibility and encouraged them to think about taking a bit more active role in whatever groups their kids were in. That way, if there was some kid around looking for a supporting adult then they might have a chance of being found. With the crap filling the newspapers for most of these past three years, I didn’t have to say anything about the risks, but rather to give a counterbalancing picture of the real rewards that both partners can get from such relationships and the actual lack of risk if they were careful.

I quickly found I could not avoid extending my target from married to separated and to divorced, and just as quickly found that extension bringing with it all the extra complications of those states. I don’t think I have ever become seen as a substitute for missed kids, but on one occasion I did get myself just a little embroiled in the very difficult case of a mother taking their two sons away to join a fringe cult. I was actually in between the two boys in age and we saw the possibility that I could make contact with them in ways which were not open to him, at which prospect my curiosity again got the better of me. I managed to bring back a story of their situation and attitudes which he was certain would convince the family court. Before I would consider agreeing to give evidence I consulted a solicitor specialising in family court matters who had been one of my early pick ups, and he warned me not to touch it in no uncertain terms: “If the anti-sex feminists who run the system even get a sniff that the husband has had any kind of contact with any young person, they will stop at nothing to get the wife and kids to collude in framing abuse evidence against the bloke.” I felt it essential to pass that warning unabridged to the distraught father, but added some compensating advice which I had pulled together from various sources: “Start to rebuild your own life—no matter how painful—there should be more years in front of you than behind you to do something useful and enjoyable with. And make sure that the boys know that you will be there for them and that they will be able to find you if and when they make the break that most eventually do.” I was more than happy to make sure that the boys themselves also received the last part of the message before putting them all out of my mind. The other flexibility I finally had to allow to my pickup targets was that more than one of them wasn’t a man.

Amongst the main stream of evening rendezvous with professional men in luxurious hotel rooms I developed an elaborate intelligence network that would have earnt most of the money I ever received had I not been doing it for pure fun. The key question was how to get a young teenager past security and into a guest’s room without being watched over, to which end I have built up a case file, in my head, on every major hotel in Sydney. Each has its individual quirks which almost always required the guest to alert reception to the fact that yes they were in fact expecting a caller. In a couple it didn’t matter once you got inside, so I set myself up with the arrangements and outfit to do direct to the room pizza deliveries. At others where a bell hop would escort any delivery to the room, I needed the more elaborate rouse of making a secure document delivery and needing to wait while their guest prepared a response on his laptop which I could take with me. This always exceeded the bell hop’s patience except for one who ended up in bed with both of us as soon as I twigged that he considered I was intruding on his territory.