Originally published last year as four separate blogs, this reedited version is presented here as one ‘Eastenders’ omnibus.
I’ve had some odd encounters at urinals.
No, not like that!
Well… Yes, like that, but not always.
Once, I was stod at a pub toilet, getting on with the job in hand, when an olive-skinned guy with a heavy dark beard came and stood next to me.
Even in gay venues the etiquette is that men don’t tend to talk while taking a pee. The same rule of awkward silence that applies to lifts and the waiting room of an STD clinic applies. The urinals are not the place for idle chitchat. Yet, on this occasion, I became aware that the bearded guy kept casting glances in my direction. This isn’t an uncommon occurrence in the lavatories of a gay bar, in fact it’s pretty much standard practice. The unwritten rulebook of gay toilets deems talk forbidden, but peeking and downright lechery perfectly acceptable.
Unexpectedly, my urinal companion dared to disregard the convention of not talking and, in a strong Middle Eastern accent, commented, “I like your colour.”
“Your colour, I like.”
I thanked him, assuming he was referring to my hair, as I am ginger with flecks of grey, which I like to think of as ‘Salt and Paprika’.
“Yes,” he continued. “Very pink!”
He now had my full attention, “Pink?!”
“Your face is very pink. I like very much.”
Being fair haired and light skinned, I do develop flushed cheeks after a few beers. It was undoubtedly the oddest compliment I have received, but so sincerely meant that I was happy to take it.
They say that opposites attract, so it makes sense that someone with his swarthy looks would be intrigued by my pink blush.
A Sicilian friend once told me about spending a holiday on the nude beaches of Italy, surrounded by his naked countrymen.
“It sounds like heaven,” I swooned.
“No, it was boring,” he replied. “They all looked like me!”
For me it would be a beach full of exotic looking men, for him it was like looking into an infinity mirror.
One another occasion, my partner and I were visiting Brighton and were having a meal in The Lion & Lobster, a large corner pub situated on the opposite side of town from the city’s famous gay scene. Inevitably, after a few pints, I needed to use the bathroom.
There were only two porcelain urinals in the Gents, tucked into a compact alcove.
I was immediately struck by the management’s curious choice of décor. Each of the three walls that made up the nook were covered in an assortment of mirrors, of all shapes, sizes and styles. They filled the walls from just below waist height to ceiling. It looked like the designer had raided every Poundshop and thrift store in Brighton and Hove for mirrors.
As I stood there, admiring the eclectic collection, another customer entered the gents and squeezed in at my side, awkwardly brushing against me in the tight space.
He glanced around at the walls and immediately commented, “What’s with all the mirrors?!”
“I was just wondering the same,” I said. “I’ve never seen myself pee from so many different angles before,” then added with a wink, “or other people for that matter.”
The guy smirked uncomfortably and starred resolutely ahead.
I must have been feeling particularly emboldened by those two pints, as this wasn’t a gay venue, yet I still flattered him with, “By the way, Not bad!”
The guy gave an uncomfortable laugh, “I’m laughing mate, but you know it’s with fear, right?”
“That’s alright,” I responded. “I’m blushing… and I can see it in every mirror.”
We exchanged pleasantries as we washed our hands then both left the toilets, chuckling as we returned to our respective partners. I bet his girlfriend didn’t let him out of her sight again.
I never did confess that the angle of the mirrors meant that I couldn’t really see anything. I didn’t want to disappoint him.
On another night out at The Golden Cross in Cardiff, I barrelled into the pub toilets and stepped into the only available space at the long communal urinal.
A friend’s boyfriend was stood on my immediate right, so I greeted him with a friendly, “Hello… no peeking!” I glanced to my left and noticed that the lad stood there was very cute, so leaned over and cheekily told him, “You can peek if you want… I’ve just peeked at you.”
The lad let out an exasperated, but good-humoured sigh, and said, “Now I’m not going to be able to go!”
We men are a delicate bunch and can be so easily put off our stride.
“Come on,” I teased, “you can do it.”
“Nothing’s going to happen with you stood there.”
“There’s a que forming.”
“Now I’m under pressure!”
“Let’s see who manages to pee first,” I suggested.
He rolled his eyes, “Great, now it’s a competition!” I started to urinate, my amber stream rattling noisily off the metal trough. “A competition that I’ve just lost.”
He still hadn’t managed to go even as I zipped up and left.
A short while later, I spotted the lad emerge from the Gent’s toilet and we gave each other mischievous grins. I weaved my way across the busy pub to introduce myself properly, shook the lad’s (hopefully washed) hand and told him my name.
He responded, “I suck,”
Taken aback by his unexpected candour, I countered, “Well, that’s good to know, but more information than I was expecting.”
He looked puzzled and replied, “It’s only my name.”
“Your name is ‘I Suck’?!!!’
He was Welsh, but this was one regional name that I was not familiar with.
“NOOOOO!!!” He cried, “Not ‘I Suck’! My name is Issac.”
That made far more sense, although I must confess to feeling a tad disappointed.
The most farcical predicament I have found myself in, happened back home in Birmingham.
We all know that nightclub toilets aren’t always used for the purpose for which they are provided. It doesn’t matter whether the club is gay or straight, there will be people taking advantage of the facilities for a quick sexual encounter.
The guy stood next to me at the urinal of this particular club, made it quite apparent that he was up for fun. He didn’t have to say anything… it was out there and obvious.
I nodded my head towards an empty cubical and raised a suggestive eyebrow.
“I am shy,” the guy muttered.
I glanced back down at his aroused crotch and said, “Not that shy, clearly!”
He considered for a moment then nodded his consent and we both stepped into the waiting cubicle.
Afterwards, as we readjusted our clothes, the guy motioned for me to remain quiet and listened at the thin door. He looked concerned and whispered, “There is someone out there.”
“Don’t worry,” I whispered back. “I’ll stand behind the door when you open it then you leave and I’ll slip out once the coast is clear.”
He nodded and we executed our simple plan.
The door opened inwards and was on the side of cubical, rather than facing the toilet, so it was easy to flatten myself against the wall and remain concealed.
Unfortunately, as my brief acquaintance made his escape, another guy immediately walked into the cubical to take his place! This new fella closed the door and bolted it without turning around or giving my feeble hiding place a glance. He didn’t notice that I was there and started to relieve himself. This stranger was completely oblivious to the fact that I was stood, flattened against the wall, merely feet behind him in what should have been his private space!
Well, this is a bit awkward, I thought. I’ve got to reveal my presence, but without scaring this poor man to death.
In the least threatening tone I could muster, I gently said, “Don’t be afraid, but I’m behind you.”
He reacted with amazing composure. I get startled if someone so much as speaks to me unexpectedly while focused on something as mundane as doing the washing-up, let alone being surprised by someone when I think I am alone in a confined space.
After that encounter, I’ll be staying out of toilet cubicles, try to avoid further sitcom scenario and stop talking to strange men at the urinals…. Oh, hang on, maybe I’m the strange man?!