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Eusebius McKaiser

Eusebius McKaiser

Eusebius McKaiser is a South African writer, currently completing his
doctoral thesis in philosophy at Oxford University, on a Rhodes Scholarship. His thesis explores whether or not we are morally responsible for our beliefs. His social and political comment have been widely published in the South African media. He is currently working towards his first book, a collection of essays.

 Shades of the New South Africa

So there I am in Joburg in Cape Town. Celebrating thirty years of survival. The crazy world refuses to stop and acknowledge my tenacity. I am invisible in a space littered with twig-figured girls and boys with bulging muscle, as sexy as Popeye after a can of spinach, about to rescue his beloved twig-figurine, Olive. They are all draped in Diesel, Levi’s, CK and other funk-indicating labels I cannot pronounce, let alone spell. They dance and giggle and strut around the dance floor, moving skillfully to local house beats, the imported cosmopolitan sounds of London mixed with a hint of Gugulethu, to mask the victory of cultural imperialism. This is the new resistance politics. I inhale the sweet, horny smells of booze and cigarettes and sweat and hormones and youth and promise and life… the intoxicating aroma of the new south africa. I sit in a corner, making love to a bottle of Castle while scanning the room. For sex. For escapism. I choose my strategy. I try hard to look ‘upwardly mobile’ … yet chilled. The popular look seems to say “I’m-an-assistant-MD-but-have-loxion-kulca-flowing-through-my-soul”. I realise I am screwed. (Or rather I won’t be.) I’m not darkie enough to ooze even an ounce of loxion kulca through my coloured veins. I’m not rich enough to ooze assistant-MD. I’m not scrawny enough to masquerade the lie of ‘youthful innocence’. How did I sneak past the doorman? It must have been my coconut twang, I guess - but that brand seems so last year, as stale as the “I-spent-a-gap-year-in-London” gag.

“Are you ok, hon?” asks Leticia, my favourite faghag. “Yeah, I’m good babes! Enjoy yourself. Trust me, if I get bored with all these straights, I’ll let you know!”

“You look so bored, hon. We really don’t need to stay here if you don’t want to. I’m easy.” “Easy? Me too, babe!” She chuckles. The sincerity on her face makes me feel selfish for being bored. But it’s not her fault. Sometimes when you allow yourself to step back from the dance floor, you can become depressingly aware of the pointless deceptions we indulge in: sophisticated social games to keep our Christian sexual intuitions unchallenged; crowding out conversation with body-speak in case we don’t like the monster cloaked in label and fancy dance moves; keeping busy to avoid a confrontation with Meaninglessness.

I quickly snap out of my anti-social musings. I smile at Leticia with seductive eyes that whisper, “Babe, I have a beautiful project that I am working on. You know me … But you might spoil my chances if you look any more like we are together! Now voetsek!” I am trying not to make her feel guilty while she’s seducing yet another African hunk she has trapped somewhere between her American vivaciousness, her lascivious African assets and rather feisty -looking, knee-high, black fuck-me-boots. The post-Feminism look is a brash, contradictory concoction of emasculating self-confidence and genuine reclaimed-femininity. It works remarkably well, judging by Leticia’s posse of hapless victims. I take another sip from my flat Castle, my hormones becoming more restless with every swig. Daring to lose control. Letting go. Chilling. Chilled. Tasting the new south africa …

A gorgeous chlora bag in a crisp, pink shirt stands at the bar counter. Alone. “Hmmm” I think to myself. “You play for my team. Your eyes are way too soft and pink is no longer the new blue, just old fashioned gay pink! And you’ve had one facial too many. Can’t be straight.” I walk towards the bar, profoundly self-conscious of every step I take but trying hard to look nonchalant. The self-hating burden of being a ‘straight-acting gay man’ can be rather useful. Gay enough to smile ever so gently at your prey, with a look of longing in your eyes, daring him to hold your horny gaze for that magical three seconds… if he plays along, then you have sexual healing, guaranteed! Yet, straight enough to return any unexpected homophobic anger with an angrier, more thuggish expression that screams, “What the fuck are you starring at, you faggot? I also fuck girls.” Nothing wrong with exploiting gender miseducation to get a birthday shag…

“Could I have one Castle Lager, please?!” I ask the barman politely, himself a very pretty boy, sporting a beautiful upper body scantily clad in a black vest, the ‘before’ picture that marks the beginning of post-matric hedonism. It would be cruel to warn him that he will never be healthier. I make sure that boyfriend-in-pink can hear me project masculinity, politeness, confidence. This is a crucial step towards success – subtly reassuring your prey that you are a straight boy who just might be ready tonight (for the first time, of course) to experiment with another straight boy – discreetly.

Once I have my bottle of beer as a protective barrier, I am able to look at him with more honest lust. But I only muster a pathetic “Howzit”, sounding like a haggard ex-patriot back from pulling pints in Wimbledon. He looks at me for a split second, before looking away. Damn! Not long enough to judge if he is interested but shy or signaling a distinct disinterest in my team. If he is straight, maybe I should ask him if he’d like to be bisexual? That’s a pickup gag I haven’t tried yet. I smile at my own corny idea before guzzling down more beer, hoping for renewed inspiration at the bottom of the bottle.

Meanwhile, the crowd is growing. Couples courting. Black. White. Muslim. Indian. Coloured. Other….Verwoerd must be turning in his grave. A sexy defiance of his Immorality Act. I want to be a part of it. But as I am about to ask boyfriend-in-pink if he has a name, a pretty, long legged blonde walks over and kisses him. “Fuck. What a waste.” I mutter under my Castle breath and go soft instantly. I am disappointed. After being spoiled by choice gay hangouts on Christopher Street in New York and Old Compton Street in London, having to choose between seedy but gay Somerset Road and cool but straight Long Street is rather annoying. It’s 3am. I am losing my interest in guessing who else is acting straight or is straight but wants to act gay. The performing arts were never my thing.

Leticia appears just in time to witness my loss. But as she realises just how gorgeous the object of my longing is, she goes into angry black girl mode, “My god, what is wrrrrrrrong with black men?! Brandon, what does he think he is doing with that white girl? Look at her anorexic body. She does not even have breasts! She can’t cook soul food! She can’t understand his pain when he comes home from his racist workplace! She can’t meet his family in the ghetto! I hate this shit – colour-blind black men looking for an easy shag with white chicks fetishising their sexuality!! So many smart, professional black men are either gay or taken that I am gonna need blondie over there to keep her hands from the few still left!!“

Wow! That’s a lot of articulate anger, I think to myself. But I let her anger fill the air without deflating it. Leticia is particularly good at selling the lament of black women to an unsuspecting audience- not only are they discriminated against as women and as blacks but also as black women - especially by black professional men who hate their guts when they are outspokenly competitive and successful yet bemoan their acquiescence when they resign themselves to the downwardly-mobile roles of child bearer, cook and sexual repository. I have yet to decide whether this loud black American narrative is a curse of American brashness or whether my black South African girl friends have yet to find a voice with which to recite the same sordid story of victimhood. But right now I lack the imaginative energy to mince a mile in a black woman’s sad shoes, shoes not fit for my gay feet. I am still pissed off about my own thwarted fantasy. I ignore Leticia’s rant. I remind her that it is my birthday and tell her to shut up, lose the hunk and jump into a taxi with me. Soon we are speeding off to Bronx…


“You can always flirt with the doorman! You know they only hire straights to keep watch over us fags!” She is not too pissed off, having managed to secure a phone number, a snog and even a dinner date for later in the week. “Oh my god, Brandon, he was faaaaaaaaabulous!” is the mantra I have to put up with for the rest of the ride.

The cab driver gives us a good old colgate smile. It always amazes me how obsessed black south africans are with black americans. Or ‘niggaz’ as they proudly and loudly address some of my friends with every hint of excusable ignorance about what tags are kosher. The driver introduces himself as David (no doubt this is his ‘christian’ name ‘cause my coconut twang and Leticia’s americanisms would not have made it clear that i’m south african enough to handle ‘Sipho’). He clearly likes Leticia; it’s as if a member of the Huxtable family – or in Leticia’s case, Queen Latifah perhaps - had jumped straight from a TV set into the back seat of his cab. He looks well pleased with a sparkle in his eyes. His kids won’t believe he had given Queen Latifah a ride last night.

“Have you had a long night, David?” I have a habit of interviewing cab drivers. I don’t know what fuels this obsession: a paranoid’s tactic to soften a would-be murderer’s heart; pretending this is not a commercial transaction in which a drunk coloured boykie is paying an older bhuti to chauffeur him around the city; indulging the intellect by playing anthropologist…

“Yes, Mr. I’ve been riding da whole night. But my sift is ending now now.” I had misjudged. He is cape-coloured! The missing teeth and the accent are a give-away but Verwoerd’s minions would have misclassified him as a darkie. I wonder if elocution and teeth-inspection sneaked into the Population Registration Act? So, coloured people still come in all hues…the rainbow nation within the rainbow nation.

“You must be looking forward to getting home then? The wife will be pleased; it is cold tonight!” I always insert the heterosexual stereotype as a proudly-subtle probe….

“Ag, the blerrie missus will be fast asleep by now!” He gives a hearty chuckle and turns into Somerset Road. Leticia pokes me in the back to approve of my easy interaction with the folk.

I suddenly realise Rebecca Molope is screaming biblical quotes through the CD player and I briefly see before me a flashing image, a clip from one of her made-for-TV2 music videos, sporting an Afro (so three decades ago) and shedding CD-selling tears next to a waterfall as the Holy Ghost is implored to save wayward souls complete with the obligatory background choir parading an offensive blue and white uniform. On the dashboard of the cab a humble, pale looking Virgin Mary stares straight into my soul, no matter how many different positions I try to shuffle my drunken body into in the tiny passenger seat. “Don’t judge me,” I am tempted to say. But the look she wears is more one of pity, her Caucasian head slightly tilted and bony hands folded in prayer, no doubt asking the big man upstairs to show me The Way. Thank goodness it’s too late - I had chosen life over escapism many years ago. The cab driver’s off-key whistling is accompanying the next Rebecca track. I wonder how he manages to juxtapose his commitment to God with aiding and abetting the worst kind of sin – transporting man to sleep with man…

I get excited as we enter the gay underworld….my heart is racing, my eyes glistening, my booty excited…. I have to hide my joy behind a well-rehearsed façade of controlled calm worthy of secret agency employment. There is a fine line between an excited, over-the-top queen and a sexy, eligible, same-gender-loving man. And I am no queen. I slip past the doorman as soon as he and Leticia recognise each other, a sure sign that we are near-regulars who might soon slip into a brochure or onto a website advertising this sleazy hangout. Just as well I am skipping town soon.
The place is packed. In the centre of the floor is a well-stocked bar with half-naked, beautifully sculpted barmen. I can just imagine the job ads: ‘Fat and ugly men need not apply’. The gay market is tough. Certainly no place for oldies or fatties. Not that these outcasts stay away but they sure have to find desperate ways to succeed. Buying the young boy from the Cape Flats a drink, risking the trip home with a drug dealing Nigerian, squeezing into tight-fitting clothing unbecoming a sixty year old, waiting till the club closes to pester a drunken hunk who was left stranded – that part of the evening when a neon-sign seems to flash around all gay clubs, reading “Closing down sale – all stock must go!” If the sixty year old has a fat wallet in his pocket and cocaine at his flat in Camps Bay, he will likely barter his way to a good bargain by offering above-market prices. How can the unemployed Nigerian not sell his wares, what with the opportunity for an early morning scam? This is not innocent Cape Town paraded in glossy brochures. This is dangerous Cape Town, displaying the symptoms of multiple personality disorder, long hidden by the Apartheid government acting like an irresponsible parent shameful of dealing with the painful truth about her child. Still, if you are drunk enough, as I now am, the sexual honesty of Bronx is a welcome break from the cat-and-mouse games you are forced to play on Long Street.

After my second double vodka and redbull, I hit the dance floor, which is elevated behind the bar. The music is cheesy. The dance crowd is very young. (I often wonder whether gay men get abducted by aliens after they turn 40. At the very least they seem to become invisible. Older straight people at least have the excuse of being burdened with raising grandchildren.) The boys are gyrating as if battling it out for a spot in a raunchy R&B music video. Sadly, they are only a bunch of young screaming queens competing for the attention of a small number of older jocks staring from below, as if scanning a live menu. I ignore the scene and dance away to an old favourite of mine, ‘One more time’. I close my eyes for a few seconds, head spinning; my serotonin levels are a record high for the night, like someone on their third ecstasy tablet. I am now drenched in sweat. I open my eyes as the DJ leads into the next track. I walk instinctively towards the dark room where men are stripped of the tapestries of social identity: race, hair texture, clothing label, shoes, age and body type. The darkroom subtracts you from yourself till your bare sexual core is exposed but still cloaked by the security of the dark, creating a sexual market place in which all men are almost equal with only scent and penis size and touch to negotiate.

As I anticipate the thrill of public sex, an unassuming black boy catches my attention as I leave the dance floor. He can’t be taller than 1,7m and is wearing faded jeans, a loose hanging T-shirt over it. He is not good-looking. Yet, there is something charming about the quiet confidence on his face as he holds my gaze and we smile at each other. I change direction and find myself right next to him.

“Hi. I’m Brandon.”

“I’m Sifiso.” He returns the courtesy. And so the obligatory prelude to the first movement begins.

“Cool. Pleased to meet you. Where you from?”

“I’m from the Eastern Cape, bru.” Despite ten years of multicultural education I still find it jarring to hear black people use white lingo. Bru should not be spoken through such full authentic black lips. I don’t remember white kids appropriating words like bhuti, sharp, magents, hola… the linguistic vestiges of domination. I can only hope that Sifiso at least felt corny (my favourite whiteism) when he first mimicked white kids’ colloquialisms while pretending to own them as the stuff spoken on the streets in the township. But every coconut secretly knows that’s a lie. Overwhelmed by your own alienation in a foreign playground you quickly learn the social grammar of being white which starts with the business of vocab- chicks, kiff, sarmie, okes, dos, as well (exaggerated emphasis on ‘as’), moer (not to be confused with the coloured ‘moer’ which is pronounced ‘mooooooooooer’ moer is pronounced with umph and, importantly, without a rolling ‘r’ unless you are a dutchman), boet, nooit, sort of (pronounce ‘t’ as ‘d’)...(notice how much longer my coconut vocab is than my township vocab). But without flinching I continue in coconut-speak.

“That’s awesome bro. I’m originally from ‘slondon.” I make sure I emphasise ‘originally’ to indicate that you are only free to run away from your birthplace.

“I live in Walmer in P.E.” Of course you do, I think to myself and of course you are not originally from there. I wonder if you still visit New Brighton township?

“Nice! So what brings you to Gay Town, besides the gays!”

He laughs at my crap joke. It gives me a chance to touch his hand. And it feels good to touch him! Sometimes nonverbal communication is way cooler than semantic foreplay.

“ Ja, I do like the boys here. (chuckles.) But I work here too. I’m an MD for a consulting company down the road and I live out in Camps Bay.”

“Wow. Not just a sexy face huh?!” He smiles and winks at me. I feel a jolt of electrical lust running through my excited body.

“Married?” There goes my inner anthropologist again…

“Nooit bru! But my chick is beginning to nag me about it…glad she’s back in P.E for now!!” Interesting. Bisexual, I guess: the last phase of coming out. But let me humour him, satisfy his self-loathing DownLow alter-ego. Judging by his sexy voice, it will be worth the shag.

“Chicks can be bit much. I feel you man. My girl is back in London. Nice local girl. English girls are the way forward man. They worship your exotic python and don’t expect commitment for fear of being culturally insensitive!” He almost chokes as he laughs while taking a swig from his Hansa. If only he knows that I am about as straight as Michael Jackson is black (yes, ambiguous at ‘best’!!).

“I do like my girl though. Guys don’t do it for emotionally. It’s just a sex thing for me really. A bit of variety you know. I can’t eat chicken every single night even as a proud black man!” But not proud enough, I want to add. But I am not about to spoil my midnight snack.

“Hear! Hear!” I say instead with enormous heterogusto that scares an offensively ugly kwaito mavis scurrying past us like a rat. We raise our bottles, smile and hold each other’s gaze while downing a swig.

“I need to kiss you.” Before cheese has a fighting chance of dripping from the ceiling I quickly lean forward and taste his juicy lips enveloped by cologne no doubt costing the wages of the check-out girl who served him. We hold hands, start kissing intimately, caressing….holding our bodies against each other…. The moment lingers as our tongues intertwine and I think of how profoundly right the little book of gay love is when it advices ‘every man should have another man’s tongue in his mouth at least once in his life’…the music and crowd become cheap ornaments surrounding the priceless centerpiece of black gay love .. the fruits of the new south africa!! Amaaaaaaaaaaaaandla!


“Brandon, wanna go to the sauna? It’s just around the corner.” I have always wanted to go inside the Hothouse. I send an sms to Leticia, “Be back in half an hour babe. Stay put. XX” We rush out of Bronx like excited little kids desperate to get to the candy shop. Though only a block away, we drive to the Hothouse. I pretend not to be impressed by his BMW, partly to keep his humility in check, partly to keep my working class roots beneath the surface where they belong.

Some streetkids who were lying on the pavement like lifeless animals are briefly animated by the sound of the engine starting. Two of them, skinny little kids not older than 13, come running towards the car with their palms open, one on top of the other, in the same way Catholics do when they line up diligently for Holy Communication. Catholics, mind you, often wear the same melancholic, earnest expressions as these poor sods approaching the BMW. The one boy looks like he must be Azure, the central character in Duiker’s Thirteen cents. This connection makes me cringe as I think of the rich white men who are cruising around this area to fuck little boys like him as escapism from the monotonous regularity of their rich middle class lives. Why can’t they just take shit loads of coke? No doubt some have a penchant for both …

Sifiso seems totally oblivious. These streetkids are just part of the familiar landscape of Seapoint; to be negotiated but never to be acknowledged … such honesty may ruin your appetite while sitting at Newscafe enjoying the morning’s paper and overlooking the gorgeously blue ocean but for the aesthetic blotch of stray dogs and streetkids…

We drive a few minutes and I put my hand on his leg quite gently as if I had done so on countless road trips around the gorgeous south cape…

Once in front of the Hothouse, we get out the car, press a bell and are let in as if entering a friend’s house. The building is unassuming. The outside looks like an old Dutch façade not uncommon in this part of Cape Town. One of the few visible traces that the Dutch were not that crap at colonialism despite the fact that they were no match for the British. This is a residential area which gives the building the conveniently-deceptive feel of a genuinely quiet, conservative, private dwelling. Just what a shy DownLow couple would prefer- taking some of the sleaze – and unnecessary honesty - out of the occasion. No passing stranger would know the dirty secrets of this house to which we are about to add. The disgust in the eyes of the car guard patrolling the street does briefly make me self-conscious. He is happy to risk not getting a tip to show his disapproval of black men behaving in unAfrican ways. At least he is more principled than our cab driver from earlier. I am surprised when he chooses not to spit at me when our eyes meet for a split second – or worse, spit on the ground next to him in that powerfully insulting way that makes it clear you are as decent as the gwel he spat from his mouth.

Sifiso and I run up the flight of stairs very quickly. A bespectacled queen stands behind a counter with an iron grid separating her from us. For a brief second, I am not sure whether I am in a sauna or a confession booth. I dig into my pockets for cash, so we can get away from the bright reception lights which makes me feel like I have been pushed onto a stage against my will. We pay, find our lockers, get undressed, store our clothes, drape towels around us and walk quickly to the nearest cubicle. No conversation passes between us. That seems to be against house rules. We drop the towels and start kissing, caressing…I look at him with intense desire and longing, pretending to have the magical power to turn the unfamiliar space between us into genuine intimacy. We lie down on the mat. I stroke his face before I tear open the condom, pass it to him and encourage him to enter me ….but the intimacy seems to be a one way affair. He is becoming a little nervous, looking like an experimental teenager. The calm confidence of the stranger who had kissed me in Bronx has gone into hiding. I try to kiss him gently, reassuringly, but he remains nervous. Still, he obliges me. Eventually his muscles start tightening as his hormones take control and he climaxes inside me before withdrawing and removing the condom.

We fall down on the mat, sweating, still breathing hard. I decide to break the house rules and initiate a second installment of chit-chat. “Cheers, that was great!” I compliment him with a smile of playful gratitude. He smiles back. Words elude him. His face seems emotionless. We stare at each other, arms embraced. I want more. It takes me a few seconds to arouse him again. Before we know it, we are kissing, and the second movement is in full swing…it is his turn to be entered. I am hornier than ever. Gay man cannot live on being receptive alone! I won’t be able to think straight until I have unleashed my manhood on him. I enjoy being inside him. He seems unmoved, at first protesting gently before letting me continue. I fall into an emotional maelstrom: lust, passion, fear, power, freedom… for a glorious five minutes I dominate him as I thrust myself into him…living the fruits of the new south africa….. a liberating moment of abstraction from a diseased reality, obliging primal instinct, freeing millions of little Brandon’s without the burdened gate keeping of latex. We fall down, sweat dripping, clutching each other tightly, morphed identities strewn on a mat that reeks of the gay underworld…

We lie in silence, just breathing heavily, wrapped in sweat.

No one speaks. We are bathing in post-orgasmic glow. I have a very unmanly habit of not wanting to just pass out next to my partner after climaxing. In fact I find myself suddenly wanting to dance for hours or go running through the botanical gardens. I just don’t get how normal men have the impulse to collapse after a bout of raunchy love-making. I at least feel like launching into a hearty conversation about how life, love and everything else.

I turn on my side and stare into Sifiso’s face. He is lying on his back with his hands behind his head staring at the ceiling. I guess he must be a more normal man …no post-orgasmic chit-chat for him. I stroke his face. For a split second he seems to pull back. I decide not to try the trick again lest I confirm his revulsion for any further intimacy.

But it strikes me that his mind is fixated on something. I wonder if he is regretting gay sex? Not another self-loathing black gay man to deal with, I think to myself.

“You ok?” I ask with a discombobulating mixture of concern and sensuality.

He chooses silence.

But not just any silence, it strikes me…ominous silence.

“What’s wrong mate? Wanna head back to Bronx?”

Why do gay men have a monopoly on existential crises?

I wreck my brain wondering what’s on his mind.

I suddenly remember, or rather accept that I have failed in my conscious attempt to forget…

“Have you been for a test?”

I break the eerie silence. Having been in england for a while I find myself not brave enough to be forthright and choose oblique words instead…

“Yes”. He plays the same game. It must be a cross-cultural universal.

My heart races. I hate minimal responses – they are torturous!

“What was the result?”

“I am positive”. The H-word is unnecessary.

I am instantly sober.

“Fuck. Are you being serious?” I can only hope that he is taking the piss.

“Jokes, man. I am safe. I get tested regularly.” He smiles and slaps me lightly. The cheesy music in the background is not a strong enough sedative. Not least because his body language changed like that of a schizophrenic: from anxious and quiet to jovial and expressive in less than a second…

I don’t feel reassured. Why the fuck was I so stupid?! I feel like crying but am icily calm. I try to focus in the hope that sufficiently strong concentration will generate magical powers that will allow me to undo what had happened. It strikes how profoundly lonely the most intimate mistakes of one’s life can be. The world outside is a rich cacophony of sounds…life continuing unabated. The only constant in this world is Life and the life of a particular human being is a mere dot in the continuous line of Life… the dot that is you will be replaced by a new one once you have faded. But god how I don’t want to fade just yet. The birds are already chirping as if I had not just made a disastrous life choice born of insatiable self-destructive capacity … human all-too-human …

“Sifiso, I need you to be honest with me. Please? If you are positive, just tell me. There is nothing we can do now. We were stupid. But I need to know.”…

I tremble as I speak.

His face is expressionless and I find it hard to read him. But at the epicenter of the pandemic, fear is the least I can feel. Though I wish it would not only grip me post-fucking - up….

“You are positive, aren’t you?”

He nods, and says almost inaudibly, “Ja…” This time his tone is earnest, deadly.

I lose my ability to speak like someone who had just witnessed a horrific accident that left them permanently dumb.

A vacant diseased body stares at me.

I am drained of all emotion.

I bury my thirty year old face in his motionless upper body, a tragic variation on Stockholm syndrome.

His cold culpable eyes are fixed on the ceiling.

The birds refuse to stop chirping.


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