The night with the sisters haunted Joaquin. What sane, heterosexual man doesn’t fantasize about having two beautiful sisters at once? The warm, busy tongues on his cock, the layered landscape of breasts and buttocks, shoulders and thighs. The pleasure of violent and unmeasured thrusts into dense flesh so perfectly built to take them. That first orgasm so desperate to be unleashed that its initial pulse pushed his cum in an arched trail over Sonia’s body and a meter onto the prim, grey hotel room carpet beyond. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d come like that. Those moments he played back to a soundtrack of sighs and moans and guttural profanities choked out in his mother tongue. He retrieved each of those outtakes of pornographic perfection during his morning wanks in the shower. Instead of fading with use, the memories grew more vivid with each revisitation.
But there were other lingering symptoms, like the faint bruising of a week-old fistfight or a stumble through a dark and crowded room. That feeling of being outside, held at a distance despite all the apparent shedding of clothes and baring of skin and desire. In all that night, he couldn’t recall a single moment of real intimacy. Not a kiss or a spasm, not a caress or look to pull him through the wet webbing of flesh and into the warmth of belonging. This bothered him. Not because of its absence but because he felt its lack with such clarity. Whores, he thought with more bitterness than he cared to admit. Just whores. And even as he thought it, he knew he used the word as a shield against their subtle rejection.
He asked about them around the expat bars. Oh yes, various men had said in varying degrees of intoxication, the sisters. Those sisters. But no one knew who they were or where they lived or whether they were even still in town.
* * *
The annual Aussie Ball was an event no diplomat in Saigon could avoid. Unimaginatively themed and offensively over-priced, Joaquin was informed by official memo that every middle and senior official of the consulate was expected to attend.
He pulled on the only formal, black suit he had. Despite recent dry-cleaning, the chemicals didn’t mask the faint smell of mildew. His tight, black oxfords pinched his feet, as if living in the constant humidity had swollen them a size larger. He shaved with as much care as was possible in the soggy, evening heat, gelled his hair into a semblance of Sean Connery neatness and took a taxi down to the New World Hotel.
The ballroom was decked out in flags and dot-matrix posters for a night of James Bond retrospectives. Vodka martinis, shaken not stirred – but mightily watered down – were being borne on large silver trays around the foyer. Joaquin spotted at least five poorly executed Miss Moneypennies, several Miss Goodthighs, and one very convincing Plenty O’Toole.
Predictably, most of the men had come dressed as James Bond. It was just so easy to pull off. He did notice the Russian Consul General had opted to buck the trend, wearing jeans and a T-shirt with SHMERSH printed in large black letters. Joaquin wondered whether the man had managed to emerge from his usual alcoholic haze to appreciate the irony of his costume.
He milled around, murmuring to colleagues, perching and removing bland, official smiles for his corresponding numbers at other consulates, sipping watery cocktails, until Paco arrived late and with wife in tow, bad-tempered and impatient to see the end of the evening. His wife, Maria Cristina, was a rake thin Barcelonan who constantly complained about the pollution, the heat and the lack of hygiene at local restaurants. She’d been an assistant curator at some museum before coming to Saigon and had never forgiven Paco for derailing her career.
By the time Joaquin could extract himself from playing witness to a viciously whispered, escalating marital squabble, the lights in the ballroom had been dimmed and he made his way between the numbered tables to his designated seat. The music was already blaring, and the first unremarkable course was being dished up. It wasn’t until he’d seated himself and had a plate of prawns swimming in something foul-smelling placed before him that he looked up, and across at his table-mates.
There were the two Colombianas, flashing their unnaturally white teeth in his direction through the artificial gloom, with a tall, broad-shouldered man of approximately his own age seated between them. Joaquin experienced a moment of something akin to vertigo. Identically shaped face, same dark eyes, same high, almost swollen cheekbones. The male who sat between Sonia and Marta was a mascuilinized replica of two women. He had to be their brother.
There was no chance of conversation over the cacophony of James Bond Theme Songs, badly rendered by a succession of self-important expats. But each girl, in her turn, waggled a set of ostentatiously ringed and perfectly manicured fingers at him. Once the hotel staff had cleared the main course, he felt a hand on his shoulder and a seductive growl in his ear.
“We’re going to smoke some weed outside. Come with us.”