In the two weeks that followed we played a lot of games – though for some reason we never got around to that Badger game he’d originally proposed. Once he learned of my chromosomal preference thought, we developed a vicious house remix of the Spanish Prisoner. The Spanish Prisoner and its most famous modern variant, the Nigerian Mail Scam, is the proverbial free lunch that turns out to be anything but. In its classic form the mark is approached with a tale of woe and injustice. Somewhere some authorities are keeping the roper from access to his rightful wealth. Penniless as he is right now, he desperately needs some funds to pay the bribes and fees necessary to get his treasure to safety – an investment he would pay the mark back a hundredfold, once successful, of course.
Everyone who hears of this game thinks he could never be lured. But the beauty of it is that in truth everyone can be lured – given the right lure. For some that lure may not be money.
The version we developed and the we called The Teen Ticket went roughly like this: The mark encounters me and Charley in some suggestively seedy spot around Union Place, with me practically begging Charley to help me in return for (only shyly and obviously reluctantly hinted at) sexual favours. Charley, although obviously lusting, remains cold-hearted and distant, pointing out the legal risks to him. Eventually he shakes me off and leaves me in some dark corner quietly struggling with tears and read to be approached by the mark.
My legend would always be some variation on this tune: Coming from some backwater continental village with ultra-conservative sexual mores I had followed internet invitation and promises of true love by some lecherous old poofter. Upon arrival here I found that he had been in contact with several youngsters and that a rival had arrived at the same time. The best story to hook the mark turned out to be some lurid tale of how the old man had made my rival and me enter a sort of bidding war of what we would be willing to do in return for bed, board, and affection. As long as I blushed a lot, stumbled over my words, played up my accent – giving it an eastern twist – and obviously almost choking on trying to repeat the offers I had been forced to make and those that had trumped mine, it almost invariably assured the success of the game. I’m not quite certain why, but I think it was the combination of fanning the mark’s hidden desires and at the same time providing him with a way to avoid the guilt by assigning him the role of the good Samaritan.
Anyway, the conclusion of the tale would always be how the old man had kicked me out but not without buying me a ticket back to the motherland. After all, one he had found his perfect loverboy, he wanted to get rid of the worthless runner up. But I had burned my bridges, no place to go, and no money to stay. Being not even 16 I couldn’t easily return the ticket for cash – and that was what I needed help with.
I wouldn’t directly offer sex, and I wouldn’t ask for anything, not money nor a place to stay. All I would ask for is the help of a grown up to get a refund for the ticket – a ticket rightfully mine. But implied was of course that once I had that, I would still be in need of a bed to sleep in and perhaps a companion to warm it. And nearly no matter what they would dream off, they knew they would remain decent folks if compared to the arsehole for who I had left my home and come here.
The cruel genius of the game was that none of this mattered. The entire routine, the sob story, the process of going to the train station and a ticket refunded (a very time consuming process in Edinburgh at the height of the Festival), it all had only one point: To keep the mark occupied. Because as he kept me company in all this, I would relieve him of his flat- or hotel-keys and pass them off on Charley. Charley would then in all leisure loot the place, return the keys to me, and eventually I would ditch the mark under some pretence.
I wish I could tell you that the marks we suckered deserved it, that they were evil paedophiles who only helped me to get into my breeches – though I do think most them were paedophiles (or hebephiles, if you want to get technical) and did want to get into my breeches. But I am not certain many of the would have done so had I given them a chance. Desire is not deed. And with some of them I suppose I wouldn’t even have minded.
But the reality was that none of them deserved it. It was a rotten game, through and through, a cruel, calculating mindfuck, designed to play at one on the best and the worst that exists in everyone of us, and to exploit it shamelessly.
And I loved it, every single time. I loved the guarded, tentative way they approached me. I loved elaborating my story, fine tuning the details to the body language of the marks so to evoke the maximum mix of lust, horror, and compassion. I loved their attention. I loved that through all this I remained untouchable: I was a “child” and they were queer men. And they knew it. As far as I know none of them went to the rozzers.
I loved how I could make them dance on my strings, how I could make them hungry to give, only to then take behind their backs, how – using the subtle alc hemy of the con – I could turn their yearning and generosity into my profit, and their shame and fear into my armour.
And a few precious times I got to see that crazy, anguished flickering of hope for something long given up on in their eyes. And I knew that was the real reward I was playing for.