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Digital Subscriptions > Attitude > 269 > What Belongs to you

What Belongs to you

Illustration By Darren Hopes (athomeinspace.com)

This month, a new book, which has been met with universal acclaim, is released byfirst-time author American Garth Greenwell. Literary giant Edmund White has described it as a masterpiece and the New York Times' Book Review have called it an "important, instant classic" while New Republic say it is "the great gay novel of our times".

What Belongs To You is the story of an American teacher working in Sofia, Bulgaria, who, looking for sex in a public lavatory, meets young hustler Mitko. He returns to him again and again and their relationship becomes more and more intimate. The book is more than just the sexual story of a man and an escort meeting in perhaps an increasingly outdated way, but an intense examination of desire and shame, of what is handed down to us, and what really comes from within. It is published by Picador on 7 April. Here, exclusively, is the first chapter, entitled 'Mitko'...

THAT MY FIRST ENCOUNTER with Mitko B. ended in a betrayal, even a minor one, should have given me greater warning at the time, which should in turn have made my desire for him less, if not done away with it completely. But warning, in places like the bathrooms at the National Palace of Culture, where we met, is like some element coterminous with the air, ubiquitous and inescapable, so that it becomes part of those who inhabit it, and thus part and parcel of the desire that draws us there. Even as I descended the stairs I heard his voice, which like the rest of him was too large for those subterranean rooms, spilling out of them as if to climb back into the bright afternoon that, though it was mid-October, had nothing autumnal about it; the grapes that hung ripe from vines throughout the city burst warm still in one’s mouth. I was surprised to hear someone talking so freely in a place where, by unstated code, voices seldom rose above a whisper. At the bottom of the stairs I paid my fifty stotinki to an old woman who looked up at me from her booth, her expression unreadable as she took the coins; with her other hand she clutched a shawl against the chill that was constant here, whatever the season. Only as I neared the end of the corridor did I hear a second voice, not raised like the first, but answering in a low murmur. The voices came from the second of the bathroom’s three chambers, where they might have belonged to men washing their hands had the sound of water accompanied them. I paused in the outermost room, examining myself in the mirrors lining its walls as I listened to their conversation, though I couldn’t understand a word. There was only one reason for men to be standing there, the bathrooms at NDK (as the palace is called) are well-enough hidden and have such a reputation that they’re hardly used for anything else; and yet as I turned into the room this explanation seemed at odds with the demeanor of the man who claimed my attention, which was cordial and brash, entirely public in that place of intense privacies.

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About Attitude

Out gay NFL player Michael Sam leads our All American issue. Inside, there’s an exclusive extract from the book everyone’s talking about What Belongs To You, gay singer Parson James on growing up in the homophobic and racist Deep South, and an interview with the guys behind the excellent new Robert Mapplethorpe documentary. Elsewhere, there’s our Gay Guide to America, we look at Hollywood’s history of closeted movie stars, and celebrating the icons that made queer USA great. Plus, FREE with this issue our guide to best of Thailand.
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