A Brazilian New Year in Hong Kong (December 31, 1998 / January 1, 1999) —For New Year’s 1998, I found myself in Hong Kong, visiting my best friend from grad school and his family. I stayed with him, his wife, and daughter in their fancy three-bedroom ex-pat apartment, which was a huge cost-saver for me in that ultra expensive city. On New Year’s Eve, my friend accompanied me to a cocktail party thrown by a gay expat couple I knew there. After the party, he left to go home, while I decided to stop by Propaganda, the island’s long-time gay disco.
In the bar area, I noticed a handsome, built, 30ish man who stood out noticeably among the primarily Chinese crowd. I introduced myself to him and learned his name was Jean Carlo. He was a Brazilian model, lived in London, and was visiting Hong Kong with a friend. Our mutual attraction was immediately evident. All that remained was to figure out where we could go to have sex.
Unfortunately, Jean Carlo was sharing a hotel room with his friend, so he couldn’t bring me back there and I couldn’t bring him where I was staying, for obvious reasons. I didn’t think we could find an affordable room to rent at 2 a.m. So, in a moment of passion, I set aside my usual high moral standards and decided to sneak him into my room in my friend’s apartment. After all, it was New Year’s Eve!
We stealthily slipped into my guest room, which abutted my host’s master bedroom, and quietly engaged in some rollicking gymnastics. Afterwards, I snapped a couple of photos to remember him by, and silently escorted him out of the building. We stayed in touch for 6-9 months by e-mail, but eventually we fell out of contact, the memory preserved in my few snapshots.
A month ago, I posted Jean Carlo’s photo on my Instagram page of vintage gay photos with an abbreviated account of our meeting, mentioning how fondly I remembered him. Within an hour, someone in his Brazilian home town tagged him on my Instagram page. Within a few more hours, Jean Carlo contacted me, excited to reconnect. He had moved back to Brazil five years ago, was recently partnered, gave up modeling and is now an artist. He told me I now have a reason to visit his city. If I don’t get there in the next year, he’ll probably stop in NYC en route back to visit old friends in London and we’ll get to see each other then.
A coda to my indiscretion in Hong Kong: my straight married host still lives there, but came out around 2005, shocking me and everyone else. He divorced his wife, met a younger local Hong Kong Chinese fellow, fell in love with him, and eventually moved in with him. In 2015, I was his best man and their only witness and photographer at their civil wedding at NYC’s City Hall. I subsequently stayed with them several times in Hong Kong, though I have never disclosed how I used his guest bedroom so many years ago. Some things are best left in the past. 🙂 —Mike Balaban