Frogs, Fruits and Loads

Are you carnal and carnivorous? This Sex Review, a moveable feast from London to rural Eastern Bulgaria, has plenty of sweet and unsavory moments: a plague of frogs, a visit to a witch doctor, and two farmhands getting fruity in a cherry orchard...

Nick Crowe

EASTERN BULGARIA – It was nearly midnight when Kemal finally picked me up from an abandoned petrol station near the Romanian border. I’d been waiting for hours after taking the bus from the Bucharest airport. He was worried about getting pulled over for driving without a license. In Eastern Bulgaria, the highway patrol only works until 10PM. But then again, Kemal was always anxious or angry about something, as if the whole world was conspiring against him.

When we met off Grindr six months earlier in the suburbs of London, I was drawn to his burly frame, dark, glossy hair and strong brow, which framed eyes that were gentle when they weren’t blazing with anger. At the time, he’d been drifting from job to job due to a habit of either starting fights or feeling up the guys he worked with at one warehouse or another. He was like one of Jean Genet’s rough trade. The first time we met, he rode the bus for nearly an hour from his work to my apartment and arrived smelling ripe with sweat. His hands went straight for my ass. He knew I preferred to top but clearly wasn’t going to get fucked without a fight. And we both knew that, in a fight, he’d surely win. In the bedroom, he pushed me down and pinned my legs back so fast I thought my hamstrings would snap. He began to rim me, and his stubble felt good on my hole. I conceded that he’d won this round. Kemal went off to the kitchen to fetch lube and came back with a gob of putty on his fingers, which looked a bit like Vaseline, and smelled strangely salty. He used it to gloss up his thick, cut dick. I asked him what it was. ‘Beef fat,’ he said, and before I could let that thought marinate, he began to fuck me with agonizing fury. I was in pain for days afterwards. The following weekend, Kemal brought me a quince to apologize for his roughness and, I suppose, for the beef stench. Until our trip to Bulgaria, it was the last time I bottomed for him.

We were in Bulgaria to help his parents on their fruit farm. Kemal wasn’t out to his family, and I was introduced as his “friend from the warehouse”. He’d grown up in a town named after a made-up tsar where all of the villagers are, like him, of Turkish descent. Most are old enough to remember the “Big Excursion”, as the 1989 ethnic cleansing of Muslims from the region is called. Those who stayed have had little access to public services. Kemal’s mum had to smuggle him into Romania just to be circumcised. The beer we drank was cheaper than water, and pork appeared in all the “beef” products – another kick in the teeth.

After nearly an hour on unpaved roads, we pulled up to a squat cinderblock house facing an orchard. His parents were awake, a dinner of chicken and potatoes waiting. His dad tried to intimidate me by seeing how much rakia I could stomach. We bunked up in a room above his grandma, who spoke no English and picked even more fights than Kemal. Yet between her screaming, whenever our eyes met, she shot me a broad grin, as though she understood what I was really doing there.

I brushed the soil off my filthy clothes, squatted over a strawberry patch, and pushed out his load.

We shared a single bed, which surprised me, given Kemal’s fear of being outed. After long days picking cherries and walnuts from the orchard, or overripe apricots from the trees that lined the neighborhood streets, we’d collapse sweaty and exhausted onto each other – though I still couldn’t manage to sleep. For years, I’d been suffering from sleep paralysis so severe I often found it better to stay awake all night. I’d seen several doctors in the UK, and none of them had been able to do anything. After a few sleepless nights, Kemal suggested we visit the local witch doctor.

The journey took an hour on rough backroads. Like Kemal’s town, this one was full of half-built houses and a cinderblock mosque. As we joined a queue outside the witch’s house, Kemal explained that doctors are too expensive for locals, so most people rely on these healers.

The witch was short and shriveled with a mischievous air – a bit like Kemal’s grandma. Her tits hung down to the waistband of her harem pants. Amulets and evil eyes hung on the wall, and a Turkish oil wrestling match played on a TV in the background. She read coffee grounds in a cup and told me something about having been in a “life-changing” car accident, which wasn’t true. Kemal translated, and told me that the witch, who came from a nomadic tribe, kept mixing up her verb tenses. She proceeded to dip a ladle into a pot of molten lead bubbling on the hearth. The ladle glowed like a small red planet as it orbited my head. Finally, she cast its contents into a bucket of ice water, which erupted in billows of noxious steam. When the clouds settled, we looked down into the bucket at strangely gnarled shapes that she explained were the poisons being drawn out of my body. As we paid, she told me to tape a coin to the sole of my shoe to ensure I’d always stay on top of my finances.

The mood turned tensed on the drive back. The car got pretty beat up from the trip, and Kemal was nervous his dad would be upset. I kept thinking about what the witch had said about a car crash – what if she used the past tense but had really meant the future? – when suddenly we screeched to a halt. Hundreds of frogs sat motionless on the road in front of us. Maybe it was where we had just come from, but the scene seemed prophetic, Biblical. Kemal was fuming. We were already late. He rushed out and started moving the frogs by hand, one by one, from the road to the shoulder. Eventually enough of them got the message and hopped off, so we were able to continue the trip.

By sunset we were back at the farm. I asked Kemal to go for a walk in the cherry orchard. He was still tense. I’d been wanting to ask him if he planned to leave London someday and settle permanently on his family’s property, and if so, how he felt about returning to a place where he wasn’t out. But before I could, he pulled down my shorts and pushed me onto the ground. The full weight of his muscles pressed me down and I tasted the damp earth. He fucked me hard and fast, squeezing my neck in the crook of his elbow. I struggled to breathe. It couldn’t have lasted more than a few minutes before he came inside me with a low growl. After he finished, he stood, but my body lay there limp. I didn’t turn my head, but heard the sound of his zipper, then his belt buckle. ‘Be ready for dinner in five,’ he said, and walked away.

When I finally got up, I could just make out Kemal’s silhouette at the end of the orchard where he was talking to his mum. Before heading back to the house, I brushed the soil off my filthy clothes, squatted over a strawberry patch, and pushed out his load. His cum was a horny reminder of our encounter, which I still hadn’t fully processed, and I wondered if it would make good fertilizer.

I never had sleep paralysis again.

Published on 25 January 2024