A Stranger’s Touch by Anne Brooke
Male prostitute, Red, is given an assignment by his pimp and lover, Robbie, with a very unusual client. Red meets the stranger in a darkened house in London and, during their sessions, he learns more than he ever knew about lust, love and his own personal history.
How will his curious and life-enhancing encounters with the stranger affect his relationship with Robbie and his clients, and can love ever be part of a hooker’s life at all?
I found this short story to be very interesting and purposefully obtuse. Due to this, my interpretation of the story may not be the one the author had in mind or even intended. Other reviewers may read the story and come up with a completely different idea of what happened and what it meant as well. So that makes this review, perhaps even more so than others, pure speculation and opinion on what I read. I’d urge readers to simply pick this up and see what they think of it.
The premise is very simple – a hooker is sent to a house to meet a client. However instead of sex, the client decides to help the hooker. Here Red is introduced as a young male prostitute that loves his job. Given the short length of the story, none of the characters are very well developed, but Red is the central and only important figure. He’s a sex addict that is happy in his job. He craves sex and pleasing customers so working as a hooker makes Red happy. Red also knows that he can’t control his addiction and thus works for his pimp, Robbie, who keeps Red safe. Red and Robbie’s relationship is one of pimp and hooker and Red is mostly satisfied with that. He loves Robbie and accepts his will over everything. Their relationship is shown in several scenes where small details hint at a deeper connection while the main framework of their relationship stays the same throughout.
The client Red is sent to see is a mysterious figure that helps Red. This help is somewhat supernatural but the intent and actual letting go is intentionally vague and confusing. However it happens, the client allows Red to let go of the issues holding him back. Red doesn’t want out of his life- he loves his job and his pimp. Instead the client allows Red to let go of his sexual addiction and his painful past, to fully embrace the happiness of his life. Perhaps this is not a happy life most would want but Red does and the client –through touch- takes away the barriers to that happiness.
There are a few problems of course as the final scene between Red and the client seems to veer off course. The client is like a therapist, helping Red over his problems so the sex scene seems out of place and inconsistent. This felt like it was added just to placate the erotic nature of the publisher. This is pure speculation on my part and honestly wouldn’t know but that’s how the scene felt to me. Furthermore the story indulges in Red’s feelings for the client a little too long since the client isn’t the essential figure. He’s there to help Red let go and embrace love and know that he’s truly loved but Red’s reciprocal love is not needed. Red loves and wants his pimp so loving the client is immaterial in my opinion.
However these are just my impressions and the writing is truly lovely. There is a quality to the word choice and prose that draws you in even as the story is confusing and frustratingly vague. There are a number of things to like about the story from the writing and unique approach, if overdone, to Red’s undeniable charm. I don’t doubt that others may read something entirely different into the characters and their meaning, the actions of the story. Either way, check it out and see for yourself.
Get it HERE!