In the bus terminal in Chicago, on my way to South Haven and the lake. My failure to communicate has brought me here, my sister Kathy not having picked me up because I never told her I was coming until she'd made other plans. So I took the early flight I would not otherwise have taken, rising at four to get to the airport by five to get on a plane at six that got me to O'Hare at eight. Then an hour on the CTA blue line to Clinton Ave, a desolate spot on the west side, not even adjacent to the bus station but instead two blocks' walk along empty streets that were charmless in broad daylight in August and I'm sure are miserable and windswept on a January night.
I was in the Chicago bus terminal once before, more than twenty years ago, when I was a senior in high school on my way to visit colleges in the upper Midwest. That terminal was in the Loop, a forbidding multi-story place arrived at through the basement streets of Chicago's second, underground grid. I was there at night, and I don't remember much about it except that at 18 and from sheltered Kilbourne, Ohio, I was glad not to be fated to spend much time there. Its population was the same as every bus station I can remember: the homeless, the itinerant, the poor people with shabby luggage, stone-eyed cleaning staff, a few backpackers.
This new station on the west side is brighter, cheerlessly modern, but populated by the same folks. At 45, I'm not threatened, just depressed - and yet comforted, even filled with a slightly nostalgic sense of adventure that's been bled out of airports in the twenty-first century. Something might happen on this trip.
When I woke at four this morning I was sporting a rock-hard erection that had forced its way out through the fly of my shorts and didn't want to quit. I might have been dreaming; don't remember. I spent the next hour too tired to do anything about it and too horny to let it rest, caressing it in the bathroom, squeezing it in my jeans, pulling one or twice while lying on the sofa waiting for the car. I suppose there's action to be had at 4:30 in the morning on a Saturday, if you aren't worried about making a flight; guys geting home from bars drunk and with their loins on fire, looking for now and promising nothing more than a mouth or an ass to unload in or a number of inches to offer one who craves them. But I was waiting for the flight, and the the call came telling me the car was outside, and I was on my way to LaGuardia and beyond.
So me and my boner, now fading, now roaring back to life, but never quite going and definitely never coming, stuck with each other through the security line where a hot guy with glasses was showing pecs and guns in a weathered A&F t-shirt. Through the boarding line with a guy who briefly seemed to make eyes at me; turned out to be sitting in my row but if he was interested he was clueless about how to show it. On the train from O'Hare to the bus terminal, a thick black kid with a moustache who sat two rows behind me making flirting impossible. And into the bus terminal, into the bathroom, filthy as you might expect: the stink spoils my mood and I wipe off the seat and sit down.
My mood but not everyone's it seems. Two stalls to my right, in the handicapped stall, a guy closes the door and sits. I hadn't noticed him. It wasn't the tattooed white guy getting dressed and bathing at the sink, the way people who ride buses all night do, tucking everything back into his jeans as I walked in the door. The guy two stalls to the right sits down and breathes out a loud "oh yeah" like he's taking August's best dump. Well, in truth, it doesn't sound anything like that. What it sounds like is a man letting his aching cock out of his jeans and feeling a mouth close around it and pull. But I definitely didn't hear two people come in behind me. Just to be sure, I duck a look under the partition - but I can't see anything other than a duffel bag. Dude over there keeps breathing heavy, keeps going "oh oh oh" every few seconds. Nobody takes a shit like that. He's rubbing one out.
Or am I just remembering Indianapolis?
On that bus trip to visit colleges, when I was eighteen, I had four or five hours to kill in the Indianapolis bus station. We went from Columbus to Indianapolis in the morning, sat there all afternoon, then took a different bus to Chicago that got there at ten o'clock at night. There was a Burger King, the way there was at every bus station in those days, and a bunch of TVs bolted to chairs like they were school desks, all in a row. You had to drop in a quarter every fifteen minutes or half an hour to keep watching. I spent most of the time there watching an Ohio State football game.
And there was a bathroom, of course, that I had to use once or twice. At some point in the afternoon I went in to take a shit - I mean, I'd been on the road since seven or eight in the morning. It was filthy, too. But I managed to find a stall in the middle of the row that was clean enough to sit down in.
And while I'm sitting there a man, much older than me - in my memory anyway - walks by the stall and looks at me through the crack between the partition and the door. We must have made eye contact. I wasn't out then, and I wasn't even admitting to myself that I was interested in guys, and I sure as hell didn't know how to cruise a public restroom, or more to the point how not to cruise. So we probably made eye contact. I kept doing my thing, minding my business - I was eighteen, not really in control of boners happening without warning, so who know if I got one then, but in any case he passed by again, and this time he stopped, and through the crack between the partition and the door I saw a big ugly black man stroking the biggest, blackest cock I'd ever seen in my life.
In fairness, I hadn't seen very many black dicks to that point in my life, mostly on boys in the showers at school, and not usually erect. So blackest might not be saying much. But it was huge, and he stood there in the middle of the bathroom, calmly stroking that thing and making it bigger and bigger and staring me right in the eye the whole time.
And Jesus fuck did I get hard.
I suppose it was traumatic; it was unquestionably predatory and in half a dozen ways illegal. But the trauma wasn't exactly from this dude exposing himself, and it wasn't from me getting turned on by it - it was from this big ugly black dude with a scary big cock knowing how turned on my innocent 18-year-old-self had suddenly got.
I was terrified, boner and all. I was too terrified to do anything about my boner and all. I finished up and wiped and went back out into the waiting room, sat back and stared as intently as I could at the little black and white pay TV. But every now and then out of the corner of my eye I'd see an ugly black dude in a white t-shirt, and when he caught my eye he'd stare right into my soul.
I'm still terrified by it, and it still gives me a boner.
On the bus now, heading through northern Indiana. I'm in the last row. In the seat in front of me is a beautiful black guy, about 25 maybe, his hair in cornrows, too thugged out but with the most beautiful face. His seat is tilted back so that every now and then, when he turns toward the window, our eyes meet. I'm still not good at this, still not sure if anything's going on, or what I'd do if I found out it actually was.
Still horny as hell. Going to stay that way all the way to South Haven, it looks like.
August 13, 2011