Sweet Hitch-hiker

I picked up our pay in cash from the club owner. Seventy five bucks. Michelle helped us load our stuff into Bart’s car. “Good thing you guys don’t have a drummer,” she said, looking at the packed back seat. “How are we going to unpack when we get home?”

“What do you mean?” Bart said. “We’ll just go dump everything at the rehearsal space.”

Michelle crossed her arms. “All three of us? I guess I can sit on your lap if Daron drives.”

Bart nudged me. “Hey, Earth to Daron, are you in there?”

“What?” I didn’t feel like I was all there. Part of me was still on the stage, frozen in a moment in time. The other part was wondering where he was now. My mouth went on. “I can’t drive.”

“What do you mean, you can’t drive? You never told me that.” Michelle looked at me like I just said I came from another planet.

“You never asked.” I’d never seen Bart let anyone drive his car before, not even Michelle, anyway. “I don’t have a license, I never learned.”

Michelle raised an eyebrow and shrugged, “That must’ve been hell growing up in New Jersey.”

“I didn’t go out much.” I pointed at the front seat. “Well, you can sit in my lap if you want.”

Once we had settled in, I sank back down into my daze. Michelle was curvy and good-smelling in my arms and I waited for the ride to be over with an anxious stomach. Loading in was easier than getting out of the club. Our rehearsal place had ramps instead of stairs and we rolled the amps right on up. When our cubicle was padlocked, Michelle bumped me in the arm. “Good thing you guys have insurance, huh?”

“Yeah.”

“So, aren’t you going to ask me how it sounded?” She steered me back to the car where Bart was waiting. I got into the back seat.

“Sorry,” I said, “I’m kind of out of it, now.”

“I guess that means it was a good show for you,” she said, rolling her window down a crack.

“You could say that.” I leaned back in the seat. “Bart, how ’bout you?”

Bart gave us a short technical rant about monitors and not being able to hear me all the time and other things that had bugged him. Some part of my brain was taking it all in, storing it for future use, maybe, but I wasn’t processing any of it as it went in. “Yeah,” I said at the end. Boston was going by outside the car windows. “Hey, you can leave me off right here.”

“Here?” We were at the edge of downtown, nowhere near where I lived.

“Yeah, I’m going to get something in Chinatown.” I guess I would have usually asked them to come along. I guess they knew that because they exchanged glances in silence. “Right up here’s fine.”

Bart pulled the car over at the corner of the theatre district, all two blocks of it. He looked like he was about to ask if I was okay, but then switched to: “See you tomorrow for rehearsal?”

“Yeah.” I waved to them. “See you.” I felt their eyes on my back as I made my way down into Chinatown.

All the neighborhoods in Boston are small, much smaller than New York, for example. Chinatown is maybe four short blocks on either side. On one edge is the red light district, which is all of two and a half blocks on Washington Street, with one XXX theater, two or three adult bookstores, and one peepshow. I ended up in one of the bookstores, wandering up and down the aisles. They had almost as many books, magazines and videos for gay men as they had for straight men. I’d been in this place before, never bought anything; everyone in there always looked furtive and nervous. Including me. My eyes flickered over photo after photo of gigantic erections, Rock Hard! one title proclaimed. I reached out to touch the shrinkwrap, then pulled back as if it might burn me. I felt nauseous, then, like it was too hot in the store, like I was carsick, like my own erection was twisting my guts into knots.

I walked. I walked back through the theatre district, passed hotels and dark shops, across empty streets. I came to a familiar bench facing a closed jewelry store, and there I waited. Come on, I thought, Mister Bomber Jacket, where are you tonight?

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