The muffler could be heard from down the street and I knew he was here. It was a little past midnight when I snuck out of my house. Matthew picks me up in his jet-black 1965 Mustang Convertible. I snap on my seatbelt, ready for our next adventure, and he asks me, “Do you cruise?” Cruise? I had to take a second to think, Hmmm…do I “cruise”?
Matt was 27 and I was 17 because I don’t know, daddy issues, but that’s “daddy” with a “y” not “daddi” with an “i”. We met the same way any other gay high school junior meets a community college boy: at the Macaroni Grill while he was on a date with someone else.
He found my MySpace like a stalker, but as a 17-year-old repressed gay kid who grew up swooning over Leonardo DiCaprio in Romeo + Juliet, any sort of unsolicited stalking was perceived as romantic, so I could only assume that this was true love. After all, this was MySpace and the Macaroni Grill.
He was also an aspiring dancer who grew up in the old neighborhoods of San Antonio, so every fantasy of sleeping with a cast member from West Side Story was being fulfilled.
Now, when I first came out of the closet, my mother warned me of two things:
- Not to date any older men and
- NEVER GO TO THE PARK AFTER DARK.
At 17 I thought the world was out to get me, and I had a personal vendetta against “The Man”. At a certain point in every teenager’s life, “The Man” usually takes the form of your mother, so when she told me to stay away from older men and parks, I had every intention of getting my hands on both.
I’m a firm believer that age is just a number, but in the gay world, numbers aren’t just numbers. It’s your waist size, how many people you’ve slept with, how many Cher songs you can karaoke to without using a teleprompter. In this case, we’re talking about gay years which (due to an ancient homosexual algorithm I’m assuming) put Matthew and I decades apart, instead of a measly 10 years, but who was counting? Not me.
I guess the more time I spent with him, the more I regarded him as a mentor as well as a lover. Since we really couldn’t bring each other over to meet our mothers, we spent the majority of our relationship in his car, where we’d just drive around and pick a spot to hang out and make out. Our favorite spot was the Dairy Queen by my high school, where he’d order the chocolate Dilly bar and I’d order a Reese’s Pieces Blizzard with extra Reese’s. We’d sit in the parking lot until the sun went down as he gave me advice and knowledge of the gay world. What the best clubs were, how to make the perfect lemon drop martini, how to contort my body into a pretzel shape, and that a “cockpit” wasn’t just where the pilots sit.
So now he’s asking if I “cruise.”
I went down the list of gay words and phrases he taught me; bear, twink, otter, bathhouse, bottom, top, daiquiri, Dreamgirls, Liza, Barbara, “shaken, not stirred”, “Good morning”, “Get out”, but I couldn’t recall “cruise” being in the handbook and that’s when it hit me. CRUISE!
I gave him a very self-satisfied grin: “Duuuhhh! Of course I cruise! I cruise like every day!”
He raised an eyebrow. “Every day?”
“Suurrreee!!! On my way to school, on my way to work, sometimes on my lunch break, at the grocery store. I cruise every chance I get!”
I wasn’t sure why, but he had this confused, impressed expression on his face. He asked if I wanted to “cruise” that night.
In my mind, I’m picturing something along the lines of us riding into a golden sunset, Almost Famous style, with the top down, listening to Elton John with maybe Kate Hudson singing along in the backseat, donning heart sunglasses and a straw hat.
In my fantasy, I’ll look over at Matt in the driver’s seat and run my fingers through his silky black hair. I’ll ask him where we’re going next and he’ll turn to me in his aviator sunglasses, giving me a coy smirk and turning back to the road. My tiny dancer. We’ll drive to some hill looking over the skyline of downtown, (we’ve kicked Kate Hudson out already) and we’d make out and make love until the sun comes up. That was my idea of “cruising”.
“I would love to cruise tonight.”
He put the car in gear and we rode off into the night with the radio blasting and the night breeze blowing through our hair. We drove through an expensive neighborhood that I’d never seen before. The houses had red brick driveways, the sidewalks had palm trees and old orange glowing street lanterns.
“I’d love to have a house like this one day.”
With a twinkle in his eye he told me, “I know a lot of the people that live in this neighborhood…you’ll meet them soon.”
His eyes were on the road, but my mind was on our future and our matching “His and His” bathroom towels. Oh my god,was he taking me to his house? Or maybe he was showing me our future home?!
As we drove deeper into the neighborhood, the luxurious houses and streetlights began to disappear. Matt put the top back on the car and shortly after, we were pulled over in an isolated parking lot. The only light was from the moonbeams peeking through the trees. There were a few cars scattered throughout the lot, but it didn’t appear that anyone was around. I looked around for any landmarks to find my bearings and when I saw a sign with a giraffe and elephant, I figured we were close to the zoo.
Matt turned the car off. We undid our seatbelts and we started making out. It wasn’t a cliff overlooking the city lights or us driving into the sunset, but it was kind of romantic, almost like a scene from Sixteen Candles – minus the candles or someone born in the same decade. After a few minutes of lip-locking, he unzipped my pants and got busy. Normally I’d be into it, but something about the park after dark gave me the creeps. Maybe it was the idling cars.
I couldn’t place what was wrong. Discrete blowjobs in parking lots weren’t completely new to me, even though it’d been awhile since my time at Catholic school -yet my Spidey senses were tingling, and not in a good way. I was certain I saw something move in the bushes nearby. I asked him if we could just relax, and enjoy the peace and quiet.
I had the feeling I killed the mood. When he asked if I minded if he stepped out of the car for a minute, I didn’t hesitate. I watched him disappear into the dark.
I was still in my fantasy. I figured that maybe he was preparing a romantic picnic that we could share in the twilight.
20 long minutes later I came to terms that a picnic wasn’t happening. I began to panic.
I was about to hop out of the car to search for him, when I heard another rustle in the bushes. I strained my eyes to see through the darkness and that’s when I can see their dark silhouettes moving towards the car.
BEARS. Not the sort of bears from the zoo, but the bears Matt told me about from the “cockpit.” These were the Daddi’s-with-an-i. Large, burly, furry men with beards and lumberjack builds who had a taste for leather, sweat and fresh meat. There were two of them. I remember Matt telling me they liked to travel in pairs, and here I was trapped behind glass like a steak in a deli market.
They approached the car in a synchronized formation. While trying to keep calm, I focused my eyes straight ahead, avoiding any eye contact as my hand crawled for the automatic lock.
They were circling me with their trunk-like arms and bloodshot eyes. This was no Sixteen Candles, this was Jurassic Park. Do I get in fetal position?! No! That’ll provoke them! I’m thinking about what Sam Neill told the teenage girl from the movie when they come face to face with the T-Rex: “Their eyes are based on movement.” So I freeze.
I looked around. Where the hell was Jeff Goldblum with that flare stick?!
The alpha male leaned close to my window and spoke:
“You aren’t going to come out and play?”
Scratch Jurassic Park, this was The Hills Have Eyes.
“No, I’m fine thanks…waiting for a friend.” My voice cracked, hitting a pitch from a time before my balls dropped.
Bear #2 leaned into the driver’s seat window. “Oh, we’ve seen him…he told us to come get you.”
This was what my mom warned me about. Not the gangbangers in the park, but the gangbangs!
I lost sight of the alpha male and that’s when I come face to face with it; a thick, sausage-like, pink Prince Albert pierced penis, pressed up against my window. It was large and hairy. Sweaty.
Do you remember that scene from Jurassic Park when the girl starts flashing the T-Rex in the face with her light, like that’ll make it go away?, In my state of panic, I do something much worse. I dive on top of the car horn and start beating it like a Cherokee war drum, trying to signal for help.
The bears scattered like antelope, one of them scaling a tree like Wolverine, the other diving into the nearest bush, but I keep beating the horn, hoping Jeff Goldblum and Laura Dern will come to my rescue in their Jeep Wrangler (I’ve seen Jurassic Park quite a few times). Jeff and Laura never show up, but someone else does. A park ranger taps on my window with his flashlight, and I fall out of the car and grasp his knees. Through gasping breaths I channeled the teenage girl from the movie, screaming, “He left us! HE LEFT US!”” (Y’all know what I’m talking about.)
I’m trying to tell him about Matt disappearing into the park, about the men circling my car, the Prince Albert at my window, and that’s when Matt appears from the brush.
The park ranger took him aside as I waited in the car, after warning them, “They’re in the trees!”
After a minute, Matt came back to the car and without saying anything, drove me home in silence. He never acknowledged what had happened.
I didn’t talk to Matt for a while after that. We’d text here and there, but eventually he told me that I was too young for him, and we agreed it was for the best if we didn’t see each other again.
I’m now the same age Matt was when we met. About a year ago, he found me on Facebook, and we started chatting and catching up. I told him I’d be home for Christmas, and decided to meet up at Dairy Queen, for old times’ sake. This time it was my car:him in the passenger seat, me at the wheel. It took a bit for us to get used to each other again. He told me there was something about me that’d changed. I pointed out that I was now the age of consent, but he said no, it was something else he couldn’t put his finger on.
We finished our ice cream and gave each other a friendly kiss goodnight. He hopped in that same Mustang he kept all those years. I watched him drive off in the direction of the zoo.
I don’t’ know why, but I started driving in that direction too. The park was different now. Unfamiliar. Maybe that’s how Matt saw me. Now there was a baseball field, a tennis court, a running track and a lot more street lamps. No signs to warn, “Don’t feed the wild animals.” I strained my eyes, looking for any trace of a black Mustang. I wondered if Matt was in there, making his cruising rounds, and if the two bears still lurked in the shadows, or if they were hibernating. I wondered if I was finally at the age where the Sixteen Candles fantasy was now just that: a fantasy.
I wondered if I was at the point in my life where I’d cruise the streets and parks endlessly in the middle of the night, waiting for some instant meaningless physical gratification: a pleasure that only lasted a moment, but once it was satisfied, I’d shamefully know I’d be back for more. I glanced in the rearview mirror to get a look at the person I was now, comparing it to the 17-year old who had that craving for something more. and I realized…I was. I wanted something to fill that void, to satisfy my appetite. I pulled into the driveway of Dairy Queen once again, and ordered my Blizzard with extra Reese’s.
Adrian is a Chicago based story teller who isn’t too enthusiastic about people claiming to be “enthusiasts”. Being from San Antonio, Texas he can bear witness to what real, authentic Mexican food is…something he feels really enthusiastic about.