144 ONLY THE LONELY

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ONLY THE LONELY

Back at the hotel that night, my room was dark and quiet and it looked like the last person to be in here was the maid: the toilet paper folded into a triangle, the beds smooth.

Ziggy’d gone to crash with one of the other guys to stay away from me, but had left some of his clothes scattered around. I watched some cable TV, a bit of the Headbangers Ball (and damned if Bart wasn’t right) and paced around.

I packed what I’d taken out of my bag back into it, and checked my supply of cash. (I kept it in the neck compartment of the Ovation’s case. Maybe it was stupid to keep my money with my most expensive possession, but that way I figured I’d be sure not to leave it behind somewhere, and I’d always be watching to make sure it wasn’t stolen.)

I took a shower. My skin itched now from being too dried out, all the dry hotel air, and washing too often. In the bathroom was a little bottle of hotel brand lotion and I sat on the bed smearing it on my arms and shoulders.

I couldn’t help but think, if Zig were here, and we were speaking to one another, he could be putting the lotion on my back. If he came back to get the rest of his stuff…

And yet I knew I didn’t want him to come back.

Hmm. It dawned on me I’d been kind of ignoring the fact that I was horny all night, hyped up from the show (finally!) and wishing I could do something about it.

Logically speaking, Carynne should have been the person foremost in my mind for that sort of thing, no? But she wasn’t, which maybe says something about exactly where on that scale of gay-bi-straight I really fall, or maybe says that I knew, as she’d said, that it was “as friends” and definitely not meant to turn into a regular thing.

If only we were in a city, and not stuck out here in the burbs. I knew there had to be places men went for sex but didn’t know how to find them. Back in Jersey, there had been a rest area pull-off from a local highway near our house, where men went to get sucked off in their cars by other men. When the police busted some local guys and then closed the area for six months it was in all the newspapers and on TV. I remember Claire expounding her disgust about it. One of the men caught had been a teacher at a local junior high school, with teen daughters of his own. I don’t know if he lost his job, but I think he did.

I always kind of wondered though, where did those guys go after that? How did they get the word out where the new rendezvous was? How did some place like that get started, anyway? Someone had to tell someone something. Or the Block in Boston, where would the hustlers go if the police set up shop there?

That gave me an idea. I opened the drawer to the nightstand and under the a bright red Gideon Bible was a fat Yellow Pages directory. I flipped through and found a large section on escort services. Huh. Even here in midwestern suburbia there were listings. Pages and pages of them, blondes, brunettes, etc. But most amazing of all, the first in the alphabetical listings: “AAA Gay Dating Service.” Jeezus. I suppose if they weren’t first in the listings I’d have never noticed them among the many “Exotic Ladies” and “Gentlemen’s Companions” ads.

I had two hundred dollars cash in the guitar case by the window. But, I could all too easily imagine Ziggy walking in on me and a hustler. That was probably the biggest reason I didn’t pick up the phone. Instead, I decided to see who was still awake, if anyone. Maybe Colin or Kevin would want to jam. I thought I could hear someone by the elevator. I put on a pair of jeans so I’d have a packet to put my key in, and went out into the hall.

Digger, wearing only his pants and an unbuttoned wrinkled dress shirt, was hanging on some woman’s arm at the elevator bank and she was giggling. The elevator came and she stepped in and blew him a kiss and then the doors closed. He sighed and turned toward his room and saw me. “Hey, kiddo.”

“Hey, old man.”

He smelled of cigarettes and booze and perfume. “Hey, kiddo. You want to come in for a nightcap?”

“Uh, naw. Just going to the Coke machine. I’ll see you in the morning.” And I went down the hall to the vending machine, too, even though I hadn’t brought any change with me. I waited by the machine until I heard his door close with a heavy thunk of the lock, followed by the muffled rattle of the door chain.

The room was as I had left it, dark and quiet.

I got in bed and lay in the dark imagining I could hear snatches of songs in the occasional sound of the HVAC system kicking on or a flushed toilet somewhere else. In the dark I imagined Matthew lying next to me, and that I could roll over and wake him up by sliding my hand across his flat belly, across the soft skin and dark trail of hairs there. I imagined various things would happen.

I ended up in the shower again, jerking off, because I knew I’d never get to sleep if I didn’t.

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