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REST STOP – a short (and sexy) story

Stephen M. Brown, author of the novel

by Steven Matthew Brown

I am driving along Interstate 75 in heavy commuter traffic north of Detroit. Shortly we will cross under the weathered billboard of Jesus, who asks with his robed arms outstretched, “Are you on the right road?” I passed my proper exit miles ago. Some of these other drivers have as well. They will pull off at the rest stop 20 minutes further north and one of them, likely a man with a wedding ring, will masturbate with me in the toilets.

I know the mixed aroma of cologne and cheap cleaning products and instant machine coffee.

Though there are no guarantees. When I get to the long, snow-dusted parking lot I choose a space not too far from the door of the rest stop but not set apart conspicuously from the other vehicles. I turn my rearview mirror so I can see cars exiting from the highway without having to turn my head. The job here is to guess and to be right. There are police patrols; there are psychopaths; there are off days. Today, maybe I don’t need to wait very long. A man exits a gray sedan parked nearer to the building. He is wearing a black wool trenchcoat over his suit but hurries through the cold. I hear the heavy thud of the men’s room door echoing in the white-tiled space because I know the sound from memory. I know the mixed aroma of cologne and cheap cleaning products and instant machine coffee, too, the scent of thawing men.

We would have to go back outside unsatisfied. Somehow it would mean more anticipation

I exit my car and walk in, taking a urinal two away from his. He is white and tall with narrow shoulders. I look at nothing in particular, the patina-green flowers of corrosion on the chrome toilet
fixture, the pool of muddy water forming under my feet. Anyone could enter now and scare him off. Worst would be if another cruiser had watched us and decided to come in and complicate matters. Funny how monogamous we are. He and I would have to go back outside unsatisfied. That would mean more waiting and more risk; somehow it would mean more anticipation, too.
After a few seconds he shifts slightly, almost imperceptibly, to glance over in my direction. A humming begins in my body that is as clear and banal as any adrenaline rush but imparted with ritual
hope, the compelling uncertainty of pleasure. It’s why he and I both detoured from our daily lives in order to come here, and it’s what we will look forward to doing again not moments out the door. There is shame here somewhere, but that’s a price we pay. There will be other prices, later, accrued over years, denied and fought with. For now I am focused on not scaring him off and with pleading that fate will not interrupt us.

As he undoes his belt he exposes a small slice of himself

He brushes his coat back with one arm and slips his hand in his pocket as though he were casually talking to a coworker. I see his other elbow moving. We make the briefest eye contact. He steps over to the urinal next to mine. He is handsome, actually, well-proportioned with nice eyes. His eyebrows tip in at the bridge of his nose like he is used to squinting to see further than the wall of an office cubicle. His gold wedding band glows with the pure light reflected off the porcelain.

I reach over to touch him and we stand there in the moment of first level eye contact

As he undoes his belt and brings his erection over the top of his white underwear he exposes a small slice of himself that is privileged—that is opposite to his white button-down shirt, black wool
trenchcoat and choking red necktie. He would give himself to just about anyone, I guess, but now it’s me who gets it, and I like that. I like him. The tenderness and longing in his eyes is anonymous but unique. He reaches over and touches me. I reach over to touch him and we stand there in the moment of first level eye contact. Afterward, we wash our hands side by side and stand drying our hands nearly shoulder to shoulder. I see myself in the chrome snout of the dryer, and I see him looking at himself the same way. He’s preparing to go home now. He looks up and smiles as I pass behind him toward the door. It is a smile of thanks and forgiveness, and it breaks my heart each time I see it. It’s like that standard line in old noir films, after the cigarette is lit, and the night closes in: Thanks, stranger.


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