On a random day in December, this ad somehow found its way onto the craigslist rideshare board of a major city-
Handsome Homosexual Needs a Ride West
Hey- I’m an attractive gay man in my thirties and I’m looking for a ride west, preferably with another gay man. I like to have fun when I travel, and I’m hoping that you’re into that too. What sorts of things do you like? Send me an email with a description of yourself and what you’re into, and let’s see if it clicks. 😉
Oh, and truckers- I’ll sleep on the top bunk, but I prefer the bottom 😉
And then this one popped up soon after, on the man-for-man “casual encounters” part of the site-
I got your milk and cookies, Santa!
Hey fellas- I’m an attractive gay man, mid-thirties, in town for the week (family, Christmas, you know!) I’ve been sitting here in my lush hotel room, thinking about how much I’d like to take it from a group of guys tonight. Are you that group of guys? And if there’s only one of you, can you bang me so hard I see double?
I like to be topped. If nothing else, please send a photo and tell me just how you’d like to top me. It’ll make my day so much brighter.
I miss sunny Arizona! It’s so dreary here!
Ho ho ho,
And then many more popped up, on craigslist boards coast to coast, seemingly independent of each other. Some were a little wilder than others, but they all carried the same message and had the same, charming photo- a tanned man in his late thirties, reclining on the railing of a sun-drenched speedboat, a bit of land in the distance. And an email address, of course.
In the end, it was actually a lot of fun to make up ads posing as poor Bryan. And for all I know, he actually is into guys, and I was doing him a huge favor. At worst, he’d get a dose of his own medicine, and back off on trying to pick up girls on the rideshare board- which seems to me like asking for blowjobs at the supermarket just because someone made a movie about it once, when the adult video store is right next door. At best, maybe he’d meet the man of his dreams, and they could drive off into the sunset together, hand in hand. What a great story they’d have, someday, to tell their dogs! The time I tried to get unsuspecting strangers to have sex with me in my car but ended up meeting the man of my dreams instead. How romantic!
My Christmas gift to him. Tis the season.
I finished my library time and left the library in Casa Grande feeling peaceful and satisfied. I was now twelve miles from the highway, in the middle of the Arizona desert, with no way to get home, but it didn’t phase me in the least. I was, it seemed, acquiring a sort of super-human power on this trip- the ability to just not give a fuck. Enlightenment? I thought, as I tossed my pack behind the toolshed of a vacant house up for sale, and spread my bivy sack over it. I was thinking of the hippie man I’d ridden with into Arizona, and his meditation retreats. Who needed that? All it takes is a good bit of hitch-hiking and train-riding before you give up on trying to force the universe into some sort of order, and just admit to yourself that you really have no control whatsoever over your life, or the things that take place within it. Once you wrap your brain around that idea, all of the worry falls away and you just sort of become one with everything. Who cares if you’re homeless and you sleep in the dappled shade of a clump of trees? Who cares if you live in a house with houseplants and pay your car insurance on time? Who cares if you sell drugs for a living and spin fire in Guatemala? Our routines do not make us who we are. And routine itself, it seems, is just an illusion. Each day is new. We never do the same thing twice.
Leaving my pack behind the vacant building (it was small, stucco, and filled with bright light), I wandered through the small downtown and onto the long commercial strip beyond, where cars jammed the busy road and big-box stores marched away to the horizon. I’ll walk to the grocery store, I thought, and buy some vegetables and a can of beans. Then maybe I’ll find a bookstore somewhere that has the second vampire book, and I can finally resolve this awful cliffhanger and move on with my life.
It felt good to walk down the strip, stretching my legs and seeing all the people out and about, eating fast food tacos and obsessively washing and re-washing their cars. I ducked into a big grocery store and bought some bulk baby greens, some salad dressing, and an avocado. Then I sat outside in the sun and ate them, avoiding the stares of the teenagers in slipper boots who came out of the mall. I finished the meal with a little citrus of some sort, the kind who’s peel comes off easily in one piece, and there are lots of them in the dumpster around Christmas. Having eaten a good number of non-meat items, I continued on my quest, rejuvenated.
The story was the same in every store. Everyone had the first book in the series- the little five-dollar trade paperback- EVERYONE. Some stores had the fourth book, which had just come out a few weeks ago, and a few stores even had the third. But no-one, NO-ONE, had the second book. I’d walked all over town, and searched the crowded, messy, day-after-black-Friday aisles of half a dozen big-box stores, and some smaller ones, but my drug of choice was nowhere to be found. God. Dammit.
I was starting to project more feeling than was called for onto this little paperback. It was starting to feel as though me not having a resolution to my vampire story was just a complex metaphor for my being stuck in Arizona, and if I could just find out what happened to the girl at her birthday party, if she got eaten or not, or turned into a vampire or whatever, then maybe I would finally be free from this desert vortex.
Just then my friend Lark called.
“I just remembered, I have a friend in Phoenix.” She said. “Do you want me to call him?”
Did I ever! Lark called her friend, who called me, who said that not only would he come pick me up in Casa Grande, but that I could crash on his couch for the night, do my laundry, whatever. We’d actually met once before, long, long ago, in Lark’s kitchen in Virginia when I was 19 years old. L was here in Phoenix visiting a friend, he said, in the refinished barn she lived in on the edge of town. They were both web designers and his friend was here while her boyfriend went to naturopathy school. L would pick me up, take me home, and they would make me some dinner. In the morning I could hitch-hike on my way, or whatever I wanted to do.
I retrieved my pack from behind the empty house and carried it over to the mall to wait for L. He pulled up after an hour and I tossed my pack into the back of the car, ducking down to sit in the front. Although I didn’t know it, as I pulled shut the car door, I was also closing the door on a sort of portal- it was the end of my time trapped in Arizona, the end of my time of endless moments ticking away to nowhere, of directionless wanderings in an empty desert, of a sort of voyeuristic non-existence. I was a leaf, come unstuck from an eddy. From now on all would be movement again, and life’s waterways would once again bear me forward, an object hurtled through space. The question was no longer would I arrive, but, in the end, would I arrive someplace that felt like home.