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Archive for the ‘CTA Red Line’ Category

He stood by the door of the train looking down at the screen of his phone.  One glance at him and I Immediately I thought of Russ, whom I hadn’t thought of in decades.  His slightly-better than scruffy beard and the shaggy hair that fell forward over the cliff that was his forehead was strikingly similar to the way that I remember Russ.

My friend Mark was attempting to date Russ when I first met him.  Mark, in fact, brought him by the house one night – likely for a glass of wine.  It’s what we did then.   Russ preferred beer, however.  I was happy to oblige.

When Mark grew tired of chasing Russ I stepped in.  Simply offering the invitation brought Russ around again and again.  Likely because I provided the beer.

Tall.  Bold.  Broad shouldered.  Fair skinned.  A hint of auburn in his hair.  Just the slightest lilt of an accent from being raised in Alabama.   Enough to make him seem unique compared to the local population – but only upon close inspection.

Russ and I made plans to spend a week in Hawaii but our travel plans went afoul by the time we reached San Francisco.  It was either spend the night in San Francisco and wait for the next day’s flight or try to get to Los Angeles in time for a later departure.

In the thick of trying to determine what to do next, Russ became agitated.  Panic stricken almost.  Most of my energy was spent calming him down, which diminished the time I had to enact a plan.

We decided to scrap the trip and instead rent a car and drive to Palm Springs.  It was already late in the evening but we made our way as far as Santa Cruz.  Parked at the beach and searching paper maps under the dim light in the rental car, Russ stripped down to his briefs and made a dash into the ocean.   In and out – washing away the anxiety, he emerged with a more practical mind and seemingly refreshed.  We took a motel room not far, spending the night here.

In the morning we drove south, stopping in Pismo Beach – an odd little beach town that Russ loved.  We had breakfast at a sea-side diner and then headed south with a stop in Thousand Oaks for a brief visit within his aunt and uncle.

A few hours later we were in Palm Springs.  It was late afternoon. We found a hotel – one of the gay clothing optional resorts, of which there were many.  The long drive combined with the short night prior led us to take a nap by the pool shortly after our arrival, an attempt also, to catch the last rays before the sun fell behind the mountains.

Russ’ fair skin, long limbs, and bikini briefs – the tiniest available and thus barely hiding his big dick, made him the center of attention at the pool but I don’t think he noticed.  His unawareness of things, in general, made him that much more attractive.

Earlier in the day a phone call confirmed that my aunt would be home that evening – she and her husband lived in Palm Springs.  I hadn’t told her that I’d come with someone and it wasn’t but a quick hello visit that was expected.  No need to complicate things.  Up from my lounge chair, I kissed Russ on the cheek and told him I’d be back in a couple hours.  I made sure my affection toward Russ was visible to the eyes that were still upon us. I liked the way that felt – all those men watching me kiss my boyfriend prior to heading out.

Later that night Russ asked to use the car.  He said that he wanted to stop by a friend’s house – someone that he’d known from another time.  He said he’d stop by the liquor store on the way back so that we’d have booze for the next day.

He was gone for hours.  Long into the night.  I was worried about the rental car – not that I didn’t trust him with it, but still.  Even more so, I was worried about “us”.  His plans had seemed sudden, almost escapist.

Russ returned sometime around two o’clock a.m.  He confessed to going to see an former boyfriend only after repeated questioning. I suspected there was more to the story, but left it at that.

The fact was that Russ was not my boyfriend.  It was just an illusion to those around us.  But mostly it was an illusion to me.  I had thought that if I acted as if we were a couple long enough it would eventually become the truth.  That patterns would become habits, and habits would become momentum, which in turn would become inertia.

Stored away in the back of my memory.  The details hidden far away.  Nearly forgotten until the man standing in front of me on the train who so closely resembled Russ brought the memories rushing back.

Minutes later I arrived at work after having taken a mental journey thousands of miles in the past.

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He chose to stand even though there were available seats in the middle of the car.  I’d been texting and didn’t notice when he boarded but he was now standing directly in front of me.

Content and relaxed, he faced outwards through the window of the door casually taking in the morning view.  A slender man.  Petite almost.  With a narrow waist and broad shoulders – across them a perfectly creased blue dress shirt.   The sleeves were rolled up over his elbows and even these had the appearance of being pressed.  The blue looked nice against his fair skin.

His receding chestnut colored hair, still damp, curled loosely across his head.  His beard, short and nicely trimmed, was slightly lighter and boarded on auburn.

An aged brown belt of uneven color and containing a few scuffs held up thick cotton khakis.  Sturdy.  Comfortable.  Not creased.  Neither the weight of the cotton nor the thick belt conflicted with his otherwise delicate features.

He repositioned himself as others boarded and when his back was to me I was able to again see just how broad his shoulders were.  I wondered if he might be a swimmer.  When he stood perpendicular to me, I could watch his eyes trace the structures as our train moved past them.

The beige suede wingtips  were fused to soles that were good for walking.  They were laced with cream-colored laces – a very subtle touch and perfectly appropriate.  His face and his expression did not give off the impression that he worked for this look.  Rather, his manner of dress was natural.  Casual.

At one point he turned and faced me and I noticed that his belt had worn to notches that indicated he’d been thicker around the waist at one time.  It was now on the last notch and wasn’t actually cinched, but hung just a bit.  Still, it made him complete and I wonder if it was a reminder to himself of just how far he’d come, both in terms of time and in terms of effort.  He’d had this belt for a while.

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He didn’t bat an eye when it brushed against the top of his leg.  Gently moving from the fabric of his shorts to the skin just above the knee.  I watched it as it danced lightly across both surfaces.  

He boarded the train at the stop after I did and sat directly across from me.  No headphones.  No reading material save for the screen of his phone.  Uncharacteristic for a man of his age at this time of day.  Slender.  Plaid shorts.  A red v-neck t-shirt.  His tanned skin was the same color in all locations, including his head – which had been shaved a couple of days earlier.  He sat quietly with his thoughts.

At Belmont the train filled to standing room only.  A young man boarded caring a backpack.  Before grasping reaching up for the standee bar, he hoisted his backpack into place.  This action blocked my view of the seated man I’d been watching.  

When the train arrived at Fullerton the train filled even more.  The young man moved inwards and with that my view of the seated man returned.  The backpack now perched directly above the seated man’s lap.  As the train swayed to and fro the nylon straps of the young man’s backpack hung like tendrils over the seated man’s legs, fluttering as delicately as an aphid over a patch of clover.  

I looked at the face of the seated man expecting to see expressions of disapproval.  There were none.  The sensation, which could surely be felt, was either something he expected or something for which he longed.  An expression of bliss would have been inappropriate even if it had gone unseen.

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It wasn’t until she put on her sun glasses that I noticed that she looked like Elizabeth Taylor.  Dark sweeping hair.  A long strand of pearls resting atop her cleavage, exposed by the deep cut neckline of her black blouse.

Prior to lowering the sun glasses over her eyes, she’d been applying her eye make up.  First eye liner.  Then mascara.  And finally eye shadow.   She monitored each application in the reflection of herself in the round mirror inside of a plastic compact which was held in her left hand.  This, during her morning commute while surrounded by strangers

The woman setting next to me is doing the same thing, though she’s no Elizabeth Taylor.  She was applying her make up when I got on the train. I try to read but I’m distracted by the proficiency that these two women have with their morning routine.

At Wilson a man boards the train.  His shoes are brown – the preferred color of shoes by men in Chicago.  His pants are a light grey plaid.   He’s wearing a dark grey vest, buttoned, over a crisp white shirt.  Everything that he’s wearing is perfectly in line for a inbound commute on the Red Line, except that each article of clothing is too large for his frame.

I look up at his face.  He’s young.  Not much over twenty and I try to determine where he’s going as well as what brought him to Chicago.

It’s evident that he’s not from here though I can’t pinpoint why, save for the oversized clothing.  His actions and lack of reactions indicate that he’s used to riding the L.  He holds on to the bar overhead with one hand and reads a book that’s held in the other.  The changes in the track that cause the train to sway do not disturb him.  He’s not eyeing the crowd.  He’s adept.  An indication that he’s been here for awhile.

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The cap. The gait. The goatee and the shaved head. He has the appearance of Lenin. He removes his cap as he sits down. Beady eyes and writing in a spiral notebook. Furiously writing. Furrowed brow.

He wears no watch and no rings. His cuffs are unbuttoned but not rolled up. His clothing is not fitted but loose though not inappropriate for his frame and his brown shoes are in desperate need of a shine. I’m texting a friend in another state about this. He suggests that I approach him. I ask why. “Sheer curiosity I suppose”, he replies. I see no need.

His hands are wide. Thick. Veins struggle across the tops of them. While he writes with his right, in his left he holds a blue coffee tumbler. He unscrews the lid and takes occasional sips and glances around the car.

Now he’s reading a thick book though it’s title is hidden from my sight. I continue observing him and while he is aware of his surroundings he never once realizes that I’ve been watching him for the past ten minutes.

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