Black Sky, Bitter Wind
It was gloomy the next day, synonymous with my disposition. After taking the bus to the end of the line, when I got
off, a Louisiana flash flood fell out of the sky. I managed to take
cover in a grocery store. It didn’t last long, but it left enough
water to make it look like an all night rain. After that, I started
hitchhiking back to Michigan, and the dude who picked me up dropped me off smack dab in the middle of bayou country.
Surprisingly, standing on the road in the middle of the swamp
cheered me up. The swamp was overflowing with water, making bayou country a beautiful sight to behold. The peace and quiet of the swamp made it easy for me to understand how the stereotypical image of the slow moving, slow thinking, black man came to be. There was a strong sense of “If it doesn’t get done today, it’s no big deal, and if `whitey’ or anybody else doesn’t like it, I’ll just go back into the swamp and forget it all.” No doubt about it, bayou country would be the perfect place for a fatalist to set up housekeeping.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have long to soak up the atmosphere because two black dudes picked me up. If I had listened to them I probably would have had better luck hitchhiking. When I was dropped off somewhere in Mississippi, they told me to stay on the country roads. They said, “Country folk pick you up, not the people traveling the expressway.” But my experience taught me to stay on the main highway, so I stood out on the barely traveled expressway for three hours, and than I backtracked to the country road where the black dudes told me I would have better luck. It took me a while before I could put their advice to the test because as soon as I reached the road the sky turned black and the cold wind picked up (an uncomfortable reminder that it was still winter in the south). I took shelter from the rain under a parked earthmover. I was beginning to have visions of having to sleep under the earthmover when the rain let up and I managed to catch another ride.
At the risk of sounding ungrateful, I can only describe my
compatriot (the driver of the car) as a bigoted, male chauvinistic
pig. I tried to avoid talking politics, so I sat quietly and
listened while the jackass solved all the world’s problems. By the
time we reached Jackson, Mississippi, he had the niggers shipped
back to Timbuktu, the Jews put in concentration camps, and welfare recipients put on the chain gang. It wasn’t as if I hadn’t heard these things before, but this guy just rubbed me the wrong way. Being wet, tired, and hungry probably had something to do with why I hated this guy too. Saying good-by to “my savior” was a joy. With that dude in my past, I was left to wander the streets of Jackson, Mississippi.
I really didn’t want to get back on the highway. The daylight was
gone and so was my energy. I had some money left, so I decided to
buy a bus ticket back to Michigan. I was looking for the bus station
when I met this guy getting into his car. He started talking about
the nasty weather and one thing led to another until I found myself accepting an offer to crash at his place for the night. I was
surprised to find he lived in a large house in the middle of a fancy
neighborhood. Ed’s roommates and his Grand Champion cat greeted us at the door. Once inside, I found his expensive furnishings and fine art collection a pleasing sight to behold.
Both of Ed’s roommates were friendly. When we were drinking beer together, however, I could feel a little tension coming from the older roommate. I thought all along Ed might be gay, but so far
there was nothing to confirm my suspicions. By the second beer, the four of us were talking as if we had known each other for years. When Ed’s roommates excused themselves, I found out I was sleeping with Ed. By that time, I pretty much knew what was going on. I suppose I could have said I would sleep on the couch, but I decided to postpone the embarrassment until the last minute.
When I got in bed and started to go to sleep, Ed asked if he could
rub my back. I didn’t respond. When it came time to object, I
didn’t. I consented because I was not going to let society tell me what I could or could not do, in the privacy of my own home, or in this case, Ed’s bedroom. Ed didn’t take advantage of me, he took
advantage of the situation and I let him, not because I was giving
in to my hidden desires, but because, at the time, it seemed like
the right thing to do.
When I went home with Ed, I thought it would be for one night only, but Ed invited me to stay, and when I accepted, it was understood that I would be sleeping on the couch from then on. The next couple of days I became a privileged tourist in Jackson, Mississippi. Ed and his roommate escorted me around town in their luxury automobile. As it turned out, Ed’s older roommate, so to speak, was Ed’s wife. The two of them had an open marriage, and took in the kid because he needed a place to stay. The kid was okay with the gay relationship, as long as he was left out of it. Ed owned a picture frame business that was apparently successful because they shipped custom picture frames all over the world. The three of us toured the university, the medical complex, parks, and the exclusive section of town, which by the way, was where Ed’s parents lived. Before it was all over, Ed offered me a job and said I could stay at his place for as long as I wanted. I was tempted, but I’m not stupid. I knew that kind of relationship would explode in the end. When it was time to say good-
by, I thanked him for all the hospitality, real southern
hospitality, and he dropped me off at the expressway.