It’s a Friday night. I did my work, I’m in Chicago, it’s Pride Weekend. What am I going to do?
Go fool around, of course!
Of course, I’m just gonna go all over Chicago to try to hook up, even though I barely have enough money to use a Ventra card to use public transit. Look, I’m an impulsive person, so I figured, might as well have the adventure.
That leads me to a bus to a train stop near the end of the South Side of Chicago. In order to go to the bars I saved the addresses of on my phone, I had to go to the exact opposite side of the city. That was at least a 45 minute journey one way, and by the time I left it was around 10:30pm. Let’s see what’s open!
I sit on this train, minding my own business, when all of a sudden, some baseball game ends, I guess, and everyone is getting on this train. I stayed in my seat, usually I give up my seat so someone could sit, but I just didn’t feel like it. I eavesdropped on this guy and girl who were talking about learning languages, and the girl was talking about how she’s legally fluent in Catalan and can work in Spain, and everyone is so loud, and I’m just trying to tune it out while reading fan fiction about Sylar and Peter from the TV show Heroes.
*Sidenote: That is good fan fiction. If you don’t know Heroes, it’s a TV show about people with special powers, sort of like the X-Men. Sylar and Peter both have the ability to gain anyone’s power, but Sylar does it through killing people and probing their brains, while Peter just uses his natural power of empathy to gain their powers. Turns out that Sylar actually can do the same shit that Peter does, but Sylar just likes to kill. I think that the two of them are two sides of the same coin, and it’s some pretty deep shit. Yes, the fan fiction is pretty deep.
OK, so I end up way, way north, like near the end of the North Side of Chicago. I’m going to a club called Jackhammer, which I find out is next to another gay bar called Touché. I knew that Touché had a leather policy to get into the backroom (where all sorts of things happen, like sex…) so I tried Jackhammer first. I get in, show my ID, but I have to pay $5, which I don’t have. So I try to find an ATM, and can you believe it? There’s one in Touché.
I go to Touché, and a nice Black man with a grey goatee and no other hair on his body (that I could see anyway) was the one checking IDs. I told him that I had never been here before and he told me to go around and enjoy myself. There were a bunch of TVs around and I saw Hey Arnold, ESPN, and gay porn on three different TVs. There were so many men in leather, lots of bondage gear (bondage as in BDSM, or Bondage/Discipline, Sadism/Masochism) and to my surprise there were so many Black men.
After my time at Oberlin, I’ll be honest, I couldn’t conceptualize Black men in “gay” spaces, because in the groups I have associated with “gay” means “upper class racist white man”. If you’re Black (or a non-Black person of color) and not straight, it seemed like you had to be labeled as “queer”. I didn’t know how any of the men at Touché identified except for the times I was eavesdropping on their conversations and they said something about their identities, but I think that I was forced to confront my own internalized notions about who is and who isn’t allowed to be gay or queer just by being in that space. People were laughing, kissing each other, slapping each other’s bare asses. There was a guy on the table, and all sorts of cakes and desserts were on his body, so other guys were basically licking him up. I was definitely the youngest person there, nobody there was probably younger than 30, and that’s me being generous. Eventually I tried to use the ATM, but I didn’t have money on my debit card, and I forgot my PIN number for my credit card. So, I eventually left, and decided to try my luck again at Boystown.
According to Wikipedia, Boystown was the first officially recognized gay village in the United States. I figured that I would have to find some guy there that night, I just needed to step up my game. But by the time I got to Boystown, it was 1:00am, and even though it was Friday, some places were starting to close. That confused me because so many people were outside walking and running around, drunk as hell, having a good time. I had never seen that before, all of these people of all different colors, many of whom identified as LGBTQ. And it made me wonder if I would want to live in Boystown in my future. That speaks directly to my inner conflict with community though. I hate community. I see the value and necessity in community, but I find community stifling for someone like myself. I want to travel the world and see different communities for the rest of my life. Do I want to live in one just because it seems like one that would actually accept me for me?
As I thought those things over, I ended up at a bar called Cell Block. The front bar was pretty empty, there were some white guys on the stools, one of whom looked like he wanted to devour me, but strangely enough, my horny self was not attracted to him, so I ignored him. I went to the back room, where once again, I saw many men in leather. One man was wearing nothing but a leather jockstrap, and he was getting spanked mercilessly by the bartender that was set up in the back. I sat, and he stopped to offer me a drink, but I politely declined. I had no money to buy a drink anyway. Eventually, the guy getting spanked moved to the other side of the bar, got on a table in front of two guys, and that’s when one of them started to fondle him and eat him out (mouth to ass). In public. At the bar. In front of the bartender. Who was getting turned on.
*Sidenote: I would love to ask guys like the bartender what it’s like to work at bars like this, where this shit is a common occurrence. I have all summer to try.
Not too long after that started, the bartender from the front came in to announce the last call for drinks and told everyone to move to his side. I took that as my cue to leave.
I was trying to walk to the train to go to the last bar on my list, and I ran into three Black people, two men, one woman, and the woman was very drunk and almost crashed into me. That’s when she took me by the arm and introduced me to her brothers, who were single.
“Oh, they’re probably out of my league,” I said awkwardly. I really didn’t know if I was supposed to say I’m out of their league or they’re out of mine, I was trying to say the one that complimented them and insulted myself. They were beautiful, and I didn’t really know what to do but laugh at the situation.
The woman was confused, she said “Out of your league. Who are you?” Her brothers joined in as well, surprised at my comments. One of them even said that I was cute, which almost made me melt inside. I decided to lie and say that I was from Ohio. I figured I could pretend enough to be a sweet, naïve gay boy who’s lost in the city. They bought it. The woman felt so sorry for me. “That means you grew up the only gay person you knew in nowhere shitty Ohio?” I was torn between ending the lie and playing along, so I shook my head “no” and said “Yeah.”
The woman eventually let me go, but her brother asked me what I was doing alone in the city. I said, somewhat truthfully “I’ve never really been here before, I figured I would explore.” That’s usually my answer for anyone who asks me why I am whereever I am, and it’s generally a truthful answer. He wished me luck on my adventure, and I eventually go to the last bar at 2:00. This one was the Manhandler Saloon.
I go in, and I think that everything is gonna be fine, I show my ID, but there is a one drink minimum, no credit cards accepted. I go to the ATM, and I end up remembering my PIN number, but it doesn’t work. I go back to the guy who checked my ID at the bar and I try to muster all the sweetness and awkwardness in my voice to say “Ah, I don’t have money. Does water count as the drink?” He stared at me like I was an idiot and said “Uh, it’s a one drink minimum.” I said, “OK, I guess I’ll go then, have a good night.”
I’ve never taken the train home this late. The train runs 24 hours, but it was 3:00 by the time I was getting on the train and heading back to my dorm. It reminded me of how happy I was to be back home in Chicago. If I wanted to, I could probably stay out all night and find some place to go. Back at Oberlin, where I was such a night owl, I’d go on bike rides around the town, but that’s not the same. This summer is already making me realize how much I miss urban life.
In terms of my mission, I failed. Besides the guy I wasn’t attracted to and the brother of the woman who called me cute, I didn’t get any attention, and I couldn’t afford to get into half of the places I went to. But I’m still glad I did it. Cynically I thought to myself that in order to get laid, I’m gonna have to be rich. Maybe I don’t have to be rich, but I need $5 apparently. I have all summer, we’ll see what happens.