On our way back from New York, we stop at a travel plaza: a Sinclair station with a giant dinosaur outside. I haven't seen one since I was a kid. It gives me a weird feeling of going into the past, being dislocated in time.
Something important is about to happen.
While Bob is getting gas, I head toward the convenience store. A family is just leaving, walking toward the Subway sandwich place next door.
Mom wears a veil, like the Blessed Virgin in art. I briefly wonder if the family is Amish. Are there Amish people around here?
The teenage son smiles and says "Hi."
I'm so surprised that I stop and stare without responding.
He is wearing an orange t-shirt with a sports team on it and short black pants with a bit of a bulge. He's tall, a little chubby, deeply tanned,with short black hair, dark eyebrows, flawless smooth skin, and square workman's hands. He's holding a cell phone.
I pace around, pretending to look at the merchandise. The clerk eyes me suspiciously. I pick up a banana to buy so he won't think I'm shoplifting. My mind is racing.
I should have said "hi" to that boy.
What for? You're cruised by a hundred twinks a day. You should know the difference between a cruise and being friendly. That was just being friendly.
Friendly, at a gas station in rural Illinois?
He's not even hot. Kind of cute, but not beautiful, certainly not the "supreme beauty" that you remember forever. And no athlete...he had a little belly on him!
This is close to where Ryan H., the college track star, lives. Maybe he knows him. That could be my in.
Who says he lives near here? He could be from anywhere.
What were you planning to do? Pick him up in front of his parents? Go down on him in the bathroom? Mutual jo in your car, while Bob watches?
Get his phone number, exchange selfies for six months, and then drive 500 miles back here for a date with him?
No, but...it was rude to just stand there.
It's a gas station in Illinois! He'll get over it!
I want him to know that he has a kindred spirit, that he's not alone.
Not alone in what? He's probably straight! And if he does happen to be gay, how would he know that you are? He probably thinks that you're Bob's father. If he's given you a second thought, which no doubt he hasn't.
I should have said hello.
Bob has finished getting gas and parked the car. He goes into the convenience store to use the restroom and buy some snacks. I walk around to the Subway and look in the window.
Feeling very much like a perv, I watch the family ordering. The teenage son splits from the group to look at the rack of chips, trying to decide on one.
I walk into the Subway and head toward him, planning to pretend to browse among the chips and fruit and strike up a conversation. But as I approach, he decides on Cool Ranch Doritos and turns back toward his family.
As we pass each other, he smiles and says "Hi."
I smile back and say "Hi."
I look at the chips for a moment, take one last look at the boy, and leave the Subway. Bob meets me.
"Are you hungry?" he asks.
"No. I'm satisfied."
Who cares that we never dated, or hooked up, that we never really even met? We shared a moment of joy.
Bob and I return to the car and drive off into rural Illinois.
I've had dates and hookups with men of all types, from bodybuilders to chubs, from teenagers to grandpas. I've gone down on dozens of men. I've had dozens of men go down on me.
But an experience that I will cherish for the rest of my life is saying "Hi" to a cute guy at a gas station in rural Illinois.
See also: A Glimpse of Supreme Beauty at a Rest Stop in Iowa; Picking Up a College Track Star in Front of My Brother.