I knew the place lay nearby when I saw the exit sign loom overhead, poking through the archway of greenery covering the parkway. I nudged my car into the right lane, pulled off, and into the southernmost of the two lots.
Park and Ride, read the sign. It was a place where commuters met to carpool into New York City, thirty miles away. In the twilight, many cars were still parked along the several rows, empty of occupants. Expensive cars. I nudged my domestic model among the BMWs and Mercedes and the sporty little Italian coupes, looking for signs of life.
I found some at the lot’s far end. One man in his fifties stood near a tiny wooded area—little more than scrub and a few tree trunks, really. He wore a collared business shirt still crisp after a day’s work, its powder-blue sleeves rolled up to the elbow. His maroon tie hung loose from his neck, his top button was unbuttoned. He took a long drag on the remnants of a cigarette, let the smoke billow casually from between his lips, then dropped the butt onto a parking bumper. He ground it into dust with his leather soles. The guy wasn’t hideous, by any means, but he wasn’t attractive, either. His lips pursed out too much, and age had left layers of wrinkles around his eyes, making them look like the deep knots on some ancient, mythical tree. Natty as he was, he looked as if he smelled of old tobacco. I turned my head from him and parked my car a little down the way, between a Volvo two spaces away on the left, and a BMW three slots further on the right.
The web site hadn’t specified any particular protocol for cruising here, though it had recommended against going into the woods to carry out my business. I figured the cruising here would work like the rest stop parking area back in Michigan, during the dark hours. I turned off the car, let the radio play at a low volume, and began rubbing at my crotch in order to get a bulge rising down there.
In the BMW to my right sat a surprisingly young guy, no more than twenty-one or twenty-two. He had the large, broad features and the wide-brushed eyebrows of a middle eastern man; the skin on his jaw, though smooth, seemed as if it might sprout into ten o’clock shadow at any moment. He looked my way in a not-looking kind of way; his eyes danced over and past mine, only locking into my gaze on the return trip. He nodded slightly.
I nodded back, as the bulge in my shorts grew from forced to genuine.
The Volvo had someone sitting in it as well, a handsome guy in his forties sporting a precision haircut and a wedding ring. He, too, wore a crisp business shirt and a tie. I could see his jacket slung over the passenger seat. He pretended to be looking at his phone, but his glance was fixed on the man in the woods. Only occasionally did he divert his attention my way, and then only to see if I was remaining in my car, or what my intentions might be.
The businessman in the woods wasn’t very patient—or subtle. Another cigarette already smoldering between his fingers, he used one hand to cup his generous package, squeezing it for anyone who could see. His neck craned over the parking lot. Like him, I turned my head to discern which other cars might have men in them. There were several, all parked in our general vicinity. I could make out shadows of other heads turning, silhouettes of figures waiting in the twilight for something to happen.
I didn’t do anything that night; I didn’t get out of my car and insinuate myself into someone else’s vehicle with a smile and a false excuse of needing directions. I didn’t wander into the woods, or take a stroll to see what eyes followed me. I sat in the car, and watched for twenty minutes, getting the lay of the land. And then I drove away, leaving behind the expensive vehicles and the desperate businessman still patrolling, Cerebus-like, the entrance to the woods.
Park and Ride. I parked. Maybe soon I’ll take a ride.