Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The Rest Stop Incident

I was driving east on Highway 10, leaving New York Mills. The sun was setting in my rear view mirror as I pulled into a small rest stop to answer nature’s call. The simple structure and parking area were nothing special. However, as a shy person, I was relieved to see that I was the only one there.

That soon changed though. Standing in front of the urinal I heard a cluster of car doors slam shut. The muffled sound of talking and laughter slipped in under the door. I began to hurry, so as to finish before anyone else came into the bathroom.

I heard a young female voice say “I’ll stand guard out here”. The hair on the back of my neck stood up. I quickly pulled up the zipper of my pants but before I could even turn around I was slammed up against the wall. I was pressed so forcefully that my legs were made to awkwardly splay around the urinal in front of me.

I never got much of a look at them. A hand pressed the side of my face so hard up against the wall that one of my contact lenses popped out. There seemed to be one guy to the left of me, and another to the right. They each had one of my arms pulled up painfully behind my back. At the same time they each stood with their legs straddling each of my legs, locking me in place, pinned to the wall and the urinal.

Looking back on this, I’m amazed at the efficiency of the way they were able to pin me so quickly and tightly. No matter how much I struggled, I was never able to break free from their hold. I hope that this is something they picked up through back yard wrestling, and not from lots of practice at assaulting people at public rest stops.

While the two guys pinned me to the wall, I heard the voice of a third male behind me. He started taunting me, calling me “faggot” over and over again. As a straight man, that just isn’t word I’ve been called very often. I had never realized just how cutting, and menacing it can sound when it’s spat at you. It’s not just the sound of the word itself, but the sense of hatred that drips from it. Hatred so deep and intense that it practically feels like it has a physical component – like a spray of hot spit that pierces the skin.

The taunting went on for some time. The third male yelled at me like a drill instructor. I didn’t reply, even when he demanded I that I do so. Perhaps that was a mistake.

He pulled my pants down, grabbed me by the hips and began to dry hump me. Interspersed between the laughing of them all, the third male would throw out taunts like, “Is this how you like it, faggot?” and “You like it hard, faggot?”

What came next could have gone much, much worse for me. While the two guys on each side of me kept me pinned to the wall, the third male announced he had something he know I would love. I felt a hard, rough object begin to be pressed against my rectum. I’m guessing it was a stick, but I couldn’t see. My heart started racing so hard at this point I started to wonder if I was going to pass out. I struggled against their grip as hard as I possibly could. They all just laughed. Fortunately, that’s all they did. After holding the object against my ass for a couple of minutes, and occasional starting to increase the pressure like he was going to impale me with it, he suddenly started making fake orgasm sounds and then pulled the stick away.

Within seconds of that intense pain shot through my body. Without announcing it, the third male had kicked me in the groin, hard. As kid I can remember getting kicked in the nuts a few times on the playground. It had quite painful, but I had forgotten just how much that particular male vulnerability can hurt.

After the kick to the groin the third male told the others to let me go. They threw me down onto the bathroom floor. They made a half-hearted go of kicking me a few times before walking out, laughing and joking, just like when they had first arrived.

As they walked away I got my only real glance at them. Looking up and over my shoulder I saw denim jeans, t-shirts and black and brown hair. One of them had a baseball cap on. Even those scant details had barely registered before the door closed behind them.

When I heard their car doors slam shut, I crawled into the adjacent bathroom stall and locked the door. I stood up, shaking, and just stood there breathing heavily for several minutes. I assume it was only for several minutes. It felt like hours were slowly crawling past, but since it was still dusk out it couldn’t have been all that long. Then, after taking a deep breath I dashed out of the stall, then out of the bathroom, and then, for the most terrifying stretch, across the parking lot to my car. Before my butt touched the seat I was reaching around locking all of the doors. I turned that key, and drove away from that rest stop as fast I could. In the rear view mirror I could see the last rays of the sun, as well as my shredded self-esteem, fade away beyond the horizon.

Since then, the rest stop incident has been hard to forget. At first I tried to just put it out of my mind and pretend that it hadn’t happened. That is generally my approach to difficult emotions, and usually that approach seems to kind of sort of work. But things just kept triggering the memories of it. So I stopped dating, and I avoided anything that might remind me of it – from public rest stops to TV shows about sex and love. But that didn’t make the intense feelings of embarrassment go away.

I knew it wasn’t my fault, and that we live in a world where bad things can and do happen, but that didn’t change how I felt. So, after a few years, I told a few trusted friends about it, and eventually, I even spoke to a counselor.

Despite all of that, five years later, the whole affair still haunts me. Why did it even happen in the first place? I had never been in that part of the country before. I didn’t know anyone there. I was just passing through. When they pulled up, did they see the rainbow sticker on the car, and just assume I was gay? If so, why did it matter so much to them? Is this something they just do for kicks? For sure, it could have gone much worse than it did. There are probably thousands of incidents of gay bashing and hazing just like it across the world every year, and many more that do in fact get much more violent. Be that as it may, I just can’t get past the humiliation, the feeling of being so utterly powerless while being mocked and degraded. And that damn soundtrack of their cavalier laughter that accompanies the memories stings like salt on an open wound. The memory of it all has robbed me of any interest in intimacy, as well as a big chunk of my self-esteem. But life goes on. And sometimes, I guess, all we can do is hope the dust of time fills the holes in our soul. Till then.

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