Middle Aged Lust
Repress your lust when you’re young, and it’ll come sneaking back at you when you’re middle-aged. Maybe it’s just my own simplistic theory, but by the time I was twenty-five I’d had my good share of other young men and now, twenty-five years later, young men are not an abiding obsession at all. There were other desires, however, that I didn’t pursue when I was young, in particular love of the 4-wheel kind.
Living in a small town owning a vehicle was a rite of passage for a young man. But quietly gay, I decided this didn’t apply to me: a car would be an anchor that would root me forever in a community where, so I thought, people like me didn’t exist. I was content to be a passenger while others drove; by far the most significant car I traveled in was the dusty gold ‘66 Mustang that my long-haired blond, straight friend drove. He fit the Mustang demographics: his father bought the car new for his mother (it was designed for women—you couldn’t lock the keys inside), but my friend somehow gained control (just as the Mustang universally gained control of the young male market). Quietly I lusted to be behind the wheel.
When I was twenty I found a summer job on a prosperous tobacco farm. I was the only live-in employee and upon my arrival the family patriarch pointed to one of his three identical new GMC Sierra Custom pickups: “Drive”, he said. No matter that I had no license, I’d be mostly on back country roads. If I was stopped by the police, he told me, “Get out and run.”
So I drove: 7 AM I’d pick up local Polish women, deliver them to the fields; at the end of the day I’d take them home. I went slow, in fact I never ventured above second gear. No problems. Except for the day I was hauling a water tank and I beached the truck in a gully. And the day I whacked the side of a metal barn while backing out its big door—making a noise that reverberated through the fields.
The farmer had three sons in their twenties, all married and settled on the land. The youngest was a newly-wed and he and his wife had the room above mine. Every night their bed would shake violently for 30 seconds or so, then the son was up and the TV turned on. Land of heterosexuals. My best times were driving alone in the pickup, windows down, a special kind of freedom in the fragrant country air. But I was aching for another kind of freedom, one found in the heart of a big city. The pickup truck world wasn’t meant for me.
I faced turning thirty with a spate of selfdevelopment, finally procuring a drivers license. But I never considered buying a car—Montreal’s Metro took me anywhere I needed to go. I drove so little that after five years I let my license lapse. Moving to Vancouver I became an urban anti-vehicle walker and cycler.
Meanwhile the pickup truck was evolving; back in the early seventies only farmers and tradesmen would own one, ordinary town folk would do their hauling in station wagons. But once professionals started moving to the country, trucks seemed to migrate to the city; they became fashionable, available in tantalizing variety, rested nights in respectable suburban driveways. Gay city men drove pickups.
Over the years there was only one pickup truck in my life, a huge spaceship-gray Dodge Ram, owned by family who had moved to the country. An arrogant vehicle, until it passed its tenth year and with its nicks and some rust assumed some character—I’ve got my eye on it now.
Then there was last summer. I was working on a log house in the East Kootenays. Stunning geography. (Pincher Creek was due east over the Rockies—where a gang of heterosexuals had recently shot Brokeback Mountain.) I was in a land of pickup trucks. I got to know the tradesmen who parked their pickups at the construction site; one truck was particularly beautiful, a 30 year old yellow GMC. At first I was wary of these men. But they weren’t characterless 70s farm boys: some rushed home to make dinner for their children; a few listened to the CBC; a couple cradled pint-sized designer dogs; one admitted to having a gay best friend; and all seemed to support gay marriage: “It’s about civil rights”. “Who cares, as long as they keep their lawn mowed”.
Without a license and a truck I was the anachronism. And I knew I was missing so much, exploring the stoney mountain roads—visiting streams where cowboys apparently go to fish. My summer rural stay brought back my desire for open windows and country air. Driving a vehicle that feels the road. And I’m left wondering, what else have I missed, going through all these years not having progressed beyond second gear?
— Craig W. Barron
Originally written for Gaze published by Gayway