A quiet word about lust on the Chicago Transit Authority
Guest writer Tanya Hunter and her story “CTA”
Early morning. Crowded close, but the air is still cool. The bus smells of soap, perfume and aftershave. Nothing recognizable – just the mingling of scents into a general aroma of clean. The smell of morning before the sweat of day concocts a stronger odour.
Sitting by the aisle. Summer, so I dress anticipating the heat and sweat of afternoon. A man’s suit coat brushes my bare shoulder. The edge teases my skin, clean from the shower, freshly powdered. The edge of a navy blue suit jacket. Cotton because it’s summer. Cool so the skin can breathe when the afternoon heat lets its full weight down upon us. The fullness of summer. Afternoons it flows around me till I am flushed, drunk on humidity.
Mornings are separate. I go with no coat knowing later it’s merely another thing to carry. Almost too cool for bare shoulders. Slight chill and the touch of a stranger’s jacket make my breasts harden, feel the tightness in my chest and an ache somewhere lower. In the morning, my head is clear, a sharp awareness of all around me. By afternoon the mood is languorous. In the heat, I notice small things, focus on moments, keep my eyes close to the ground.
Yesterday walking before me was a woman with the loveliest legs. Alluring calves curving up from slim ankles. Too hot to raise my eyes above the hem of her skirt. An indrawn breath of pleasant surprise. Small perfection more desirable than Archimedes’ golden curves.
Curve of my hip, the slight roundness of my stomach perfect only in a former age, but mine. Soft edges of my body melting into summer sultriness.
Some say it’s too hot for love in this weather. Too hot never. Never too cold for Ice cream and never too hot for love.
I love the curves; still it’s not the curves I crave but the angles. The tauter lines of male bodies. Shoulders above mine in a suit coat. To run my tongue along the edge of a collarbone. Sharper edges, keener lines.
Lost in the after work swelter. Changing busses, everywhere I see men in suits. One of them wears the jacket of morning. Need to feel again the faint brush of it on bare skin. Call back the cool of morning.
* * * * *
Today nothing touches me until I see him, long wool overcoat, scarf wrapped around his neck, ready for the chill that makes itself known rising in clouds of steam from the roofs of building. The mystery of suits and coats. Is it what they conceal, the way in which they shape a body, or simply my fascination with the male form? Mystery and masculinity, strength and power. To walk downtown beside a man, shoulders straight in a suit and greatcoat, to know that beside my elbow that mystery may brush by.
Last night on the train, I examined the hand above mine on the railing and wondered what it must be like to have such big hands, to be powerful and know yourself so. It was a very large hand, bare, emerging from the sleeve of a grey woollen coat. Because I will never have such hands, I suppose I imagine what it might be like to be touched by them. To feel one resting on my hip, then moving lower.
I see my own hand on the railing made small like a child’s. Is this lust, this general wanting to be caressed by a hand attached only to a grey coat? What is it that makes my heart strongly felt in the pulse in my neck when I pass men in suits on the sidewalk, stand near them on the train? A lifetime of myth and fantasy, models of male strength and protection: fine to imagine, dangerous to crave. Remember you have outgrown what they taught you when your small hands weren’t merely an illusion formed by comparison.
Tall, he stands behind me. I hear him breathing above me, but I have no desire to turn and confront so much solidity. Enough merely to watch his hand an inch from mine. Some days imagination suffices.
Some days it’s not nearly enough.
* * * * *
Twice I’ve seen him on the El. Twice I’ve been one step from getting off one stop too soon and following.
Some particular configuration of features must have made me notice him. His eyes made me look twice.
The first time I was discrete, only looking long enough so he’d suspect and then glancing down.
The second time was like a gift. Who expects to see the man of her dreams more than once? So I stared. And when he looked at me I smiled. I never could be an enigma.
For ten stops I stared at his left ear and the curve of his chin. Wanted to move closer with each stop, but what do you say to a man you’ve seen twice for whom your major feeling is lust?! Given such constraints anything you say is bound to sound like a line.
And what separates me from the men who stand on street corners catcalling all the pretty girl who pass?
Imagination? The ultimate goal? And what is it I want from this man I’ve seen twice?
Nothing so simple as sex.
* * * * *
There’s neither rhyme nor reason to lust.
I sit behind a beautiful man, and all I can think about is how I’d like to run my fingers through his greying brown hair. If I could do as I like, I’d wrap my arms around his neck, rub my cheek against his, I imagine his head resting just below my breasts where I’m ticklish. Kiss me softly there.
Somehow along the way to adulthood I failed to lose my sense of wonder. Amazement at simple touch – the satin slip of skin of grass of lips beneath my fingertips – this love of touch and feel I have failed to forget.
I would take my fingertips, touch them to his lips, place his hand on my breastbone and say again, kiss me softly there. Then I would find my way to his lips. I never forget how lovely kissing is.