"So, have you heard about Fuck Bus?"
My friend Penny sat across the table from me in an outdoor café. She asked the question in a low voice, leaning across the table and looking both ways like she didn't want to be overheard.
"Fu . . . what?" I asked, confused.
"Fuck Bus," she said again, just as quietly as before.
"What in the world are you talking about?"
"So, you've never heard of it?"
"No," I said. "I haven't heard of it. Never."
Penny seemed excited, like she was letting me in on a big secret.
"OK, I'll tell you," she said. "I first heard of it a few months ago. I thought it was just an urban legend. But I just found out from a friend of mine that it's real. Her name is Tamara. She tried it out and it blew her mind. She's kind of wild. I knew her in college and . . . well, let's just say there were a lot of stories about her. But she's not a liar. I believe her."
"I still don't know what you're talking about," I said.
"It's like a secretive club. They drive around in a bus around the city. To get on the bus, you need a special token. You give them the token, and they let you on the bus, and then . . ."
"Then they fuck you."
"Who's they?" I asked.
"Everybody. It's a gang bang. Strangers. People you've never seen and will never see again. They grope you and tear your clothes off and they gang bang you."
"You've got to be kidding me."
"No. Seriously. That's what Tamara said. She did it. She said it was amazing. Most erotic experience of her life. The bus drove all over the city while strangers had sex with her. She couldn't remember how many. She was sore afterward."
"My God," I said.
"Yeah, that's what I thought."
My mind reeled at the idea. I looked closely at Penny.
"Are you . . . are you interested in doing this?"
"Me? No. I'm not a prude, but it's too much for me. I'd worry about it getting out. But she gave me a name and number to call. It's on a card. I've got it in my purse."
She opened the little purse and pulled out a crisp white business card with black embossed lettering. The letters "FB" appeared in the top left corner. In the middle of the card was the name "Dieter" and a phone number.
"Tamara gave me this card. You call this number," Penny said. "You talk to Dieter, and you tell him you want to ride the bus."
"That can't be a real thing," I said.
"I think it is," Penny said. "I believe Tamara. She told me all about it. It sounded totally wild. Over two hours of being driven around the city and having sex with strangers."
"Wouldn't she be worried about, like, catching something? STDs?"
"You'd think. But apparently this club is very careful. Everybody is checked. It sounds crazy, I know. I'd never do it. But Tamara said she loved the sense of letting go -- of letting her body be used by all those people."
"I can't even imagine," I said, my voice trailing off.
"I know, right?"
Penny grinned mischievously.
"But it does sound kinda hot, don't you think?"
"It sounds crazy," I said. "Crazy. But hot for some people., I guess."
"Maybe you should try it, Taylor," she said to me, her grin growing bigger.
"Me? Are you kidding? No way I'd do that."
"You need to loosen up."
"You keep saying that. Yeah, I could probably loosen up some, but that's too loose for me."
A strange chill crept over my body, giving me goose bumps. I didn't know why. It was June and the sun shone and the temperature held steady at 80 degrees.
Penny and I chatted about other things, and we finished our lunch and I went back to work. But I couldn't stop thinking about it: Fuck Bus. What a strange idea. How in the world could anyone do that? I couldn't imagine it. And, yet . . . I did imagine it. I kept thinking about it. I thought about what it would be like to board a bus full of strangers who . . . fucked me.
I was neither a prude nor a slut. I was 29, and I had had sexual partners in my life, but not that many. I was single at the time, having broken up three months earlier with a boyfriend whose self-absorption and inattentiveness to me grew to be too much to bear. I had been celibate since then, and I was feeling itchy.
I'd never done anything especially wild, sexually. I guess the wildest thing I ever did was have sex with my then-boyfriend on a deserted beach when I was 22. I liked sex, but I always thought of it as something private. Besides, I had a well-paying job at an insurance company, and I didn't want to do anything that might hurt my reputation or jeopardize my employment.
But for the next two days, I couldn't get Fuck Bus out of my mind.
It couldn't be real, could it?
I had a good memory, and I had memorized the name and number on the card Penny showed me. I couldn't get it out of my head, nor could I get the concept of the . . . the ride out of my head.
I thought about it while looking out the window of my office on the 11th floor of a downtown high-rise building. Work bored me, and I had no boyfriend to distract me. So, my thoughts wandered to . . . Fuck Bus.
It was a crazy idea. It was an incredible fantasy, but I couldn't imagine really doing it.
But nobody would know. Penny said it was discreet and secretive.
I looked out the window again. A sea of buildings spread out around me. It was a big city, and it was easy to be anonymous. It wasn't hard to imagine that a girl could get on a bus, be fucked by strangers, and get off, and nobody she knew would ever know. It would be her secret.
And, of course, the secret of everybody who fucked her.
I shook my head. I had to stop thinking crazy thoughts and get back to work.
Two more days passed. Work was stressful, but still dull, and I still had no boyfriend to distract me.
At home, after work, I poured myself a glass of wine and downed it quickly. The alcohol went to my head. I sat in front of the TV holding the drained wine glass but didn't know what I wanted to watch. The phone lay on an end table next to me. I picked it up.
I thought about the phone number Penny had given me. And the name. Dieter.
Impulsively, spurred on by the wine, I punched in the number.
It rang twice before a deep, masculine voice answered.
"Dieter." His tone was perfectly flat and emotionless.
"Hi, I --" I couldn't get the words out.
"I . . . I want to ride the bus."
"I see. Who told you about the bus?"
"A friend of Tamara."
"OK. And you're sure you want to ride the bus?"
When I picked up the phone to call, I wasn't sure about it at all. I just wanted to see if someone would answer, see if this was a real thing or a prank. I still didn't know if I wanted to do it. It seemed crazy even to think about it. But the conversation piqued my curiosity.
"I think so," I said.
"No," said Dieter, voice still perfectly even. "You must be sure. There is no thinking about it. Only those who are certain may ride the bus."
"OK, then," I said, relenting. "I'm certain." I spoke with more firmness. "I am certain I want to ride the bus."
I still wasn't certain, but I was starting to convince myself to give it serious thought.
"What is your name?"
"You are over 18?"
"Yes. I'm 29."
"You are using a cell phone?"
"Good," he said. "I will text instructions. You must follow them to the letter. Once you've done so, and if you meet the requirements, arrangements will be made for you to pick up a token, along with directions about where and when to get on the bus. You must be at the precise location at the precise time with your token in hand to get on the bus. The ride is two hours. One other thing --"
"What is it?" I asked.
"Wear something you won't mind not being able to wear again."
"Just do it. Because after the ride you won't be able to use it again. I assure you."
"OK." My voice quavered.
"You'll receive the instructions by text soon." A high tone sounded, signaling the end of the call.
What was I doing? I couldn't really do this, could I?
But the more I thought about it, the more I thought that maybe, just maybe, I really could do it. I could ride the bus. It sounded deliciously, wildly naughty -- the kind of thing my parents would be appalled to know I was even considering. I'd always been a "good" girl -- too good. It was time to break out a little. Well, more than a little. If I followed through with this, it would be wilder than anything I'd ever done, by far. And probably ever would do again.
The instructions came 15 minutes later, and I scanned them on the screen of my phone. The text read:
"You must have a medical checkup and be tested to confirm you have no STDs. You must scan a copy of the written report, along with your driver's license, and return them to this number within 12 hours of receiving the report, along with your work address. "
That shook me. An STD test? I hadn't had one in a while, but I'd tested negative before and was confident I had no STDs. But what about the people on the bus? The thought of being with strangers, perhaps many of them, was frightening. But still . . . something about the danger made it even more arousing.
After the call, I didn't take any action for over 24 hours. I had to think about it. At work the next day, it was difficult to concentrate. All I could think about was Fuck Bus.
What a crazy concept. That's what made it so enticing. I needed to do something crazy.
Finally, I called my doctor and set up a lab test.
Two days passed with interminable and agonizing slowness until my appointment. The appointment itself went quickly, and the next day the results were available through an online portal. I made a digital copy of the report and my driver's license.
I was keenly aware of what I was thinking about doing -- giving detailed and extremely personal information about myself to a stranger. But I did it.
In only 10 minutes, I received a call. It was Dieter.
"I received your text. So, you are sure you want to ride the bus?"
"Yes," I said, trying to sound confident. I didn't feel confident. "Can you tell me more about it?"
"Not much. All you need know is this. When you deliver your token to the bus driver and get on the bus, you consent to be fucked by any and all the people on the bus. I won't tell you how many there will be. Some will be women. Some will be men. Your body will be theirs to use however they wish. You should fully expect that every part of you, every orifice, may be used and filled. Everyone on the bus will have been tested, like you, and be free of STDs. No one will use condoms. I assume you are on the pill?"
"Yes," I said, my voice barely a whisper.
"Good, that's on you, if you don't want to get pregnant. Do you understand what I've said, and do you agree?"
"Yes," I said again.
"You understand that by getting on the bus you consent to have sex with more than one person on the bus?"
"The bus ride will last two hours. When we deliver the token, we will give you the location where you will catch the bus. It will drop you off near your work. You should clear you calendar and be flexible about the time, which you will find out early tomorrow. Where do you work?"
"In the Porter Building, 405 Willis Street, downtown."
"Excellent. I know where that is. I will text you early tomorrow about picking up the token. When the ride is done you will be dropped off near your place of work. You will want a change of clothes and you should plan to get in your car and leave immediately. You will not be in a condition to go back to work."
That sounded ominous and frightening . . . but, again, thrilling.
It was really happening. The wheels were turning. I would ride the bus.
I had difficulty falling asleep that night, but the next morning my eyes snapped open and I bounded out of bed, my skin atingle with excitement. I took a long time showering and took even longer shaving my body all over, leaving everything fresh and bare but with just a little well-cropped patch above my lips below.
Now the tough decision: what to wear? I didn't know what, exactly, would happen to my clothes, but I'd been warned. After a few minutes of mulling it over I pulled from the closet a cute, flowery sundress that hit my legs just above the knee. It was old but still in good condition. I seldom wore it and figured I could sacrifice it for . . . whatever was to come. Underneath a wore a pink, filmy thong and matching bra. I picked out another blue sundress from the closet as a spare, and I folded it and up it in my purse. After putting the outfit on I slipped tan, low-heeled sandals on my feet. Since I didn't know what to expect I didn't want to wear something I couldn't balance on.
My body flushed with nervousness on the drive to work. I parked in the garage under the building, on the second floor down where I usually did. Minding Dieter's words, I parked as close to the door to the stairs as I could.
I knew already that it was going to be a slow day at work and that I'd be able to get away anytime. I was fortunate to have be able to work on projects at home from time to time.
At 10 am the text message came:
"Go to the flower shop at 411 Willis and be there in exactly 20 minutes."
My tummy rumbled in the elevator on the way down from the 11th floor. I must have looked nervous, because a woman who looked like she was in her 60s kept glancing at me as we descended, her eyebrows arching as though wondering what I was up to.
It took no time to get to the flower shop. I was familiar with it. It was tiny, occupying just a sliver of horizontal space on the ground floor of a massive office building.
I stood outside the flower shop, as instructed, and I waited, glancing nervously this way and that. The sidewalk was crowded with people and I had no idea what the person I was to meet looked like.
"Taylor," said a familiar, uninflected voice from the opposite direction from where I was looking. I turned to meet Dieter for the first time.
He was a trim man of medium height with dark hair and a face of indeterminate age. He could have been ten years older than I, or twenty. He wore black-rimmed sunglasses, black shirt, black pants.
"Yes," I whispered. "Yes," I said again, louder.
"Do you still want to ride the bus?"
"Yes," I said. "I do."
"You consent to the terms we discussed?"
"Once you are on the bus, there's no turning back," he said.
"Oh!" I said, surprised. "I didn't know that."
"Yes. Do you still agree?"
"Yes, I do."
He held out his hand.
"Here is your token." He handed me a white plastic disk, like an out-sized poker chip, with black letters written on one side. "The token contains the time and place the bus will pick you up today. You must be in the precise location at the precise time, or it will leave without you, and you can never be invited to ride the bus again. Do you understand?"
"I do," I said, reading the words.
"Good," he said, cracking the slightest of smiles. "Enjoy your ride."
Dieter turned away and disappeared into the teeming throng of people on the sidewalk. I was left standing with the token in my hand. I read it. It said, simply: "Sunshine Tours. 611 Willis Street. 2:00 p.m." Only two blocks away. I knew there was a bus stop there. It made me nervous that it was only a short distance from my office. My colleagues at work might see me. But with so many people on the streets I figured that even if a co-worker saw me, they wouldn't think anything of it.
I went back to the office and did my best for a few hours to concentrate on work. I only partly succeeded. My heart raced, and my skin flushed as I anticipated what might happen later that afternoon.
What might happen.
I wasn't committed. I'd told Dieter I would do it, but I could still pull out. I could choose not to show up, and the bus would arrive at the stop, and it would pull away and disappear forever because of my nonappearance. I'd incur no penalty -- other than wondering for the rest of my life what it would be like to experience that fantasy.
Wondering about the fantasy ultimately got the best of me. Near 2 pm, I stood up from my desk. I walked to my boss's office and told her I had to leave and would be gone for the day. She said "OK," barely looking up from the project on which she was working.
It was warm and sunny when I emerged from the Porter Building. I turned left. My senses were running full tilt. The noises of the city, the warmth of the sun on my skin, the colorful tableau of the urban environment hit me all at once as I walked quickly to my destination.
In a few minutes I reached the bus stop. I looked around and saw no one that I knew.
This was the moment of truth. I could walk away.
But I didn't. I stood tall and still facing the street, waiting for the arrival of the bus. I check my phone repeatedly to confirm the time. A small purse hung over my shoulder, with the spare dress folded inside.
At 2:00 p.m. precisely, a bus pulled up at the stop, in front of me. It was silver and blue, and the windows were tinted so it was impossible to see inside it. The name "Sunshine Tours" was emblazoned across the side of it in large white letters.
The bus door opened with a soft, hydraulic "whoosh."
I stared at it for a few moments, as though my future depended on whether I stepped forward or not.
I did. I grabbed a siderail and climbed up the stairs. The bus driver was a middle-aged Asian man with an unreadable expression on his face.
"Token, please," he said.
I fished the token out of my purse. The driver held his palm out and I gave it to him. He read it for perhaps two seconds and then deposited it in a token receptacle near his seat.
"Do you want to ride the bus?" he asked, eyes level and unblinking on mine.
"I do," I replied.
"OK", he said, gesturing with his chin to indicate I should move back and take my place.
I turned and stared into the bus.
It looked like an ordinary bus, the kind I'd ridden many times in the past and never thought about. The one difference was that it was sparkly clean, and the paint looked fresh. I'd guess it was about half full of passengers. Nobody looked at me. Nobody paid attention to me. They were absorbed in their thoughts, or in the cityscape outside, or in their cell phones.
I wondered if I had made a mistake. Did I get on the wrong bus? Was this a mistake? It seemed weird that no one paid any attention to me.
As I walked down the aisle I heard and felt the engine rev up, and the bus started moving again. I steadied myself by grabbing an overhead metal rail. Wondering what to do or where to sit, I noticed quickly that the current occupants of the bus sat on the aisle seats, and no aisle seats were open. So, after walking half the length of the bus, I stopped and chose to stand, clutching the overhead rail tightly with my hand.
I wondered what was going to happen.
Nothing happened. I was puzzled. Nobody looked at me. Everyone seemed to mind their own business. I wondered again if I had made a mistake and gotten on the wrong bus.
The bus slowed and stopped along the street. Tall buildings surrounded us on all sides. The door opened and many people -- I lost count how many -- got on the bus. A few of them took seats but most, like me, crowded toward the middle of the bus and stood, hanging on to a rail overhead. Now, suddenly, I stood in a crowd of people.
After everyone had got on, the bus left the curb and continued.
I waited, nervous, wondering if something was going to happen or if this was just a prank. The bus turned this way and that. I could not tell where it was going. I started to feel like I'd been played for a fool.
And then, as the bus took a sharp turn, forcing the bodies of everyone standing to sway, I felt it. A hand bumped against my ass. I didn't turn to look whose hand it was. I continued staring out the window at the buildings that passed by us. I pretended nothing happened.