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I couldn’t see his face, but I could tell he was handsome. He was on his belly, signifying that he was a bottom. His face was turned to a wall, meaning he wanted anonymous sex and he wasn’t turning anyone away. That’s a hot scene for me. I entered his cubicle and closed the door. Wordlessly, I dropped my towel and lowered my nude body to his.

I’m not a regular of Chelsea’s West Side Club (westsideclubnyc.com, eastsideclubnyc.com), but I’ve learned how to cruise bathhouses. I found the place—and its affiliate, the East Side Club in midtown—shortly after the demise of my marriage. Fifteen years of monogamy had left me eager to dust off the dormant bisexuality of my youth. Online hookups were easy to come by, but I was drawn to the old-school practice of checking out men in the flesh, in an all-male environment.

I had assumed that all of the city’s bathhouses were shuttered in the early days of the AIDS crisis, but these two around-the-clock establishments have flourished for three decades. Each is discreetly tucked in a nondescript building and open only to members, though temporary memberships are easily acquired at the door. The East Side Club tends to attract married suits; the West Side Club draws the Chelsea boys.

The protocols of cruising are essentially unchanged since the heyday of St. Mark’s Baths a generation ago, or even the time of the aptly named Everhard Baths a century before. I picked up the codes readily enough. In the corridors and showers, men in towels cruise in silence, accepting or rejecting partners with a cursory glance. Some members rent cubicles and leave their doors open. Those who lay on their bellies are offering their asses. Those who sit back want their cocks serviced. I’m a top, so I prefer to wander the cubicles, lingering by the door of any man who catches my eye. If he shakes his head, I’m not his type, so I move on. If he nods, I’m invited to stay.

Cruising is not for those who dislike such perfunctory judgments. The West Side Club has a reputation for being particularly harsh on those who don’t conform to the Eighth Avenue clone style. For me, though, these superficial ratings are part of the attraction. Many men look past me as I wander the club’s dim hallways. But those who take a second look take me as I am. I am desired not because I’m smart or clever, but because I look good—or at least, good enough—and I’m available.

That simple anonymity had me hot for the bottom I had found. I rubbed my body against his, kneading his muscles with my fingers, aroused by the thought that I would be in him and he would never know my name or see my face. I pressed against his firm ass, and looked around the cubicle for condoms and lube. He would have to provide these, as the passing men carried nothing. I found neither.

“You don’t have condoms?” I asked. His head shook. I pressed once more against him, and then stood. I collected my towel and left, propping open his door as I passed. He was attractive. Someone else would bareback him. I found a twink to blow me.

Jefferson writes smut at One Life, Take Two.

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