My Adventure in an Alternate Universe


 He said he gets carsick, so none of us balked when he rushed to the passenger seat and planted himself in. As for me, smaller than the four remaining men, and like a Girl Scout, I volunteered to perch on the middle seat in the cab's last row.

 Once my bid was in the air, two husky men rushed to claim the second row. Jake and Dean, as if escorting milady to the ball, opened left and right doors to seat themselves on either of my sides. If these two had any reluctance to be glued to an elderly woman for 2 hours and 16 minutes during a 118.5-mile road trip, they gave no indication. And by the clue that I know their names, you'd be aware we became Facebook friends.

 My adventure with five gay men and one unspecified-gender cab driver began about 10 minutes earlier in the doll-sized Provincetown, MA airport.  Based on my obsession with time and schedules, be assured that upon awakening the morning of my homebound flight, I had seen fog out the window and worried if a problem lay ahead. But since Cape Air's website had promised all was on schedule, I packed that anxiety, along with five days worth of rumpled clothing, into my suitcase.

 "Nothing's flying," the agent had said as I handed over my confirmation email. "We're offering a ride to Logan in exchange for your flight ticket. A taxi will be here in five minutes." He offered this option casually, as if he were a shoe salesman saying sorry your size is out of stock, but we have another that should satisfy.

 My daughter, Faith, who had driven me to the airport, stared. Cognizant of her mother's pre-flight anxiety, she was likely awaiting my collapse from plans gone awry. But when she heard me shout, "I'll take it!" she sent a look of bewilderment, then happiness.

 I'm not certain why I shed my internal rigid timetable and leapt at a lengthy ride along with five strangers and no opportunity for bathroom breaks to catch a flight boarding in less than three hours, but now I pin it on the place of departure.

 PTown, as it is called by its 3,000 'year round residents and 60,000 summer visitors, is a city off the tip of Cape Cod that was first home to artists, then writers, dramatists, and poets who were drawn to its natural beauty and progressive freedom. For decades it has been a festive respite for anyone identifying as one of the letters of LGBTQ. Street scenes, where men or women walk hand-in-hand, or kiss, with their same-gendered partners are commonplace. Each day, on strolls into town, PTown appeared to me as an alternate universe; magical, where all sorts of love -- possibly hidden back home -- could be openly celebrated.

 Or perhaps it was the five days with my daughters, Faith and Jill, whom I admire for their talents and audacity that contributed to my newfound loosening. Both offspring fit in the alphabetical description of PTown's population and for several years have been vacationing in August on its west end. As for me, a straight ally of the letters, this was my third trip and most special because I would be celebrating my milestone 80th birthday with all of my beloveds.

 As for my taxi fellow travelers, Jake and Dean are longtime PTown residents. During my interviews, where I swiveled my head and questions from left to right, I learned that our ride was taking them to business meetings in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. Further probing unveiled details of Jake and his husband's two successful companies, and Dean's caregiving for a beloved aunt while finessing a prestigious career.

 Traffic along US-6W and MA-3N was skimpy at that early hour and when our cab's first stop was my American Airlines terminal at Logan, I was grateful I had a full hour before my return flight to Chicago. My two sweet princes exited to allow my passage; we hugged as compatriots, grinning and claiming it was the best-unexpected adventure ever.

 I take that back, there was one more: While in PTown, during a pontoon ride to Long Point, after everyone but me had leapt into the 12-foot depth, I climbed down the ladder, as dubious as if I were descending into a ritual bath. Although I regularly swim with rubber fins in water never deeper than 4 feet, here I sailed off into the bottomless blue and floated on my back until three tense companions hauled me to the boat.

 So encouraged that I didn't drown, and almost calm in my float, upon my return to Chicago, I signed up at a local YMCA where the indoor pool has a 9-foot deep end. My goal for next year's PTown vacation is to launch into the bay again, emerge at the surface, confidently tread water, and paddle back to the pontoon, sans hovering lifeguards. Pray for me.