Nonstop – Tanner Armatis

        The silk button up’s, the dyed hair, the painted nails, even the Birkenstocks came after I met Barefoot. He leisurely rode his bike at midnight and I hit him with my side-mirror going fifty-five on my way home from work. The perfect angle to completely decimate him but I only clipped his ass. We were meant to meet.
        I parked my car on the shoulder and ran for him. He dragged his bike with one hand and the other was on his butt. He was standing, walking, talking with me, but I asked anyway if he was okay. And he shook his head and said, no, I could be better. What can I do? I owed him something— a debt. He smiled and said you could be naked.
        I really took in this man after he said that. A skin-tight red elastic band around his crotch was the only thing he wore beneath his neck. Glasses and a trucker hat above. He waited for me to respond, still smiling.
        What? I said and he laughed, can’t hurt to shoot my shot—my ass alright? He turned around and his butt was out. A big bruise’s y’all got. Thanks, he said, and he walked past me and told me to have a goodnight, waving, as if we were friends casually bumping into one another on a city-street. Where are you going! Let me drive you! I yelled after him.
        He came back quickly for an old man wobbling. He put the bike in the backseat and said to the campground! But I didn’t know which one, but he knew the way. Said he was camping with a friend. We were in my car, driving, when he told me his name.
        Barefoot (self-titled. His real name was John but all his friends called him Barefoot) was a nudist who biked through the entire city every year on Bicycle Day. But why at night? I asked and he said the police ran into him a few times and eventually, they went in and he explained his beliefs. They came to an agreement.
        I had so many questions but Barefoot had his own. Have you been publicly naked? Do you like nudity? How open are you? I answered all his questions, but he was stuck on how open I really was. I didn’t know how to prove myself, so I asked. He grinned and said to pull my pants down.
        But I was driving— I couldn’t— Barefoot offered to help me. And I thought about it. Really did. How often did you hit a man with a car and they lived to tell the tale? Only to get up, dust the pain off, and not ask for insurance, the police, only one request: nakedness. Fuck it, go ahead. What’s the loss?
        And he did, pulling at the button, unzipping, pulling my boxers down, and he went oooh— can I? What? And he laughed and said, can I touch it? But that was enough. I wasn’t gay and didn’t want to give Barefoot the wrong impression, so I told him, and he laughed again, saying, that’s fine, I got mine.
        I wiggled my pants up while Barefoot gave directions. Almost there. Barefoot was quiet unless it was our left or our right. I thought I offended him. Hit a man and then insulted him. What kind of man was I? Stop, stop, he shouted, we’re here! Another naked man sat next to a bonfire. A large pop-up tent was behind him. He waved us in.
        Hey, hey, Gooey! He yelled out the window. I parked the car and Barefoot got out, took his bike, and said hey, kid, I gotta thank you. If you didn’t drive me, Gooey would’ve left me without any acid. He does this every year. What? Even though we’ve done this for the last four years, and I knew what time I’d pull up, I had to do it, Barefoot said, to be really open, you have to push your luck.
        I drove home that night knowing nobody would believe me. He was a memory now. Only for me. The time I spent with Barefoot was the only instance where a person influenced my life so shortly, so absurdly. The vision of a man happily living somewhere out there— truly for himself— solidified a certainty at every crossroads where I am forced to make a decision.