At a rest stop in Texas, Toby and I pulled over to use the bathroom and buy some bottled water. Driving through the chimney top of Texas is like driving on a heavily-policed piece of brown cardboard. We had driven through Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, Indiana, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, and no other state was as flat and desolate as northern Texas.
The gas station was directly off the highway. Judging by the number of cars and the worn look of its parking lot, I’d say hundreds of travelers driving along route 40 pulled over at this particular gas station. It was well-kept. Besides the daily build-up of used ketchup packets, candy wrappers, molted straw paper, and once puffed, now left for dead cigarette butts, this well-lit gas station was pretty well maintained.
Toby grabbed a bottle of water from the back and then proceeded to check out the number of animal skulls one could purchase from the gift shop. This came as no surprise to us in Texas, but had some of the items been available for sale at a rest stop in Washington D.C. or San Francisco, one might begin to heavily surveil its shop-keeper.
We should get one of these for our Brooklyn Apartment.
Toby said to me from another isle.
How much is it?
40 bucks. Too much to spend on an animal skull.
I ducked into the bathroom to pee. We had to be in Tulsa by nightfall. I needed my second wind.
I’ll be right back. I have to pee. Check for magnets.
I entered the white tiled hallway leading me to a well-lit women’s restroom. I walked into the stall straight ahead. There is a thought which goes through my head every time I enter a restroom. Basically, whatever stall seems most readily available is probably the stall the others turned down. Operating under this rationale, one would not pick the stall furthest away or darkest or the one less “visible”, they would pick the stall directly in front of them. So I chose door number 1.
What sat behind stall door number 1 ended up being a wonderful. And apparently it blew my theory all to shit. Stall number one featured three large sheets of paper which were pasted to the walls like wallpaper. On each sheet of paper were hundreds of individuals’ scribbles. Written above the one on the back of the door, were these words:
Tell us where you’re going and where you’ve been.
Oh my god, I’d entered a “Loo Journal”. And in this particular one there were already hundreds of comments.
Here is where I admit to something. Usually, I hover. The times I do not hover, I am usually A). Drunk B). Tired (so I wipe the seat off). C). Reading about everyone else’s life while sweeping along route 40 through the chimney of Texas.
Written before me were so many stories. One women was driving through Texas with her brother. He was moving to California. Their U-haul broke down and they were waiting for a replacement. One gal hated Bush and wanted Texas to know about it. She was from Arizona. Another family was from North Carolina to Texas to welcome home a soldier. A couple named Mike and Dee (HEY! I know Mike and Dee!, I thought as I read more.) were driving from Florida to Arizona. They were from Florida. (Not the same Mike and Dee.) Still more wanted to leave messages about how much they loved the state where GW Bush was born and raised. Others talked about Thanksgiving. And still others about war. One person even mentioned a death in the family and how they were driving to a funeral.
There were maybe a hundred stories written on these sheets. And I wanted to own each and every one of them. I didn’t just want to read them, I wanted to have them as proof. I sat comfortably on the toilet reading more and more. I was probably in there for a bit too long. I pictured Toby out there among the animal bones wondering if I was partaking in “that one thing in which we do not speak about” in our house. I decided that should probably wrap this up.
I contemplated taking the sheet with Mike and Dee’s name written on it. I know a Mike and Dee from San Francisco who do a lot of driving. This couple could be their East coast twin. I could just take that one, the biggest one. I could fold it up and put it in my pock and none would be the wiser. Then, I could show it to Toby, these stories other people shared. I would have their voices in my pocket.
In two short seconds I had acted out the crime in my head and had talked myself out of it. I couldn’t steal their stories, literally shutting off their voices from everyone else but me and Toby. So I didn’t take the sheet. And I exited the bathroom.
Toby was standing beneath the animal heads, right behind the cheap plastic Texas snowglobes and ceramic cacti.
Hey. You ready?
Yeah. I have to do something first. Do you have a pen?
I’ll tell you in a minute.
I walked back up to the woman behind the registered and asked her for a pen.
I’d like to write on your bathroom wall if you don’t mind.
We don’t mind one bit!
She handed me a black pen and I walked back into the first stall. I sat back down onto the toilet. With pen in hand, I picked a small spot towards the bottom. It was in the middle. It was big enough to write a paragraph or maybe two. It was there at a rest stop in Texas, I began to write our story.