I was not planning on relating this. But, you guys have bared your souls, so I will now bare mine. If you never look me in the eye again, I will understand.
A word of warning, this story is gross. I find it to be funny, but you might just find it to be gross. Ye be warned. Be ye not afraid, this will be t’ last I o’ pirate speak durin’ t’ story.
Wendy and I drive to Sacramento. Isaac and Isabelle are in back. Between our home and Sacramento there is a long stretch of farmland.
It is late afternoon, and soft light falls on the green fields. This is rural California at its best. As we wind through the fields, Wendy and I chat about the scenery, and life, the kids, our families, our upcoming trip; nothing that would be interesting to an outsider. But to me, in the moment, nothing could be more interesting.
The sun falls slowly toward earth and shadows lengthen into darkness. Hours pass on my contentment. We realize that we have not eaten in a while. The kids serve as tinkling hunger bells.
We are not around anything. We eventually approach the neon tiding of a Baja Fresh. We exit the freeway. As we draw close, we notice that it is a communal gas station/Baja Fresh.
Now as a rule, we do not dine in establishments where you can also buy gasoline. Call us elitists. We have a problem, though. We are not sure we will find another restaurant within an hour, and the kids gentle reminders have changed into the wild whining of hungry hyenas.
It is Baja Fresh or open mutiny (I know I promised no more pirate talk. Arrrrrrrrrrgh you willing to forgive me? Horrible, Tyler, genuinely horrible). We opt for the lesser of two evils. One is really at the mercy of their child when traveling two feet in front of their lungs on an isolated highway.
We enter. The counter is to our left. It is empty. In fact, there is not another person under the bright florescent lights of the Baja Fresh/convenience store. There is, however, a lot of salsa.
More accurately, a lot of salsa bowls. More accurately, a normal amount of gargantuan salsa bowls. The bowls are an array of mismatched kitchenware. They appear to have been taken from some grandmother’s kitchen. This much variety must have accumulated over time. The bowls are blue, green, orange, pink, red, silver and bronze, a plastic rainbow with metal accents. They are filled to varying depths, but, never near the rim.
We pass by the salsa bar to the counter. After waiting, then circling the convenience store, then asking loudly for assistance, then waiting some more, a man in his mid-forties opens a door in the back of the kitchen.
He removes his headphones, gives us a confusing shrug and asks what we want. Wendy and I order burritos. The kids get quesadillas. By now we are all quite hungry. We wait for the man to fire up the grill, and prepare our food. It is about a half hour wait.
We eat the food. Somehow, although we just saw it cooked, it tastes stale. I know that it is not actually dusty, but that is the closest I can get to describing it. I add liberal amounts of salsa to cover the odd taste. The salsa tastes off too, not rancid, just different.
My commitment to not eat at gas station fast food is renewed. About an hour after we enter the building, we exit. I glance at the bathrooms. I am too afraid of what I might find in them to crack the door.
Wendy drives and I relax into my seat. I kick my shoes off in the dim glow of the kids’ DVD player. I watch the Baja Fresh’s neon glow disappear into a fine ball. Just as it leaves my mirror, my stomach gurgles.
It sounds like the flushing of a toilet. Food is being flushed into or out of my stomach. I am not a medical doctor people. I do have a Juris Doctorate, and so if you insist on calling me doctor in person, who am I to ask you to stop? Or better yet, if you insist on calling me Doctor of the Law because it has such a nice ring to it, I will oblige you. Or, I guess, if you would like to call me Sir Tyler, because once upon a time, they greeted lawyers that way, go ahead. I mean, if you must. Now, where were we?
Oh yes, I give Wendy my best quizzical look. She smirks back. The sound was loud enough for her to hear at 70 miles an hour.
I pause to see if there is cause to panic. All is quiet; a passing tremor then. I am relieved. Still, out of an abundance of precaution, I causally note to Wendy, “If you happen see a bathroom, let’s stop at it.”
The next few minutes pass in calm. Then, silent battle begins. My stomach lurches. I begin to feel the sick surety of the coming storm. I have already made mention of the fact that a bathroom would be handy. I don’t want to call more attention to this now that I am in peril.
I am working under the when-a-bathroom-is-close-it-is-harder-to -hold it theory. The phenomenon of having to race to get your clothes out of the way once you shut the stall door (well, mainly pants and underwear, unless you want to get really cozy.)
I unconsciously scratch my forehead. It is slick with sweat. Not good, body.
Wendy glances at me. She notices my contorted stare. I peer ahead into the darkness hoping for some sign of a bathroom.
“Dear, should I pull off the road?”
“No, I am afraid that I am going to require a toilet for what is about to be unleashed.”
“Okay, well, just let me know.”
“…” I have rapidly come to the point of not talking lest my body take the opening of my mouth as an excuse to relax another more vital portal. I am panicked. I reflect on the fact that I have not soiled myself since I was in diapers, and that this streak might soon end.
I open my mouth to tell Wendy to pull off to the side of the road, but the wave passes. Ok, well done body, well done indeed. False alarm everyone, it is going to be all-r. Panic.
Goose bumps cover my skin. Nausea assaults me. I am now concerned about on onslaught from above and below, the dreaded barfarhea. (Some insist on calling it diavomit, but I prefer the former. It is just classier.) If history teaches us anything, it is to not to fight a war on two fronts.
Through my agony, I see an exit ahead. Sweet sweetness.
“Um,” I say in a stressed mumble. “If you wouldn’t mind, could you pull off here?” I feel sweat drip from my nose. Not good.
I frantically scan the exit. There is nothing here; as in nothing. Wendy slows to about three miles an hour as we stare into the darkness. There are just flat fields of long grass. Although prospects are poor, my body has unclenched some. I am going to be alright.
“Looks like nothing off this exit. Let’s try the next o-.” I interrupt my own sentence by jumping out of the rolling car. I stumble to catch myself and then sprint down a ten foot slope in my socks. I reach flat ground. Grass reaches above my knee. My socks are soaked with dew. It is go time, people.
I take a few paces while loosing my pants. I would stop to do this if not for my fear of stopping before absolutely ready for the onslaught. I momentarily consider squatting, but decide that this will not do. I don’t know how to put this delicately, so I will not try. I am concerned about splatter.
So I decide on the crab. My hands reach back and feel the dew-moistened grass. But, because the grass is so tall, so does my butt. (I know that you should never start a sentence with but, but does the same apply to ending one with butt?) So I opt for a modified crab, or, in the current vernacular, a bridge.
I don’t think that I have tried to perform a bridge since age three. Yet, as necessity necessitates the unreasonable at times, my bridge is phenomenal. I am able to almost clear the grass.
Ready, set, fire. I will not go into the details. It would be crass (because I obviously care about not being crass.) I will only say that the force and rapidity of the act are astounding. The power and volume bends the grass well away from me.
But then something entirely gross happens. Some of the grass unloaded its, well, load, and springs back and touches my backside.
Yuck! POO GRASS! I have been touched by poo grass.
So, as I am in a modified crab, I decide to walk. More of a four limbed hop really, because I know that more grass will follow the first blades, and so I act quickly and unthinkingly. I go sideways so as not to get a handful of grass poo, which is so much worse than poo grass.
No sooner have I cleared the spring loaded grass than round two starts. Round two is slightly longer than one and slightly less violent. However, it leaves me ragged. I am roused by the fear of more poo grass so I decide to move again.
Wait, where did I come from? I cannot remember where I came from. I know that I need to move, but where is it safe? In my haste to move, I had not planned a route. I balance the risk of trampling where I have already been against the certainty of the disgusting tickling of the grass. I opt for the chance at stepping where I should not. (With hindsight, I know this is foolish, but I was in the heat of battle.)
I choose correctly, and move just in time for the final round. When it is over, something really weird happens. I mention that it is weird, not because you will not realize that it is. I mention it so that you will know that I know that it is weird. Being self-aware of your weirdness makes you less weird, right?
I am weary. I move from the poo grass one last time. I take a moment to compose myself. I feel the relief of the utterly discomforted. I survey my surroundings.
There is a bright moon surrounded by wispy clouds. The sky is otherwise cloudless. There is no manmade light in sight. The stars shine as brilliantly as I have ever seen them. A warm breeze snakes through the grass.
I am overcome by the beauty of the night. I don’t know if the journey towards this moment makes my savor it more. I do know that after I abuse some of our kids’ socks to clean the disaster area, and reenter the car, Wendy is surprised by my first words.
“That was beautiful.”
The kids, being kids.
BLUE LILY | Lifestyle Photographer | Salt Lake City, Utah