Unlike every other female I know, Cristy takes exactly 2 minutes in the restroom. I know this because we’ve stopped at every public restroom we’ve passed in three days, an average of one every three hours. I stand outside and wait each time, because she always takes the car keys in with her. She says, “Wait here, I’ll only be two minutes,” and I do.
Or “Stick around, I’ll be out in a bit.”
Sometimes I believe her, and stand outside like a dog. Mostly I wander around, poking about for something to eat. Once I found a half-eaten sandwich that had been left on top of a trash bin; I sniffed it carefully before wrapping it in toilet paper and stashing it in my jacket.
Another time I sat on the edge of the sidewalk and watched the black gutter water slide slowly out from beneath my left leg and towards my right. Sometimes a dollop of mucus would come along and leave a trail of yellow-green through the black.
This restroom right now is just a little porta-let on the side of the road, on the outside of a turn. The road is a thin layer of asphalt with about 2 decades worth of weathering. Mostly it’s just a bunch of tire tracks pointing in a certain direction.
The porta-let is a plastic blue box the size of a phone booth with a molded door and a porthole on either side so you wouldn’t suffocate. The handle looks slimey, and turns out to be booby-trapped. Cristy yells out as she pulls her hand away, and I see strands of white gum stretching out mozzarella-like from her fingers, swinging in the breeze. She yells again and tries to wipe it off on my shirt, but I’m already backing away.
The stench is so bad that Cristy has to leave the door partially open. The seat inside is broken in half and held together by flesh-colored packing tape. She makes me stand a few feet away, and to the right. She says, “Two minutes. Tell me if another car comes.”
But of course, there are no other cars. An hour ago we overtook a carabao pulling a wagon that had been overloaded with all sorts of wooden junk. Cristy didn’t stop though. As the wagon got smaller, I decided that I couldn’t conclusively say whether the man holding the reins was still alive. I said, “If that carabao were mine, I’d call it Bawie.”
Cristy pretends she didn’t hear me, and keeps driving. After that, all we saw was grass and dirt, with the occasional patches of concrete shooting up in between them. We don’t know where we are, but there was still a road.
The area behind the porta-let drops off sharply, about 12, maybe 15 feet, and I can hear water gurgling if I don’t breathe too hard. As I lean over it, I catch a whiff of a familiar fecal odor and drop back instinctively. After a moment I look again, breathing through gritted teeth. I see another porta-let at the bottom of the gully. The fall had bent it in half and it was bleeding out its refuse into a small stream. I frowned as the stream turned slowly khaki.
I fish around in my jacket pocket and find my old sandwich, still only half-eaten. I tear off small pieces, popping them in my mouth like jelly bellies. The stream below me has turned into mud. I ponder the stream and the bleeding porta-let and think, When did that happen?
I hear Cristy banging around and figure she’s almost done. I’m walking towards the car when I hear a familiar bell. Bawie comes plodding out from around the corner. There’s a froth of spittle around his mouth, and he looks mad. The driver’s body is being dragged along behind the wagon, bouncing around like a ragdoll. Bawie looks really mad, and I crouch down behind the car and hope he doesn’t see me. I pat my jacket pocket and am reassured when I feel my sandwich there still.
A couple of feet away, Cristy is stepping out of the porta-let. I am trying to wave her back inside, hide, be quiet, but by the time I can get the first syllable out, she has already started swearing. Bawie looks big enough to eat the porta-let.
Cristy jumps back inside and tries to pull the door shut behind her, but Bawie is plodding along pretty fast. When he slams into the porta-let, it could’ve been made of cardboard. It groans and warps and falls backward into the ditch. I can hear Cristy yelling inside. I am too scared to move.
Bawie sticks around for a long time, huffing. I don’t move for a good five minutes after he leaves. When I finally get the courage to peek down into the ditch, I see Cristy struggling to stand up. Her porta-let had landed right on top of the other one, and both had exploded outward like shit-covered flowers. She crawls up the incline, groaning, and her hand is slippery when I take it. When she isn’t looking anymore, I wipe my hand quickly on the grass and hope the smell doesn’t stick.
She collapses on the dirt, catching her breath. I sit down too, as far away as possible without being insulting. When she tries to straighten out her hair, wet clumps of dark brown spatter the soil.
She doesn’t cry or anything.
Finally, I say, “Have a sandwich.”
The customary links to other Cristy stories:
Take the Keys and Run
Cristy Says Let’s Go