A to Z 2017: HINDSIGHT

Thirty-five miles. That's what the sign had stated was the distance between where he was now and the next major off-ramp. Along with indicating a rest area just a mile ahead. Peter squirmed some, his bladder demanding attention. He was regretting not going to the bathroom before making the trek back home, but dusk was fast approaching and night driving wasn't his favorite pastime. The constant drizzle didn't help matters.

Another sign emerged from the darkness, lit by his headlights and only legible between the timed swishes of wiper blades. A final offering of facilities, after which he was flying solo, left to deal with the misery of his own making. Peter knew he could stop almost anywhere along the highway to do his business, but the weather pushed against that notion. Plus, he felt it was a bit more proper to use an actual bathroom. But the thought of stopping at some random rest stop, alone, in the middle of the night was almost trumping his desires to feel civilized.

The brief tug-of-war sparked by his indecisiveness was quashed when he felt an urge to just let loose while driving, avoiding the hassle of making a choice, forced him to veer off the highway and onto to the road leading to the rest area. He instantly regretted it, his mind plaguing him with images of how disgusting the facilities undoubtedly were. Untouched for years, except by those contributing their vile bodily fluids to the collection left by the patrons before them. No toiletries. No running water. A wasteland of filth.

In hindsight, Peter thought it would have been more worthwhile to relieve himself while exposed to the elements than to endure such grotesqueness. The idea of just passing by and heading right back onto the highway floated around as an option, but then he became distracted by a semi-truck parked on the side of the roadway. It was as generic as they came — a blue cab hitching a large, white box — soft yellow lights running along its lower half. Peter felt his anxiety triggering. So much for taking care of business alone. The cab was dark and he assumed the trucker was passed out. Catching some decent sleep before having to haul another twelve hours straight. Or at least he hoped.

The road opened up to an expansive parking lot offering a good dozen spots in front of a small brick building. The immediate area surrounding the building was dotted with benches, tables, and lighting. A lot more promising than Peter was anticipating. He wondered if he would happen across a snack or soda machine. May as well fill up after draining.

Peter slid his car into park between two white lines directly in front of the facility building. A smile spread across his face as he spotted the familiar shape of a vending machine tucked into an alcove of the building. Must be his lucky night. First things first, though, he thought as he turned off his car and darted out into the rain, making a direct line to the restrooms.

*     *     *

Lloyd Baker was sitting in the driver's seat of his rig when the black Sonata drove past and parked up ahead at the rest stop. He had stopped his ride further back on the roadway shoulder, wanting to leave the lot open to others who may need to swing by. Even if this particular rest area wasn't very busy from his experience, one he frequented on his standard route.

His hand dipped into a bag of nacho cheese Doritos, his fingers already covered in the powdery flavor. The three chips snatched found their way to his mouth, which he chewed loudly with his mouth open. Using the same hand, Lloyd scratched his unshaven chin, not caring about any residue left behind.

It was only a minute or two later when a second car went by, but he was too distracted to catch the model. A white sedan that looked very similar to the earlier Sonata. It parked next to the other car in the lot. At the distance he was parked at, it was hard to make out anything specific through his rain-splotched windshield. He nabbed another handful of chips.

His eyelids began to droop as he devoured his dinner, the lack of sleep beginning to catch up with him. He was determined to get some actual sleep, avoiding his usual tactic of drowning energy pills with an energy drink. The pressures of working the open road could take a toll.

There was a flicker up ahead that drew his attention. From his vantage point, despite being unable to make out any details of the vehicles or their passengers, he witnessed the lights at the rest stop begin to dim and flutter. The spectacle lasted a few moments before all of the lights on the grounds surged at once, becoming almost blinding, before going completely dark. Lloyd's vision was distorted by a white bar, despite squinting through the event.

Eventually his eyes readjusted and he became aware that one of the vehicles was being piloted, backing out from its parking spot and heading down the far end of the roadway leading back to the highway. With the power outage and rainfall, he was unable to determine which vehicle was which.

Lloyd's eyes grew heavier and he decided that instead of worrying about it, he would finally get some shuteye. One of the strangers would call it in, and if not, he could in the morning. He tossed the bag of chips onto the passenger seat and crawled back into his makeshift bed, where dreams of the open road awaited.

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