“Rest Stop” is essentially a true story of something that happened to me when I was seventeen. I’d run away from my home in Massachusetts two weeks earlier, just a week after graduation. After making made my way down the East Coast and across the South in the car I’d bought in secret with money I’d earned waitressing, I found myself hungry and baking in the scorching heat of July in rural Texas. I was supposed to start school at U.C. Berkeley two months later, but since I was still underage and therefore subject to recall if caught, I was understandably anxious about conserving the little money I had, as I wasn’t sure how easy it would be for a kid with no parents, no home, and no local references to find a job. Being mathematically minded, I quite naturally spent the long miles driving in calculating a fairly precise budget, which, once I’d paid for necessities like gas and oil, had little room in it for luxuries like food. And then I stopped at this gas station and here was this wonderful man asking me earnestly if I had enough money to get where I was going or whether I wanted to earn a little extra to tide me over until I arrived safely at my intended destination.
I’m embarrassed to admit now that I was just as naïve as the girl in the story. I spent a lot of time travelling alone in the years that followed, and was propositioned numerous times by male strangers seeking the company of a young woman for an afternoon or an hour. But this was the first time it had happened, and I was so utterly confounded by his perplexing behavior that I spent many miles pondering it in my head. Why had this man been so inexplicably kind? Who offers money to a girl he doesn’t even know, in exchange for services he isn’t sure she’s qualified to perform? I’d probably driven a good half hour before comprehension finally came roaring into my addled teenaged brain and I understood that I’d come unbelievably close to becoming an unwitting body for hire. At length amusement over the incident replaced my horror, and at least the next time it happened, I was prepared with a polite, “No, thank you, sir.”
My favorite part of this piece is the description of the insects on the windshield. Although Texas insect splatter can’t compare to that of, say, North Dakota, which is the absolute worst I have ever seen, it’s definitely one of the more brutal varieties. Cleaning your windshield to get the dust off of it is one thing; when you have to scrape off the dead bugs every hundred miles just so you can see the road, that’s another ballgame entirely. Also, since this is basically a true story, I should note in the interest of honesty that I do not have and never have had skinny thighs. Skinny, as a word in the phrase, simply sounded better to me than thick ;)