We're All Damaged

Monday, April 20, 2009

Truck Stop Man Candy: The Matt Norman Story

For a couple of weeks now I’ve been aimlessly drifting around the United States going from wedding to wedding and eating red meat like a Tyrannosaurus Rex. This past weekend, instead of braving another airport, I borrowed my parents’ car and drove from Charleston, SC to Arlington, VA by myself.

Normally, driving 550 miles each way would seem daunting, but I was actually looking forward to it. It would give me a chance to spend some time with myself on the open road. I’d think about some things—some important things—and I’d come to some conclusions about those things. I’d be all Jack Kerouac-y and unshaven. Perhaps I’d pick up a hitchhiker or take in a bar fight.

Of course, none of these things actually happened. Instead, speeding through the south, I blasted my iPod, read billboard after billboard advertising fireworks and Jesus, and devised meaningless physical challenges for myself:

  • I’m going to see how long I can drive using only my knees.
  • I’m going to listen to Rush Limbaugh.
  • I’m going to drink this Diet Dr. Pepper as fast as I can and then see how long I can go without stopping.

It was this last one that sent me speed walking through a truck stop in North Carolina that looked like a place where good-looking teenagers are murdered in movies. As I stared at a confederate flag sticker above the urinal in the dilapidated bathroom, I heard a sigh from the stall behind me. That’s when I realized that I wasn’t alone. Then I heard rustling, throat clearing and some more signing.

Two things dawned on me then: 1. I was hearing a lot of noises, but none of them seemed to be bathroom noises, and 2. sighing, if analyzed carefully, sounds a lot like heavy breathing.

As a fundamentally nervous person, I’ve experienced some awkward eye contacts in my life, but if I multiplied those by two and stacked them on top of one another, they would pale in comparison to what happened when I finally flushed, zipped and turned around. He had cracked the stall door about two inches and he was grimacing. He had a beard and two dark eyes—both of which were fixed on me—and he was biting his lip.

From time to time my mother reads this blog, and so all I’ll tell you is that he was holding something very specific in his hand, something that belonged only to him. And what he was doing with that thing—well, it’s going to take more than crisp, refreshing Diet Dr. Pepper to make me forget.

May God bless each and every one of us. And may God bless America.


  1. well that's kinda flattering, no?

  2. Yeah, a little bit actually. I was wearing my nicest pair of jeans.

  3. find a happy place! find a happy place!

  4. Wow, I'm amazed you didn't tell us that story at lunch on Saturday. Sadly, I had a similar experience once, but at a bus stop, in the middle of the city, at lunch time on a weekday. I mean, there were people everywhere. But it was allll for me, he made that clear. I was a mere 21 years old. Yeah.