The Trucker's Wife
by Jolene Laughlin
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We left Lafayette late yesterday after running around and tying up loose ends. Nothing frustrates my oh-so-focused truck driving husband Jay more than having to wait around when he's got a load on. My stepson decided, for whatever reason, to push his Dad's patience to the limit by deliberately dawdling and making up new chores and tasks to do at the last minute. He even voluntarily did the dishes - taking care to rinse each one at least three times! I have to say that I was reminded rather strongly of Donald Duck and Chip & Dale. J was sputtering and turning beet red in rage while his unperturbed son coolly washed the dishes and then meandered around the house checking doors and gathering stuff up. It was frustrating but funny at the same time.
We got the teenager and dogs settled with their respective friends/sitters and left Lafayette 4 hours later than planned. We made it through Louisiana overnight and into north Texas with the sunrise. There are lots of hills and trees, but not enough of them to cluster up and obscure the view as in Louisiana. Overall, the people we've met so far have been extremely friendly. I don't know if it's the general attitude of the state or if it's just truck stop culture. Funny how each place has a different feel to it. Texas definitely feels bigger.
A truck stop in Jolly, TX was also a Greyhound station. When I went into the restroom after helping Jay fuel up a young African-American woman was standing at the sink with a puffy-faced, weeping toddler sitting in front of her. My first inclination was to feel irritated since I thought she was changing him on the sink and I couldn't get in to wash the diesel off of my hands. I went into the only open stall to realize that the woman next-door to me had bigger business to do than the usual quick trip into a public restroom. For an instant I wished I were at home. The smell, the dirty atmosphere, the sense of being out of place were very uncomfortable. There was no way I was going to sit on one of those toilets so I did the squat and flush routine and pondered the unfairness of the fact that men have it so much easier in that regard. That led to the thought that perhaps a week of public restrooms would lead to stronger, more toned leg muscles, so maybe there would be a benefit to all of this. I also noticed while suspended there that "Crystal loves Matt" and a whole lot of other unmentionable people and things were scratched into the paint on the wall. What possesses someone to write such trash in a public restroom? I could somewhat see wanting to carve one's name into a tree, or in some way mark one's passing through a special place - but a bathroom? Seriously?
The baby on the sink continued to sob and I heard his mama brushing her teeth. I realized that a.)She must have been on the bus all night and b.)He was trying to get down and she was keeping him off the dirty bathroom floor. She was being a good, responsible mother and my irritation faded. The smell of human waste and the sounds of strangers taking care of personal business surrounded me and I found myself thankful for my life and the blessings I take for granted every day. What must it have been like for the Jews, crammed into concentration camps, immigrants stuffed into ships and crowded through Ellis Island, slaves stacked on top of one another in the holds of slave trader ships, all forced to be in close and constant contact with strangers. No privacy, no dignity, no hiding the more embarrassing bodily functions from people you don't know. For an instant I experienced a small fraction of what those people lived with, and what some people live with even now. We are so blessed, so removed from the dirty, the ugly, the baseness of human life, and we take it all for granted. I wonder what it would be like for a wealthy, spotless, made-up woman like the ones I work with to be put into that situation. I can barely imagine it for myself, let alone some of the high-class elite types that I know. I just wonder, what are we really made of, underneath our modern exteriors?
The pretty young mother was gone by the time I left the bathroom, but after my husband and I ate in the restaurant and were on our way out I saw her sitting on the Greyhound bench by the door. She was holding on to her bright eyed, squirming baby boy with her head tucked down on her chest drowsing. After we got outside, I had the urge to go back and hand her the ten dollar bill I had in my pocket. I started to go back and give it to her but second guessed myself. She was dressed nicely, seemed dignified and proud, and had not seemed friendly or open to conversation when I smiled and spoke to her as I was leaving the bathroom. I thought she might be angered or offended by what she saw as condescension, especially given our color difference. I will always regret not going back in and at least offering it. I think the Holy Spirit was prompting me - but I was too much of a coward to follow through. If there is anything I learned today, it's that I should be willing to go out on a limb when the Holy Spirit beckons. It's a miserable conscience that tells God "No."
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I think even though the title is "The trucker's wife", Jay should be identified as your husband in the first sentence, then there is no guessing. Your last three paragraph's are the strongest and the most interesting. Paragraphs two and three do not add much and perhaps you might consider rewriting them to be shorter or even leaving them out. Your last part about not acting on the Holy Spirit's urging because of some kind of fear should resonate with many readers-it certainly did me.
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