I stood at the urinal wondering why the man two stalls over was staring. I’m fully aware of rest area bathrooms and their raunchy reputations, but this was something different and I silently revolted against turning my entire face to him, but worked hard to sharpen everything on the edge of my everything I could see. His lower face was scruffy but not overgrown, the frames on his face weren’t level to his thinning brows he was probably once proud of and the slight fog on the glass from coming inside from the cold hid his eyes. He’d not become the man he hoped to be, his sweater said. I revolted against giving him my entire face and I’ll regret that for a while because I would have seen him sooner and I could have attacked him for what he did to my friend almost two decades ago. He saw me and he knew me and he said nothing. The water never turned warm on my hands and the soap was weak, but the dryer was everything I needed before exiting the restroom into below freezing temperatures. I ran to the car and watched the man from the restroom’s shell walk toward his, his father and a little girl in the back, strapped into her car seat.
In the restroom he looked at me because he knew me. Why didn’t he speak? In high school, I used his name at a track meet and jumped high enough to qualify him for the State Championship because he couldn’t make it to the meet and we were friends. Why didn’t he speak? Half a face is surely enough to make a positive identification. His full face was only 10 feet away and I let him keep it. I let him keep up what was left of his appearance to somehow look as if he’s complete for his father and the little girl in back, strapped into her car seat. He doesn’t know I know he’s a rapist. For old times sake, he should have at least said “hello,” and smiled one of those big smiles / he used to smile. He probably doesn’t smile much anymore. He probably reserves those for the little girl in the back when she’s doing something amazing like growing while she sleeps and he’s trying to keep from crying because she’ll one day be the age the girl was when he raped her. She’ll bring boys home and she’ll like them like he was liked once. He has a few smiles left and they must be used for special occasions and seeing an old friend in rest area restroom 75 miles from where you two laughed together is not special. What is it?
I hate him. He’s disgusting and should never be allowed children, women, weak minds, vulnerable bodies, or humans. We haven’t spoken in a decade and he doesn’t know any of this. He probably does good things in the world to atone, or perhaps he thinks having a small girl in the family gives him a second chance at something. Nate Parker probably believes this, too.
We pulled onto the highway, me then him, and he disappeared. I wished I’d jumped into the cold and called him a rapist in front of the little girl in the back. Not old enough to understand the world, she wouldn’t understand the word, but she’d carry this moment with her for a long time like I carry the moment my father violently called two men “faggots” outside of the store, and one day, probably in high school, someone will mention sex or being touched inappropriately by an aunt or a Casey Affleck film, and that moment some strange man called her daddy or uncle or brother a rapist will force itself onto her thoughts. I lost him among the cars and I wrote my friend to apologize for not acting out against the man who raped her. She hates him, too, and she writes him letters I hope she one day sends, and I needed to tell her about his appearance. I needed her to find some amount of pleasure in his disintegration, and she did and we laughed and hated him harder together then changed the subject.
That night, watching Sabrina, I put my heavy head on the hip curve of a woman I’ve loved for a long time and asked permission before resting my hands and lips anywhere else.