They hated stopping to use the restroom on road trips, but sometimes, no matter how hard they tried, there was no getting around it. They had to go, and bad. The sign said the nearest gas exist would be in two miles, one and a half miles ago. Each bump, minor acceleration, and lane change since had been an exercise in walking with a water balloon between their thighs without popping it. Miraculously, they made it to the off ramp without incident.
After closing the door, skirting across the parking lot, and entering the gas station without the balloon leaking, they were now faced with the unpleasant task of entering the gas station bathroom. This was an unenviable task for just about anyone, but they disliked it even more than most. They knew firsthand how challenging life could be for genderqueer people, and while it was possible for such folks to navigate through their days with minimum conflict, few times drew attention to their otherness quite like going to the potty.
They rushed into the men’s room and walked past three empty urinals on their way to the nearest stall, but it was occupied. So was the larger handicap one on its other side. Panicked, they looked over at the urinals. Each was lined against the wall seemingly begging to be used. Unfortunately, this person lacked the genitalia boys were born with that was needed to use one without making a mess.
Feeling increasingly uncomfortable, they made their way over to the bathroom sink. This way if someone were to walk in, they wouldn’t have to deal with any confusion over why they weren’t using the urinal. They could simply wash their hands and walk out as though they had just finished up.
Sure, they could wait outside, but they had to go far too badly to chance any more steps than were necessary. They were even willing to put up with the awful smell that radiated out from under the stalls.
Gracefully, the toilet finally flushed. They backed away from the sink so that as the man walked out, he wouldn’t wonder why they were walking from the sink over to the toilet.
As rancid as the inside of the stall was, they plopped down onto the toilet seat and opened the trap door between their legs. An audible moan escaped through their lips as the balloon finally popped.
After it was over, they sat there for a bit, feeling physically tired from the strain of reaching this moment. Then they looked down to pull up their pants, and a jolt shot through their body. There were blood stains in their underwear. Their period had started, and they hadn’t noticed due to the other strong sensations that had been shooting through their body at the time.
In a panic, they reached for the toilet paper and dabbed up as much as they could. It would be icky, but they would be able to pull their underwear up without too much mess. Nothing had seeped through to their pants. The bigger issue was that they had forgotten to pack pads when they left the house, and they were now five hours away, two hours from their girlfriend’s house where they would be staying for the weekend.
Annoyed and frustrated, they pulled up their pants and exited the stall. After washing their hands, they journeyed out into the convenience store area of the station to see if there were any overpriced pads that could last them until they reached their destination.
Browsing through pads and tampons was already awkward back when they still identified as a woman and a girl before that, but it was even more so now that they looked like a male to passersby. Nervously, they picking up a pack and walked carefully to the counter.
“Is that all?” the cashier asked more as a deep grunt than a series of words. They had to listen very carefully to make out the man’s weathered voice. He was the kind of individual who would have left them feeling uncomfortable walking into his store as a black person, even without the gender element.
“Yeah,” they said, pulling out their wallet and hanging over their debit card.
“You need five dollars.”
He gestured towards a sign by the cash register. “You need five dollars to use a card.”
They sighed and looked under the counter for a chocolate bar they didn’t hate. They grabbed three of them and tossed them onto the counter. Once the man had rung them up, they swiped their card and took their things.
They hadn’t brought anything to carry stuff in, so they felt absolutely ridiculous carrying a pack of pads and three chocolate bars back into the bathroom, making sure not to once look back to see if the cashier was watching them. They knew he was. He had looked at them as though he had seen many city types come through his station, but he still couldn’t quite peg the different forms they came in.
A man exited the bathroom just as they tried to enter, catching them by surprise and causing them to drop everything to the floor.
“I’m sorry ’bout that,” the man said, reaching down to help.
“Don’t worry about it,” they said, having quickly grabbed the pads and tucked them away with one hand while reaching for the chocolate with the other. They could tell, as they stood back up, that the man had seen the pads, because he looked confused in a judgmental way. Without another word, they scooted by him and entered the bathroom.
Once back in the car, they leaned their head against the steering wheel and did their best not to cry. A person shouldn’t have to go through so many indignities just to use the bathroom, they thought. What really tore at them, though, was the underlying message that a person shouldn’t be genderqueer. This they could not forget.
After a few more moments, they started the car and sped back onto the interstate. They were two hours away from seeing the one person who loved them without question, and that was what they needed more than anything.