If Yakima is the Palm Springs of Washington, then I'm the Bob Hope of I-90 East. The air looked hot, as if everything was filtered through a brown lens speckled with sand. A flashing LED billboard boasted 97 degrees. The off-ramp 7-11 was a hub of activity on that Sunday afternoon, and every vagabond face bore the hard scowl of a scarred soul.
A girl in a tartan bikini held open the door for me. She was looking good but it was her companion that caught my eye, a humongoid in bib overalls with a cotton-white poof of hair. Mere blips on my life's radar, nothing more than a throw away sentence on a joke blog, and yet they were coming from somewhere, and going somewhere, and are indeed somewhere right now. They have existed and continue to exist with little regard for what I may think or say of them or any notion that our respective lifelong journeys intersected at that point of time and space.
The inside of a 7-11 is a security blanket. The breeze of an overzealous swamp cooler, the smell of hot coffee and spilt Slurpee. I'm eight years old again, hoping for an ice cold bottle of Squirt, a pack of Cheetos, and a GI Joe comic to sustain me through a family road trip.
I stray at the newspaper rack and the beer cooler, the only two areas of a 7-11 that offer any variance from state to state. No ice cold bottle of Squirt for me today. I have leagues of pavement yet ahead of me and coffee is the only thing on the menu today. The Sev has a new offering, an iced coffee, one of my much-publicized vices. 99 cents for a limited time. I like coffee flavored coffee but vanilla cream will have to do. It tastes exactly as good as 99 cent 7-11 iced coffee should taste.
The wine rack offers a Sonoma vintage exclusive to 7-11 stores. It's called Pink Truck. I didn't buy any but I bet it tastes exactly as good as 7-11 zinfandel should taste.
Scratch-off lottery tickets encased in glass underneath the counter. "Oh, and five dollars worth of those," I say as a diminutive man with prison tattoos and revenge on his mind muscles his way through the door.
I look back to the clerk. She's too young and pretty to be working at a 7-11 in the Palm Springs of Washington. She's looking at me shyly but expectantly, lips pursed and eyebrows raised. "Uh... doesn't matter, just whatever." I guess some people have preferred brands of scratch off lottery tickets. She rips five different cardboard tickets off the rolls and rings them up. As I gather them she looks footward and mumbles "I hope I picked you some winners." She looks back to me with almost half of a smile. "I'm sure you did," I say and in my head my teeth sparkle.
I haven't scratched them yet, maybe I never will. Maybe I'll dirty my thumbnail while stuck in a traffic jam. Maybe they'll sit forgotten in the glove box for the next year and a half. Maybe the waxy scratch-off will melt in the July heat. Or maybe it's just better to hope you've picked winners than know that you haven't.