by Asher Proctor-Jasper
The man in the truck next to me tore open the paper surrounding his double western bacon cheeseburger from Carl’s Jr. He flopped the barbecue sauce-drenched sandwich onto his bottom teeth, clenching down with his top teeth, and tearing it away with his dirty hand. A soggy onion slipped from inside its battered crust, slapping against his stubbled chin. He slurped it up like a child slurps spaghetti noodles. With his right arm still gripping the heavenly concoction, he retracted his left hand from the steering wheel, reached just below my view and it returned with a large drink. He slurped through the straw, and it turned brown as what I can assume was soda flooded his mouth.
It was a Tuesday at 5:10 p.m., and we were both located in a world-class example of a great equalizer, a Los Angeles Freeway. His white truck was filthy, and ladders were tied to the top rack with an old twine that looked like my grandmother’s used dental floss after Thanksgiving dinner. My father travelled this very freeway for years in a truck just like the hungry man next to me. He commuted out of our suburban town to build hospitals and prisons all along the west coast, often gone over twelve hours a day. He missed my childhood in order to give it to me. I wondered about the man next to me. Would he hide the burger wrapper under the driver’s seat, kiss his wife in the kitchen, and sit down on the couch to eat a second dinner, as my father had for fear of offending my mother? Would he tell her he had been starving all day, waiting for her pork chops? Would he ask his oldest to help pry his work boots from his feet because his body had been broken down so much that bending down to reach his own feet seemed impossible? Would he fall asleep on the couch, wake up before the sun, miss another day in the home he worked so hard to afford, bust his ass all day, and then again devour a secret burger on the drive home? Was the man really even there, did I glimpse into a flashback of one of the many times I watched my father when he took me to work to teach me how to be a man, or had I just caught a glimpse of myself in the rearview mirror?
Asher Proctor-Jasper is a disabled, queer, transgender, military veteran. He is an emerging writer and is a current non-traditional transfer student at the University of Southern California. When he isn’t writing, studying, or commuting to Los Angeles from Temecula, California, he enjoys spending quality time with his blended family and rescue dogs. His writings often grapple with resilience, overcoming adversity, and his own dysfunctional but loving family.