Uit: Songs for the Missing
“Inside, the a/c was cranked so high she wore a t-shirt under her uniform. They poached old nametags they found in the junk drawer under the register. She was Angie, Nina was Sam. They spun on their stools and watched the monitors, punching in the pump numbers and making change. They read heavy, insane fashion magazines and called around to see what was going on later — even though they were on camera too — and fought over whose turn it was to refill the nacho pot. Her timecard was in its slot, the clock behind it chunking with every minute, a record of her steadiness. She’d been working seven days a week since graduation and hadn’t missed a shift. Later the police would call this strict pattern a contributing factor. Secretly she was proud of it. She’d never been so determined. She’d never had a reason before.
The Conoco was an oasis of light, drawing cars off the highway like the muffleheads that fluttered against the windows. Drivers came in squinting and rubbing their necks, stopping on the mat inside the door as if this was all new to them, and too much, the bright aisles of candies and chips overloading their brains so they couldn’t read the sign directly in front of them.
They bkinked at her, apologetic. “Where are the–?”
Fifty, a hundred times a night. She pointed her whole arm like a ghost.
“It’s true,” Nina said. “The more you drive, the dumber you get.”
“Thank you, thank you, Sam I am.”
The living death had bad breath. They bought coffee and soda and water, cigarettes and gum, Tootsie Pops and jerky, anything to get them to the next stop. In line they nodded their heads and mouthed the lyrics to the dinosaur pop that played endlessly inside and out, a fiendish commercial-free satellite feed pieced together, it seemed, by U2 and the Doobie Brothers.”
Stewart O’Nan (Pittsburgh, 4 februari 1961)