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  • We finished and I scanned the interior, from the crates of books and hiking gear to the solar powered water heater to a crate of dumpstered Naked juice. I expected more amenities in the van, but I’m not sure why. You can’t fit a gold-rimmed sink and matching toilet with hanging light fixtures in a space only big enough to U-Haul your couch and dresser. Peeing in a jar was my only option. And it wasn’t even one of those wide-mouthed jars used for canning endless supplies of tomatoes. Small and daunting, I wished for a funnel, or the ability to piss glitter and decorate the place a little more festively.

    “You can make it work,” he coached. There was no need to apologize for the life he signed up for.
    Dimly lit lights sprawled out on the pavement beneath the I-5 bridge. I could see that no one else was out this late on a Tuesday, and that I was capable of convincing myself that peeing in the grass covered cracks of the sidewalk was an OK way to wrap up a date.

    After all, I loved him. He was the first person to inspire me to be a better person, to match my activism lifestyle with his own, to charge ahead on the mountain farther than me. I was in love with a man that lived in a van.

    “Are you sure?” he asked as I put on my shirt and headed toward the van door, along with my dignity. No need for pants if they were just going to risk getting wet.

    “I don’t really have any other options,” I said. I looked outside the window for a good hiding spot. There was none in the open space. “Do you have any toilet paper?”

    “Oh, uhh...” he said as he scrounged in the back of the van, “it should be in here.” Milk crates stacked on boxes stacked on piles of gear were flung around. It was amazing how much the van could hold. “Shit, I think it’s still in my car from my last camping trip,” he said as he dug through the last crate on the bottom. He had thousands of tools and trinkets, mostly from climbing, books, clothes, old crates of dumpstered food and midgets who sang him songs to wake him up, but no toilet paper.

    I sighed a deep, heavy sigh and turned back toward the door. “Wait. Here, use this,” he said. I looked at him in disbelief. In his hands was a small, crocheted pot holder, a gift someone had made for him. I told him I would feel awful defiling the beautiful colors, and besides, it was about the size of a single sheet of toilet paper--just enough to make you think you might get clean, but really more like wiping with your bare hand in the end.

    Standing beneath the bridge in the glowing orange streetlight, I squatted down as close as I could to the sidewalk and prayed that no one drove by.

    My experience peeing outdoors is mostly relegated to the woods, minus the one time in the back of K-Mart near a giant tower of stockpiled toilet paper. The woods soaks everything up, leaving minimal mess and only the occasional leg splatter. Somehow, I expected the pavement to do the same, and was shocked when the hard concrete spluttered and sprayed right back at me. My feet, my legs--all were covered. It was worse than the woods. It had nowhere to soak, so it ran down the street, down my feet, down and spreading and touching everything.

    Mortified, I looked up at him. “You really need to build a bathroom in that thing.”
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