There are some problems that can only be solved by the perfect combination of a salty snack, a sweet and sour candy and a fun beverage. Seemingly, this is a problem that exclusively arises after 10 p.m., a time period in which there is but one logical place to procure the necessary object: the gas station.
Lately, a meme has been circulating featuring a purple-cloaked wizard walking through a forest landscape with a tall walking staff. “How it feels to go to the gas station in the middle of the night,” the caption reads. It’s resonant in that it highlights the mystical, almost prophetic nature of the pursuit — in the late hours of the night, you’re often alone in this journey, sent off with the singular mission of acquiring the perfect treats. You are a traveler of both time and space, headed toward the bizarre, truly liminal space that’s the nighttime convenience store. And let’s be honest, you’re probably at least a little bit high or buzzed. Once you arrive, you’re tasked with true alchemy: discerning exactly what you want to eat.
The gas station/convenience store/bodega is also a place where anything can happen. You’re not just presented with snacks and drinks, but often myriad strange objects to distract you — sex pills, bongs, gossip magazines, swirling slushie machines, air fresheners. Of course, there’s the people inside, too, like the completely unphased clerk, the people with nowhere else to go and the fellow wizards in the midst of their own journeys. Your quest is all the more important and challenging if you’re not solely feeding yourself, too. For some, there’s a girlfriend at home who has assigned them the task, and in this situation, one needs to determine not only what it is they want to eat, but what she wants to eat as well.
This sort of dynamic is one we see repeated throughout relationship discourse — that women don’t know what they want to eat, and they want you, the man, to decide for them (and to decide accurately, go procure it, pay for it and bring it home). It’s a trope, sure, but it’s so much more fun to imbue it with this sort of fantasy language, as this meme does. And in my experience as the fair maiden at home awaiting the return of my wizard forager, I find that it’s a perfectly accurate and acceptable dichotomy. It makes it not a quest pursued for the sake of hunger or the desire to fulfill a task, but a test of a man’s capabilities. His ability to succeed in this mission is a measure of his capacity for caretaking and a study of his hunter/gatherer traits. In that sense, the convenience store walk is a test of his manhood, one I feel optimistic that any man could learn to pass.
My wizard certainly hasn’t disappointed me on his otherworldly voyages to the gas station — at least not yet.