[A quick aside: I’m having a difficult time with today’s blog post simply because my stress level is pretty high and I’m goddamn irritated. I’d love to vent my frustrations, but venting has only made me angrier today, oddly enough, and I’d like to retain the last sliver of emotive control that I have. Coming to a personal resolution is seeming less and less possible.
There. I’ve acknowledged my mental roadblock. On with today’s post!]
As a teenager, I was very, err, passionate about things. My high school on-again-off-again sweetheart (because he “didn’t believe in titles”) resumed contact with me towards the end of my senior year after nearly an entire school year of silence. There had been a falling out, but that’s another story for another time.
Instead of going through all of the sweet nothings exchanged and declarations of love made, I’ll cut to the chase: I drove to Boston and back in 25 hours in the name of love, only to have my heart broken 4 hours after my arrival.
My confused, misguided love-thing and I decided the day before the trip that I would drive up to visit him. He was spending the summer in Boston with a group of people who worked with a farming co-op and I thought that was “so cool.” At this point, he had completed his sophomore year of college and I decided he was much more interesting than he had been in previous years.
“You sure you want to do this?”
“Yeah, totally. It’s totally fine.” I lied through my teeth, unsure of how I was going to pull off such a feat. But my adolescence was defined by all of the lies I told my parents. What harm could one more lie do? I went to the bank, drained my bank account of all it’s money to cover gas and tolls, and forced myself to sleep to rest up for the drive.
The next morning, I was carrying more than my usual purse to work. My mom, who is typically not receptive to these small changes, was suddenly concerned.
“Where are you going?” She asked. I froze, my hand on the door knob.
“I’m going to work and then I’m spending the night at [insert former friend’s name here]. We’re working on an art project. I’ll be home tomorrow afternoon” I paused, my heart pounding in my chest, waiting to see if she had bought the load of bullshit I was attempting to spoon feed her.
“Oh.” She paused. “Well, don’t come back too late tomorrow.”
And with that, I was off.
I was elated to be on the open road on my own. It was a level of freedom I hadn’t experienced until that moment, and I took advantage of it every chance I could. I blasted my music, I chainsmoked IN the car, I left coffee cups and fast food wrappers everywhere. No one told me to turn it down. No one told me to cut it out. No one told me to throw my shit away.
And I loved it.
I was immediately overwhelmed upon my arrival. I was greeted at the door by a girl with dreadlocks and a lip ring and she told me that my guy was just upstairs, helping prepare dinner. I navigated the house and took everything in; the signs for the co-op on the wall, as well handmade signage from protests the residents attended plastered the walls.
The reunion was awkward at best. He gave me a hug, quick and affectionless, which he later chalked up to his friends being around. He offered me a beer, which I accepted without hesitation, as a means to cope with my anxiety. We ate tofu hotdogs and caught up. We went on a walk and I got a brief tour of Boston. We happened upon a public park and took in the view. It was family movie night; families peppered the lawn, sitting on blankets and eating sandwiches, watching “Finding Nemo” on a big screen. I became sentimental, as “Finding Nemo” was what my guy and I watched on our first date of our “second try” at some semblance of a relationship. I made a comment to that effect, which may as well have gone unnoticed.
We returned to the house an hour later. I attempted to become intimate with him, but his mind was elsewhere and he was detached from the moment. Finally, I asked him if there was anything wrong.
“I met a girl on the farm today.” He said coolly. “I think she’s my soulmate.”
My heart sank, my stomach twisted itself in knots, and I could immediately warm tears welling up. I had driven nearly 500 miles to be rejected. Again.
The goodbye, if it could even be qualified as a proper goodbye, was brief and I took off into the night to find my car and get out of that damn city. On the way, a young guy who appeared to be homeless, asked for cash. In a rush with my defenses lowered, I took out my wallet to give him a dollar. Seizing the opportunity, he quickly grabbed a wad of cash from the wallet and ran. I ran after him, but could not catch up. Sobbing and screaming, ranting and spitting, I got back to my car and drove off as fast as I could.
It was 1 AM.
Staying awake was unbearable. Toll after toll, from the Mass Pike to the Jersey Turnpike I watched what was left of my money dwindle. I began falling asleep behind the wheel. I put on the most raucous CD I had to keep myself awake. Armed with a 12-pack of Diet Coke and Andrew W.K.’s “I Get Wet,” I pushed on. Driving passed New York City, I found it appropriate to crank the song “I Love NYC” as loud as possible, just to keep myself (somewhat) alert.
After catching an hour nap at a rest stop in New Jersey, my gas light came on as soon as I had hit the road. I had no money to my name and an awareness that I had many more tolls to pay before reaching home. It was a low point, not only of the trip, but of my life. Humiliated and defeated, I pulled into the Harry S. Truman rest stop, ready to call my mother to ask for help, rehearsing what to say while pacing in the parking lot.
And then, I decided to panhandle. I stopped anyone coming in and out. Truckers, families, anyone who would give me the time of day. I briefly explained the events of the night, gently asking for anything they could spare. Surprisingly, no one was rude to me. A dollar here, fifty cents there. I thanked each person as best as possible, each one unaware of exactly how much gratitude I was feeling.
A bus of elderly folks parked in front of the rest stop. As they deboarded, I decided to hang up what was left of my pride and approach them. Again, I gave them a toned down version of my sob story and asked for help. By some miracle, one of the women there said I reminded of her of her eldest granddaughter.
“She’d pull some funny stuff like this, too,” she said while handing me a five dollar bill from her wallet, “And I hope to God someone would help her out as well.” She began encouraging others to give me a few bucks as well. I began crying again, but tears of pure joy. They had saved me, these little old ladies and little old men on their way to Atlantic City just to play nickel slots. I thanked them, filled the tank with gas, and sped along once again. It was 8 AM.
Still singing, still blasting music, despite my best efforts to stay awake, I was hitting the rumble strip on the road every minute or so. I pushed. I felt the caffeine become ineffective, sloshing around in my gut instead of perking me up. I was in the home stretch. I had just passed Baltimore and had only half an hour to go. My gas light had come on again. After some mental math, I decided I could make it home on empty and did so.
“How was your night?” My mother asked as I walked through the door, visibly exhausted.
“It was, well, something.” I replied, making my way to my bedroom. I immediately collapsed, waking up 7 hours later.
Looking back at this less-than-stellar moment in my life, 29-year-old me cringes at the antics of 18-year-old me. But I did learn an incredibly valuable lesson during that trip: no guy, no matter how you feel about him, is worth the stupidity of draining your account, skipping out on work to head to Boston (anything outside of a half-hour from home is dumb), and putting yourself in danger by driving sleepy.