Cross Country

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: September 10, 2016

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Submitted: September 10, 2016

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I think there’s a lot of romanticizing that goes into the scheme of road trips. The idea is you stuff yourself in a car with three or four people you like, and drive across the country blasting music, eating bad road-side food, and maybe you share a few jokes along the way. To this day, the closest I got to a road trip was taking a greyhound bus from Hartford Connecticut to Billings Montana both with, and without my little sister to visit our mom. So maybe my opinion of the whole road trip thing is a little colored.

It wasn’t entirely bad. Sure it was all highway and bright green road signs right up until we passed Chicago. Then it was all rolled up hay bales and more green signs. Since it was impossible to sleep in the seats- they didn’t recline very far and for some reason always smelt like grape soda to me- you always had the opportunity to see some stunning sunrises. I had my sister to thank for that. She jabbed me with her elbow whenever there was one.

I don’t think my sister liked traveling with me very much, and I don’t blame her. I’m a very anxious traveler- especially when I’m doing something for the first time. I was anxious about whether or not our bags were put on the bus. I was anxious about traversing bus terminals- especially the monstrous one in New York. I was anxious about being separate from her even if that separate was her in one seat near the back of the bus and me in another near the front. In fact, if it was possible for me to glue myself to her I would have. She never seemed to appreciate the times I stripped off my over shirt and traveled in my tang top (I was well endowed.) Or enjoy the unusual amount of strangers I attracted, and engaged in bizarre conversation with.

There were a dozen or so people sitting in the seat across from me who would spend the entire night dictating every bit of their life story. Sometimes they had such thick accents or slurs I couldn’t understand them, but I politely nodded and looked engaged while my sister glowered out the window. Oddly enough, she actually is the more sociable one than me on most occasions.

Once we got into Fargo- the last or second to last stop before Montana, there was this small roadside café the bus always stopped at, and after two and a half days’ worth of trail mix and McDonalds, that little place was a haven of hot coco and syrup slathered pancakes. To be honest the little health nut inside my head was going nutso, telling me I shouldn’t pound back that much sugar and carbs while sitting on my ass for three days straight. But every time we got to that diner I felt like a sims character depleted on sleep, comfort, hygiene, and hunger. The pancakes always won out.

Possibly the most memorable of these trips was the very last one I took by myself. My sister had decided to move to Montana after we graduated high school, so I was going not just to see my mom, but her as well. It was kind of a strange time in my life. I’d lost all my friends and the only one I had left was a girl I met online who claimed she was in love with me. She’d gotten me into a network marketing scheme that sold information on the law of attraction and business opportunities.

I ended up buying two tickets that year. One from Connecticut to Chicago so I could attend a weekend long network marketing meeting and meet her in person for the first time while experiencing my first personal hotel room, and one from Chicago to Montana. I think the most exciting thing about going to Chicago- even though I’d never have a chance to see anything of the city outside the hotel I was staying in, was the fact I got to dress up.

Ever since I was a kid I loved Halloween. I loved costumes, I loved putting on my mom’s clothes, and ren-fairs and conventions even though I rarely had the money or patience to make a costume for either of them. Up to this point in my life, my daily dress went from goth to simple jeans and a spaghetti strap shirt- maybe I’d have a skirt or two on hand. But for this weekend I got to slip into a smart pencil skirt, don a button up and slip into a pair of black heels that could probably kill someone. It felt like walking in different skin- living a life that I knew would never suit me, but none the less it was fun to play pretend for a day or two. I even put on lipstick.

Aside from the dress up, the rest of the weekend bombed. It’s not that the lectures were bad, and I met gentlemen who actually treated me like a lady (must be the lipstick,) But I had such a bad blow out with my friend that it dissolved me into gut wrenching tears on the spot, and shattered whatever was left of that relationship. Long story short, she wanted to date me, I refused. Honestly, I should have known it was coming, but we as people tend to prefer sticking our heads in the sand over facing painful truths. We can be holding a stick of lit dynamite and convince ourselves it’s a birthday candle right up to the point the fuse is nearly swallowed by the flames.

I convinced myself to do what any normal person would do in the situation. I put on my heels, fixed my face, and walked down to the hotel bar where many other network members were drinking away- all forced smiles and life is so wonderful. And you know, people were really nice. They didn’t care that my eyes were red and puffy. They didn’t ask what had happened and invite me to mope. They told me things like a pretty girl shouldn’t drink alone, and took me to tables with their successful friends and I got to listen to their lives and forget my own for a bit.

I even met an attractive boy and his friends, all around my age, who invited me to sit with them at the meeting the next day. Throughout the night I ran into my friend a few times and none of it was good. If there weren't harsh words, there were sharp looks across the room that twisted guilty knives in my stomach.

We met on a writing forum online and after a while of writing together for a while, we started talking on the phone late into the night. Throughout the years it was an on again off again kind of friendship. It blew up. It got stitched together. Her big sister- like any big sister in that situation- rightfully became distrustful of me.

She and her family had been the ones to pick me up from the bus stop, and true to her word she and her family offered me a ride back when the weekend was over. I had been invited to go have lunch and see the city with the guy and his friends. He even offered to drop me off at the bus station after lunch. Instead, I ducked my head like the masochist I am and followed her to the car like a prisoner up to be executed. To this day I wish I’d gone with him instead.

By the time I make it to Montana I’m surprisingly okay. I had that shaken, hollowed out and delicate feeling accompanying any time of emotional upheaval, but there was a certain amount of stillness, and even a little relief in knowing that despite my usual impulse to give everything to the people I cared about, I had done the right thing by saying no. Or maybe it was the horses, the big open night sky, and being miles away from civilization that did the trick. Either way, I still look back on those road trips with an equal part grievance, and fondness.


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