Cross Country

Road Trip

 “Grab your gay ass music and let’s go.” Andrew wanted to make sure we made to Phoenix at a decent time and apparently the extra minute or two it took for me to grab my Mariah Carey CDs would throw us off hours.

            “Calm the fuck down, I’m almost ready.”

            This was our first time making this trip together, from Greencastle, Indiana to Phoenix, Arizona. Our plan was to drive straight through, stopping only for gas and fast food. Andrew and I were good friends at that point, having Southwest memories in a sometimes Midwest nightmare as a common basis for our friendship. Hot weather, palm trees and the smell of chlorine made us close, he a year ahead in school.

            Andrew usually made the trip alone, stopping in cheap motels on the side of highways that made his mother nervous. In passing, I jokingly said I would join him. He took me up on my offer.

            That day, we finalized everything: who would drive when, where we would stop, and of course, the necessary trip to Mapquest and to make sure we knew where we were  going and how it’d feel when we got there.

He drove first.

We drove down the highway, heading to Saint Louis. I fell asleep within the first couple of minutes. I fall asleep easily in cars, and the seats of his Toyota Camry were as good as any bed at that moment. His occasional question and loud Emo music woke me up from time to time and as I opened my eyes, I would catch glimpses of normal commuter activity.

We passed semis whose drivers were alert during the day, but completely aloof once the sun set; you could always tell the ones that had been on the road the longest as their tires always crept into the lanes on either side. We passed cars full of families and cars of single men, both of which seemed frustrated at their own trips. We sped past rows and rows of trees, fresh and green with waxy leaves that came from the May rain and strengthened by the early summer sun.

“You sure your family won’t mind me crashing at your place?” We’d been over it a thousand times already.

“Yeah, it’s cool. My mom always likes to meet my friends. I’m gonna crash for a little bit, so I can be okay to drive through the night.”

And with that, he continued to drive, undoubtedly bored out of his mind.

When we made it a little past Saint Louis, we stopped for a bite to eat. It seems like no matter where you are in the country, you can find a “Waffle House,” home to chubby truckers and spring break drunkards alike. We chat.

“What are you going to do when you graduate Andrew?” I ask to pass the time as I eat my low grade T-bone steak and cheese covered hash browns.

“Probably work as a photographer for some magazine. What the hell do you plan on doing?”

“I have another couple of years to figure it all out; hopefully something with writing or history. Who knows?”

In reality, it really was anyone’s guess what would become of me. At least Andrew knew what field he wanted to go into. Me? I had it narrowed down to two broad subjects, still lost as of today.

He hopped back in the driver’s seat and we talked some more. I thought I knew Andrew, but I guess you never really know a person until you saturate yourself with them. Being alone in a car for a long time, you just get a true feel of someone; it’s hard to explain.

Before Texas, it was my turn to drive. We stopped at a shitty old gas station, small with a peeling sign atop of a red pole. We got out of the car, the wind was blowing slightly but the air was stale. It smelled like gasoline and wet dirt. We got stares.

“You realize they think we’re a gay couple right?”

            Andrew laughed and said, “Yeah, they probably don’t get people like us in here often.” He was comfortable around me, a product of a year as my fraternity brother, and shrugged off the glares.

            It was my turn to drive, my turn to be bored and suffer. I loaded in a pop mix which he scoffed at almost immediately, as if it were a reflex. He was a music snob, probably something that came from his time interning at Filter magazine. A long stretch of barely lit flat road awaited us. I put the car in drive.

            “So why don’t you have a girlfriend?” Almost immediately after the words left my mouth, I felt the awkward silence.

            Andrew was shy and lacked confidence. His tall frame, tan skin and bushy hair gave him a distinctly unique look that stood out amongst the Midwesterners we went to school with. But I still didn’t get it. He was very much a good looking guy, easily placed in an American Eagle ad. Funny, smart and laid-back, any girl would be lucky to have him. He didn’t see it that way though.

            “Ummm…I don’t really know how to answer that.” And he didn’t. I left it alone.

            As I drove, I continued to make observations and we talked. The further west we went, the more the trees became just desolate land. It seems like the brown dirt, cacti and rocks went on forever on each side of the road.  We talked religion and politics. We talked about our families and our friends. We were different, very different, but we knew for some reason our friendship was something deep rooted and true. His voice was strained and I could tell he was tired.

            “Why is Texas so fucking long?” I asked, frustrated that we hadn’t made it to another state in hours.

            He didn’t answer, he was fast asleep. I turned up the music and drove on.

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