This list is mostly for my own self reference, so I can come back and remind myself and hold myself accountable. I find I do...
At Leakycon we don’t say “I love you” we say “WE’RE WIZARDS WE’LL PARTY FOREVER TURN AROUND BRIGHT EYES HARRY I’M COMING HOME I...
It takes about three and a half hours to get to Chicago by car, if traffic is good and you can manage to avoid too many stops. I had planned on us getting there around 6:30 after adding in some cushion, and had even made a dinner reservation.
However, I soon realized: Dee was a stopper, and I wasn’t very good at saying no to her.
In the first hundred miles, we’d somehow managed to stop four times. At a Lion’s Den Adult Superstore, not because she was in the market for anything they sold, but to laugh at the terrible porno titles and the silicone dicks, and ending up feeling a bit morose for the rag tag men we met there. At two gas stations to use the rest room and buy soft drinks, where we also ended up picking up gummy worms and novelty lighters and four packs of playing cards. And at a mom and pop style diner, simply because they had a billboard on the side of the highway saying that they had the World’s Greatest Coconut Cream Pie, and she insisted we needed to try it. (Although I doubt it was the World’s Greatest, I’ll admit, it was pretty good.)
Needless to say, we weren’t making very good time.
Dee sat beside me in the passenger seat, her knees up against her chest, hands fiddling with the radio. She had to keep doing this pretty consistently, as we kept losing the signals as we moved forward, and she was fairly picky. At the moment, she seemed to have found a station that played entirely 80’s hair metal. She turned and stuck out her tongue at me and screwed up her eyes, then danced around in her seat, somehow making it look natural, her long curly hair whipping around her face as though caught in the wind. I laughed good-naturedly, bobbing my head as best I could while driving.
It was all a bit awkward, because I didn’t even know Dee that well. I had a crush on her, but in the way that you like people you barely know, in an afar, a-little-creepy sort of way. They do cute things, they have nice faces, but you don’t know enough about them to be sure whether you’d have real feelings or compatibility.
We’d been in a few classes together, and had finally gotten partnered up for a project, which had allowed me to get her number, which had allowed me to begin texting her. We’d just been texting about little things, and somehow I let slip that I’d never had Chicago-style pizza. Before I knew it, I’d somehow agreed to a road trip to procure some the next day. I was having a nice time, but if we didn’t hurry, we’d miss our reservation at the pizza place, which was the whole reason we were going, and who knew if we’d be able to get another one.
“A scenic overlook!” Dee yelled in excitement, pointing out the window at a sign that said that one was coming up in two miles.
“Dee…,” I said, trying to keep annoyance out of my tone, but she must have heard it, because she wilted, just a bit. I felt bad. I was all for adventures, I really was, but it was almost seven already.
“I know, I know. Just one more. Promise,” she said, giving me that pouty lip that girls always do. “I love the crap out of these things.”
I knew I should have kept going, but I found myself saying, “Okay, we’ll pull off quick.”
She grinned at me, extending a hand to squeeze my shoulder. It was a bit of an odd gesture, and I wasn’t sure what she meant by it, but it made me grin back with a sincerity I wasn’t expecting. I saw the light that I’d brought to her eyes, and though it was stupid, I realized that I would do pretty much anything I could to put it there.
We got off at the exit, stretching as we got out of the car, even though really, it hadn’t been too long since we’d gotten out. She started walking in the direction of the scene we were supposed to be overlooking, and when I didn’t follow her for a second, she reached out like she was going to grab my hand, but then balked, like she realized that this wasn’t acceptable, that the intimacy wasn’t there. There was a pause, and in it, I wished she had just grabbed it. “Come on,” she said, grabbing my shirt sleeve, and pulled me on.
The view wasn’t much to look at, which I’d been expecting. We were just in Illinois, after all. There were some trees and a lake, and it was nice, but it would never find a picture on a postcard or anything. I glanced over at Dee, expecting to see indifference, but found only awe. “It’s beautiful,” she said, her jaw a little slack.
I wasn’t sure what she saw, but it was obviously different from what I did. I tried inching closer to her, to see if the angle changed anything, but it was the same. “Why do you like these things so much, Dee?”
She looked at me, seeming to ponder this. “They’re a break in the monotony, I guess. From the pavement and the yellow lines and all the stupid drivers. They’re a chance to breathe? To step out.” She paused. “The stops are the most interesting part of the journey, anyway. They’re what you tell everyone about. They’re what make stories.”
I instantly regretted being annoyed with her about stopping, if it meant so much to her, and I realized she was right about our little detours. The important part of today had been laughing over coconut cream pie, holding up ridiculously sized phalluses, competing over who could eat the most gummy worms in two minutes. I hadn’t tried the pizza yet, but I knew it wouldn’t compare, wasn’t what I would remember.
We stood for a few minutes, and I stared at the view, really looked at it. I saw the way the leaves on the trees were budding, the light that reflected off the lake, the ducks swimming around in its water. I like to think that, after I stared at it for a few minutes, I saw a fragment of what she was seeing, a sliver of the beauty. I looked over at her, seeing the tranquility of her face, the way that the setting sun added pink smudges to her dark eyes. “Thank you for making me stop,” I said to her, meaning it sincerely.
And before I knew it, her hand was slipping into mine.