If You Roadtrip with a Boyfriend....9:00 AM
8:17 AM, Saturday. I've got a pile of tissues by my bedside, five hours of restless sleep, and an eight-hour car ride ahead of me. Let's do this.
8:40 AM. First ever oil change! I'm going to gas up and get everything ready to go while my boyfriend sleeps in an extra hour. (P.S. You know you've got a good car mechanic when he can interpret your I don't know into the correct answer.)
9:23 AM. Wake the boyfriend. It takes him longer to pack than I. Of course, if I didn't send him back for a box of PopTarts, we might have hit the road sooner. (Speaking of which, there's still a frozen pumpkin PopTart sitting in my car cupholder. I only like fruit PopTarts -- blueberry, strawberry, etc. The boyfriend insists pumpkin is a fruit. I refuse to accept that. The PopTarts remains in the car as a tribute to our irreconcilable differences.)
11:26 AM. I've been up earlier than normal and I want breakfast. Hashbrowns, pancakes, and a big glass of water. Only after I drink most of it do I realize how many bathroom breaks we'll have to take. We snap a photo of ourselves before starting out the roadtrip for realsies. (He hates when I say "realsies.")
Grumpy Boyfriend says no.
Between the hours of 11:30 AM and 2 PM, we play the Let's Keep Bailey Awake So We Don't Crash and Die game. Talking at me doesn't work. Letting out random yells doesn't work (for long). Finally he succumbs to the last resort: "Tell me what you think about justification." That keeps me awake for a while.
We listen to The Hunchback of Notre Dame on audiobook. We laugh at lines like His face was enough to make a woman miscarry. We shouldn't do that. All of a sudden the speaker explodes. (Hello, I'm awake.) Before I know it, my monkey boyfriend is climbing around in the back seat. Smack smack smack. "What are you doing?!" Pound pound pound. "I'm fixing the speaker!"
"I don't think banging on it is going to do anything."
"No? It's worth a try."
Stuck in Chicago traffic, I start mewling about needing to go to the bathroom. He becomes my right blindside checker. We almost die because I didn't accelerate while changing lanes. He talks to me quietly about my inept driving.
"Well, I'm sorry. I'm hungry and sick and I need to go to the bathroom."
I forgot to mention that we were both sick. We had two boxes of Kleenexes on the floor and tissues everywhere. Every five minutes, he would hand me a tissue and say, "Stop sniffling. Stop. Just blow it out."
"I am. I don't sniffle."
"That's so gross. You're swallowing it."
He did wipe off the steering wheel after I sneezed on it.
Around 2 PM, we finally exit Chicago and hit the long-awaited oasis -- bathrooms, thank God! The boyfriend reminds me we need gas too. He gases up while I run for the restroom. (Thank goodness it's multiple stalls. It's always awkward jiggling the doorknob of a single stall public restroom, hoping that the inmate has remembered to lock the door and that you won't walk in on anybody and cause general embarrassment.) By the time I get back, he wants lunch. Not a blueberry PopTart. Lunch.
I order a soda and get Coke, which I guess can be synonymous. "Let's eat along the skyway!" I cry. He wants to sit in a certain spot away from certain things. "Let's take a picture!" I cry. (Meaning, "Let's try to be a cute normal couple for once in our lives.")
Well, it works. Yikes, those flyaways. Yipe, that face that hasn't seen makeup or sleep for the past week.
He seems quiet, aloof, staring off into the distance. I play the Guess What Emotion Boyfriend's Feeling game. The answer is usually "nothing," because he's an introvert raised in an all-boy family. This seems different. "Are you upset that we couldn't stay an extra day so you could play Mansions of Madness with your friends?"
"I'm sorry. You should've told me and we could have stayed an extra day and just come back early Sunday morning...wait. No, I have a bachelorette party. Never mind."
"I'll live. Wait -- " he put two fingers to his heart -- "the pulse is fading."
I laugh, then get sad again. "I'm sorry, babe."
All of a sudden, he yells, "PUNCH BUGGY!" and a fist goes into my shoulder.
"What was that for?"
"Do you know how long I had to wait for that one? I was waiting the entire conversation."
Hence the staring off into the distance. Nothing more meaningful than an intent hunt for VW beetle cars.
No more beetle cars drove past, thank heavens. "I'm ready when you are," I said primly, crumpling up my trash.
"What do you mean? I've been waiting for you this whole time."
"Can we take another picture?" (because the first one was terrible and captures everything that's not normal and cute about our relationship). We did. Never mind.
Then I had an idea.
The perfect artsy photo that completely belies that we filled the McDonald's bag full of used tissues and I had to go to the bathroom again and we watched anime for an hour at his house before I said goodbye for real and continued on to my home.
I fiddled with the GPS, put my sunglasses on, tossed a few more tissues into the McDonald's bag before backing out of the driveway. He was there, waiting the entire five minutes I took to shift into reverse. He smiled at me, blanket wrapped around his shoulders, dressed in flip flops and shorts. My lip quivered, and I cried half the way home.
It's a beautiful thing to have a friend who loves you, who waits for you while you take forever to get ready, who includes you in his silences and his punch buggy game and his love of Victor Hugo. It's confusing, because he's your home but your home is with your family, and it no longer feels like home when you're home because he's not there.
Fortunately, I get to roadtrip back up to college with him in a few days.