The trip I’ll never take.

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I actually could make this into something one day… 

 

“That’s the fourteenth time you’ve gone over your checklist,” my mom says, as she stands with her arms folded in the doorway, annoyed that my clothes are still all over the floor instead of the overnight bag they should have been in hours ago. She crosses one leg over the other impatiently and adds, “I’m sure you have everything you need.” She knows exactly what to say to make me even more overwhelmed than I already am. I hate packing, even if it’s just for a weekend.

“No mom,” I say for (apparently) the fourteenth time through clenched teeth, “I have everything that I can think of at this moment.” I feel my tone becoming more hostile as the sentence goes on, but I can’t stop it. I can see my mom getting annoyed with me, but she resigns, knowing full well that I get my stubbornness from her.

“Go to sleep Lyss,” she says, as she unfolds her arms and makes her way to me. She plants a kiss on my forehead and heads towards the door. “Don’t overthink too much,” she adds on her way out. My shoulders drop, and I decide to abandon my futile task and call it a night. I have to be up for the airport in five hours, not that I really think I’ll get any sleep anyway. I start putting everything into the bag, thinking my mom might actually be right. Sometimes I’m grateful to be still living at home and having my mom there to be my voice of reason. Thank you, college debt.

I’d like to think that I’m not actually an over-thinker, that other people are just chronic under-thinkers.

After all, I do like to think of my mindset as a gift. I’m always the one to hear “how did you know to bring that?” after whipping out the most obscure, yet apparently necessary item from my purse. In college, I always had papers ready for submission days before they were due, just in case I spilled coffee on the pages, or there was a fire, or the professor realized he gave us the wrong due date, or a sleuth of other highly unlikely events. But when I got a nasty stomach virus during finals week of my junior year’s fall semester, I didn’t miss a beat pulling off that 4.0.

So yeah, I spend a lot of time thinking. But that just means I’m always prepared. The possible changes in weather, random acts of higher powers, accidental injuries—I’m your go-to girl for the “what-ifs”. In my 23 years of life I’ve perfected the art of scenario creating, list making, and observing. There has to be some inherent virtue in there, right?

Unfortunately, most of it is preparing for the worst. I can’t help it, that’s how it’s always been. Blame it on my extreme social anxiety, the little frenemy that follows me around and taps me on the shoulder with gentle reminders that I have no control over my life. Although she’s an all-star at keeping me on my toes and ahead of the curve, she can be a real bitch sometimes. And by sometimes, I mean like 88% of the time.

“Want to hear something funny?” she taunts me, “You’re going to spend the next three hours thinking about the infinite ways your life could go wrong. And even though you’ll have absolutely zero control or input in those various circumstances, I’m still going to make it feel like it’s completely your fault. Oh, and what you said earlier was stupid. Yup, they were definitely laughing at you. Has that stain been on your shirt ALL day?”

So I go above and beyond to find control. I write notes and reminders and I double check and I triple check and I check one more time. But there are some things in life you just can’t prepare for. There are people who come into your life like a hurricane—they come bringing warm air and the melodious sounds of summer rain on the roof. But the second you let it lull you into a sense of serenity, the moment you become so infatuated with the thunder and lightning that you forget to secure the shelter door, they will devastate you. You blink your eyes and everything you know has been turned to rubble. And you just stare out the window, scared and alone, unsure of what to do next. Yet strangely, you find yourself utterly drawn to that post-storm sunset. It’s the most breathtaking thing you’ve ever seen…

No amount of lists could prepare me for my hurricane. The one named Mark. The one who had been approaching for years, yet I never saw coming.

The next day

They say to truly accomplish great things you must step outside of your comfort zone. Well that’s great, if you have any idea where your comfort zone is. Is mine my simple suburb of Levittown where I’ve lived my whole life? Is it Long Island, or New York, or the North East? Maybe mine doesn’t exist. Or maybe I’m just too scared to find it. How will I know if-

The buzzing of a text thankfully breaks me out of my impending existential crisis, and I check my phone. “Don’t be nervous. It will be worth it.”

I can always count on Mel to read my mind and say exactly what I need to hear. After 12 years of friendship, we’ve developed the type of telepathy that people think only twins can have. We see the world very similarly, so it’s easy for us to know what the other must be feeling in a given situation. And she very well knows that right now I’m thoroughly terrified.

I’ve never been a huge fan of flying to begin with. Having your adolescence begin with 9/11 can shake the confidence of even a life-time New Yorker. Factor in the way my anxiety thrives in an overcrowded airport—plus the large iced coffee that it took to make being awake at 5am bearable, and my first time flying alone was bound to be one filled with shaking hands and pestering nausea.

“Miss, it’s time to put that on airplane mode, we’re about to taxi to the runway,” the flight attendant tells me with a subtle head tilt and over-rehearsed smile. Her hair is pulled back so tightly that I can see the bulging veins in her hairline, hinting that she’s dealt with one too many passengers that ignored the past four warnings to turn off their electronics.

“Sorry,” I mutter, as I send a quick “I’ll try” reply with shaky fingers. The flight attendant is still watching me, so I shove my phone in my pocket and turn my blushing face to the window, pretending to be enamored by the view of men in orange safety vests carelessly hurling people’s luggage from cart to plane. Fun fact: despite being a talkative extrovert around my friends, I hate strangers, and I hate when they talk to me. Call me a child or call me immature, but it’s not my fault. It’s the stupid frenemy’s.

The flight attendant turns her back and heads down the aisle, so I don’t hesitate to take my phone out when it buzzes again. “Have a great trip! Can’t wait to see your pretty face when you come back!” The text makes me smile, and smiling makes me feel guilty.

It’s not like I’m leading Andrew on. He knows where we stand, I’ve made sure to make it clear. We’ve known each other for almost a decade, and have been really good friends for the latter half of that time, so I feel comfortable telling him the truth. Earlier this year when he told me he has been in love with me since high school, I can’t say I was totally shocked. I also can’t say I’ve ever feel the same.

I’ve known him for so long that I feel like I grew up with him, like one of those family friends you call your cousin even though you’re not actually related. In fact, my brother is married to one of Andrew’s best friend’s cousins. It’s a stretch, but in my mind it’s enough to justify the “family” thing. Because of that, I could never look at him as someone I would consider dating.

It’s nothing against him—in fact, he’s borderline perfect. He’s the kind of guy I should consider dating. He always texts me to see how my day is going, he’s always willing to turn down other plans to grab ice cream if I’ve had a bad week, and he never fails to show up when I need him. He would do anything for me, and unlike so many people in this world, he’s reliable. He’s comfortable. Mel tells me all the time to give it a shot, but I care about him too much to go into something half-heartedly. I love the idea of him, and I would love to love him. But I don’t, and the reason is on his way to pick me up from the airport in Indianapolis.

“Thanks,” I write back. He knows where I’m going and who I’m going there to see, but I’m not sure he has put all the pieces together. Love can make a person so blissfully ignorant sometimes. Or maybe he does really know, but he’s holding on to the idea of us out of hope. Love has a way of doing that, too.

Before he has a chance to say the next inevitably sweet thing, I put my phone on airplane mode and stick it in my carry-on bag. I know his response will be there when I land, but I’ll deal with that then. For now, I throw my head back against the headrest clearly designed for someone taller than 5’1”, and struggle for a decently comfortable position. Good thing this flight is only an hour and a half. As the cabin shakes from the engines roaring to life, I suddenly remember how nervous I am. I shut my eyes tightly, determined not to open them until I land in Indiana. The thing is, I’m not sure it’s the plane that’s causing it this time.

It will all be worth it, I repeat in my mind behind closed eyes. It better be worth it, it’s been a long time coming.

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