Preparation and Departure
5:00 in the morning, it’s finally time for my mom and I to depart and embark on the grand expedition to Alabama. At long last—after knowing Andrew [Gilbert] for almost 2 years through the internet, Aaron [Bonner] through Andrew about six months, Molly [Green] and Tessa [Hawkins] through Andrew a year, and Jake [Clough, pronounced Cluff] through Andrew for just four months—I was finally going to be able to be face-to-face (although, perhaps not quite face-to-face, as he stood slightly taller than I at 5’11, whereas I stood at a somewhat short 5’8) with Andrew’s icy, almost deep-aquamarine blue eyes, look at his enigmatically puffy, almost gravity-defying and perfect dirty blond hair that had copious curls, perhaps even touch it to unravel the mystery of hair it managed to stay up without drooping in front of his face, and just be around him like most of his other friends were able to be, nearly every day; I’d dreamt of the time when our meeting (which now became with several others as time passed from meeting Andrew online) would finally transpire. The whole week before Thursday came, everything else paled in comparison to the thoughts, images, and feelings, of exiting the norms of Michigan life, and journeying through the states and the country, after not having been on vacation or even leaving the state in nearly five years. Our initial plan was to run our array of errands the whole day, sleep until about 2 A.M., Friday, get up and pack, and leave by around 3—as usual with my mom, that didn’t happen, as her proclivity to double-check every appliance, light, and room, took around fifteen minutes for each of the aforementioned. The car and our luggage were packed—brimming, almost; the dog was nestled on his special sleeping bag that was necessary to ensure he’d remain relatively calm during the voyage, traversing the concrete; and our not-so-trusty GPS that we’d been “borrowing” from my aunt was programmed with the hotel’s address. Eleven hours of driving, or so we thought, were ahead of us. Part of our plan, too, was to drive all those hours without staying anywhere for the night, eleven straight hours of driving, when neither of us was able to get much sleep, because of excitement and anticipation for myself—slight anxiety too, as I wanted to make the most of this illustrious birthday present, a raging migraine for my mom.