Excursion to Eastwood

March 21, 2010
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“Mom, can I drive to the Eastwood Mall?”

“What?! Anna, you have never even driven five minutes up the road to Austintown!”
I pleaded with my mom to let me brave the unfamiliar half hour drive to meet the sixteen-year-old boy I liked in his hometown fifteen miles away. Knowing how much I already cared for him, my mom hesitatingly let me, her “baby girl,” drive the farthest I had ever driven since getting my driver’s license. I knew it would be difficult and like nothing I had ever done before, but I had no idea exactly what twists and turns in the road lay ahead.

It all began the week of my birthday, in June, the summer before my junior year. The only difference between this summer and every other long, lazy summer before was the fact that I had been talking to a boy named Nick for three days. He saw me at the Tae Kwon Do studio where he and my sister trained and asked my sister for my cell phone number. After only talking for a few days, we found we were talking as if we had known each other our entire lives and not a mere seventy-two hours. Before long, we were texting each other almost twenty-four hours a day. He was compassionate, hilarious, and more interested in what I had to say than anyone I had ever met. Thrilled at the idea of meeting each other in person, Nick offered to meet me at his Uncle Joe’s book signing at Walden Books in the Eastwood Mall on the Friday before my seventeenth birthday. He said he would be working as a bodyguard, since his uncle is a famous author. We thought this would be the perfect time to meet face-to-face.

I was reluctant at first to accept the invitation, considering I had never driven to the Eastwood Mall and had no idea what I would say or if our chemistry would transfer from text to regular conversation. However, a brilliant plan fell into place after I received permission from my parents and a promise from my friend, Sara, to tag along for moral support. Being an amazing friend and knowing how much Nick already meant to me, Sara promised she would help navigate the trip and would not let the conversation get too awkward when we arrived at the signing. Armed with a detailed map, which included color-coded landmarks my mom had drawn, my cutest summer outfit, and a confident attitude, Sara and I left my house around 7:30 on Friday night. We laughed and talked about meaningless things to calm my nerves, following Route 46 from my house, until we saw the sign that proclaimed: “Welcome to Niles.” Sara snatched the map off the dashboard, and almost at the same time, we both commented on the lack of complications we had faced so far on the route.

Before we knew it, we were in the center of town desperately trying to stay in the correct lane and trying to make out the scarce street signs. Following the map, Sara said we had not yet come to the street on which we were supposed to make the first of only a couple turns of the entire trip. When we found what we thought was the correct street, I turned with confidence and pride in our navigational abilities. However, that confidence would soon vanish.

As we attempted to glance at the few street signs for the one we were supposed to take, we traveled farther and farther down Robbins Avenue. Soon, we both came to realize we had driven off the map completely as the names of streets that we saw on street signs were nowhere to be seen on our map. Calmly, I turned around in a small business’ parking lot and concluded we had simply passed the street. We repeated this same incorrect path again and again, confidence draining with each wrong turn. It was the third or fourth time I had to turn around that the panic began to spread throughout my already tense body. My hands began to sweat, making the steering wheel slick, and I gripped the wheel so tightly my knuckles threatened to break through my skin. It was starting to get late, and I was beginning to think we would never make it to the mall on time.

We drove for what seemed like an eternity up and down Robbins Avenue without seeing the correct street name. Eventually, making a decision based on nerves and frustration, I proclaimed we would simply turn down random streets until we found the landmarks we saw on the map. Our luck finally changed when we turned down the first of our randomly chosen streets. I almost squealed as the IGA grocery store shone bright like a beacon of hope at the end of the road. Sara looked utterly confused at first as I incoherently explained the IGA was one of the landmarks I had remembered from the map. Somehow, after that I knew we would finally make it to the mall in one piece.

After driving the long way through the complicated mall parking lots to reach the JCPenney parking lot my mom had suggested, I proudly texted my mom and Nick to tell them we had finally arrived. Sara and I began to fast-walk through the mall at the news that Nick had to leave soon. Frantically, we searched for Walden Books before Nick could leave the book signing. From afar, I glimpsed a tall, dark-haired, handsome man in a suit that I recognized as the reason I had braved this excursion. All the excitement of the trip began to wane as we slowly approached where he waited at the storefront. After the treacherous journey, the actual conversation was rather uneventful. We stood for about five minutes, desperately trying to make conversation as Sara tried to make things less awkward as she had promised. A quick hug goodbye marked the end of the short meeting that had brought a brighter end to our terrifying trip. Wanting to make the most of our time spent traveling to the mall, Sara and I made a mad dash for the enormous Hot Topic and did some shopping. Tired from all the excitement, we headed back to my car and somehow made it home with only a few bumps along the road. It was such a long drive for such a short visit to the mall. The whole way home, neither of us could stop laughing or making comments about the entire crazy Friday night that would set the tone for the rest of my summer.

Even months later, the story about our first encounter is still one of my boyfriend and my favorite stories. It never fails to make us laugh about the horrifying experience that turned into an exciting and loving relationship. Even though it was stressful at the time, Nick and I have come to think of it as the funny way we met. After dating for almost eight months, I would not hesitate to do it all again if I were given the chance.





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moonpetal said...
Jul. 5, 2010 at 7:26 pm
I can kinda relate.I like they way you wrote the artical.It didn't make it sound like your a stereotypical obssed teenage girl.Some people write like that and it distracts the main point and tone of the story.Kodos on being together still!!!!!!! I hate reading a story when the main point was a fling.Hope your sister got her BlackBelt. :D Loved the pice all the way.
 
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