I was more F than A or C, but any way you look at it, I was an AFC. An Average Frustrated Chump. I had a crush on a girl named Renee, who lived on my floor in the dorm.
For weeks I lived in agony, wondering if she liked me. I'd make subtle hints and get back subtle responses which weren't nearly conclusive enough for me to do anything about it.
Things came to a head on Friday night. I had to ask her. Not in person, of course. On AIM.
WHAT? That doesn't help anything. I was looking for clarity and I got more confusion. And frustration.
I had to get out of the dorm. I walked across the street to sit in my car and think.
What should I do?
I was utterly clueless and hopeless. After half an hour of trying to figure out what I should do, I headed back to the dorm to sleep.
However, everyone was in the room my roommate and I shared and was drinking. Including Renee. I've learned to accept what other people do and to not let it bother me, but back then it bothered me a lot that my friends were beginning to drink.
And Renee was drinking. It was hard to cope with the fact that she wasn't the pinnacle of female perfection that I'd built her up as in my mind. I knew she drank, of course, but seeing it still made me angry.
I sat on my bed engaging in the least conversation possible. I wanted them to leave. I wanted to sleep.
After an hour or so they finally dispersed and I went to sleep without a word.
The next morning I awoke to the memory of what had happened the night before. I felt powerless. I liked a girl who wasn't what I wanted, and I had no idea whether she actually liked me or not and had no idea what to do about it.
I've got to get out of here.
I got in the shower. I stood with the hot water beating on my back, staring idly at the white tile wall.
I've got to get out of here.
When I got out of the shower I saw my roommate, Austin, at his computer.
"I'm going to California."
I don't know how I decided I'd go to California. It was far away, which was enough justification for me. I'd never been before.
Austin was no stranger to road trips. In fact, he was usually one of the driving forces behind them.
"Awesome, man." He wanted to go too, but couldn't because of school. The look in his eyes was unmistakable.
I started packing my stuff. Renee came in and asked what I was doing.
"I'm going to California."
"I don't know."
"Are you mad at me?"
Yes, but I have no good reason to be.
"Good. I thought you might be."
"I'm worried. That's a long way to drive by yourself."
"I'll be fine."
She had a point. When she left I went around to my friends' dorms to see if anyone wanted to go. Most people wanted to, but they were still in school.
Except for Dan. Dan never seemed to be in school, and this semester was no exception. He was one of the funniest people I've ever known and was down for ANY crazy idea no matter what.
"Man. I'd totally go, but I have a psychologist appointment on Thursday."
He was bipolar.
I went back to my room and kept packing. I'd go alone - no problem. I finally zipped up my bag and picked it up to head out.
Dan walked in.
"We're doing it."
He had a raggedly packed bag in his hands. That was all I needed. He didn't need any details either, not that there were any to give. I didn't know anyone in California and neither did he.
We threw our bags in the back seat of my car, a 1994 Mazda 626, and started heading West.
After a few hours it dawned on me that I was going to St. Martin the next week and would need a passport for that. I had one when I went to Taiwan, but I was very young then.
I called my parents
"Hey Mom. I'm going to California. Is my passport still valid?"
She didn't like this at all. Why was I going to California? She checked the passport and it was NOT valid.
We turned the car around. I was pissed that I wasn't going to follow through with my crazy random plan. I got to my parents house and got everything I needed - birth certificate, social security card, and old passport.
Then it dawned on me - I can renew my passport ANYWHERE. It doesn't have to be in Austin.
"We've wasted too much time to make it to California now. How about Vegas?"
I'd never been there either.
"We're doing it!" That became our mantra.
My mom wasn't happy to hear this either. She tried to make up reasons we needed to stay, but I didn't buy any of them.
Again we hit the road and retraced our track.
To stay entertained we played rap beats from my computer and freestyled for hours. We were terrible, but we laughed so hard that we cried. We pushed ourselves, driving until we absolutely couldn't anymore.
"Whoa. I'm glad you woke up," said Dan, "I've been hallucinating because I'm so tired. Don't those lights look like a giant rabbit?"
No. They didn't.
I drove through the night without stopping. As the sun rose we saw snow on the side of the road. We pulled over and had a snowball fight for five minutes. We continued onward.
Everything was great except for Dan's driving. He refused to drive at a normal speed. I'd take a nap, but when I'd open my eyes I'd see that he was going 110.
This car was not built to go 110.
I sat up.
"Dude. You're going way too fast. Keep it under 90."
"Yeah, ok. Hey - do you think that bird is going to move?"
There was a large black bird in our lane, near the side. Swerving wasn't an option for two reasons : we were still going 110 and there were cars to the right of us.
"I... I don't know..."
It lifted its wings and began to take off...
We pegged it with my side view mirror, which it knocked off. Feathers flew everywhere. We looked at each other.
"Ok, I'll slow down."
We call our friend Todd who booked a room for us in Vegas for two nights. Finally we make it over a hill and we see the lights of Vegas below us. Nevermind that we're not old enough to gamble - we're psyched to just be there.
We immediately buy tickets to Cirque du Soleil's "O" which came highly recommended from my friend Phil. The tickets are for the third night we're there. We spend the rest of our time wandering around through hotels, marveling at the free little shows they have: the fountains at Bellagio, the volcano at Mirage, the pirate ship at Treasure Island.
We eat our first meal at the Bellagio buffet. It's amazing. We spend half the meal chewing and the other half extolling the virtues of the food. We eat every other meal there for the rest of the trip. We develop an obsession with The Bellagio, spending tons of time just walking around in it. Dan convinces the late night hotel clerk to let us look through the book of Suites.
On the night of "O", we get a call from the front desk of the Monte Carlo, where we're staying.
"Sir, we've noticed that you haven't checked out yet. We've taken the liberty of extending your stay by one night at our rate of $150 a night."
Oops. We were only paying $90 a night and we forgot that we were there for only two nights and not three.
"That's ridiculous! We reserved three nights through the internet."
"Sir, it's showing here that you only reserved two."
The argument raged on.
"I'll tell you what. I'm not supposed to do this, but I can give you the room for $120."
It was a matter of principle at this point.
"I can't pay more than $90. We've been out of the room all day since the maids came. We'll either pay $90 or we'll leave the room in perfect shape so you can book it for someone else."
"Fine. We never do this, but we'll make an exception just this once."
We headed downstairs to catch the tram to "O" at Bellagio. On our way we passed the front desk to sign for the extra night. The clerk was not impressed that he'd lost a battle to two punk kids. He lectured us for a good five or ten minutes while we glanced at our watches. The show was about to start.
Finally we pried ourselves away away from the angry manager and dashed to catch the tram. The show was amazing. In awe we began to walk back to our hotel.
"Want to get a head start and just start driving home now?"
"We're doing it."
We reached Deming, NM without incident. Then all of a sudden an orange light started flashing on the dashboard. We pulled over, but nothing seemed to be wrong. There wasn't time for anything to be wrong, anyway. I was leaving for St. Martin in two days.
After turning the car off and then back on the light went away. Problem solved.
Half an hour later it turned on again. This time it was accompanied by smoke coming from under the hood.
We pulled over again, made amateur guesses at what the problem might be, and kept going, looking for a mechanic. It was the morning now. We finally found a mechanic who examined the car and told us the transmission was dying.
He could fix it, but it would take a week. Or... we could just keep pouring more transmission fluid in it and it might make it back to Austin. We bought several quarts and threw them in the trunk.
With a handful of hours to spare we made it back to Austin. While we were gone, Renee ended up dating one of my best friends. Problem solved.
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