The road is narrow with doubt. My mind is scattered like the roadkill on the shoulder. I turn on my ignorance. I turn off my head. At the halfway point in between two girls, not knowing what the hell I'm doing.
When I stop to get gas, I call my friend Kyle. I try to explain myself to him without him prompting me to. He's not the one that needs an explanation, I am. I tell him that my past dictates my present. I have to give Lizzy her fair chance because I failed to do it for another girl in the past. It has to be as simple and shallow as first come first served, because there is no possible way for me to make sense of this. His next comment slaps me across the face.
"Dude, that all may be true, but..."
"Well I was talking to her friend and she said that Shelby..."
"Yea what about Shelby?"
"Shelby said you're the best she's ever had. That she connected with you better than anyone."
"That's bullshit, we only knew each other for a week."
"That's what Shelby said man, and it's probably true."
I don't know what to think. The music plays but all I hear is silence. I glance at my phone repeatedly. Nothing from Lizzy. She's already on her damn plane. It's too late to turn back. My stomach turns slowly and deliberately. I hate this. I feel guilt tickle my spine.
I text Shelby. Ask her how she's doing. She gives me a short response. She can't be happy that I've already broken my request that we not talk during this weekend. I can see it. I know her well already and I don't know her at all. I don't know either of these girls that well. I haven't even met one of them. Yet here I am in the middle of two places trying to figure out something I feel is going to affect me for years to come, if not the rest of my life.
I drive through central California, the forgotten part of a state known for its north and south. A perfect metaphor for where my head is. I get closer and closer to the reality I need to face. I receive intermittent texts from Shelby. I ask if she's okay, she gets pissed. I feel stupid.
She tells me she is in Berkeley with her friends, I tell her to enjoy herself and we discontinue communication, presumably, until I come back home.
I hit the grapevine on the 5. The road is twisty and I'm swerving all over the place as I text Eric to let him know I'm getting close. I had left work early that morning so I could surprise Lizzy and be there when her flight arrived instead of meeting her two hours after. I plan to meet Eric at his place and then drive over to the airport. I'm getting closer.
Five exits, four, three, two...
I'm one exit away. My heart is beating fast. I'm still at least an hour away from meeting her. I don't know how I'm going to survive if my blood pressure stays this high. I head towards Eric's apartment. I walk in and I'm giddy, discombobulated, and red in the face.
"Dude, you alright?"
"Yea man, just anxious. I don't know what to expect and I'm all over the place right now."
"Haha, this is the kind of shit that I'm going to tell at your wedding, no matter who you end up with. I'm gonna get up there and talk about how you were in my apartment freaking out over meeting this girl."
He cheers me up, but my breath is getting shorter. With about 30 minutes until the flight lands I finally convince him to go to the airport with me. We get there with about 15 minutes to spare. We park. Nothing is moving fast enough. I look around anxiously for the right terminal. Burbank Airport is set up in a confusing way and I get frustrated. Eric assures me that Lizzy will walk through these doors at any moment. I get a text.
My heart stops. I'm not ready for this. I tell Eric that I need to buy her flowers or something. I go to the vending machine and get a slightly wilted, small spring bouquet for her. I hold it up nervously. I'm suddenly that guy at the airport waiting for his girl, only in this situation I'm at the airport waiting for a blind date. I start to put pressure on the situation. This has to be perfect. This has to be better than the first time I met Shelby. There is going to be flowers, a hug, and a magical kiss. It's all there waiting to happen.
I tell myself that it will just happen, I don't need to imagine anything. It will just happen the way it is supposed to. Eric tries to calm me down. I see people coming out of the terminal, every few seconds we think we see her but are fooled. The last few stragglers come out. No sign of Lizzy.
I text her, "Where are you?"
She doesn't respond.
I call her. She finally answers and says she's outside. I start running around desperately trying to find where she is. She's terrible at explaining her surroundings. She tells me she is under the sign of the airline she traveled on. There are three signs that say the same airline. I run towards that area. Eric spots her. I walk briskly towards her as she looks the opposite direction from where I'm heading. I get closer and closer. I can see her almost clearly now. I'm pushing people aside and I finally break out into a sprint.
I give her a running hug and startle her. She looks at me and I hand her the flowers. We share a rushed, awkward peck on the lips. Eric catches up with us.