I watched as the dotted lines blurred past me. The heat bouncing off the freeway made sure my air was cranked all the way up. I tried to stay focused on my goal, reminding myself it would all be worth it in the end.
The same songs seemed like they had been set to repeat every 30 minutes and I ended up on classical music for a while. I tried silence, let me be alone with my thoughts and enjoy the beauty of the open road as I trailed along.
The silence left me alone with my own thoughts. I'm not sure that was a better alternative.
He doesn't really love you; he is messing with you do to pure boredom.
I tried to push out the thought. The one that kept me from making this journey for so long. I wanted an answer, to know if I had been wasting the last 2 years of my life.
I was less than an hour away from where we decided to meet. The supermarket exactly halfway between where we both lived. The downside was that half way still meant a six-hour drive one way.
What if he does show, but he is not who he said he was, not even close.
A thought I was all too familiar, would I still love a man who was hiding who he really was? I have seen enough catfish episodes to know when it was too good to be true. He wasn't perfect, not by a long shot, but because of that I somehow trusted him more.
I could feel my heart pounding deep in my chest as crossed the state line of Kentucky. This is not how I had imagined meeting the love of my life would be when I was growing up. I pictured nature surrounding me, a never-ending forest with the sound of a waterfall somewhere nearby.
Cars flying by while going 80 took me out of that fantasy.
I had never traveled this far for anything, let alone some internet boy. I had every right to be terrified.
He does show up, he is who he says he is, but he left out one detail in the mix. He wants to kill you.
Of all my irrational fears, that made my palms sweat, my breath tighter. I could turn around, turn into a ghost and move on with my life. If it didn’t work before, why oh why did I think it would again.
I had to pull over before I hurled.
I checked my phone hoping to clutter my mind with other things. I had a missed call from my mom.
“Hey, did you call a little bit ago?”
“Yes, why didn't you answer? What are you up to?”
“Well I’m kinda on a road trip, nothing special. Why did you call?”
“Don’t lie to me Abby, your little friend Sarah told me what you were up to. What are you thinking going to meet some boy from the internet?”
“Mom, I know what you think, but it's not like that, he is different than Johnny. I know what I am doing.”
“No the hell you don't. You never know what you’re doing. All you are doing right now is driving to get killed. Don't you watch the news?”
“Trust me, I’ve thought of that. I just don’t think its like that with him. Worst case is he does not show, and I got to see a new part of the country.”
“Well if that's what you’re after, you should've at least brought a friend, why don't you just head back, you can still get home before it's too late. I can invite David over, and make the two of you dinner.”
“Mom, I’ve told you David isn't for me. We tried it out, and we just aren't compatible. Can you please stop trying to get us back together?”
“If you didn't go and mess things up with him, it would've worked out fine.”
“I’m done talking to you, you know that's not why it didn’t work. Bye.”
“Don't you dare han-”
I didn't need her weekly pep talk right then. I tried to shake her from my thoughts when I got a text. It was from Ryan.
‘Hey I’m going to be a little late, there was some big accident, but I’m on my way. See you soon <3’
Perfect. More time with myself.
I got back on the road cursing my mother under my breath, wondering how she could be so unsupportive. Not sure why I was surprised though, she never agreed with what I wanted to do with my own life. It was hard to not let her under my skin.
The next 15 minutes flew by and my mind was all over the place I almost missed my exit. I whipped my car across two lanes to head to what tragedy awaited me.
The town was not large by any means, but had a decent amount of fast food choices and I went to the first one without thinking. I needed food. Fast food. Nothing made me feel better than an over processed burger made by a teenage boy making minimum wage.
I slammed the burger and fries down. They were gone quicker than it took waiting in the drive thru. It did not take long for me to remember why I don't eat fast food more often.
Between the nerves and the burger, my stomach wanted to murder me. It was cramping in every direction and before I could react, I returned the food into the thin paper bag it had only left a few minutes prior. The smell alone made me gag even more. Wonderful.
I carried the vomit-soaked bag to the entrance of the grocery store and shoved it down into the already overfilled bin. I decided it would be best to walk around and make sure at a minimum I knew where at least two emergency exits were if I had to make a run for it.
I wandered around the same aisles for 45 minutes, checking my phone every 15 seconds for a text from Ryan. I didn't realize until I passed the adult diapers for the third time that I didn't have any signal in the store.
I shoved the charcoal toothbrush I found onto a random shelf and ran outside. My phone lit up as soon as it hit the unobstructed outside air.
‘Almost there, so excited! Have you made it yet?’
‘Hey I’m pulling in, a little nervous, where are you at?’
‘Hello? Are you ignoring me?’
‘I get it, this was a joke wasn't it. Well thanks for the laugh, really enjoyed it..’
I called him but he wouldn't answer. I shot him a text instead.
‘Hey sorry, I’m here, I was just wandering the store and didn't realize I had no signal. Where are you?’
‘It’s fine, I get it.’
‘No, no you don't. I am actually here standing outside the store. Did you leave?’
He didn't respond. I called again, no answer. How did I mess this up so bad?
I went back to my car, trying to call him over and over. He couldn't have waited very long. I was in the store for less than an hour. What if he didn't even show up, was just trying to make me feel like the bad guy. How could I fall for this crap again?
I heard an ambulance drive by. Then another.
It was unrelated. Had to be. He only stopped texting because he made a fool out of me, and he was happy. Right?
I couldn't take the not knowing. I speed towards the ambulance’s direction, calling him over and over.
He would answer, tell me to stop being so annoying and it would be all fine, well mostly.
The ambulances stopped about a mile past the store. I couldn't see much but they had the road blocked. My heart sank.
I tried to inch closer as cars in front of me turned around. I had to know if it was him.
I was able to get my car as close as the cops would let me. I waited for an eternity and saw them running around in slow motion yelling to each other.
I saw the first person get carted into the back of one of the ambulances, a younger girl, maybe 16. She seemed to be awake, but panicking.
The next cart carried a body, covered in blood, it was hard to tell where it was coming from. All I could make out was that it was a boy, about my age, skin and hair fitting the description of a guy I met online who wouldn't answer his damn phone.
Before I could get a better look, they placed him into the back and they were off sirens blaring.
I searched for a local hospital, set the directions and took off after them. I ignored the stop signs, couldn't see anything but the directions telling me where to turn.
I pulled up to the ER and darted inside.
This was my fault. If I hadn't been wandering the store, I would have gotten his texts and he wouldn't have driven off pissed. We would have been together.
The lady at the desk wasn't very helpful. I gave her his name and what he looked like, but she told me I had no choice but to wait.
My eyes glued to my phone. Waiting for him to text or call and tell me he was alright. Neither came and I passed out in the chair waiting for an update.
“Ma’am? Ma’am wake up”
I jumped back a little taking in my surroundings as my eyes adjusted to the light. The nurse was standing over me.
“You can see your friend now. He is sleeping, but you can go see him.”
I didn't even stop to thank her, she told me where his room was and I took off.
It was him.
It was him in the accident, and it was him who I’d seen only in photos and blurry FaceTime, but it was him.
I sat down next to him and held his hand while the noise from the oxygen pump filled the otherwise silent chamber.
“I know you can't hear me, and if you could you would be a little confused, but I just wanted to let you know I’m sorry. I didn't think you were going to show, and couldn't take just sitting in my car waiting. I just wanted to say I'm glad you’re ok, and I wish we were not meeting for the first time like this. I'd really prefer it to have been while we were both conscious.”
He didn't wake up, or squeeze me hand to show he heard me. He laid there, kept alive by machines while I wondered what I could have done different, what I could take back to change this.
The hospital let me stay the night since I was technically his girlfriend, even if we never met.
I slept on the pullout chair next to his bed, fighting sleep hoping for him to wake. I felt my eyes get heavier and heavier until I couldn't keep them open any more.
“Abby? is, is that you?”
It took me a moment to realize I wasn't sleeping. I looked up and saw a smile on his beautiful face.
“Hey, glad you're alright. I'm sorry I wasn't responding to your texts; I really was in the-”
“No, I’m sorry. I shouldn't have run off in such a fit. I just figured you didn't show and it was all one big joke.”
“Yeah, I know the feeling. I'm just glad you’re not dead, that would've really sucked.”
I gave him a smile, and it grew when he gave me his.
“I know this isn't how we planned on meeting, but hey, at least you’re not a 50-year-old man who wants to kill me right?”
“And at least you’re not a 50-year-old man who wants to kill me!”
I let out a laugh and sat there with him talking for hours just as we had over the phone for the last 2 years. It wasn't any different, but it was so much better. I knew that he was worth it, and was so glad that I had pushed my fears aside be with him at last.