I shoved two rolled up sweatshirts into my large black duffle bag. Tears lingered stubbornly in my eyes as I packed. My graduation gown hung on the back of bedroom door. Graduation came and went in a blur. It’s hard to believe that something I waited so long for was just an awkward moment. I’ve been making a habit of keeping Stevie’s smiles and warmth in my pocket because I still was in need of them. I scooped up two paperbacks and my hair brush, dropping them into my bag.
“So tomorrow, huh?” My dad stood in the doorway of my room with his hands in his pockets.
“I hope you understand,” I said as put the final t-shirts in the bag, then zipped it up.
“I’m proud of you. I think spend the summer traveling will be good for you,” he said. “Olive, Huck, and I will sure miss you,” he smiled.
“You are coming for Thanksgiving, we are going to watch the Macy’s Parade,” I beamed.
My dad shook his head in disgust, “Yuck, I’ll be there, but I know exactly how crazy that parade gets, I’ve been to it many times. I also know, you can’t stand crowds.”
“It’s important to make yourself uncomfortable,” I said this, thinking of Stevie’s and my list. That’s what we were doing even though that wasn’t a focus, it was a side effect. Jumping off cliffs into the water was important, I’m glad we did that.
“That’s a troubling thing for your father to hear as you pack your bags.”
“Sorry.” I sat down on my bed, and looked at my dad, feeling like a child. “Will you be okay?” I asked honestly just wanting an answer.
“I think so,” he said.
“I think so,” I replied. Then I asked, “Do you think I’m making a mistake?”
“No, kid I don’t,” he said simply, then handed me my coat, “Bring this, but I’ll be sure to send you everything the moment you get settled.”’
“Thanks, dad,” I said meaning for everything.
The next morning, the sun was a big, undisturbed blinding orb in the sky. I tossed my back in the back of the car and closed the trunk. My eyelids were heavy from waking up so early, but dad insisted on taking us for 4 am pancakes. After piles of breakfast cakes and bacon, we started packing the car. My toes were tingling with anticipation a lot like I would imagine a dog feels like about before going on walks. Freedom and endless possibles and a mountain of the unknown were almost in the palm of my hands. Butterflies were in every bit of space inside of my body. It was here. I was on my way.
I slid into the tiny driver seat and eased my keys into the ignition. I was being very careful to enjoy every moment. I wouldn’t let stress rule my life. No one knows how low they’ll get; we shouldn’t waste it. I jabbed at the radio buttons until, I heard Hozier come on. I closed my eyes and pictured Stevie smiling and moving back and forth to the music with her hair stuffed into a baseball hat.
“I thought I was getting the first shift,” Benny said as he and Holden piled into the car.
I smiled, “Well I got carried away with the moment. I’ll go first,” I said, fastening my seat built.
“Alright then,” he laughed, doing the same.
“Are you ready? I asked.
“Yep, let’s go,” Benny said grabbing hold of my free hand.