I was only two hours away. Only two hours in the car between my home and my school. I had gotten accepted into the summer term so while my newly graduated high school friends were still going to the beach and basking in their newfound freedom, I had to pack up and head two hours away from everything familiar. The day my parents dropped me off went by in a dramatic, stomach-knotted haze. I remembered waiting until my new roommate left to go buy last minute things at Target to quite literally fall apart on my mother's lap. I felt simultaneous anxiety and guilt as I knew there was nothing my parents could say to ease this cord-cutting ceremony. All too quickly, I told them to just go ahead and head home because the "see you later" would only get more difficult the longer they stayed.
Fast forward a few months and I connected with someone I had gone to high school with in the dining hall. It was a friendship based on "yeah we literally never talked the entire time we passed each other in the halls but now here we are in a sea of unfamiliarity so we should definitely hang out and do everything together and pretend it's not out of convenience." Sounds a little harsh, but I'm pretty sure he'd agree with me if you asked him. Coming from the same hometown, he ended up being my resource of closing that two hour gap in both directions.
Every month or so, usually on a Saturday morning with those freshman level hangovers that are somehow just a headache and exhaustion (versus the hangovers I get now which feel like actual death) we would hop in his parent's old accord that had pictures of guru's taped on the dashboard and take off on a trip that solely consisted of backroads. We would listen to John Mayer and stop at McDonalds even though the trip was definitely not long enough to go hungry. These trips were the first time I ever listened to John Mayer not on the radio and in sequence. My first new college trait: I liked John Mayer. Nothing like college to make you an original, am I right?
These two hour trips never felt long enough and each of them held some sort of memory. There was the time he forgot to put gas in the car, and note how I mentioned this trip was only backroads so we got to enjoy a mild panic of wondering if we would run out in the middle of nowhere. There was the trip where he pulled over into a parking lot and let me try driving (I didn't get my license until I was 20). There were the many trips when his sound system blew and we had to use a little portable speaker in the cupholder. We always fought over who got to play their music and usually settled for picking songs off of each other's phones as a compromise. This was our space. The limbo of between school and hometown, a place where our friendship fit perfectly.
One time, a different hometown boy had to drive me home since the previously mentioned one was busy. I remember telling him that I was a huge fan of Eminem to try to impress him. We listened to about an hour of Eminem after I said that, providing me with two realizations. Number one, never lie to a boy about your taste in music. Number two, I hate Eminem.
Finally, my last semester of senior year, I had both a license and access to a car. These two hour trips then became my two hours of solitude between school and home and home and school. I would drive over the speed limit and sometimes smoke a cigarette out the window because I could. I would then have to air out the car so that my parents wouldn't think I smoked cigarettes. I would pretend that I felt older, cooler, more grown up than those trips where I was confined to shotgun. I got to leave and arrive on my own terms, my own schedule. I got to pick my own music for a change even though I had to pick a playlist since I didn't have anyone next to me to change the songs. Senior year, driving myself. There I was. Although I found that the playlists I picked were almost always John Mayer. I still thought it was cool that I liked John Mayer.