I left Bloomington, Illinois, feeling nothing but dread that Friday morning. I had been getting increasingly nervous about making the 500-mile drive through America's Heartland all by my lonesome. Since I am usually so adventurous about these things and tend to throw myself in headfirst without so much as really even thinking, I felt sure that my trepidation was trying to tell me something BIG and IMPORTANT that I shouldn't have ignored. That made me more and more nervous and more nervous still when it took me more than an hour to find my way out of Bloomington.
Then I got the ticket, and my cell phone died at a rest stop after reading that I would be having to make a MANDATORY court appearance in Illinois in August. From bad to worse to worst. I was tied in knots. I was in a near panic. I bummed a cigarette off a very sympathetic man at a rest stop after going back and forth about turning around two hours into my trip and heading back to Bloomington. I called Jeremy three times in a row using my phone plugged into the wall in the women's bathroom at the rest stop. He was very sweet. He encouraged me to continue my journey. He said we could have a low-key weekend, not spend too much money. I could tell he felt bad for me and I could feel his strength - exactly what I needed in my hour of weakness. That conversation made all the difference. I kept driving.
The rest of the drive was gorgeous. Once out of Illinois and into Wisconsin, the ground swelled and buckled into rolling hillsides. I felt free and happy and, with a brand new pack of cigarettes by my side, I smoked my way to Minneapolis. The fear, anger and panic dissolved. I was finally myself again. The cigarettes did that for me. Oh, how I had missed my toxic little friends!
I arrived at Jeremy's house at 6:15 p.m., still making good time despite the many stops and freakouts. Last he heard from me, he wasn't sure if I was coming or not, and I had not yet received the four voice mails he left asking if I was still on my way. A note taped to his door pointed me toward the extension cord snaking out of his garage into which I could plug my cell phone in case he was in the basement working out when I arrived and didn't hear the bell. Another option, the note said, was to go to the basement window and knock. I chose to knock and ran around to the front door when I heard Jeremy yell out a greeting.
First impression: Wow! He's big. I expected Jeremy to have a slight build and to be about my height. Not so. Taller and wider, like a football player. He was all sweaty and grungy when he opened the door, and so was I. The trip had frazzled my last nerve, and I'm sure I looked it. He invited me in. I was nervous and awkward. He was friendly. After the tour of his house and a glass of Coke, we both showered and changed and went to dinner in St. Paul at Axel's Bonfire where I had some kind of fish that is a local favorite. The place was a tad too expensive for me, though, considering my recent financial setback. Jeremy offered to buy me dinner - an offer I graciously accepted. We took a walk down historic Summit Avenue in St. Paul where we saw big mansions and made our way to the state capitol building. It was a nice walk on the way out, but by the time we got back to Jeremy's car our feet hurt from having to run as fast as we could from two giant, rabid raccoons that threatened to eat us. Wait. That was all in my head.
After dinner and the walk, we went to a ritzy store that has hardwood and carpeted floors and bought some yummy food to cook for the weekend so we wouldn't have to eat out the whole time. Jeremy insisted on buying everything except the dessert - an awesome cake we ate in two days.
After cake and milk and a chat, it was bedtime. I fell asleep happy I had decided to meet Jeremy in person. He can be a super huge sweetheart and a whole lot of fun. That was exactly what I needed. I think that's exactly what everyone needs from time to time.
Next: Minneapolis/St. Paul: Saturday