Every year as the flowers bloomed and the birds sang, my best friend and I would begin to feel cabin fever, stir crazy. A March madness descended upon us that had nothing to do with college basketball. Each spring my best friend’s and I would get restless. We had wanderlust and no concept of intermediate consequence.
Year after year we’d disappear, often without destination. I’d unfold a paper map on the hood of my compact Suzuki Swift hatchback and we’d close our eyes and put our fingers to a list of city names, then drive wherever fate pointed us. We laughed at the excessive hyphenation of Howie-In-The-Hills and didn’t care there wasn’t a single attraction or open store while we drove through.
Many older people think teens and young adults underestimate risk. That’s not completely accurate. We knew exactly what type of ill fate might befall us from hitchhiking, sleeping in public, and accepting “gifts” from men we knew sought to solicit services we didn’t provide. We understood the drastic risks we faced, but didn’t yet know dating contained all the same ones.
Intermediate risks, consequences one could survive long enough to regret, those were the harder ones to grasp. If we could stay alive and stay out of jail, that was good enough for us. Concepts like “lost earning potential” from the jobs we casually abandoned to go on road trips, and “eviction” as consequence of the former, would be later lessons. Then we were fearless, because we didn’t entirely care if we lived or died.
One night we found ourselves in Daytona Beach, at a grocery store parking lot, at three in the morning. An obviously creepy man we’d met at a bottle club had offered to buy us food, and we’d decided to take the gamble we could extract capital from him without harm to ourselves. As we munched on snacks and debated crashing on his suggested couch, my best friend offered me a bag of Doritos.
“We’re about to get axe murdered, would you like a chip?”