(If you missed Part One, you might find that checking it would will give you a bit of useful context).
Truthfully, the construction zone remains something of a blur for me.
The lanes, in and out of which I had been swerving for the past 30 minutes, suddenly narrowed to one; the traffic slowed to 30 miles an hour. The truck in front of me was stopping and starting with alarming frequency, my car and I got up close and personal with a few construction barrels, and the iron entered my soul.
Quoth the Lauren: “Nevermore.”
I took the first exit ramp I saw, drove blindly into a McDonald’s parking lot, cut the engine, and took stock of the situation.
It was worse than I had even realized.
I was shaking. I couldn’t see clearly. I wanted to throw up, but my stomach was empty. My head hurt.
Worst of all, I was defeated in my spirit. Everything had gone so horribly, horribly wrong.
I had left so that, traveling by Google-time, I would arrive in Tampa just before dinner.
But we’ve already documented that Google apparently doesn’t include things like “pulling over to the side of the road to wish you were dead” or “accidentally-and-maybe-subconsciously-on-purpose-going-out-of-your-way-to-say-hello-to-the-place-where-the-legend-of-Tim-Tebow-was-born” in its’ listed travel times.
I just wanted it all to be over.
I considered finding a trucker and asking him to kill me and dispose of the body, but something told me that wasn’t in good taste. The only way to end this nightmare was to finish what I’d started.
I therefore went through a quick inventory of all the things I had been missing for the last 10 hours (food, water, love, etc.) and quickly hit upon the one of which I was in truly dire need.
Caffeine. I haven’t had enough caffeine yet.
I rolled out of my car and staggered woozily into the McDonald’s. I ordered a coffee, but my legs wouldn’t hold me long enough to wait for it, so I backed up against the condiment counter.
I noticed a man dressed in black leather with a long gray ponytail standing several feet to my left. He kept looking over at me, and I felt that in the absence of a trucker, he would probably perform suitably well as a body-disposer.
He got his order, started to leave, then suddenly stopped six inches from my face and stared me in the eye. He was breathing heavily, as though the few steps across the room had proven to be of marathon-like difficulty for him. Leaning forward, he said with conviction, “You’re getting a cold.”
A cold? No, I’m not getting a cold. I’m about to die from abusing my body with legalized stimulants. The words wouldn’t come; for a few seconds, we stared each other down, mute. Then, having apparently fulfilled his Diagnostic Angel of Mercy duties for the evening, he lumbered on. To this day, I have not experienced a weirder moment with a stranger.
I got my coffee and wobbled my way back to my car to call Becky.
“Becs?” I swallowed around my swollen tongue.
“Where ARE you?” I had been assuring Becky via text for the past two hours that I was “about 15 minutes away,” but I hadn’t wanted to call her, for fear she would realize how dire my straits were.
“I’m at McDonald’s. I can’t keep going. I’m going to take a nap.”
Horrified, Becky told me she was absolutely not going to let me nap in the parking lot of some highway McDonald’s, and that she was heading up a rescue brigade. In hindsight, I’m glad I could give her something to do with herself. It was only 11 PM, 2 days before her wedding. Homegirl couldn’t possibly have had any other demands on her time.
This is a story, though, that ends happily: Becky and Mark got there in record time to find me lying miserably over the hood of my car; I was driven to Becky’s parents’ house in safety; I was so jazzed on caffeine that I kept Becky up for several more hours while I bounced off the walls and she watched incredulously; and two days later, Mark and Becky were married.
Don’t you love a happy ending?