It’s January and I’m sleeping in my jeans on a stranger’s floor. Well, not so much sleeping as scanning. Scanning my fiancee beside me. Scanning the floors, the walls, the furniture. By the room’s primary decor, I see that at least one member of this household is more than a fair-weather NASCAR fan.
My first trip to another hemisphere starts with a pre-flight night at a classmates’ mom’s house in Lincoln, Nebraska. My fiancee, Derek, and I are taking advantage of our university’s New Zealand trip, and since we’re from a town with no shopping mall, let alone an airport, arrangements like this are a necessity.
Beside me, Derek breathes steadily from inside his sleeping bag. Apparently he was able to ignore the musty scent of cat hair and stale cigarette smoke mingling in the carpet under our heads. The noxious smell mixes in my travel-anxious stomach with my last meal. Breakfast may not happen. And with a 12-hour trans-Pacific flight looming in the near future, I’ve come to terms with the fact that it’ll be a couple days before I get any significant sleep.
Looking up at the shadowy TV stand before me, I wonder at the variety of huddled NASCAR coffee mugs. Were they ever meant to be out of the cupboard and on display as a room’s focal point?
I turn to look at Derek, who’s separated from me only by the closed zippers of our sleeping bags. His face is relaxed and I think, This is going to be okay. This will be a trip I won’t ever forget.