Something to tick off the bucket list!

Entry #16.1 / 2nd July 2022

I’m not one to be negative,’ the bright voice chimed in as I hurried around, trying to gather the last of my belongings as quietly as possible. ‘But you’d be late for your own funeral.’

                  I was late for my own birth, I quipped back, so best to keep to tradition I suppose.

                  ‘Tradition?’ The responsible voice now came in, ‘if that’s another word for unpreparedness, then sure, tradition.

                  It was rare to have the bright and responsible voices in agreement, and what made it more frustrating was that they weren’t entirely wrong. In recent years, I had improved my time management skills; I even completed my master’s degree dissertation a week in advance (same for my bachelor’s degree now that I think about it). However, when faced with unexpected situations or unfamiliar environments, my time management skills crackled under pressure.

                  I was running late. Not as late as probably the angel and devil counterparts were making it out to be, but I still had to pack a few last-minute things.

                  Since I had to get up so early in the morning – three thirty in the morning to be exact – I decided against putting on makeup or trying to look too put together. Well, I looked decent, but not as polished as I did on the plane to America.

                  While the journey to Washington DC wouldn’t be as long as the one from England to America, it would be by bus. Which meant it was going to be ten times more sweaty and hot.

                  So, I dressed in a loose charcoal top with the printed words ‘Can’t Be Tamed’ on it, and my cycle shorts, and my white trainers that I designated to be my “out of camp” trainers. It was comfortable, something I knew I could endure for hours on end as I likely questioned my life choices.

                  Once I gathered the last few items I needed, I swiftly – and quietly! – left my dark dorm room, carefully closing the door behind me.

                  Stuffing the final items into my rucksack, I slung on my backpack and hoisted up my rucksack as I hurried down the hallway of the university dorms toward the building exit.

                  “Sorry sorry sorry!” I said in a rush once I caught up with both Janette and Ryan who started walking on slowly when I raced back into the building for the last bits. “Sorry… First trip away here and I’m probably overpacking.”

                  “Ya think?” Janette teased as she eyed my rucksack in my hand.

                  That’s when I realised that they didn’t have the same type of luggage as me. Only Ryan supporting a backpack on his shoulders. “You’re fucking kidding me… You managed to fit everything in there?”

                  Ryan nodded. “We don’t need much.”

                  “My sister is the same…” I stopped to allow some oxygen to enter my body from the sprint. “She can literally pack a whole two weeks trip in one backpack and still have room.”

                  “I’m guessing light packing gene skipped you then?” Janette questioned, her tiny smile reflecting her further teasing tone.

                  “Well technically we don’t share the same genes. We’re not biologically related really.” They both shot me confused looks and I gave a light wave of the hand as I continued to catch my breath. “Long story short – blood doesn’t define family. Zara is my sister, my big sister, and that’s the end of it.”

                  Janette nodded. “Yeah, I know people in my life who are pretty much family as well.”

                  I nodded in agreement, unable to speak properly now.

                  “Just to make sure,” Janette eyed me warily. “You did remember to bring your inhaler this time right?”

                  “I knew there was something I forgot.”

***

Amazingly, we arrived at the train station with time to spare. I felt my body relax as soon as we stepped onto the air-conditioned train, and I gazed out the window absentmindedly while Janette and Ryan conversed nearby.

                  For the first time since arriving in America, I didn’t feel obligated to keep the conversation going. Yes, as the train journey continued, I chatted with Janette and Ryan, joined in on the conversation, but it felt natural, relaxed, no pressure.

                  That’s when I realised how comfortable I was with both of them, and how, after feeling so unlike myself for the past week, they helped me feel more like myself again. Janette’s blunt and outspoken nature reminded me so much of my sister, and while Ryan had a calm and collected demeanour with a wealth of travel stories and advice to share.

                  It really put me at ease. Knowing how differently my brain was wired didn’t faze them at all.

                  Soon, we arrived at Grand Central Station and after a brief toilet break, we started walking through the streets of NYC.

                  If I thought it was beautifully messy in the middle of the day, it was definitely stunning in the early hours of the morning. There weren’t many people mingling around, only the morning workers, and, sadly, the homeless. There was something absolutely gorgeous about seeing the City that Never Sleeps covered in the quietness before the storm.

                  There was a small debate between the three of us on what to get for breakfast – since we had a bit of time to kill – before it was decided on the old classic – McDonald’s.

                  “Wow,” I mumbled as I looked over the breakfast menu on one of the self-order screens at a McDonald’s. “They have much more of a selection than the UK does… I don’t know if that’s a good thing though.”

                  I just settled for what I knew – a sausage and egg McMuffin with an extra hash brown and orange juice.

                  The McDonald’s where we ended up getting food was parked right next to Times Square, which, like all of NYC at nearly six o’clock in the morning, was pretty much deserted. After getting our orders, Janette and I found Ryan in the middle of Times Square, seated at one of the red picnic tables.

                  I grinned as I sat down and took in the area.

                  Breakfast in the middle of Times Square.

                  ‘Something to tick off the bucket list!’ The bright voice exclaimed with unflinching excitement.

                  I really need to sit down and write down this bucket list.

                  We chatted about the past week, the upcoming trip, and what the others had planned for the long weekend. I was still wrestling with the feelings I had about it all. While I was excited to see Washington DC, I felt unsure. Maybe… Maybe I was making the wrong choice. That my own independence was getting in the way of making memorable memories with the others that I maybe pushed myself away.

                  I couldn’t shake off the feeling of complete selfishness. The people-pleaser in me didn’t like that I was going against the grain, that I wasn’t following the crowd, that I wasn’t doing what everyone else was doing.

                  I felt selfish that was I wasn’t adding to everyone else’s memories.

                  ‘Would they see you there as doing as such though?’ The responsible voice questioned. ‘And plus, why can’t you be selfish? Why is it such a bad thing to create a memorable memory for yourself?’

                  Luckily, I didn’t have to answer the responsible voice’s diplomacy as Ryan asked if I wanted anything else from McDonald’s as he was going back.

                  I thought about it. “Could you get me another sausage and egg McMuffin and orange juice?” I asked, then rushing to add in: “Not to eat now! But to have for lunch later!”

                  Janette smirked a little. “You don’t need to explain yourself you know.”

                  I smiled slightly as I gave the money. “I think I’m gunna put on a few pounds in the next few months.”

                  “You’re in America.” Ryan pointed out. “That’s pretty much guaranteed.”

***

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