I pulled my car up to the border patrol booth slowly. My hand shook as I handed the agent my passport. I hoped he wouldn’t notice the moisture in the pages. I’d been gripping onto it in my lap since I’d hit the bridge. Always better to be prepared.
“Where are you headed?” Asked the burly man in dark sunglasses. He pushed them down the bridge of his nose and tilted his head to make eye contact.
I’d crossed the border into the United States a million times, but still, it always freaked me out. This was my first time doing it on my own. I tried my best to sound confident. “Jacksonville. Florida. For about two days and then Miami for another three.”
“That’s quite a drive,” he mused, looking over my shoulder now into my backseat. All he’d see were the cases of water my mom insisted I take. Gotta stay hydrated.
“Yeah, about 24 hours total,” I agreed. The solo road trip of a lifetime. I’d checked the maps over and over. An entire day driving. I’d do it in three separate spurts. Get plenty of rest, do some sightseeing. Keep active, keep busy.
“What’s the purpose of your trip?” He was examining my passport now. I just had to play it cool and soon I’d be on my way.
“Just a vacation.”
“On your own? Are you meeting someone there?” He passed my passport back through my window.
“No. I was planning on going with someone, but it didn’t work out.”
“So you’re going alone?” His inflection sounded a bit incredulous. I started to panic.
“I’ve had a pretty tough year.” I surprised myself venturing this information. I hadn’t planned to. It just kind of came out, with a crack in my voice at the end to vouch for my sincerity. Tough year was an understatement. But I was not about to have a breakdown at the border. I reminded myself that this was my independence trip. That this was my chance to do something really cool, on my own. I was a lone wolf. This is what I wanted. This is what I needed. I steadied my tone. “Thought it’d be nice to get away.”
“Alright,” he nodded, his face softening. “But can I just give you one piece of advice?”
“Sure,” I forced myself to smile. Between my mom and dad, who thought I’d completely flipped my lid driving across the continent on my own, I’d had my fill of well-intentioned advice. But a little more couldn’t hurt.
“Back your car up about two inches and veer right before you pull out, or else your bumper’s going to scrape the wall.”
I smiled and obliged, thankful for some useful advice for once. As I pulled through I called, “thank you!”
To which he nodded and replied, “and Miss, you’re going to be alright.”
And I was.