I had made the drive down to rural Hartford that morning, jacked up on cheap coffee, replaying over in my mind how I would answer their questions, and sell myself. With sweaty palms the drive seemed to take forever, but I made it in time for the afternoon interview. This was my third round of interviews with this company and it would all be made, or broken by this trip. I needed this job badly, before graduation dumped me into the back bedroom of my parents house, over educated, under employed, and awash in debt.
The interviews had ended well, but late. I took my suit coat off, and loosened my tie, not wanting to let the feeling go. Alone, in a strange city, with nothing but my car, and a briefcase full of empty notebooks, and corporate brochures, I felt so grown up. No, I wanted to savor this feeling of freedom.
I climbed back into the car, and began the four hour drive back to Potsdam. It was the middle of the week, and I had blown off class to make the interview. Winter was ending in Connecticut, and already the brown grass was showing through the scraps of snow around the office parks. If all went well, I could be back in her room by 9 o’clock. She would want to know everything about the interview, what they asked me, what the position offered. I couldn’t wait to tell her.
Traffic was flowing fine all the way up I91 to Springfield, where I pulled onto the Massachusetts Turnpike and headed west. By the time I reached Albany, and turned onto the Northway, the sun had already set. Traffic thinned as I got north of Glens Falls and the highway began climbing into the edges of the Adirondacks. Just tractor-trailers, and myself, climbing and descending the hills, playing leapfrog on our way North.
Exiting the Northway, onto US 9, I left even the trucks behind, and turned up and into the mountains. When US 9 turned off towards Elizabethtown I continued on to NY 73, and the trees closed in on the sides of the road, until only a tunnel of pines remained. The banks of snow rose like hay bales along the shoulder. The road narrowed, but I only drove faster. It was past 7 o’clock, and I had the road to myself. The little engine in the Plymouth strained on the climb, but I wouldn’t let up. I knew she was waiting.
Through the heart of the High Peaks and the winter desolation, I kept on the gas. Husker Du was blaring inside the car, but outside only the silent trees saw me pass. I was driving too fast, and I knew it. One patch of ice, one deer in the road, one misjudgment of a curve, and all could have been lost in darkness, and ice, but there was no thought of slowing down. I threw the car into the turns, and downshifted on the descent to save the brakes. When the road straightened I jumped back on the throttle and accelerated over the frost heaves, the car leaping forward into the small cone of light in front of me.
Down into Lake Placid, and on through the slow, sleepy, towns of Saranac Lake, and Tupper Lake, I caught my breath. When I turned onto 56 to follow the Racquette River out of the mountains and back across the blue line, the race resumed, but the adrenalin had faded. Around 9 o’clock I pulled into the parking lot outside her dorm. The lights from inside glowed like gold. Stepping from the humid warmth of the car, my breath billowed like fog in front of my face. I put on my coat, and stepped forward toward the lights.
When I got to her room the door was open, and there were several other girls sitting around talking. I felt like I was interrupting something, but once she saw me she immediately put me at ease. She walked up to me, and put her arms around me and kissed me right there in front of everyone.
“How did the interview go?” she wanted to know. So I proceeded to fill her in on all the details.
Her friends took her hint, and excused themselves one by one, until it was just the two of us. She wanted to know everything about the job, how much it paid, how far away it would be. We had only just met, but I was already doing the math in my head figuring out how long it would take me to drive up to visit her on weekends next year.
“Has anyone ever told you how hot you look all dressed up?” she asked.
“No.” I responded. “Most girls tell me that when they see me naked.”
She laughed out loud, and I smiled wondering how long I would have to wait before she had the chance. I crossed the room, and sat down next to her on the edge of the bed. The door to the hallway was closed, and her radio was playing in the background. I leaned across to kiss her and she met my mouth with hers. She pulled my tie off over my head, and placed it around her neck.
“How do I look?” she asked.
“It looks better on you than it does on me” I answered.
“Do I get the job?”
“I’ll have HR put an offer together tomorrow.” I said
“What makes you think I’ll say yes?” she teased. “I’m sure there are lots of companies that would kill to have me.”
“I have a good benefits plan.” I said. We lay back on the bed kissing for half an hour, until she apologized that she had an early class in the morning, and had to get some rest.
I drove back out to the apartment, my mind racing ahead, already making plans for the future. By summer I could be setting up an apartment in Hartford, and she could come down to visit. We could make trips to the shore, and spend days together in bed, like people did in the movies. For the first time in my life, I began to imagine a life beyond college. A life cut and pasted from L.L. Bean and J. Crew catalogs, with ocean breezes and Labrador Retrievers running along the beach.
I had to get this job now. The only other interview I had been able to land was with a company that required me to travel 100% of the time. When I had first interviewed for that position, I had yet to meet her and it sounded like a great opportunity to escape Upstate New York, but suddenly I had a reason to stay. Leaving now would be the worst of all possible outcomes. She was only a sophomore and still had two years before she graduated. How long would she be willing to wait for a boyfriend she never saw? I didn’t want to think about it, but the thought kept creeping back into my mind.