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Lakewood Times

Lakewood Times

Lakewood Times

“Taking a Road Trip Out of the Comfort Zone”

After graduating high school, he quickly moved out and cut contact with most of his family. They were either not so nice to him or ignored him completely. He only kept in touch with his younger brother and his uncle. He only ever talked to his brother over the phone to wish him happy holidays or a happy birthday, but he talked to his uncle daily. His uncle always called to check in with him, he was the only person who seemed to understand Julian’s deep turmoil. They hung out once a week, playing video games or building puzzles. This was just enough to keep Julian happy. In his mind he didn’t need anything else, not even another friend. The thought of having a friend was frightening to him,  it was something he wasn’t used to being alone most of his life. 

One day, his uncle called him to ask him a favor. Julian answered the phone and said, “Hello?”

“Hey bud, I need a favor. I need to go pick up a shipment for work. They dropped it off at the wrong place and wanted to charge a lot more to deliver it again. Do you think that I could borrow your truck?”

“Yeah, sure. It’s not like I really have anywhere to go anyways,” Julian laughed, but his uncle wasn’t very amused. His uncle replied and said, “Maybe you need to try and find a hobby or a friend, kiddo. I love spending time with you, but what about when I’m not around? With this new job I’m going to have to travel a lot.”

“I haven’t really thought about that, I don’t know. I’m scared to try and make friends, and I have comfort in my solitude.”

“How about you tag along?” He sighed, knowing that Julian wouldn’t admit to being upset about it, “We can make it a fun road trip! It’s three hours there and then another three hours back.”

“Yeah sure, that sounds good. When?”

“How about right now, get yourself packed and ready!”

Julian hung up the phone and went into his bedroom to get dressed. He put on khakis and a gray hoodie that had a video game graphic on the front. He went to the bathroom that was attached to his room to brush his teeth and fix his messy bedhead. Ater that he grabbed a drawstring bag and filled it with a few granola bars, a bag of chips, three water bottles, and a handheld gaming console. 

As he was closing the bag up, he heard honking outside. He made his way to the front door, grabbing his car keys off of the hook on his way out. He locked the door behind him and proceeded down the stairs.

Once he got outside, his uncle got out of his parked car and opened his arms. Julian walked up to him for a quick hug, and then they walked down the street to his truck. Julian was excited to actually get out of the house for once, but was trying to hide it. He didn’t want to show that he had a lot of sadness going on behind the scenes. He liked when his uncle came over, but he hated sitting inside all day. He had nothing else to do, no one to go to, not even a job. He got fired not long before this, and he had no luck finding another job. 

His uncle got in the driver’s seat and Julian got in the passenger seat. They set out on their adventure, stopping at a nearby breakfast restaurant. They walked in and got seated. Their server came over to take their order. He was a black shirt and dark khakis, and he had a white and pink striped apron on. Julian ordered country fried steak and eggs, and his uncle ordered eggs benedict. As the server was walking away, he turned back around and said, “I love that hoodie by the way, that’s my favorite game.” He disappeared out of sight and Julian smiled. His uncle reached over the table to tap his arm. He said, “There you go! You can try to be friends with him!”

“Um, I don’t know about that.” They both laughed and continued having brief conversations.

Two hours later, they were back on the road and nearing their next stop, a game store. Julian has never traveled that far from home before, so this place was new. They had video games, collectibles, and card game stuff. When they walked in, they were greeted by a very polite employee that was standing by the door. Julian felt like he was in a geeky paradise. 

The air was chilly, and it felt like the AC was on full blast. The walls were covered in packs of trading cards, and there were shelves stocked with equipment for card games. There was a section towards the back that had all things video games. They were organized by console, with merchandise next to everything. His uncle stooped to look at stuff for this strange game he played. Julian never understood it, but he always helped his uncle build the figures.

When they were ready to checkout, the cashier complimented Julian’s hoodie. He smiled and said, “thank you”. His uncles tapped him on the arm again, and they both laughed. A sign that read, “Now Hiring!” caught Julians eye, and he pointed it out. The cashier chimed in to the conversation and said, “You should apply if you need a job, it’s great here, and I’m sure we would love hanging out with you.”

“I mean that sounds fun, bud,” his uncle said, but Julain was hesitant. The cashier could tell that Julian was uncomfortable, so he offered his number in case he wanted to talk about things. They exchanged phone numbers and went back to the car. Julian didn’t live close at all, so he was weary of this idea, but he started considering it. His uncle was trying to encourage him, bribing him with the opportunity of having people to hang out with. Julain just got upset and lashed out. He yelled, “I don’t need anyone else! I’m fine by myself!” His eyes were welling up with tears, and his uncle went quiet. 

` The rest of the drive was uncomfortable and awkward. Julian was very on edge when they arrived at their destination. His uncle got out and told Julian to just wait in the car. He entered a very tall office building and disappeared behind the automatic doors. Julian pulled out his game system when he got a text from the cashier. It read, “Hey, I’m out of work now. Do you want to hang out sometime? We could play some games seeing as we have the same taste.” 

Julian sighed and placed his hands over his eyes, trying to rack his brain. He had no idea what to do. He didn’t want to make a friend, but part of him was willing to try. Eventually he decided to bite the bullet and reply. His reply read, “Sure, I love pretty far from there though. I’m out on a road trip right now but I’ll be back in probably about four hours.”

“Okay, we can plan it then?”

Julian hesitated again, but agreed to the message.  He put his phone away and dove deep into the fantasy of his game. He explored around for a few minutes, talking to the different NPC’s. Soon, his uncle would come back with a dolly. There were three big boxes stacked, and Julian watched as he struggled to push them. Eventually he made it to the car, and he just threw them in the back, making the car shake violently. Julian sighed and turned his game off. His uncle got back in and said, “So, where to now? Wanna stop and get some dinner?”

“Sure.”

“Are you doing okay now? I’m sorry I pushed you.”

“It’s okay, can I show you something?” His uncle nodded and Julian pulled out his phone. He opened up the text conversation, and his uncle smiled. He said, “I’m very proud of you, I’m glad you found someone.”

Julian paused in thought for a moment. Was he glad he found someone? Was he scared? The answers were all yes, causing a lot of mixed feelings. Eventually he spoke up and said, “I think I am too, I’m just very afraid.”

“I know, kiddo. It’ll be okay.” They both smiled and got back out on the road. An hour in, they arrived at a steakhouse. They parked and went in. The lighting was dim and the colors were dark, it seemed like a very fancy place compared to the breakfast place. Julian’s insecurities seemed to go away as he messaged his new friend. They talked about what Julian had done that day and where he was at that point. They got seated and his uncle had to urge him to put his phone away. He rolled his eyes and listened to his request. 

When they ordered, Julian tried striking up a conversation with the waitress, who was dressed very fancy. She had on a gray button up that was tucked into black dress pants. He attempted to talk about the game on his hoodie, but she didn’t quite understand. He realized this and apologized, and then they both ordered. They both got an eight ounce steak with a side of baked potato. When the food came out, it looked amazing, but Julian suddenly got sick to his stomach. He was getting anxious again, until another waitress came to refill their drinks. She complimented his hoodie, and he smiled. He got complimented three times that day, and got to have a nice conversation about the game twice. The first time he was too anxious, but after that he warmed up. It was a very nice feeling. 

They finished their meals and got back in the car, driving to his uncle’s office. When they got there, Julian offered to help this time. They both got out and lifted the boxes onto a dolly. They hauled them together, with Julian holding the front walking backwards. When they got inside, his boss thanked him. He shook Julian’s hand, and asked about what was on his hoodie. Julian got very excited and talked about the game, and the boss was genuinely interested. Eventually he said, “Well, I’ll let you get going, but I think I’ll try that game out sometime!” 

They left and finally arrived back at Julian’s apartment. When they got out of the car, his uncle started talking. He said, “You know, bud, I’m so proud of you. I saw a lot of growth during our trip today. I hope things go well with your new friend.

“Thanks.”

“You just have to step out of your comfort zone sometimes.”

“I know, I appreciate it a lot.” They hugged and his uncle got into his own vehicle. He drove away, and Julian went inside. He climbed up the creaky stairs and unlocked his front door. When he got inside, he texted the cashier, telling him that they could make a plan to hang out.

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