About sixteen years ago (ugh, really?), I was riding in the backseat of my mother’s silver sedan, nervously gnawing at my bottom lip while trying to breathe evenly. In the driver’s seat was my mother, dodging eye contact with me in the rearview mirror for fear she’d turn into a blubbery mess. My Aunt Karen sat in the passenger seat, turning on occasion with a bright but sympathetic smile that only made the looming threat of bile inch higher up my throat. The day I’d been dreading had finally arrived.
We drove through town and as if my heart rate was tethered to this place, the closer we got, the more distressed I became. Don’t hyperventilate Keri. But how could I not as I looked around, feeling like Lewis Skolnick (Nerds) on the first day? It was as I’d imagined: frat houses and sororities teeming with intimidating-looking Ken & Barbie doll types; hundreds of people my age, aimlessly walking around; cars filled to the brim backed up for miles on Grand River Ave. MSU was plastered everywhere I turned with green and white banners smacking me in the face. A nuthouse! This was going to be my home for the next four years. And I was scared to death.
I learned from paperwork that I’d received prior to arriving, that my roommate was a girl from somewhere in the thumb named Diana. Great. A country girl. I, on the other hand, lived a stone’s throw away from Detroit, not far from 8 mile. That’s right – the 8 mile, but before you even ask, the answer is “No” – I did not grow up performing rap gigs with Eminem. Though apparently, that’s what my roommate thought, so we spent the better part of the first week avoiding each other.
From her pictures, I gathered that she was pretty popular in high school: standing next to an impressive football player in one shot and sandwiched between two pretty girls in the next, adorned with a crown atop her perfect blonde locks. Princess Di. Good God. What the hell was fate thinking when it roomed me with her?
One afternoon on a desperate whim for company, I asked if she wanted to walk up town with me. She seemed just as unsure as I was, but agreed to go. Somewhere between the walk there, the bookstores we perused, the Heimlich she administered after I nearly choked on the lunch we had together, and the long walk back to the dorm room, we got to know each other. Weird. Princess Di wasn’t all that bad.
I could bore you with the life that has transpired between then and now, but instead, we’ll just fast forward to this past week when Diana came to visit me from Texas where she eventually moved. For anyone who didn’t hear me blab all about it on Twitter, she stayed at my house a couple of nights and we somehow managed to cram four days worth of activities into two. I’m exhausted this morning, but it was time well spent.
Back up a couple of months ago when I finished my manuscript for HALOS, I knew exactly who my first beta reader was going to be. Without telling her that I had finished yet another novel (she thought I was joking when I told her about the first two), I packaged my little darling and shipped it off. Within just a few days, I received the squealing voicemail of my best friend who loved the book so much she read the entire manuscript in one sitting. Better yet, she detailed her favorite scenes, expressed how HOT she thought the characters were and confessed how much she adored and envied the MC. Princess Di?! Dreaming that she was one of my clumsy and goofy characters in the book??? Her words were pure motivation bottled up with cork and a red bow.
This past week, I showed her the progress I’ve made since then: the edits to my manuscript; the tattoo that I showcased in my last blog post; the website that is still kicking my ass as I desperately try to finish it. She continued to gush about the book and the characters, inquiring about the next installment of the series. And something occurred to me.
I may never pick up a publishing contract, sell a single book at all, or become any more of an author than I already am. But its friends like Diana that make me feel as if I’ve already arrived. They’re a rare breed, only gifted randomly from time to time. To this day, I’m so glad that I didn’t make my mom turn that car right back around. And I guess I’m a little glad for the dangerous chunk of burrito that Diana managed to dislodge from my throat, causing a lifetime of laughter that still ends up in our conversations on occasion.