Taco Bell, Taylor Swift, Stikki & the Night Shift

image by Dan Williams

Not too long ago I had an essay I had procrastinated on, that was due on a Saturday night at 11:59pm. You know when I started said paper? That Saturday night at 8:30ish–prime time to get stuff done (the only time at that point). Why wait so long when your gracious professor has notified the class and discussed it well before it was due? I ask myself this question often and the most honest, concise answer I’ve come up with: I suck.

So there I was, a paragraph in and an hour deep into this paper, counting down the minutes and really not producing anything valuable when I get this text from my roommate, Mikki:

“hey we’re going to go to taco bell. wana come?”

My paper was due in two hours and I just now had come up with a thesis, but Taco Bell was only 5 minutes away so I thought that clearly, in all of my productivity, I deserved a study break. I texted back an affirmative and the pirate crew came to pick me up.

Before I really begin, let me introduce you to the chaos that is this cast of characters.

Stikki and the Night Shift

Mikki (aka Stikki): I met her early on in freshman year of college and some might say she was the only person I hung out with. My first impression of her was meeting in our freshman group at welcome week, both as social studies education majors who loved theater. She was talking at lunch about how many musicals she had been in and, frankly, I was annoyed by her overcompensating so I kept talking about how long I had known the theater director, hoping that the air of nepotism would make us even. Later, I learned it was her socially anxious response to word vomit and although, I couldn’t relate to the coping mechanism, I could relate to the fact that we were both friendless and anxious so we became fast friends.

I soon learned that she loved John Mulaney and many of her social mishaps had led her to believe that she was destined to be a stand-up comedian, yet she defied the stars and set her heart on teaching since she had been old enough to talk. She also had a strange and deep love for Asian history and Genghis Khan. She gives a lecture to new friends and acquaintances on the Mongols which I’ve essentially memorized and which she concludes with, “If Mongols weren’t afraid of water, you could not convince me that we would not be living in a Mongolian society today.”

Mytch (1/3 of the Night Shift): Before I knew Mytch, she scared me. She seemed to walk and talk with an unshakable confidence and had a killer style and music tastes. I got the sense that if anyone on campus could or would deck someone–no questions asked–it would be her. By October of my sophomore year, we were friends. I found out her skill for worldbuilding and plotting is unlike any other. She began writing a book this semester and once spent an hour trying to explain the plot to me, complete with maps on a chalkboard. Within 15 minutes, I was confused but still trying to understand and, by the end, I chocked it up to the fact that she’s way smarter than me, a goddess-level fantasy author, and 10/10 would read anything written by her whether I could keep up with every character’s storyline or not.

She is also the dad friend of the group. What I mean is she is the only one who I actually trust to drive and navigate. Also, when she orders at a drive through, she projects past the speaker and into the first window around the bend. You don’t need a headset to hear her say, “Alright, ya ready? Alright, so we’re gonna need a number four…”

A true dad move.

Her sense of humor is also unrivaled. For example, we were driving along one Friday when we drove past a Holiday Inn. Just to break the silence, Mytch pointed it out and said, “That place has really good bagels.”

“Oh, really,” Laura replied, “So you’ve stayed there?”

Mytch scoffed, “No, I’ve never been there before. I don’t even know if they serve bagels.”

And when we watch movies, she’ll randomly point out a character and say, “You know who that guy reminds me of?” And then pull up a picture of the actor that is currently playing said character.

Laura (1/3 of the Night Shift): She would probably describe herself in the terms of a 2014 Tumblr fangirl: “Jedi Knight. Hogwarts Alumni. Mystery Shack Enthusiast.” Yes, she’s a nerd. Anytime we go shopping for groceries she has to check if there are any Ahsoka Tano action figures in the toy aisle. Every time the answer is no and still she persists. Then she settles for a box of Triscuits and a loaf of French bread.

Her impulsivity and my tendency to fixate has made us a terror when paired together. Imagine two five-year-olds with a love for fire, knives, stories, and their uncle. Now physically age them about 15 years (not mentally, just physically). Together, they burn many candles, plot many schemes, and upend many of their uncle’s well-planned workdays until they are told to schedule a time. They respond with a ransom note, composed out of an old student newspaper that reads something to the equivalent of “You clearly hate us and you know you can’t schedule adventure but whatever, enjoy actually eating lunch I guess.”

Pushing buttons is what we do best.

Aside from the childishness we bring out of each other, Laura truly is a champion for other people’s voices. The night we became friends is the night she took the time to notice me tucked in a corner, not saying anything while everyone else was talking over each other excitedly. She asked me how I was feeling (which was overlooked and unseen) and she listened. She is someone who genuinely wants to make a space for everyone, welcoming others in, and in that respect, she challenges me to be better.

The Origin Story

So by this point, you may be wondering how this diverse group of introverts even started hanging out together. I’m more than happy to tell you.

It all started on a Sunday evening last semester, in mid-October in our theater’s green room. By this time, the theater program had brought all four of us together and in hospitality, Mikki had offered to share some of our apartment’s homemade Sunday dinner. Then, I–because I have no culinary skill–offered our apartment’s tradition of “Storytime with Dan Williams, as Read by Caleigh McCready,” where I would read my writing professor’s blog post every week at dinner.

As all great friendships begin, it started with a story, but not our own. It was rather the story of our writing professor’s first French kiss in middle school. I encourage you to read the story on your own time, but there was a component that baffled us. It was this story that first rooted us in a common question and thereby a common quest:

Was it possible to chew and swallow thirteen sticks of Big Red bubble gum in nervous anticipation?

We had to test it using modern methods. No making out would be involved–only strict scientific experimentation and singing the jingle from the ’80s.

First stop: Sheetz, for four packs of “kiss a little longer” Big Red.

We bought nearly all of Sheetz’s stock, along with some chocolate milk to wash it down, and took it all back to the theater.

Settling in, down on the crippled and lumpy couches, we sorted out 13 sticks a piece and started unwrapping them. The scent of concentrated cinnamon permeated the air, already burning our lungs, and we wondered if we would ever want Big Red again after this. The answer from everyone was a resounding probably not.

We counted down, then shoved the stacks into our mouths.

Though we tried, our mouths couldn’t contain the brick colored ball, as the juices oozed everywhere. Even when Laura and I chewed it long enough into a manageable lump, our mouths were numb with the sharp tang and we fought to spit it out after 10 minutes.

None of us wanted to attempt at swallowing it, fearing that the consequences would be like trying to swallow a softball whole–a softball that would stick to the insides of your esophagus and choke you to death.

Our experiment concluded that it was either impossible to swallow or you had to really be in a panic to get it down.

We definitely bonded that night, though.

Taco Bell & Taylor Swift

So back to that one transcendent night in March.

We were on our way to Taco Bell, giving me a brief escape from my paper, when I found out we were actually driving to the other Taco Bell 20 minutes away instead of 5. It was a longer break than I had anticipated, but it was okay, because Laura got a hold of the music and began to play old Taylor Swift albums. And even though we all have very different tastes in music, somehow Taylor Swift was the soundtrack to our all of our childhoods and angsty teenage years.

The 20 minutes we took to get there and the 15 minutes we sat in the drive through all melted away as we blasted the old classics that all of us knew by heart.

After we got our food, Mytch continued to drive around as we sang to Fearless and Speak Now, Baja Blasts in hand, looking out the window at the stars–like we all used to do when we were young and melodramatic.

So at 10:30pm we were driving through quaint downtowns and scream-singing, “This night is sparkling, don’t you let it go…” and nothing could be truer.

Nostalgia connected our histories in a way that we hadn’t known before. And a friendship that may have started reading someone else’s story, has grown in sharing our own in randomly finding the music that triggers old memories and becomes the songs to sing as we make new ones.

P.S. Just to tie up all of the loose ends, I made it back at 11:30 and finished my essay with 10 minutes to spare–got a 90% on it too.

A sleep deprived college student who occasionally considers herself a writer. Here's a website: scrapsandscribblings.wordpress.com

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