Most people go somewhere tropical or exotic for spring break—and then there’s me. I had my Washington, D.C. virginity taken by visiting our proud capital for the literal first time in my life, but it was the journey itself that took the true toll.
My boyfriend and I started out as hopeful, shiny-eyed kids. Yeah, we’re gonna do a seven hour road trip through FOUR major cities! It’ll be fun! The drive will be great, it’ll be over in no time! Oh, how incorrect we were. It started out okay—Connecticut to New York wasn’t terrible. New York City, however, was absolutely terrifying. Never before have I gripped the bar above the car window, but I made a fast grab for that thing at least five times. New Yorkers are mean drivers. I’m just a suburban girl, I can’t take it. I don’t have that city boy grit.
A little while later, when the first gun stores started popping up, we got skittish. Then civilization disappeared. Then livestock disappeared. We were truly in the absolute middle of nowhere. That’s when it happened. We stumbled upon the absolute worst hellscape we had ever envisioned: the New Jersey Turnpike. If there ever was a truly lawless land, it would be that stretch of road. People drove over 90 miles per hour, rocks flew, shattering windshields, the air was covered in smog and there were potholes in the highway large enough to swallow an entire small child. Then came the billboards. There were one or two at first, but then they appeared in groups, all advertising the same thing. I, to this day, have nightmares about that smiling man named Rob, vowing to sell every house in New Jersey. The sheer amount of “Rob Sells New Jersey” billboards made me question Rob’s true motives. Did he truly want to sell people nice homes, or was he trying to build a dictatorship based on a plethora of loyal followers? I’ll never know, and I’m too scared to find out.
The next two hours seemed to be pulled directly out of the twilight zone. Where were we? Were we still alive? Was any of this real? Not a single human being was seen along the “scenery” of the cursed turnpike, prompting us both to believe everyone had either been kidnapped by Rob to fuel the formation of his empire or killed off by mysterious and malevolent forces.
After three hours on the New Jersey turnpike, I was convinced we had veered off of our course and entered some sort of advanced purgatory. Was this actually an undiscovered ring of hell? Were we doomed to brave this turnpike for all eternity? I thought it couldn’t possibly get any worse. Then came the tolls—the multitude of tolls dotting the turnpike run by people that terrified me more than Rob. Were they operated by the Mafia? Maybe so. I also don’t care to find that out either.
Our last stint in New Jersey came with our visit to a rest area. At this point, the car began to make an alarming noise, and at least four warning lights were active on the dashboard. Even so, we would have rather stayed within the (relative) safety of the car than set foot on the cursed turnpike pavement. My bladder waits for no one.
The inside of the rest stop legitimately had the most chaotic energy I’ve ever experienced in my life; the amount of screaming children was obscene. Did they know something about the Turnpike that we didn’t? It must have been something that haunted them deeply, something that drove them to banshee-level tears. We didn’t stay long enough to find out, lest the rest area doom our mortal souls too.
We came out of the New Jersey Turnpike with at least six years taken off of our respective lives. Smokestacks slowly turned into trees and greenery. People became visible from the roadway again; life was finally appearing. Relaxing could commence once more. However, we would never speak again of the horrors we’d seen.