We began our roadtrip in Cincinnati, a city that didn’t look, but felt like Wollongong in Australia. There were just enough sketchy looking people in tracksuit pants, and just enough weirdly empty streets and youths congregated outside of a library, and the air was hot and thickly humid. But it wasn’t Wollongong, it was Ohio.
Michelle drove us to the hotel we were staying at, and the lady at the desk immediately started joking with us. The security guard, a weird man who proudly led the conversation with the statement that he’d lived in Cincinnati for twenty years, gravely and politely asked why Michelle had confirmed that we were in non-smoking rooms.
‘Excuse me miss – may I enquire as to why you asked about the non-smoking rooms? Are smoking rooms a common occurrence where you are from?’
Michelle didn’t want to say that the reviews of this hotel generally claimed the rooms had a smoky smell. It turned out that the security guard had a scheme to create a smoking-only hotel. After New York, having anyone, even weird security guards be friendly and polite and crack jokes was so so lovely.
Our rooms were incredibly smoky.
We then followed directions down the street to a place called Barcade – a bar full of arcade machine – to meet up with the rest of our party, Lyndsay and Steven. Lyndsay bound out to meet us, vaguely annoying the bouncer behind her. After she hugged Michelle, she had what looked like a small seizure, but what I understand was actually excitement to meet me. Steven looked reserved, but that makes sense, I didn’t know him. Unlike Michelle and Lyndsay, I’d never interacted socially with him on Aelyria – when I played he’d been around twelve years old. I also never roleplayed with him. Him and Lyndsay are excellent friends now. There are so many good friendship stories from this game. There are so many bad relationship stories from this game.
Lyndsay was always incredibly fun to chat with, and I remember in my first year of uni I’d come home to my parents place and immediately message her. I’m pretty sure I had a massive crush on her then, but she was dating another Aelyrian at the time, who was very sarcastic. I am not very sarcastic.
We all went to a rooftop bar and sat in the hot night and Lyndsay and her boyfriend recommended American beers for me, which was so exciting. When I asked a bartender in Brooklyn what beer he recommended, he sneered at me and said ‘what, have you never had a beer before?’ I had an IPA and a burger and we discussed the itinerary of the trip and I was so tired I felt like I might die, but I also couldn’t believe that we were actually starting the trip I’d been planning for so long. I kept thinking I should pay more attention, and maybe ask more questions, but I didn’t.
This post is generously supported by the Thiel Grant for Online Writing, and is included in a 50 part series called ‘HELLO INTERNET BOY’ ranging from March 2015 – March 2016