05 October 2009
West Virginia University
23 Jun 2009. WVU had long been on my list. And after many cold walk ups ending at locked doors, I wised up and started gathering bookstores' phone numbers and business hours. Even with detailed directions from a nice homegrown front desk lady, I got lost. I visited the downtown campus and got lost trying to get there, stumbled into the bookstore's parking garage out of dumb luck, and got lost on the 45-degree streets trying to leave. Frustrated, I just put the car in neutral, folded my arms in pouting defiance and let it roll till it reached the interstate. Car insurance got expensive after that.
Jessica Hurst's mother had told her never to accept rides from strangers.
Jessica's mother, however, also told her to use mustard when mixing potato salad, and that was a matter of taste at best, a vile befoulance at worst.
But the issue at hand went beyond mere mayonnaise-based side dishes, it even went beyond the State of West Virginia. It went to Ohio. The football Mountaineers were playing their first away game at Cincinnati the next day. Jessica, the lady mountaineer, had lobbied hard to accompany the team on road trips. The administration agreed to foot the bill. Unfortunately she had overslept and the buses left her stuck in Morgantown. Being only the second young lady to don the buckskins, she was quite proud of the honor. But the scrutiny would be especially harsh after a no-show. Failing to live up to the responsibility would surely mean the stripping of her title.
Simultaneously mention the topics 'Jessica Hurst' and 'stripping' would make even the coolest man flush with flop sweat.
Nick Cassavetes, quite cool in his own right, was no exception.
"Headed to Cincinnati?"
"How did you know?"
"You guys have a game tomorrow night, right? Plus the outfit..." said Nick, motioning to her fringe.
"Okay, perceptive. Please tell me you're going there? I'll cover all your expenses for gas."
"Don't worry about gas, I was going that way anyway."
The power locks shot open. Nick stepped out of his hand-me-down station wagon.
"Let me get your bags."
Jessica watched Nick load her carryons in the trunk.
His chivalry, charming.
His Ohio license plate, corroborating.
Her hunting knife under her right pant leg, assuring.
Nick opened the door for her. "If you're hungry, there's some extra chicken wings and potato salad in the paper bag there."
"Potato salad?? Mustard- or mayonnaise-based?"
"Are you kidding? Mayonnaise, of course."
Jessica smiled and stuck out her hand. "Jessica Hurst, West Virginia University!"
"I know - you're on TV all the time! Nick Cassavetes, University of Dayton. All datin', no fu-"
Nick stopped himself short from finishing his automatic call-response. He self-edited. "Fun. All Dayton, No Fun."
"Don't worry, I've heard it. An oldie but a goodie."
The station wagon, and the flirting, continued through the Appalachians at 80 mph.