It has certainly been an interesting summer for me, despite it being one of the busiest that I have ever had. Now that my undergraduate senior year has started, I actually have more free time than I had in the summer and am able to sit down and write about how I met another one of my online friends for the first time in real life. As with my meet up with Balance, I feel that this meeting will be filed among my most treasured memories despite how quickly it began and ended.
On August 13th, shortly after my final exam for my Genetics class concluded, my online friend “Luekion” (another fellow guild-member from Onigiri) flew in to Dallas with his sister. I recall musing before his arrival how strangely the events in my final summer in Dallas had fell into place– neither Balance nor Luekion had particularly planned on visiting me, but one way or another they found themselves disembarking in Dallas with me to greet them. At any rate, I was glad that we were able to coordinate his arrival to land at the Dallas Love Field airport so that I would not have to drive so far from my apartment, a distinction I made when I noticed the drive time to DFW International airport when dropping off Balance.
As I neared the pickup terminal for Southwest Airlines I finally picked up my phone and called the number that I had been texting for months. As I heard the jovial “Hello!” over the line, I recall speaking my first words as “Luekion, I presume” before coordinating where to pick him up (which actually ended up my traveling around the passenger-pickup circuit twice, just as I had with Balance). Once again, there was no Earth-shattering spark or anything as Luekion and I sat next to each other in my car. During the drive to their hotel, we talked as if we were friends about work, the weather, games … because we were friends– just those who had not physically met before.
Luekion’s sister was in Dallas for a medical procedure so the guests’ hotel room was close to the facility where the treatment would take place. Since their trip was expensive, we tried to make things as economical and convenient as possible for their time in Dallas. As a result, Luekion and his sister ended up staying at a Super 8 Motel which, while it smelled like smoke and had its carpet covered in a thin layer of… soot, served its purpose as we sat down to pass the evening. I was glad to stay for a little bit and we ended up ordering a really nice, thick pizza to chat over. Inevitably, we ended up talking quite a bit about our fellow guild-members so it was not a surprise when the guild’s resident punching-bag/brain-damaged joker Acy came up in conversation. At that moment, Luekion excitedly went over to his duffel bag and proudly pulled out a shirt he had made it a point to pack: a tee that had a bunch of chickens (Acy’s symbol) sitting in front of a rotisserie oven with the caption “Horror Movie!” Naturally, we had to take a picture of this and send it to Acy.
9:00 AM next morning, I drove over to the hotel room to drop Luekion’s sister off at her appointment. Since we arrived at the facility early, we passed some time by walking around the surrounding buildings while keeping out of the sun (which was certainly fit to bake chickens). Knowing that his sister would want to recuperate in the hotel room afterwards, Luekion asked if we could pick up some food from a nearby store. Since I was not terribly familiar with the surrounding area, we ended up driving around until we found something. We ended up stopping at a Kroger, which was a fun coincidence because Luekion works at a Kroger deli back in Indiana. While collecting rations, Luekion actually had an idea to grab some Nutella and a sliced-up baguette to spread it on; the combination made for an amazing snack, which is not something I say often.
After getting supplies, we decided to once again aimlessly drive around to find something to eat. We managed to come across a lot which had both a Schlotzsky’s sandwich shop and Fuzzy’s Taco Shop next to each other. We were thrilled at finding a taco shop because for some reason, Acy is usually squawking in our IRC channel for some tacos. Unfortunately, the shop was busy so I decided to photograph Luekion in front of the building and instead went over to the sandwich shop. The food at Schlotzsky’s was tasty as well, especially since both of us decided to get chicken sandwiches (with Acy still in our minds). The jalapeno cheese bread that flanked my “fiesta chicken” sandwich made the meal an absolute treat. After finding the way back to the hotel room and dropping Luekion off after a satisfying conversation, I drove home to my own apartment to run some errands.
Around 4:00 PM, I headed back to the hotel room to grab Luekion and pick up his sister from the clinic. Since she was in no mood for solid foods, we decided to revisit Schlotzsky’s to grab her a bowl of soup. Since we had no idea how we found the shop in the first place, we attempted to retrace our steps which seemed to guide us as we once again came across the lot with Schlotzsky’s and Fuzzy’s Taco Shop. As we got out of the car, something seemed “off” to me about the setup– we were in a completely different lot with the same two stores next to each other! As we entered Schlotzsky’s, the interior layout was indeed different and messed with our minds considerably. Coming back to the hotel room, we took a detour once Luekion noticed an anime store on the side of the road. Strangely enough, I had been to it once before, but was happy to let Luekion and his sister explore, as they had not been in an anime store before (only comic book stores in Indiana). There was a lot of head shaking at the prices and cringing at some of the merchandise, but it was a fun experience all the same. Luekion’s sister was the only one to actually buy something and bought us little mario-themed light-up key chains (mine was a Propeller Mushroom).
The next day was bittersweet because it was the final day that I would be seeing them. I had to rush off early next morning to Fort Worth so I would not be able to bid them farewell at the airport. I had to make my own preparations so I visited the duo in the evening around 6:00 PM to grab some dinner for them. We seized the opportunity for Luekion to actually get food at Fuzzy’s Taco Shop while I went next door to grab a smoothie. As I came back to join Luekion, I noticed on the menu that the shop also gave out T-shirts and we both agreed that it would be a great purchase for Acy spiting purposes. When I pulled up to the hotel room for the last time, Luekion came across an interesting discovery next to the trashcan at the foot of the stairs– an abandoned 12-pack of generic HEB brand soda! Half curious and half suspicious, the pack was hauled into the hotel room. The rest of the evening passed by calmly enough and Luekion’s sister spent most of it playing World of Warcraft over the free WiFi.
As it soon became time for me to leave, Luekion and I took a couple of cute pictures together (which of course will not be shown here!) and slowly made our way towards the door. At 9:30 PM we hugged goodbye and Luekion stepped out of the room with me to walk me to my car, as it was getting quite dark then. While I can no longer recall what we talked about in our last few moments in each others’ presence, I recall us hoping to be able to do such a thing again, perhaps even with additional guild-mates. Both of us were sort of bumbling with words at that point, but Luekion really hit the nail on its head when he pointed out that no matter how long it takes, one day when we are established in our careers, nothing will be stopping us from visiting again. Unable to add any more words after this thought, we simply embraced once more and I got into my car.