When I was fourteen, I got banned from hanging around with my best friend Jenny. She contributed to the only openly defiant act I committed during my teen years; therefore our parents mutually banned us from spending time together. Her parents thought I was the bad influence and mine assumed she was the trouble. The truth was we were both good kids who just wanted to have a little fun, and we got caught.
Later that year, when I turned 15, we got caught again. After a Saturday night football game, Jenny and I, along with our friend Cara, decided to go to some road parties. Now, for those of you who didn’t grow up in small rural communities, a road party is where a bunch of kids get together and drink on some less traveled country back road. We told our parents we were all sleeping at Cara’s house…and Cara’s mom planned to cover for us.
Anyway, Jenny, who was fourteen at the time, convinced Cara, who’d just received her driver’s license earlier that day, that she could and SHOULD drive her car. I laughed about it, but Jenny was serious. Cara decided to let her do it.
We had a blast, for a while. The new hit song, “Ice Ice Baby” was playing on the radio, and we were rocking. We checked several parties out, only stopping for a short time at each, looking for the best one. We got a tip at the party on Taco road about the totally jamming party on Dick road. The kids in our town had given all the party roads crazy names so that no one knew what we were talking about unless we wanted them to. Each had its own story…
Anyway, I digress. We hopped back in the car, jamming again to Vanilla Ice’s new song, and were on our way. We sang at the tops of our lungs, and since it was my turn to ride in the back seat, Jenny yelled back for me to scoot up between the seats so I could talk to them. I did, and then Cara noticed that Jenny was veering to one side slightly.
Cara grabbed the steering wheel and yanked it toward her. The next thing I knew, the car was swerving madly from one side of the road to the other. Jenny lost control and the car rolled side over side three times and then flipped once end over end into a ditch. If not for that ditch, we might have died. In fact, the police told me that I SHOULD have died.
When the car finally stopped moving, I sat there, on the ceiling of the car, saying, “Oh my god…oh my god.”
Jenny said, “Come on, we’ve gotta get out of this car. Get OUT OF THE CAR!”
Wordlessly, I opened the door and crawled out of the car. I stood there on the side of the road, staring into space. The road was empty and quiet, in the middle of a bunch of corn fields. (I grew up in Illinois).
Jenny remained incredibly calm. I was practically catatonic. Cara was screaming as she hung upside down in her seatbelt.
Jenny yelled at me to help her get Cara’s seatbelt undone, but I couldn’t move. I just stood there, saying and doing nothing. I was in shock, I learned later.
I started walking away, down toward the farmhouse in the distance. Of course, this was back before every kid had a cell phone, so we needed to make a call to get help. I guess Jenny got Cara out of her seatbelt because, in a minute, they were next to me. Jenny was suddenly leading the way; she was the rational one here.
Cara was crying hysterically and I was just there. We got to the farmhouse after walking about half a mile. When we knocked on the door, the lady who opened it said, “Oh my god.”
Jenny told her what happened and asked if we could use the phone. (Teenagers didn’t have cell phones back then.) She agreed, but pointed to me and said, and I kid you not, she said, “Don’t get blood on my carpet.”
I looked down at my hands and shirt, which were covered in blood. I touched my face…also covered in blood.
After that, it’s a bit of a blur. We went into the house and the lady gave us 7up. Then we made the shameful calls to our parents. At some point, I remember being in the lady’s basement looking at something with my parents…canning equipment? I don’t know.
There was a car ride to the hospital. I remember my mom and someone who came along…a woman…talking to me. I wish I could remember who that was…anyway, at the hospital, the usual stuff probably happened. I don’t know, I barely remember it.
The thing I do remember, though, is that even though I woke up in my bed the next morning with my brother laughing at my neck brace and in a great deal of pain, my mother still made me sing in the choir at the church service.