We wouldn’t have been so reckless if we had known that in less than a year one of us would be dead. It’s strange. You never expect a simple choice, like where you’re sitting, to be the difference between life and death, but for me, it was.
Its been three months now. My counselor tells me it takes time to grieve. Be patient, she says, one day you’ll make sense of it all. I find that hard to believe. Make sense of it all? There is no sense in the death of a 17 year old. No reason why someone, months before high school graduation, should die.
Little things make me remember. A blue t-shirt. The song we were listening to. Our favorite restaurant. These memories come in fragments, but these fragments tell a story. I’ll share it with you, if you’d like. It’s the story of five friends and the death that changed us all.
10 months earlier
Carly sat beside me flipping through the radio channels and I wished she’d just make up her mind. The taillights ahead of me disappeared around the corner, but by the time I made the turn, they were out of sight.
“Shit, we lost them.” I said.
By then, Carly had decided on a station and she and Vivian were rocking out to our favorite song.
I rolled my eyes. “Don’t help me look for them or anything.”
I turned down a side street and slowed my pace. I peered out the windows, seeing only parked cars and street lights. After a few minutes Vivian said something but we couldn’t hear her over the music.
“What?” I asked, turning the music down.
“They’re behind us!” she said.
I glanced in my rearview mirror. “How the hell did that happen?” I flew around a corner and pulled over, killed the ignition and the lights. My friends knew the drill. Within seconds, we were down, laughing, as we waited for the car fly past us, oblivious.
“I’m starving.” Carly said.
“Like that’s news.” Vivian said.
I’d known Carly long enough to know that she wanted me to say something to validate her, but I wasn’t in the mood for her drama. Instead, I shoved the keys in, and said, “It’s 10:15. Let’s go.”
When we arrived at our designated meeting spot, Xander and Justin were waiting outside the car.
“What took you so long? We’ve been waiting here for 10 minutes already,” Xander said. His smile reminded me of an exhilrated child.
“What is this, the fifth win in a row now?” Justin said.
“Fourth.” I corrected him.
He shrugged, smiled at me. “Same thing.” I didn’t counter. He could have his victory.
“Let’s go inside. It’s cold out here.” Xander said.
“Its not that cold if you’d wear a sweatshirt.” Vivian said.
“You can be my jacket.” He said, kissing her cheek.
Vivian smiled at him, but didn’t reply flirtatiously. She was too matter-of-fact for that. “Or you could just be prepared for the weather.”
Our conversation at the restaurant wasn’t memorable. It was only the meaningless babble of adrenaline filled teenagers. I don’t even know why this memory sticks out to me. Maybe because the next day my mom checked the speedomoter on the car and saw that I’d put on fifty miles in one night. When she asked me where I’d gone, I just told her I’d been around.
“That’s a whole lot of around. Where did you go?” We were the same height, and I resisted the temptation to lower my eyes.
“Steak’N’Steak with my friends.”
“That’s not fifty miles away. Where else did you go, Rebecca?”
“Vivian forgot something at her dad’s house and asked me to pick it up for her.” Lying was second nature to me.
My mom nodded slowly and I hoped my face didn’t betray me. “Okay,” she finally said. I don’t know if she believed me, or just gave up on trying to get the truth out of me.
“Sorry, Mom. Next time I won’t go so far.”
Only, I didn’t mean that. In fact, the very next week, we had another car chase, which I ended up winning. I had no intention of denying myself anything. I did what I wanted and sidestepped the consequences. Only now, our consequence is staring us in the face. We can’t sidestep or pretend anymore. You can close your eyes, but you can’t close your eyes forever.