Wreck On The Highway

I exercise good judgment.

I don’t do drugs, I didn’t drop out of college and I wear my seatbelt from the moment I fire up my car until it’s safely parked.

As a result, I’m often left out and ridiculed.

That guy who did mushrooms, who talks about seeing God?

That wasn’t me.  Taking chances is not my forte.  If everything isn’t copacetic, up to snuff, I’m out.  Which occasionally makes me the party-pooper and sometimes leaves me labeled as no-fun.  But my anxiety kicks up, I hear my father’s voice in my head and I say no go, no fucking way.

Chris rented a van.  It’s a Mercedes, and if you want to have an accident, that’s the vehicle to be in.  But it fits nine passengers and we’re eleven.  No one else seems to care.  But I keep thinking about overloading and an accident without seatbelts and every time I contemplate traveling in the van my anxiety kicks up, wondering why we don’t have two cars, before I insist on sitting on the end and buckling my seatbelt, I want to give myself a fighting chance.

But nobody else seems to mind.  Isn’t that how it always happens.  You’re having a grand old time and then someone dives head first into shallow water and becomes a paraplegic.  Or you’re rear-ended after removing your headrests and suddenly you’re wearing a dog collar.  Or you’re playing around, riding on the trunk of a car, and you fall off, hit your head and die.

That actually happened.  Just before my adolescence.  When two teenagers were goofing around in the next neighborhood over, riding on the bumper of a VW and one fell off.  The rest, as they say, is history.

And then there was that kid when my sister was in second grade, who fell through the ice.  We debated where it happened.  Whether it was the stream at the end of our street or the lake two miles away, every kid had an opinion, but I couldn’t get the image out of my head.  Of a much older kid, when you’re five and they’re seven it makes all the difference, breaking through, struggling, unable to get back to the place where he fell in, scratching along the underside of the ice, panicking.

I fell through the ice once.

But the water was only a foot deep.

But I got trapped in the mud and couldn’t get myself out.  It was on a Boy Scout weekend.  Yes, they preach safety in Scouts, but that’s where all the weird things happen.  My buddy ran for reinforcements as I felt abandoned before they returned with planks and rescued me.


Dumb, I know.  I don’t think I ever told my dad.  Or, I did, but I didn’t paint the story quite the same way, I emphasized the depth of the water, not the distance to the shore, which however short, was impossible to bridge under my own strength.

My dad.  He had a hard life.  His brother was run over in the driveway.

Whenever he was backing up, my father would insist on quiet and a clear runway.  If you were in the way, if you weren’t in the way, but on the driveway, he yelled, demanding you vacate the asphalt.  We grimaced, but my father insisted on safety first.

And I’m his son.

I’m supposed to be at Amnesia.  Grooving to Roger Sanchez.  We went to dinner at Ovum and were returning to the hotel to drop off part of our crew before the rest of us revelers went to the club.

I wanted to go to the club, but I didn’t.  I wanted to experience the giant venue, but I was strangely tired, like I’d run into a brick wall, or been hit over the head.

And we leave the main drag for the highway leading inland.  I’m holding on to the seatbelt, head against the door, almost dozing, wondering if I’m gonna make it into the wee hours at the venue when suddenly there’s a shout, and Chris slams on the brakes and…

I was worried we were going to hit the car in front of us.

But that wasn’t really the issue, that wasn’t really why Gregg had exclaimed.  It was what was happening on the other side of this tiny road with no room for error, none of the built-in margins enforced in America.

There was a car.  Flipped over.  Completely.

And to our right, another.

And a group in a Volvo station wagon had stopped.  And people in the van are saying to call for help.  But what’s that number in Ibiza again?

We soldiered on.

But I couldn’t get the image inside the overturned car out of my head.  Sure, they could be strapped in, safe, waiting for the jaws of death to extract them.

Or, the Grim Reaper could have come to pay a visit.

And we’re bouncing down a dirt road.  Lined by trees on each side.  Thin, but thick enough to halt a wayward vehicle in its tracks.  And I got that vibe, that I was pushing my luck, that once in a lifetime experiences are not that important if you’ve got no life.

I gave the partygoers the name to use at the door.  I couldn’t contemplate retracing our steps, back to this wreck which certainly couldn’t be cleaned up in the interim.

I decided to call it a night.

Good night.

Sleep tight.

Don’t let the bedbugs bite.

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