My first car wreck happened when I was 16. I was not the driver however; my best friend Daniel was driving the car. It was an especially icy winter this February a few years ago. It was a weekend- on the weekends, Daniel and I caroused the neighboring towns, looking for anything to cure out boredom.
For this weekend we had visited many houses, perhaps drank a bit, ate dinner at a crappy local diner and laughed at the cops who were fat and did nothing, sitting at the diner’s counter, sucking down coffee and donuts ( I know this sounds like a cliche, but in my town, and in several other towns I’ve been to since I was sixteen this seems to be the norm to me – fat as domesticated cat cops, drinking coffee at 4AM and not doing much else).
We were finished with this part of our journey, Daniel had been hitting on a cute-as-hell waitress with black mascara (a type of goth look in her waitress uniform), red as fire hair, and a tiny waist Daniel tried and failed 7 times to put his hands on during our grilled cheese dinners. The cops were blankly staring into their devil black and twice as sweet coffee when Daniel got that gleam in his eye.
I knew that gleam- it was the same look that got us kicked out of McDonald’s, broke my cousin’s coffee table, and broke too many girls’ hearts whenever he saw a new one (the last girl’s heart had been an exchange student from Brazil, a heart he gave up in order to be with this waitress who wouldn’t let his hands find her hips). We illegally got ourselves a pack of smokes from one of those old machines with the pull release lever (the cops didn’t mind, their noses were so far into their cops to notice even the waitress).
We dashed into Daniel’s hand-me-down car, a red Nova. I liked the name because it reminded me of something other than this town, a space different than the run down factories, sad looking women shopping for baby food with their equally sad looking kids with dirt and snot smeared across their faces. Anyway, this February, in pre-dawn light, Daniel’s eyes gleamed with a vibrancy I hadn’t known before. We hit the back roads.
These were old switch-back roads with dangerous ledges that don’t look at all like they’re high except when you’re really damn close to them and thinking about how fragile the human body is. Daniel and I didn’t think about that until later, when Daniel’s nose was smashed into his face and my arms tangled into my chest as my no seatbelt rule left me crumbled like discarded paper on the front seat floor. But we were speeding, young, full of mischief and loving the snow. Daniel is an expert driver.
He comes from a long line of drivers – trucking men crossing the country with no-sleep and no-doze pills and too much coffee that their teeth are permanently stained with it. Daniel’s teeth were white like stars as he talked a mile-a-minute to me. A conversation that held no certain significance except that it preceded out slip off the road and into my first car wreck. It was a level 3, a hailstorm, ice storm, the road at 5 or 6 AM not yet salted and still covered in a shroud of white powder which in turn covered up the ice beneath it.
You know in driving school how they teach you the dangers of the road – how parking lots are the worst places to drive because no one pays any attention to where they’re going or how fast they’re going there, well one thing Daniel had missed was that bridges ice heavier than the road. We slipped, spinned off of Bulldog ridge and went headfirst into the ravine, past two tress, and landed in the farmyard at least 100 feet from where Daniel was telling me he wanted to be an actor like Will Smith.
Unfortunately his nose would always be crooked, a little too in-delicate for the movie screen. I crumpled, too shocked to cry, our pack of cigarettes had been opened and the car was littered with the smell of tobacco, and blood. Both of our blood. I remembered when Daniel and I were 10, swearing eternal brotherhood to each other by combining our blood in this pact: blood brothers. Now our blood spilled again, a spark of vermillion against the white, white snow as we climbed out of the Nova and into the unforgiving dawn. We survived, we were lucky.