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Should Have Said It Sooner
People wonder why teenagers ditch school. As if it isn’t obvious! High school is the best, most effective torture device ever invented. I dreaded going to school every day, until Jamie showed up.
The day Jamie walked into Colorado State High School cafeteria also happened to be one of those really good days when everything goes right. To start, I had scored 97% on my math test and won $50 at the lottery. Topping it off, my football team and I had a game that weekend against the worst team in the state. Ya, today was shaping up to be a pretty good day.
My buddies and I had just sat down at our usually table when I noticed her in the lunch line. I can tell you what she was wearing today, and I can tell you what she was wearing if you ask me in fifty years. She wore a brown long sleeve shirt that complimented her light brown hair and blue skirt. She floated around the cafeteria on dancers’ feet.
I must have looked dazed, because Steven smacked me on the head and exclaimed, “Dude! What are you on?” Jokingly, I turned around and punched on the arm. Even as I did though, I didn’t stop thinking about her and the way she looked around as if searching for her puppy that had run away.
Clearly, that day we did not ask her to sit with us. Nor did we ask her anytime soon. But, Sierra, Steven’s sister did. Soon enough, Jamie was sitting with Sierra and her friends every day. It also got harder and harder not to stare each day. Jamie was the girl everybody loved. She had good grades, had rich and loving parents, and was funny and witty and shy all at the same time. There was definitely more than one person who was taken with her.
One day as we were about to sit down, Sierra and her posse slipped into our seats.
“Hello, older brother. We decided we liked your seats better.” Sierra said cockily. Jamie slipped into the seat that I usually posses. Well, I couldn’t just pass up this opportunity.
“Eh. My. God.” I spoke these words in a squeaky falsetto. “What the heck is this girl doing in my seat?” Jamie glanced up when I drew out the girl.
“I was aware I was a girl,” she said. I knew I had just been burned, in front of all my friends too. I couldn’t just let her have the last word.
“As a matter a fact, I noticed that too. Who did you think I was impersonating there?” That ought to shut her up, I thought smugly.
“Oh,” she said, faking innocent surprise. “I didn’t realize you were impersonating anyone.”
“Mark, man, just give it up. She has the brains you will never have.” Tommy said. He was right of course. So, I accepted defeat and sat down in the seat beside her. Conversation then changed subjects, which worked out well to my advantage.
“Did you guys hear about the party this weekend?” Steven inquired. Everybody had. The Stahl brothers’ parents were out of town, and everyone knew what that meant. There was going to be a huge, house ruining, beer chugging, and non-supervised high school party. I was pumped!
“We’re all going, right?” I asked. Honestly, I didn’t really care who was coming as long as Jamie was going to be there.
“Tyler, Justin, Nick, Taylor, Anthony, Daniel…”
“Brittany, Brooke, Zoe, Angie, Tammy…”
“Besides the given.” I prompted.
“Oh…” Sierra said. “Ashley, Jane, Emma, Jamie, Avra, Chloe and lots of other people.” I had heard all I needed to hear. All I knew was that I was going to that party tomorrow night like it or not.
Friday passed in a blur. To this day, the only clear thing that stands out is Jamie’s face. I thought this was more than puppy love. In fact, I knew it was, even though I had barely gotten to know her. Every time I think of what could have been, my heart breaks a little more inside.
The night of the party finally arrived. Our whole circle climbed into a Jeep and headed off for the Stahl’s house. While we were driving down the road, I could feel my stomach hopping around like a white rabbit.
Jamie sat behind me, chatting animatedly to her friends. Up in front, Tommy and Steven were talking about tomorrow’s football game.
“Yea. He should be able to catch a ball for that play. After Lee, any guy throwing is good.”
“Hell yes! With our new equipment, we can probably just scare the other team into losing.” Both boys chortled at this newly developed evil-genius plan.
“…and I said ‘no’. ‘Cause he just didn’t seem like the guy who has relationships that last for more than a week.” Sierra was prattling on to her friends about the newest guy to ask her out. All these conversations going on around me did not bother me at all. In fact, it helped me relax. For a while, I was afraid that going to the party with her would be awkward. Listening to the various people talking helped me calm down a bit.
Several miles before we got to the party, we could see the lights from the house. There were strobe lights flashing around, and colored lights strung on the balcony. The overhead fixtures had been replaced with disco balls and purple party lights. To top it all off, there were strings of multi-colored Christmas lights hanging down from the ceiling. The Stahl’s house was a huge robot staring down at our little car.
We climbed out and stretched our legs. I watched as Jamie arched her back like a cat and strolled over to Sierra’s side. From where we were, I could feel the bass thumping through the ground. My stomach clenched uncomfortably as I walked behind the group into the mouth of the monster.
What a party it was. There were beer kegs standing on the antique glass tables. Covering the Victorian sofas were teenagers kissing or playing drinking games. In the corner stood a group that was smoking something, I don’t even know what they were smoking. The smell of vomit, beer, and cologne almost smothered my friends and me.
“Let’s go!” Shouted Tommy excitedly. Off we went. I followed Sierra and Jamie to the drink table. They each picked up a beer, but I left the liquor alone. Everyone was bound to be either wasted or stoned by the end of this party, so I might as well be the designated driver. As it turns out, I was the only sober one at the party.
“C’mon Mark!” Sierra dragged me out onto the dance floor. There were two things I could have done. First option, I could’ve yanked my arm away and retreated to a corner where there weren’t people making out. Second option, to just go with it and follow her onto the dance floor. Logically, I just went with the second option and followed them onto the dance floor. The bass thumped through my body. It felt like I was getting hit repeatedly with a wave ten feet tall.
Scantily dressed girls danced to the beat. Perverted guys who had drinks in their hands walked up to girls and starting grinding against them. The girls either giggled or squealed flirtatiously and ran away. Gross.
Jamie and Sierra were one of the few people just dancing with their friends. They laughed good-naturedly and bumped hips. I just kind of stood in the middle and watched everybody else. I kinda suck at dancing anyway.
Unexpectedly, one of the drunken guys came up and started grinding ferociously on Jamie’s leg. I was suddenly a pouncing lion, and the drunk was the baby antelope. I leapt over and socked him in the face. Hard. I felt the cartilage in his nose bend and give beneath my knuckles.
“Aaaahhhhh!” he cried. Blood gushed from his nose and onto my shirt. Damn, I was wearing a white shirt too.
“Let’s go.” I said simple. Anger coursed through my veins as I grabbed Sierra’s arm and stalked out of the party. Jamie would follow, I knew. I stormed through the high and drunken hordes of teenagers. My friends were having a grand old time just partying. They saw me coming way before I spoke to them. Needless to say, they just followed me out. This party was not meant for me, I should’ve known. We clambered into the car and took off. I drove, because I was sober, and (although they didn’t know it), anger and adrenaline had heightened my reflexes.
I took the turns at hairpin speeds and never came close to either the line or the edge of the road. Why should I be careful? I wasn’t going to crash. Ooohh, I was so stupid.
I look back on that moment and I want to kill myself. Why did I think was good enough to drive like that? What was going through my head? I should’ve been obvious there would be drunk drivers on the road. I could’ve saved her life. But I didn’t. She died instantly. No pain, no good-byes. No nothing. I never even had a chance to tell her how I felt. I never will. Because of the split-second where I looked at her face, I did not see the car swerve into our lane. One teenage, with one too many drinks, had cost Jamie her life.
My pain is unreal. There is a hold the size of a basketball in my chest. It is an empty hole.
If a semi truck had run over my head, I would not have cared. It could not hurt like this. Death is the one thing I fear. It steals like a highway man, never looking back. Never having enough mercy for love to find a way through, so that people may never tell each other what really matters. That we love each other. That I loved her.