I would love to tell you this wonderful story about my immense popularity in high school, of the amazing parties I threw when my parents were out of town, and how I had the perfect “Ken and Barbie” relationship. I’m sure I could tell you that story, but it wouldn’t be mine.
I guess my story starts in my sophomore year of high school when my childhood friend and lifelong crush asked me out at homecoming. Contrary to what the movies would have you believe, no one burst into song, no one took pictures, no one cheered, hell, no one even cared. He asked me to dance, and as he twirled me around the gym, he looked me in the eye and asked if I would like to be his girlfriend. So simple, and yet somehow, so magical. I won’t say that our relationship was perfect, we certainly had our fights, but by our junior year, we were deeply and truly in love.
We weren’t like the popular kids who walked down the halls followed by an entourage laughing at our every idiotic remark. No one was hanging on our every word and movement, thirsting for our attention, doing anything to get in our good graces and climb up a rung. We kept to ourselves, with our small, close group of friends. We enjoyed our time at the bottom of the social ladder. We were a modest couple; we didn’t believe that the more publicly physical your relationship was, the more real it was. We believed in keeping somethings to ourselves. Why should we have cared what anyone besides our friends thought of us? We had each other, and that was all that mattered.
The summer before our senior year we would just drive around town. We weren’t going anywhere in particular; we would just talk, getting lost in each other and falling deeper in love. The week before school started, we were on one of our drives. It was dark and his eyes were locked on mine.
We were planning a beach trip with our friends for our last weekend of freedom. Waiting for the light to turn green, he tickled me and as I went to playfully smack him away, he grabbed my hand and kissed it as if I were his princess. The light turned green and we were still laughing. He turned to me and said, “I love-“CRASH! The end of his sentence was lost as the car was hit and suddenly we were rolling.
Time seemed to slow down then. Everything was flying around his car: papers, my purse and everything in it, his phone. Glass was coming from everywhere, stinging my skin. The seatbelt held me in my seat as we flipped. The airbag deployed and knocked the wind out of me. It wasn’t until we stopped that I realized that the blood curdling scream that filled my ears was my own, no trace of the laughter from only moments before.
Soon enough, there were feet outside my window. People were shouting, telling others to call 911. Some opened the doors and asked if I was alright, but I couldn’t answer them. I didn’t think I was okay. As I turned to see if he was, I thought I could hear the sirens in the distance. There were so many feet outside my window. One man reached in and tried to unbuckle me, but the belt was stuck. Then a man in blue, a paramedic, came to my side. He got me out and asked so many questions. I couldn’t focus. Too many people crowded and tried to look at me, and the next thing I knew, I was in an ambulance. Everything blurred into a sea of faces and voices and then there was nothing but the sound of my own heart beat on a monitor as the black tide pulled me under.
The bright lights hurt my eyes. The rooms raced past. Needles pinched my skin. Doctors and police officers asked me questions. My mother cried. And then I was gone again.
I finally woke to blinding lights. The TV was on and my mom sat next to me in a chair, looking at it, but clearly not watching. My father stood behind her, hands on her shoulders. I reached out to touch her and felt a stab of pain in my right arm. I gasped and my mother and father turned to me, tears in their eyes and relief on their faces. I heard my mother’s voice and felt my father touch my hair, but I wasn’t looking at them.
There was a woman in the hall; I could see her out my window. She wasn’t facing me, but I could see her clearly. Her eyes were tired and she looked more fragile than I had ever seen her. She talked to a man in a green uniform…. A man in hospital scrubs. As he talked, she wrapped her arms tighter round herself as if to keep he heart from spilling out of her chest, as if to keep herself from falling apart. I couldn’t hear what the man said, but the more he talked, the farther her strong façade fell. Suddenly, she collapsed against him and I finally understood what had happened. Her son, her only family, the love of my life was gone, and he wasn’t coming back.
I was no longer worried about my broken arm and leg, about the cuts and burns that blanketed my skin. The pain I now felt was much worse than any physical pain ever could have been. This animal scream erupted from my body and my world came crashing down. I could feel my parents touch, I could hear their voices, but none of that mattered now. I looked at her again, the scream had stopped, but I was afraid the tears never would. The man was gone now and she turned to look at me. She came into my room and sat on my bed and we just held onto each other. Both of us the other’s last tie to him.