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off the edge
I glanced at the clock once again, willing for the time to change. Ten minutes until I got to leave this town and this life behind. It’s not like I really get to drop everything and go, it’s just that for a little while, my life would be like it used to be – simple. The ding of the bell finally came, dismissing my classmates to lunch, and allowing me to go home. A smile plastered to my face, I all but ran to my locker, threw my books into my bag, and began my long walk home.
To be honest, I only live two minutes away from the school by car, but walking, that two minutes turned into thirty. Each car that passed me seemed to be taunting me, teasing me. At one point, I even contemplated hitch-hiking, or accepting a ride from a stranger - anything to get me to my house and on my way sooner. Finally after what seemed like years, I made it back. Rushing to pack, I carelessly tossed clothes and other toiletries into my sister’s old basketball bag. Assuring myself that I’d gotten everything, and didn’t need to double check, I let the dog out into the backyard so that it could do its business. A long hour later, I was on my way home.
I believe the clichéd saying is, “Home is where the heart is.” How true that statement has proven to be. While I enjoy living here very much, the time I spend here seems almost like a prolonged vacation. Even today it is hard for me to grasp the reality that this is where I live now, and that no matter how much I wish it wasn’t so, I’ll probably never be closer to my home than four hours and fifty minutes ever again. This is why, when I do get to go back and visit, I am so excited.
This was the first time that my parents had ever let me drive this far alone. I was bound, and determined to prove to them that I was an adult, and that I could be trusted to drive this far without mishap. I’d driven the distance before with my parents in the car, but driving alone for four hours is different than driving with someone. It can get lonely at times, and unless you have a GPS machine, which I don’t, you have to read the directions and drive at the same time. I’d been on the highway for about seventy miles, which meant that sometime soon I was supposed to enter the town of Marion, and once I got there I pretty much knew my way home.
Driving for a bit more, I knew I could put off looking at the directions no longer. It’s not like I looked at them under a microscope for ten minutes, analyzing and studying them, but the five seconds that it takes to glance at them is five seconds that my eyes aren’t on the road, and sometimes, five seconds can make all the difference. Regardless, I’d done it many times before on the trip, so I sucked it up and glanced at the directions sitting in the passenger seat beside me.
No more than a second later, I my heart rate shot up with panic as I heard the sound of crunching rocks. My eyes darting up I saw that I had turned the wheel ever-so-slightly so that the car drifted onto the gravel, and that not three feet beyond the gravel was a deep ditch. Before I could fully access the situation, my reflexes kicked in, and I jerked the steering wheel back toward the road, which in retrospect, was probably not the best move to make. I heard the high-pitched skid of the wheels, as the tires lost traction, and the car began to slide out of control, towards the other side of the road. Panicking even more, I realized that if I continued to slide that way, I’d go off the edge of the hill, and fall who knows how far down. Trying to avoid certain death, I cranked the wheel the other way, and my car lost any traction that it had left, and began to spin away from the cliff into the ditch. There was a loud crash as the car came to a stop, and a thump as my head slammed against the driver’s side window.
Gasping for breath, I took in what just happened. I yanked off my seatbelt and tried desperately to open the door to no avail. Screaming, I pounded on the door, and finally, I understood that it was still locked. Unlocking the door and stepping out of the car, I analyzed the wreckage. Looking at my once slick and sporty car, I saw that it had no side mirror, that the entire driver’s side door was dented in, and that the tail light was hanging by a few wires. The tires had sunk into the mud, making them look flat. The newly washed car was muddy and dusty. I looked around, and began to realize just how alone I was. I couldn’t find my phone, and I didn’t see anyone stopping to help. I gasped for breath, desperately trying to calm down, but only becoming more freaked out with the realization that my family was four hours away, and that my friends were still a good fifteen twenty minutes from me. All I could do was sit down in the car, and cry.
I looked up a couple minutes later to see a man coming down the side of the ditch. A few minutes later, his wife would join him and a little after that, more people would gather. The man’s wife, who I now know was named Jenny, asked me if there was anyone that I wanted her to call. Still sobbing, I asked her to call my mom, but for some reason, when I called, the conversation was dropped, and we couldn’t reach her again. Sobbing more, I remembered my best friend’s number, and we called her.
“Hello?” Came her familiar voice. I hadn’t heard it in so long; I’d almost forgotten what it sounded like.
“Nicole? Its Kelly,” I had to stop for another breath, “Nicole I got into an accident. Can you call my mom for me?”
She said yes, and a couple minutes later, she called back, saying that my mom didn’t believe her, and that I needed to call her again, but that she and my friend Abby, and her family were on their way to the accident site. In retrospect I don’t know what I thought that she could do. I don’t know how I thought she could reach my mom when I couldn’t, but I needed to call someone. Dialing my mom’s number again, this time, she answered.
“Kelly?! Kelly, are you okay? Nicole called me; she said that you were in a crash? Please tell me you guys are playing a joke” pleaded her panicked voice.
As calmly as I could, I began to explain to her that I went off the road, but I was cut off by the EMT’s who were now crowding around me. The last thing I heard from her was, “It’ll be okay,” before they gave the phone back to Jenny, and the EMT’s began to examine me. I heard Jenny’s voice in the background, explaining to my mom the best she could what had happened to me, and what hospital they were going to be taking me to.
By this point, I had a splitting headache, and my neck was aching. There was a woman in front of me asking various questions, none of which I remember now. There was a man trying to make me laugh, and another man asking me about my life, how old I was, where I was from, where I was heading, etc. While they were talking to me, they were strapping me to a board, and before I knew it, they had me in a neck brace as well, explaining that they could take no precautions. They explained to Jenny, who explained to my mom that they would take me to the nearest hospital, and then proceeded to give her the name and address for my mom. As soon as they were done with that, they picked me up, and carried me up to the ambulance, away from Jenny, who had become the only thing keeping me calm through out the whole thing, probably because she was at that time my only connection to my mom.
In the ambulance, tears began to stream down my face once again as I tried to stay still while they poked me with needles attempting to put in an IV. They were still talking to me, though I wished they’d stop so I could sleep. Every time I closed my eyes for more than a second, they would say, “KELLY. Don’t fall asleep on me.” If I hadn’t been so tired, not to mention strapped down to a board, I would’ve backhanded them for waking me up so many times.
When we finally got to the hospital, I remember being wheeled around until stopping in a room. All I could see was the ceiling and the lights, and to be honest, I don’t remember much of what happened. When we got into the room, several people introduced themselves, and they began to assess different things. There was another poke as they inserted another IV. A few minutes later, they explained that they were taking me so that they could give me a CAT scan, and an XRAY, and a few minutes after that, they put me back into the room. By this point, I was going back in forth, in and out of consciousness, only awake because they would begin talking to me every time they realized I was drifting off to sleep.
After what seemed like years, the nurse informed me that my friends were here, and asked me if I was up to seeing them. Eagerly answering yes, I waited to see my two best friends. It was embarrassing when they walked in, because the machine measuring my heart rate began to beep faster, as I saw them. It had been almost three hours since I’d seen or heard anyone I knew and I couldn’t help but smile and laugh as they came in.
“You owe me Noodles,” Nicole stated, smiling and giving me a hug. Well the best she could give me while I was strapped to the board.
It was a good ten, fifteen minutes before they were able to let me off the board. When they finally allowed me to sit up, it was like I hadn’t done so in years. I was finally able to see Abby and Nicole normally and all I could do was smile. I looked down at my once freshly washed pants. They were now caked in mud from the ditch, and my white shoes were now brown. My hair, which I had spent a good forty five minutes on was now messed up, and on top of all of this, I still had a searing headache. It was hard to balance at first when I stood up, and I had to sit down for a bit before I was able to walk out of the hospital.
After about three and a half hours of being in the hospital, I was finally able to leave and proceed on to my destination. That night, we went back to Noodles and Company to eat dinner, where apparently, just a few hours before, Abby and Nicole had made a huge scene freaking out that I was in the hospital and left, so when we returned, we got some free food. The rest of the weekend is a blur, and seems almost like a dream, as if it didn’t happen. All that I can take from this experience is how lucky I was that I didn’t roll the car, and that I only have a concussion. The more I think about it, the more I realize how many people I have that care about me. It is almost scary how much one little second can change your life. I can’t go back and make it so that I didn’t go off of the road, or change it so that I don’t have a concussion. What’s done is done, you cannot change the past. But what you can do, is learn from it.