I Remember (And I Wonder)
We were laughing. I remember that much; we were laughing and in the darkness, all I could see was your silhouette. Ryan was driving, and he was laughing too. It was the third day of summer. The June air was sickly and the hours seemed to stretch out forever. If there’s one thing I truly do remember… it’s that I felt so alive as we cruised down that country road, singing with hoarse voices and waving our hands out the window. We started veering. A little to the left, a little to the right. We were laughing. (Maybe I should’ve said something— maybe I should’ve told Ryan to stop looking back at us— maybe I should’ve fixed those dim headlights on my car before we set out—) We were laughing, and then we crashed. For a moment, I thought everything had simply stopped moving, as if time had frozen in this little New Jersey town. But as we smashed into the oak tree on the side of the road, the entire universe collided in front of me. I tried to scream, but my voice left me. When I placed my hands out to break my fall against the seats, I heard the crack of a bone. Your head jerked back, and then forward. I looked down for a moment, at the blood trailing down my thigh from where glass pierced my skin. When I looked at you again, you were thrown against the dashboard, unmoving. Ryan was crying that you were dead, that you were gone, and his bloody hands searched on your chest for a pulse. I screamed and screamed in my head, but no one heard. —— This is where the memory stops. Mom tells me the police came and dragged us from the car. Ryan was still clutching your body. But my mind is still there, returning to the moments I lost you. I think my mind will always be in that car. Dad bought me a new one, and he’s teaching me how to drive again. It feels like I have forgotten everything. Ryan hasn’t gotten in a car since, but I’m taking him driving next week. Maybe we’ll laugh a little, but I’m fine with crying too. I think I can handle both. I check the headlights regularly. I make sure I don’t drive too fast when it’s dark out. I try to keep my hands steady and my eyes ahead. The other kids at home do it too, after your sister gave a speech at school and couldn’t continue because the tears were falling too fast. Everyone feels guilty as if stopping their car from crashing will somehow save you. It makes me wonder why it took your death to make people realize what they were doing wrong… It makes me wonder how many more deaths it will take for the world to realize what it is doing wrong, and how many more after that for the world to correct its mistakes… It makes me wonder if the world can correct its mistakes.