The blood was thick in his eyes. Warm. Slick to the touch…like motor oil. His Dad’s suede jacket was ruined. For some reason this affected him more than the smoking wreckage of the mini-van.
Was everyone OK? That was the first thing. That was everything. And everyone was. Battered. Broken glasses. A cut knee like a crescent moon. The twisted metal had shaved half of his head and there was the blood, but it was OK. His arm burned. His back was numb. OK.
He wished he was dead. It was stupid. But he couldn’t help it. He could still hear the screams. He knew he would always hear the screams. See the sparks. See the center divider rocketing toward his face. Always live in the slow motion nightmare that had just unfolded without his permission.
That was the worst part. Without his fucking permission. It had all happened so goddamn fast. And there was one person who could have stopped it. Fixed it. And he knew who that person was. And he knew that everyone else knew who that person was.
He was dizzy. He checked on his friends and then he sat down and started vomiting. And then there were lights. So fucking bright. And police. And paramedics. And they were all very kind. And they spoke in calm voices. And he hated them for it.
And then there was the board. Strapped down. News camera in his face. White spotlight. He was not a violent person, but he would have given anything to beat that reporter with his camera. Blood still in his eyes. And grit. Broken glass, they said. He had already rubbed it in.
Rub it in. He knew that everyone would rub it in. He had no disillusions about the ugliness of the world. It did not surprise him when he returned to school half-scalped and the first girl he saw said, “So, I heard you tried to kill all your friends this weekend?”
But we are not there yet. Cops. Drinking? No. He had never been really drunk. Not yet. But, by god, it was coming. Years of it. He asked the cop if they would get in trouble for the cigars in the van. The cop gave him a long sad look he would not understand for twenty years.
Is it impossible to lift someone into an ambulance gently? It must be. It must always be whack, thud, slam. More soft voices. Going to the hospital. Call your parents. Oh, god, please don’t call my parents.
He was lying on his back when they came to pick him up. Everyone else had been released with minor injuries. His were more severe, but not severe enough to keep him in the hospital where he was safe. There was no talking on the way home. His mom tried to help him as he stood, hands braced against the sink. Trying to get all the glass out of his hair and eyes. Dad put a stop to that. He spent the night lying in bed, bloody, spinning, wondering if he was alive and hoping he wasn’t. He would spend many nights like that, years, before he realized that there wasn’t any penance that needed to be paid