Vehicularly speaking, I was a late bloomer. I turned sixteen about a month into my junior year of high school, but didn't yet have so much as a driver's permit. I did, however, have an urge to ditch second and third periods to go shopping in a nearby town.
I asked my friend J. for the keys to her baby blue Ford Pinto. With the usual, "you'd best be careful!" speech, I grabbed a cute boy, D., and headed out in search of a place to spend my recent fast food paycheck.
Everything was going fine. 'Didn't find any clothes, but got some flirting accomplished. D. was blessed with black hair and blue eyes -- still a lethal combination in my book. With Richard Marx's "Angelina" playing in the cassette deck, we headed back to school through state-owned forest.
About half-way through the back-way home, on a two-lane hairpin curve (gotta see this comin', eh?) I was fiddling with the radio and not so much looking at the road. Probably speeding, I was fast approaching a hairy situation: a big truck and a car both heading in my direction, one in each lane. The decision went like this: Car? Truck? Tree? Tree.
We jump a ditch and hit a tree. In the Pinto.
I straight-arm the steering wheel, rupture the gas line, introduce the upper part of the steering wheel to my face and my knees to whatever lays beyond the dashboard.
We come to a rest against the decimated tree. D. looks around and sniffs the air out his now-open window. Mumbling something about gas, he reaches over and cuts the ignition. Richard stops singing.
We climb out. Shaky, we observed the damage. With the front end completely rumpled and humping a pine tree, gas puddling underneath, the windshield looking for all the world as though it had been vomited out the front of the car, it looks pretty danged bad.
A dark-haired older woman in a BMW slows down and mouths with her radish-red lips, "Do you need help? Should I call for help?"
I think I must have nodded yes, because she pulls out a giant Zach Morris phone. You remember the one -- about the size of a shoebox and putty colored? Yup, you DO remember, don't you? She's talking into the phone as she drives out of sight.
Hysterical and thinking only of myself, I ask D. to say he was driving. He won't. He can't -- his father is wildly abusive and this would surely spell out the seventh realm of hell for him if his dad knows he is ditching, much less has the idea that he is driving. He makes sure (as much as you can when you're sixteen and just got thrown into a windshield by a crazed female driver) I am okay (aka, "not dead") and hightails it for the woods as the sounds of emergency response teams sound in the far distance. (Let me just say, there is NOTHING better than the sound of sirens when you're hurt, having a hard time discerning up from down and don't know what to do about it.)
Alone, I sit down a few yards behind the car.
I'm not sure how much time passes, but the next thing I know, I'm on my back, staring up at a horde of firemen, paramedics and the gray, cloudy sky beyond them. They all look concerned. I decide to stay calm, especially since I don't want to worry them further by revealing exactly how dazed I am.
Someone is wiping blood from my face, trying to figure out where it's all coming from while someone else speaks to me, encouraging me to lie still and not move anything. I hear another voice announce, "Fire Captain's here!".
Crunching boot steps on gravel and a vaguely familiar face is gazing down at me from above; our faces upside-down to one another as he crouches down. Hands of paramedics are sliding a backboard under me, slipping a c-collar under my neck, getting things stabilized.
He slides his hands around my neck, assisting in the process, as he speaks to me.
"Hi, honey. Where's your purse?" Oh, good. This I know I can handle. Just questions. Not a problem.
"In my locker at school."
He shuffles his feet just a bit, shifting his weight. "Okay. Where's your license?"
"Oh, I don't have one of those." He shuffles again.
"Ohh-kay. Where's your permit?" His right eyebrow is starting to creep up his forehead.
"Uh, I don't have one of those either." Shuffle, shuffle, shift. And the left eyebrow is starting to join its friend's elevation.
"Sweetie, what's your name?" Nice words, meant to be comforting, but his tone and the shuffling feet tell me this man clearly mean business. It is time to implement my best behavior. Speak his language. The language I learned from my police officer Father and my judge pro tem Mother. You know, over in the next town.
"Laura," I manage to get out.
He blows a whoosh of warm, cinnamon-scented air over me.
"Spell it?" He's relaxing a little bit now. Thank God. That eyebrow-shuffle-thing was becoming worrisome.
"Lincoln Adam Union Robert Adam?" I search his eyes for approval, acceptance of some sort that it's all going to be okay. You know, because I know THE CODE.
"And your last name?" The shuffling feet has stopped. I seem to have his attention. He meets my gaze, nodding just a bit, as if to reassure me that this little granule of information will make it all better. Like maybe there will be ice cream involved.
That left eyebrow performs a dramatic drop as the right one shoots clear to his hairline. He cocks his head to one side like a quizzical Labrador, "Spell it?"
"Sam Lincoln Adam Union George Henry Tom Edward Robert?"
His jaw drops slightly.
"As in JOHN and MARY?!?"
"Oh, YOU," (he drops my head) " are in DEEP shit!"
I don't remember much after that. I was probably trying to figure out how to run away from it all. And I don't remember this part, either, but the medics told my Mom later that in the ambulance on the way to the hospital, I interrupted their clothing-removal long enough to bellow, "Cut up the seam! I already wrecked her car!". Turns out Captain Obvious nailed it on the head with his declaration of my current state: I was wearing J's pants that day, too.